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Making the big move: Frank Lake Covenant Church travels

Tribune photos by Carolyn Lange Frank Lake Covenant Church is moved Tuesday from the country spot where it has been located for more than 100 years to a farm south of Benson where it will be used by Kathy Weckwerth and her Best Life Ministries. The move drew a British documentary film crew and multiple spectators.

MURDOCK -- By 8 a.m. Tuesday the Thein Moving Co. of Clara City had secured the Frank Lake Covenant Church on a massive trailer, the electrical workers were poised to lift the wires over the country roads north of Murdock and Kathy Weckwerth had gathered family, friends and members of the moving crew in a circle for a prayer.

Weckwerth, who purchased the century-old church for $1 this spring so that it could be moved to her family's farm south of Benson for use by her Best Life Ministries, prayed for the safety of the workers and gave thanks for "what God is going to do" with the old church in its new home.

"OK. Let's move a church," said Weckwerth, after giving the final "amen."

With that, the truck hauling the church, and a smaller rig that carried the steeple, slowly lumbered out of the treelined church yard and cemetery where the simple, white clapboard 42-by-36-foot church had stood for 112 years

The building had not been actively used for the last 30 years. With a cemetery to keep up, the caretakers decided it would be better to sell the church rather than let it deteriorate or demolish it.

"It's a passing on of the baton," said Weckwerth of finding a new ministerial use for the church.

Age had not been a friend to the building.

Matt Thein said moisture had caused deterioration underneath the church, which required repairs before his crew could lift the church off the foundation in preparation for the move, which he thought would take five to six hours but actually took at least seven hours.

It took 30 to 45 minutes to go around some corners, but all in all the move went off without a hitch, said Thein, adding that he was "proud to be a part" of Weckwerth's plans for the church.

There were a few social stops along the route, including coffee and cookies at Bethesda Lutheran Church in rural Murdock, which rang its bells in honor of the old church as it slowly rolled by.

Dennis and Marie Johnson, who had attended the Frank Lake Covenant Church for years and raised their family there, watched the daylong moving process.

"It's exciting," said Dennis Johnson. "The sad part is over with. We're just excited it's moving."

"We kind of said our goodbyes to the building, if you can do such a thing," said Marie Johnson. "We're excited about its new home and the new life that it will have in being a place of worship for people and ministry.

The move was well-documented Tuesday. Besides local newspapers, there was a PBS television crew, a metro crew filming an "On the Road with Jason Davis" show and a London, England-based crew filming for a program called "Massive Moves" that will air on HGTV.

The "Massive Moves" crew had been in the area for the last 10 days recording every engineering aspect of the move, which included bats flying out of the church when the steeple was removed.

Besides the nitty-gritty of the challenges of moving big buildings, the show will also tell the emotional side of the story, said Will Aspinall, director for the "Massive Moves" project.

As the church came into view on state Highway 29 on the final leg of the journey to Dean and Kathy Weckwerth's farm, family, friends and neighbors who had gathered in the yard sang "Amazing Grace."

After carefully inching around the final corner into the yard, the church was slowly rolled in place surrounded by a grove of trees.

"It feels absolutely unbelievable," said Weckwerth, after the church came to a final stop.

"To look behind me and see the Frank Lake Covenant Church here, it's just an overwhelming, incredible feeling," she said.

"I've said to it several times, 'welcome home, Frank Lake Church,' because it's going to be home to us, and home here and we're looking forward to using it for great things."


Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750