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Rural Methodist Church demolished in a day

By Staff | Sep 22, 2008

Drivers traveling on Highway 16 east of Blue Earth last Tuesday went by the Immanuel United Methodist Church at the intersection of County Road 13 for the last time.

If they drove by at noon, they saw the church. If they came back at 6 p.m. they only saw a hole in the ground.

A demolition crew took the building down in one afternoon. The demolished church was hauled to a landfill near Albert Lea.

The church had stood at that intersection since 1886, according to information recorded in ‘A History of Faribault County,” by J. A. Kiester.

According to the history, the predecessor of the church was the Immanuel Evangelical Church, which was first constructed in 1865 a quarter mile south of the present location.

It was the very first religious edifice erected in Faribault County by any religious body, according to the county history book.

A closing service at the building was held exactly one year ago, on Sept. 9, 2007.

Immanuel at one time boasted a membership of 270 people; not counting children. That was in 1881. Lately, however, membership had dropped to well under 100.

Due to the decline, as well as the increased age of the congregation, the members voted in 2005 to join with First and Salem United Methodist Churches in Blue Earth and form a new church.

On Sunday, Sept. 16, 2007, the remaining 51 members of Immanuel, plus six children, transferred their church membership to Hope United Methodist Church of Blue Earth, the newly formed congregation.

The members then began the long process of removing the contents of the building.

“The church building was basically gutted by the time the wrecking crew came,” member Marilyn Schaefer says.

The altar, pulpit lectern, candelabra, flags and paramounts were donated to Camp Koronis near Paynesville.

Bibles, hymnals, and Sunday School materials were sent to Sierra Leone, Africa, Schaefer says. Many items, including the church records, were taken into the Hope Church.

Other items, such as the pews, kitchen cabinets, small tables and chairs, were either purchased by, or donated to, church members or friends of the church.

Members spent hours taking out the doors, windows, light fixtures, ceiling fans, and many other items.

There was a large circular stained glass window taken out and saved.

“There also was another one which was covered up and inside the wall, Schaefer says. “That one was also saved.”

The window had been covered over during one of the three remodeling projects – done in 1940, 1967 and 1986.

The bell in the steeple tower was removed and lowered to the ground by the demolition crew. It is hoped that the bell will be on display at a new church some day, according to Schaefer.

The hardwood flooring was removed and saved.

“There are several people interested in using it in their homes, or we may save it for a room in the new church,” Schaefer says.

It is not the first time that this church’s membership has razed a building and saved the material. The original building, constructed in 1865, was torn down and the lumber used in houses of the members.

“It was an emotional day for many of us,” Schaefer says about the demolition. “We didn’t want it to sit and rot away, and no one was interested in it.”

She adds that although the building is gone, the strong faith of the members remains and they will continue as a church for many more years.

“It will just be in a new building,” she concludes.