Memories of Salem Church

This article submitted by Susan (Snyder) Lorenz on 12/16/97.

Paynesville native Susan Lorenz, St. Cloud, daughter of Herb and Lois Snyder, Eagle Bend and formerly of Paynesville, writes about the upcoming program and her memories of the old Salem Church. Her story is printed below:

Given an opportunity to return to our childhood for a day, we often think about a special Christmas we remember with fondness. Usually a specific memory will pop into our head and we are lost for a moment in the past.

We might catch the scent of candles burning, or the smell of homemade cookies baking, or the faint sounds of a choir singing a Christmas carol. Whatever the trigger, we forget the immediate cares and become transported back in time.

If someone would offer you a chance to return to that special Christmas memory for one night, would you go?

Christmas memories are going to be rekindled in a century old yellow brick church set on a prairie in Zion Township. While on the dark, snow covered prairie, a choir sings Christmas carols in a candle lighted church, and a shining star gleams over the bell tower, a Christmas program takes place with shepherds, wise men, Mary and Joseph, and a crying baby Jesus.

After the Christmas program, the congregation unites to share dozens of homemade cookies, hot chocolate, apple cider, and bags of candy. The mammoth decorated spruce tree guards over all the festivities, listening to the sounds of laughter.

Can this be a dream? No, you can help make it come true by your presence at this old-fashioned Christmas program. The Salem Community Church is holding a Christmas program at the little brick church that has stood 100 years overlooking the expansive prairie of central Minnesota. People of all faiths and all generations are invited to share in the joy of the Christmas season.

Why is this program so special? When you consider the fact the church officially closed in 1967, and this is 30 years later, how can you gather people together to put on a program?

The community group organizing the program had a dream last summer that came true. The church had a two-day celebration which was filmed by Pioneer Public Television, Channel 10 in Appleton, as a part of a series funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The church is particularly interesting because it has not been drastically changed since it was built in 1897.

Several hundred people came on the sunny August day to the 100-year centennial celebration where a potluck dinner and ice cream delighted the faithful gatherers.

The church board had decided to request gifts and contributions for the restoration of the church which had been quietly fading from its glory days into crumbling decay since 1967. The offerings received in the two-day event netted enough funds to install two new furnaces. The old furnaces had not been working for 30 years.

With the installation of the furnaces came the joyous work of planning a Christmas program. It is hard, indeed, to imagine the group of 29 persons who met on the first snowy weekend of the fall and planned a program that would bring former parishioners and friends as guests to a church that had not seen a program in 30 years.

The children who so carefully recited Christmas pieces 30 years ago, are now adults who are once again, reciting and playing the parts of the shepherds, wise men, Mary and Joseph. Members of the adult choir, whose anthems filled the church, are now retired and looking for an opportunity to be with old friends singing the familiar songs.

I attended this church as a young person. My mother and dad attended this church, as well as my grandmother and grandfather. My grandparents are some of the former parishioners now singing in the heavenly choir.

As I look forward to my part in the Christmas program, I consider it an honor to my heritage to continue the tradition set by those generations who have built and attended the church since its founding 100 years ago.
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