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‘Christmas in July’ celebration held at St. Andrew’s

"'Christmas in July' celebration held at St. Andrew's." Emmons County Record, 4 August 2011, 4.

Text written by Carol Just

Photographs courtesy of Layn Mudder, LPT Images, Mandan, North Dakota


On Sunday, July 10, 2011, a community came together for a cause and everyone benefited.

St. Andrew’s Preservation Committee wishes to thank everyone, far and wide, who supported their “Christmas in July” fundraising meal at St. Luke’s Lutheran in Wishek and the afternoon celebration in the 1906 tall white church known as the “Beacon on the Prairie” which was followed by a reception in the 1893 stone church at St. Andrew’s Lutheran, rural Zeeland, July 10.

With the help of a grant from Preservation North Dakota, a match by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and the generous donations of many individuals who care about historic preservation, a new roof on the 1906 structure will be paid in full.

Further preservation efforts will be ongoing as the St. Andrew’s Preservation Committee continues its quest to keep the property worthy of the status it received in 1990 when it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1893, 15 young German families from South Russia came together to create “Sankt Andreas Gemeinde.” Ten acres were donated by one of the founding families at the cost of $385 and 15 days of labor donated by each adult male, the stone church was erected.

Built in the housing style of the villages they left in South Russia, this building became a “house of worship” which remains standing today. It is a rare example of Russian architecture in North Dakota and the only stone church of this type in the state. The community quickly outgrew their building and by 1906 the tall, white Carpenter Gothic style structure was built and the name became St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church.

The celebration on Sunday, July 10, included a salute to each founding family, named by the congregation president, Gary Wolff, followed by a sounding of the church bell and a candle lit on the altar by a descendant of each founder. St. Andrew’s Centennial Choir, made up of grandchildren of the original founders of the church, along with choirs from St. Luke’s Lutheran provided music.

Pastor Adam Roberts, who is currently at St. Lukes; and former St. Andrew’s intern; and Pastor Allen Wagner, presided over the service in true pioneer fashion. The lights went out as a storm passed through and all were safe in the little white church.

Following the service, Karen Meidinger Retzlaff of Aneta and a daughter of the congregation gave a history of the pioneer church and spoke about the unique building styles.

The preservation efforts will be ongoing.

If you missed this event but still wish to contribute, please send donations to Arndt Ketterling, Treasurer, at 217 South 7th St. Wishek, ND, 58495.

Vernon Gerber and Gary Wolff, St. Andrew's Preservation Committee, serve food at the fundraiser.
Karen Meidinger Retzlaff of Aneta, a daughter of the congregation, spoke about the history of the buildings and preservation efforts.
The people in attendance filled the St. Andrew's Church on July 10, 2011
Ruben Aipperspach, left, of Wishek lights a candle in honor of his grandparents who were founder of St. Andrew's in 1893.
Both of St. Andrew's church's, the 1893 stone church and the 1906 Carpenter Gothic white church, known as "The Beacon on the Prairie."
Decorated for Christmas in July is this altar in the 1893 stone church.

Reprinted with Permission from Emmons County Record.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller
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