WHITE EARTH Tears of sadness have turned to tears of joy in White Earth.
Two years ago, on Sept. 1, 2011, members of the small community witnessed a fire at First Lutheran Church, the only active church in White Earth. The fire at the church was believed to have been caused by lightning during a thunderstorm.
The congregation, mainly rural people from farms all around White Earth, and the community were saddened by the loss. A meeting was held the same week as the fire to discuss and decide a future for the church. The building of a new church was the major concern.
Members of First Lutheran Church, in White Earth, have been attending services in their new church since May 12. The church will be dedicated Sunday at 3:15 p.m. after a 2 p.m. worship service.
The former Zion Lutheran Church building, in White Earth, was destroyed by fire in September 2011. Lightning is believed to have caused the fire.
Two years ago the marquee at First Lutheran Church in White Earth informed worshippers there would be no service on Sunday. This photo was taken the day after the fire.
Pastoral Assistant James Hamann said the church community received a lot of support, especially from other church congregations. In addition to the moral support, the church received many items including Bibles, hymnals, a piano and an organ, crosses, church furniture and pews. First Lutheran Church in Tioga, a sister church to First Lutheran in White Earth, gave a kitchen shower so the congregation could continue to have potlucks and coffee.
"There were so many churches that gave to us. It's hard to list just one out of so many. We are so filled with gratitude," Connie Anderson, a member of the church and church secretary said.
Anderson added that so many people also gave in so many ways, including a complete stranger who reached into his pocket and handed someone a wad of bills. The bills added up to $400. The stranger said he drove by the church almost daily and he got a sense of peace from just looking at the steeple.
"As we began to make plans for our dedication, it seemed fitting to hold the event on Sept. 1, 2013, the two-year anniversary of the devastating fire that destroyed our old building. Out of the ASHES comes a NEW BEGINNING."
an excerpt from the McGregor White Earth Parish bulletin
Anderson said, "not only was the 'gift' from a complete stranger very generous, it also felt to us (the church members) as if God put him there at that time, giving us faith, courage and hope that we can do this."
Offers came in from people who wanted to help. The first undertaking was to clean up the area where the church once stood to make it safe.
Construction then began on the church building. The new church is a wood frame 48-foot by 96-foot structure. In addition to the church proper, the church has an entrance, kitchen, fellowship hall, a family room, storage room, an electrical room and two handicapped accessible bathrooms. There will be floor heat, but there is no basement. The church has its own well and sewer system.
"Different contractors did the cement and footings," Doug Feiring, a member of the church board said.
"A general contractor did the building. Independent electricians and plumbers also helped with the project," Feiring added.
"It really turned out nice," Boyd Anderson said. "Two families donated round stained glass windows for the altar area. Eventually stained glass windows will be added to the top half of the windows in the church proper," Anderson added.
During the construction period worship services were held in the White Earth City Hall.
The first worship in the new church building was on May 12. A dedication service will be held Sunday, Sept. 1, at 3:15 p.m. following the 2 p.m. worship service. Hamann will lead the service and Sherie Heine, assistant to the bishop of the Western N.D. Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, will also be present.
First Lutheran Church of White Earth and Zion Lutheran Church of McGregor are a two-point parish with the official name of McGregor White Earth Parish.