Former pastor presents special gift to Henrytown Lutheran congregation
Wednesday, April 12, 2017 1:55 PM
Easter Sunday will mark the two-year anniversary of the accidental fire that destroyed Henrytown Lutheran Church in rural Canton.
BROCK BERGEY/NEWS LEADER
Thirty-one square nails, found in the ashes of the 2015 Henrytown Lutheran Church fire, were welded together to form this symbolic cross. It was given as a gift to the Henrytown congregation from St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church in St. Paul.
On April 16, 2015, the nearly 140-year old country church went up in flames. Very little was able to be saved from the historic place of worship.
In the days following the fire, several small – and very old – pieces of metal were found scattered throughout the rubble.
Among the collectors of those special objects was a church youth group from St. Paul, led by the Rev. Walter Wietzke, who was pastor at Henrytown from 1978 to 1982.
“We came down to be in solidarity with you,” said Wietzke.
They left the Henrytown valley with a container of rusty, square nails that were used to construct the original church in 1878.
“We wanted to do something special with them,” Wietzke explained this past Sunday afternoon, when he and some members of his St. Paul congregation returned to see the new Henrytown church.
“Some of the young people who helped pick up the nails are with us,” he added.
Wietzke then held up a cross – simple in design, but deep in meaning.
“A member welded the nails together to form this cross,” he said. “We didn’t clean them (nails) up or anything. They’re just as we found them.”
The symbolic sculpture is about two feet long and consists of 31 nails.
Wietzke noted the timing of their gift presentation was purposeful.
“It’s like you are revived,” he said, referencing the holy season of Easter. “You are resurrected.”
Wietzke then went on to share what could be called a tale of two churches.
He explained that his current parish, St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church, experienced a devastating fire just four months prior to the Henrytown blaze.
While the damage was contained to the office area of their building, Wietzke said the entire church sustained severe smoke damage.
“We were without a church for basically a year,” he added.
But Wietzke said that didn’t keep the people of St. Mark from worshipping together.
“We went to a nearby Catholic church,” he noted with a smile, knowing that during the rebuilding of Henrytown the congregation worshipped at Assumption Catholic Church in Canton.
Wietzke called the new Henrytown Lutheran Church, which opened on Jan. 29, a wonderful use of space.
“It’s much wider,” he joked, while standing at the front of the sanctuary.
Although it has been about 34 years since Wietzke and his family called the area home, he said Henrytown remains close to his heart.
“What you do here is just incredible,” he remarked. “Henrytown has been so influential on our lives.”
Current Henrytown pastor, the Rev. Dean Safe, expressed gratitude and thanks, on behalf of the congregation, to Wietzke and the St. Mark’s members.
They were invited back to attend the church building dedication on Sunday, June 11.