Rural church, rich memories

Pure Nebraska
Published: Feb. 11, 2022 at 1:32 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - During a trip to southwest Nebraska, we got a tour of the St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran German Church. It’s a landmark that locals know well.

“In the 1880′s, there were many German Lutherans in the area. At first, they built a sod church,” local resident Paul Orman said. “It stood for about 40 or 50 years. In 1927, they built this frame building. There were many kids in the congregation when I was growing up in the 1940′s and 50′s. The church was generally fully occupied on Sundays in those days. Easter Sundays were memorable. In those days, the young girls would have bonnets and their best dresses on. The women would wear hats with veils on them. Everybody had a hat, or bonnet or something.”

Orman says Christmas Eve was another memorable time for him in the church.

“They would have a tree up here, and it would be a real tree,” Orman said. “They would put candles on it, because at that time, you didn’t have electricity. If you wanted lights on your tree, you needed candles. As the service came to the end, they would want to light the candles. They had two elders of the church sit on chairs on each side of the tree. They would have a bucket of water and a dipper. This was their fire prevention, because if anything would have happened, this church building would have burned. When they lit the tree, it was a beautiful sight.”

The windows are also a nice feature of the old church.

“You can see how brilliant they are on both sides,” Orman said. “My mother played a big role in getting those windows that are now close to 90 years old. Another memory would be in the spring time or summer, it would be warm in here. Someone would open the windows, and as the pastor delivered his sermon, you would hear the birds, and especially the meadowlarks singing outside.”

The church is not used on a regular basis, or for Sunday services anymore. But it can be used for special occasions.

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