Seljord Lutheran Church

We all have landmarks we love, and at the top of my list is Seljord Lutheran Church in Clearwater County, just a quarter mile down the road from my childhood home in Northern Minnesota.

This beautiful Gothic Revival church, built by Norwegian immigrants around 1910, was named after Seljord, a municipality in the Telemark region of Norway … about 80 miles west of Oslo. (Click here for the city’s official website.)

More than 40 years have passed since worship services were held at Seljord. In the mid 1960s the small Lutheran parishes were consolidated with Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Clearbrook (where my family attended and where I was confirmed at age 16).

I could see Seljord through my bedroom window, walking between our house and the barns and waiting for the school bus at the end of the drive way. I often wondered what it would have been like to attend services there “back in the olden days.”

My connection to Seljord, however, strengthened during my high school years … when I was hired by Good Shepherd to mow Seljord’s cemetery and grounds (as well as the six other cemeteries in the area the church maintained). My connection deepened during those many hours I circled the church with my push mower.

Eventually I built up the courage to enter the church on my own. (I could never understand why I would be afraid to enter a house of God by myself … but at age 16 I cast that fear aside.) As a young vocalist, I discovered that Seljord was a great place to rehearse for the times I was asked to sing at worship services, weddings and funerals. The acoustics in Seljord are exceptional … with its arched tin roof and wood floors. And the upright piano holds its tune remarkably well … especially since the church has not been heated or cooled these past decades.

While I was in high school and college, I also participated in the annual summer music social neighbors hosted at Seljord.

As I prepared for my senior recital at Bemidji State University (a requirement for my music degree), I spent my late winter break that year in the cold sanctuary bundled up in with thick winter clothing vocalizing and rehearsing my music hours at a time.

For me Seljord has become a place I can find a deep peace, and I try to spend time in the sanctuary once every year.

I am told that the stained glass windows were purchased from a parish in Iowa. During my high school years vandals stole the bottom half off all but two of the windows, and I remember the shock I felt that people would actually violate a house of God.

From that time on, I never take this beautiful church for granted, and it has become a frequent subject of my photography. Within the past two years, neighbors came together to restore the church with new siding and a new roof on the outside (thanks to a grant from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans), and the interior was repainted and cleaned thoroughly.

I think it is time that I discover more about the history of this beautiful church … the landmark I treasure most in my life.

During the Fourth of July weekend, I walked over to Seljord to take a new set of photos. The sanctuary looks so good with a fresh coat of paint.

This original painting of Jesus on canvass is inserted into the alter at Seljord. The artist signature is “Klagstad.” I want to find out more about who created this beautiful piece of art … inserted into the altar that is also a stunning piece in its own right … adorned with Luther’s seal.

Off to the side of the altar is a smaller stained glass window with a rose-colored panel. I have always enjoyed this view of the Seljord outhouse and my parents’ farmstead.

“Do you have your Bible? Do you have your quarter for offering?” I remember my Mom always making sure we didn’t forget. It looks like the Seljord parish was very diligent in keep track of attendance, offering given and Bibles brought!

A bulletin board in the entry to the church has a display of photos of the recent restoration work completed by volunteers who care deeply for Seljord. In the middle of the display is a photo of Seljord Kirke in Norway … a church built in 1180.

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