For 100 years, Lutherans in this farming community on the Minnesota prairie have come to one church to share life’s milestones.
They have been baptized, confirmed and married at La Salle Lutheran. Their grandparents, parents and siblings lie in the church cemetery next door.
But the old friends who gathered here early one recent Sunday never imagined that they would one day be marking the death of their own church.
When La Salle Lutheran locks its doors in August, it will become the latest casualty among fragile Minnesota churches either closing, merging or praying for a miracle. Steep drops in church attendance, aging congregations, and cultural shifts away from organized religion have left most of Minnesota’s mainline Christian denominations facing unprecedented declines.
“Sunday used to be set aside for church: that’s what families did,” said Donna Schultz, 74, a church member since grade school at La Salle, in southwest Minnesota. “Now our children have moved away. The grandkids have volleyball, dance on weekends. People are busy with other things….”
I've been a living witness. "As churches close in Minnesota, a way of life fades" https://t.co/yhM4ke0Txk
— Lynne Silva-Breen (@LynneLMFT) July 8, 2018