BY JANEL KUESTER
This is my third pastoral call and after serving a Danish church in Farmington and a Swedish church in Chisago City. My father was extremely proud of the fact that his German heritage was finally being represented in my current call. At St. Paul Lutheran Church (located near the Historic Courthouse Building), we truly embrace our German heritage and the lineage of 146 years of being in the St. Croix Valley.
In my first couple of years serving at St. Paul Lutheran, little things would crop up. We have a couple members who would frequently greet me on a Sunday morning with, “guten morgen” (“good morning” in German). A piece of architecture that served in the previous location of the church on Third Street reads in the stain glass window, “Ev. Luth. St. Baulus Kirche.” Most potlucks we include German fare.
Yet, there is nothing more German in this congregation than the Annual Spring Fling Pork Chop and Sauerkraut Dinner. I can vividly remember the first April that I was serving the congregation and the day of the dinner was approaching. It was not so much the hearing, but the smelling that made sure that everyone inside the church building (and even probably a few homes around the perimeter of the church) knew something amazing was about to happen.
Edie Peterson, who has been coordinating the event for 21 years, would be the first to tell you that it takes a village to put on this kind of production. The smoked pork chops are delivered and the vats of sauerkraut are cooked. The apple sauce is sauced and the crudités platters are loaded. The potatoes are mashed and the corn is cooked. The star bakers have baked. The tickets are sold. The people come. In fact, the fellowship hall tables are filled many times over throughout the event.
It may indeed be a German feast, but it is also the coming together as community that stirs the hearts of this congregation.
As it reads in Acts 2, “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” We at St. Paul Lutheran take the words of each of the apostles, especially Apostle Paul that we are named after, seriously. We look at this event as a time of teaching, prayer, fellowship and a time to break bread together with our neighbors.
Some people from the surrounding community who aren’t members of our congregation come each year. There are some people who travel a farther than I can imagine to come to this annual event. For some the meal is delivered to their homes because they are no longer physically able to attend.
What a witness to the community this Spring Fling Annual Pork Chop and Sauerkraut Dinner has been for 21 years! We, at St. Paul Lutheran (609 Fifth St. S., Stillwater), do want all to know they are “villkommen” (welcome) 5-7 p.m. Thursday, April 27 to enjoy a hearty German meal and a heart-filled time of fellowship. Tickets are available now for $12.50 for adults and $7 for children age 6-12 by contacting the church office at 651-439-5970.
Janel Kuester is pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Stillwater.