NEW RICHLAND, Minnesota - Since the late 1800s, the steeple atop the Le Sueur River Lutheran Church near New Richland has stood the test of time, and all kinds of weather. In addition, it was a wayfinding point, used as a landmark when giving directions while driving in rural Waseca County.
But this week, the steeple was not immune to strong storms that rolled through the area this past Tuesday, sheering it off and sending it to the ground.
"As I got closer, I realized something was wrong. I was holding the steering wheel and I was going, 'no, no, no.'"
Pastor Steven Woyen has been at the church for almost a year. He was intending to meet with church members Tuesday night, and drove through the pouring rain.
"A small piece of the bell came off, part of the lip around it, but it's OK. One of our members took it to his shop on his farm, so it's in storage."
In addition, a couple of lightning rods atop the roof were bent, and some small holes were found in the roof. Also, a few trees in the church's cemetery were uprooted in the storm, yet the remainder of the church, including the stained glass windows, was intact. But there is a bit of a tangible loss with the steeple gone, however.
"It's something that's always been there, their parents saw it, their grandparents saw that steeple. It can shake a person's faith, but the good news is that God's presence is still with us, even with all the turmoil."
And while the repair process is just beginning, Pastor Woyen says the spirit of the church and its congregation is not broken.
"A church building is important, they're built to glorify God. But in the end, the church is the people. It is the people of that area. We've been here since the 1860s, we're not going anywhere."
After a pre-planned renovation wraps up later this summer, plans for a permanent steeple will be discussed to replace the one lost in the storm.