<CENTER><B>'Church in the Wildwood'</B></CENTER>

Sunday marked the last church service of the 106-year-old institution. Typically, 15 people show up, but this time, almost 85 came to say goodbye to their little country church.

Set amid corn and soybean fields, barbed wire fences and gravel roads, the church itself looked almost as sad as its congregation members.

Clerk of Session Ron Boyenga said it was previously suggested that the church have a celebration on its last day, but the church declined because no members felt like celebrating when it seemed to them like a time to mourn.

The church's 40 members, not all of them active, have seen this coming. In January, 14 were present for a vote to close - 12 voted in favor and two left their ballots blank.

One of those who will miss the small Sunday services is Jake Boyenga, who, at 98, is the oldest church member. He lives in Luverne now, but he never stopped going to the church he started attending when he was 7.

Jake remembers the church services gradually changing from German to English and celebrating the 25th anniversary of the church. He remembers pastors keeping cows and chickens to supplement the lean lifestyle of the 1920s and -30s.

"They would help him out," Jake said. "One would bring hay, another would bring some meat. They didn't make very much back then."

He spent the summer of 1950 in California with a cousin and went to a large church there. "The preacher didn't know them, and when church was over, nobody got acquainted."

"People get closer together here," Jake said.

The church bulletin is telling of how close the church really is. In the announcement section, it sends birthday wishes to "Gertie" and anniversary wishes to "John and Bernita." No last names necessary.

Even though it was a sad service for the congregation, it went on as any other. There were hymns ("Precious Memories" and "Church in the Wildwood"), scripture readings, a sermon and the benediction.

The melodrama was put on hold so they could worship. Some tears came later when most gathered in the basement for coffee and refreshments.

Jake and his wife, Hazel, were married at Stateline in 1969 and said they realize its closing is a part of the changing times.

Jake said, "Where we used to have four farms by the church, there's one."

The church and parsonage are up for auction Thursday. Money has been set aside for perpetual care of the cemetery.

Most of Stateline's members have made arrangements to transfer to other area churches, even though they say it just won't be the same.

After Sunday's coffee and refreshments in the basement, churchgoers were greeted outside by crickets chirping reminders of what a country church is all about - neighbors and faith connected in a rural setting.

In the words of lay minister John Dyck, "This is the last day of our corporate worship. - But our worship is something that we don't just do on Sunday. - We will be in new settings but carry the same heritage."

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