Cokato Museum’s church exhibit features more than 20 area congregations
By Kristen Miller
“You May Be Seated” is the theme of the new church exhibit now open at the Cokato Museum.
This display highlights the many houses of worship that have served the people of the Cokato area, according to Mike Worcester, Cokato Museum director.
Baptists, Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Congregationalists, and other denominations are among the 20 churches represented in the display.
Despite various beliefs and worship styles, the one thing many of the churches have in common is the simple phrase “you may be seated.”
“Almost every religious service has a moment when the leader asks those in attendance to take their seats,” Worcester said.
Visitors will find some churches in the display are still standing, while others have come and gone.
An example of a church that no longer exists is the Sunset Congregational Church, also known as the Happy Corners Congregational Church, that was located west of French Lake.
Though unsure of the exact date of the church’s closing, remnants of its existence can be found in the church’s cemetery north of Cokato, according to Worcester.
A vast majority of those who settled in the area was Protestant, particularly Lutheran and Covenant. However, there was also a small number of Congregationalists that passed through the area at one time as well.
Worcester explained these New England settlers stayed for only a short period of time before moving on to the next business opportunity, building a church in the process.
Visitors can learn a brief history of each of the congregations on display and see remnants and artifacts from many of them.
For example, an item on loan from the Cokato Evangelical Church is a baptismal fount.
Another item on loan is an elevated pulpit common in early churches as well as a replica of a stained glass window from the former Cokato Apostolic Church.
The majority of the items come from the museum’s collection including a Catholic kneeler which greets exhibit visitors.
Through the making of this exhibit, Worcester found some congregations had quite a bit of information and artifacts, while others had very little.
Worcester hopes that this exhibit will “spur” some people to help tell the story of the congregations in the area.
He is also hoping to identify some photos on display taken between 1905 and 1925.
Like all its summer/fall exhibits, the museum tries to have a distinctly local theme to attract the audience in town for family gatherings and class reunions, Worcester said.
“You May Be Seated” is open through October. Museum hours are Tuesdays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m, Saturdays from 9 a.m to 3 p.m., and Sundays, noon to 4 p.m.