By Kristen Miller
KINGSTON, MN The old Kingston Apostolic Church building has stood as a landmark for the city of Kingston, but after Saturday, Jan. 7, it will stand no more.
The nearly 100-year-old church is scheduled to be burned by the Dassel Volunteer Fire Department and other assisting agencies for training.
The church building has sat empty since the congregation moved to its new building in 2010. The last service took place Jan. 17 of that year, according to Pastor Orval Wirkkala.
Before the congregation decided to rebuild, a structural engineer deemed the building beyond repair. There has also been sewer and parking issues.
The building has simply “outlived its usefulness,” Wirkkala said.
“A church is a building, and once the people leave, there’s really no spiritual value only sentimental value for God dwells in the hearts of His people,” Wirkkala said.
Though there are some community members upset with the idea of burning down the building, church board member Harley Hendrickson sees it differently. Instead, he used the analogy that when an old flag is tattered and worn, the most honorable way of disposing of it, is to burn it.
“We did look at many different options,” said Dan Salo, current church board chair. “Mainly because of the current conditions, it would’ve been too costly even for anything else.” It has also become a liability for the congregation as it stands empty, Salo said. And it would begin to be an eyesore with no upkeep, he added.
The members are aware of this fact and accept the church building’s fate.
Lisa Rokala grew up in the church and said there will be a couple of tears shed as she watches the old church burn.
“I’d rather see it go this way, though,” she said, adding that it would be worse to see it deteriorate and fall down.
The earliest records indicate the church was built around 1913.
The church’s oldest member, Mabel Huro, who recently passed, attended the church all her life and was very instrumental in developing the church’s Sunday school in its early days, according to Wirkkala.
The congregation has removed what is salvageable including the bird’s-eye maple flooring and the pews, which were mostly sold to individuals for personal keepsakes.
The church board has been considering ideas for what to do with the lot the building currently sits on. The likely idea is to use it to expand the congregation’s cemetery, but they also have thought about making it a wayside stop for prayer.
A replica of the church could be built, where people could stop and use it as a place for prayer, Salo explained.
As far as the burn itself, Dassel Fire Chief Dale Grochow said the plan is to start around 9 a.m. Saturday, January 7.
County Road 27 will be blocked from Highway 15 to County Road 19.
Grochow anticipates five fire departments will be involved in the whole process, with firefighters from Cokato, Litchfield, and Kimball assisting with the burn, and Hutchinson taking fire calls for Dassel. Grochow said he appreciates each department’s assistance with this burn.
Though it’s hard to determine just how long the process will take, Grochow expects the building to be destroyed within a couple of hours.
Water will be sprayed on the building to contain the fire, but Grochow doesn’t have any concerns regarding the infrastructure in the vicinity.
He is anticipating extra cars and people in the area as spectators, and advises drivers in the area to use caution.