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Swedish church turns 125
Sept. 23, 2013
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Fall festival at Oster Covenant Church (east of Winsted) Sept. 29; open to the public

By Starrla Cray
Staff Writer

WINSTED, WAVERLY, MN – For 88-year-old Ruth (Strandquist) Deidrick, the country church 3.5 miles east of Winsted is an indelible part of her family’s heritage.

“I’ve gone there all my life,” she said.

When Oster Covenant Church was born in 1888, it was known as The Swedish Christian Emanuel Church. Ruth’s grandparents, who had emigrated from Sweden, were among its early members.

“The services were in Swedish to begin with,” said Ruth’s daughter, Cindy Johnson.

Growing up, Ruth remembers attending Julotta, a Swedish service that takes place on Christmas morning. (“Jul” means Christmas, and “otta” is the time slightly before dawn.)

Ruth’s parents farmed across the road from the church, and Ruth hardly ever missed a Sunday.

“I had perfect attendance in Sunday school for 10 years,” she laughed.

The church purchased its first piano in 1935, at a cost of $17.75. In 1942, the same year Ruth graduated from high school in Watertown, she became Oster church’s assistant pianist.

Ruth currently serves as organist, and has been either pianist or organist at the church for nearly 72 years.

“I started with a pump organ before the electric one,” she said. A Hammond electric organ was installed in 1958.

Ruth’s brothers, Wallace and Willard Strandquist, were also involved in Oster church, and held various leadership positions.

The two men married sisters – Willard’s wife was Novia, and Wallace’s wife was Audrey – and the sisters also enjoyed being active at Oster church.

A lifetime of memories
Ruth met her late husband, Calvin, while they were both working at the Green Giant factory in Winsted. The couple was married at Oster church Nov. 28, 1946, and went on to raise a son, Jim, and a daughter, Cindy.

“We grew up in the church,” Cindy said.

Jim and his wife, Cathy, make their home near Oster church, while Cindy and her husband, Alan, live in Plymouth.

Alan’s father, Chester Johnson, had been pastor of Oster church starting in 1965.

The current pastor, Robert Ramphal, has been serving since 1971.

“He lives in St. Paul and drives out every Sunday,” Cindy said, explaining that Ramphal has another job in the Twin Cities during the week.

Fall festival Sept. 29
For the past few years, Oster Covenant Church has organized a fall festival that’s open to the public. This year, the festival will take place Sunday, Sept. 29, starting with worship at 10 a.m. After the service, all are encouraged to stay for a meal and special music by the Wagon Wheelers.

Outdoor activities will be provided for adults and children, such as donkey rides, a petting zoo, and a farmers market.

“Everyone is welcome to come,” Cindy said. “We pray for many more years that this church can be a beacon of light for Christ in the community.”

Oster Covenant Church has worship services each Sunday at 10 a.m.; Sunday school and Bible study start at 9:15 a.m.

To learn more, contact church chair Charles Stevens at (952) 955-1338.

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