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A big weekend to celebrate a big birthday

There will be a whole lot of joy out in Eureka township this weekend, as many of the folks out there help Highview Christiania Lutheran Church to celebrate its 150th birthday.

The little church sits on a big hill in Eureka township -- some say it is at the highest point in the county -- and boasts a long history of worship, praise, family and friendship. All of that will be commemorated this weekend, as nearly a year of activity comes to its culmination with a whole bunch of fun events.

"It's finally here," said Rev. Chris Beckman. "We've been meeting and planning for this for three years. It's almost like planning a wedding, where it all goes by so fast. It's like we're trying not to get so wrapped up in every little detail that we don't stop to enjoy ourselves, too."

There are many events, and all of them have the same goal -- to bring together today's congregation, welcome members of the past and find a way to showcase some of the church's traditions, tempered with today's talents.

Take, for example, the historical pageant planned for Sunday afternoon. Written by church member Margaret Wall and former pastor Rev. Gerald Dyste, the pageant tells the story of Highview Christiania's formation, changes and faith.

According to Beckman, Dyste received his master's degree from the University of Minnesota. His thesis was called The Christainia Settlement, and tells the story not only of the congregation, but of that community's early settlers. The pageant script is based on that thesis.

"It shows what a church service was like in the 1800s, and what the original school looked like," Beckman said. "It takes a look at the women's groups, and how they've changed. It shows three different variations of the women's groups, from the very formal when women came with long dresses and hats and gloves, then shows 25 years ago when women were more casual, then what the women's group is like today."

The pageant is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon, following a 1 p.m. country chicken dinner at the church. Both events are preceded by the 10:30 a.m. service, during which Bishop Peter Rogness of the St. Paul Area Synod will preach, and several past pastors will participate in the service. Beckman says he expects about 300 people to fill the little church.

Other events

On Saturday, a variety show featuring much of the local talent will be provided at 4 p.m., followed by a barbecue picnic. The church's Country Gospel Group, consisting of folks who play fiddles, banjos and guitars, will be among those to perform. One couple pulls off a pretty mean "Ole and Lena" comedy routine, and they will bring it to stage that night, too. There is also a barbershop quartet ready to perform.

Following Saturday's picnic, the congregation will raise a May Pole, Beckman added.

During the weekend's activities, the church's new anthem, "The Church on the Hill," will be released for the first time. Composed by Brad Ellingboe, the great-grandson of former Highview pastor B. L. Sundal, "The Church on the Hill" is based on Psalm 143.

That anthem will be among the features of Friday's Festival of Music concert, which begins at 7 p.m. The concert will also feature music by Karla Wiese Miller, a former Highview member and organist, as well as an ensemble of Augsburg College music alumni.

For more information on the events, or to reserve tickets for any of the picnic meals, call the church at 952-469-2722.