|Greasewood Finnish Apostolic Lutheran Church|
On my trip ”Go West Old Man” I stopped in 29th June, 2005, at the former Finnish Apostolic Lutheran church and Cemetery in Umatilla County in Northeastern part of Oregon. At this Church site I once again saw that simple is often beautiful.
|When the church was young and automobiles were even younger|
This church, the Greasewood Finnish Apostolic Lutheran Church is 131 years old. The abandoned building, surrounded by wheat fields, stands on a hill five miles west of Adams and eleven miles north of Pendleton. It’s located at the intersection of Enbysk and Midway roads near Adams, Oregon. It was listed in 1988 on the US National Register of Historic Places. The Apostolic Lutheran Church was founded by a Lutheran branch called Laestadians.
They brought their faith, Bibles, songbooks and catechisms with them from Finland, Sweden, Norway and Lapland first to the copper mines of Michigan and later to Oregon, where they claimed free homesteads in 1877. In the early days, their religion formed the backbone of their lives. In 1884, the Greasewood Finns agreed that they needed a church. For one dollar, Peter and Josephine Enbysk donated one acre of land for the church in the center of the settlement. The transaction was made to Andrew J. Rauhala, Carl. J. Pell, Matt Deining, Matt Kononen, Peter C. Enbysk, Olof Hendriksen, Gustaw W. Planting and to their successors and assigns forever.
The one room sanctuary was built between 1884 and 1887 by volunteer labor. To this small, Gothic Revival church was added a vestibule in 1910. In the chancel, painted maroon, are the clergy's pulpit and a choir loft for the three song leaders. The communion railing is in front of the pulpit, with a gate on each side. The walls are painted a light blue, the floors gray and the inside doors are finished in light oak.
The building was heated by a large potbellied wood stove located in the middle of the room. Light was supplied by ornate kerosene lamps attached to the wall. Water was carried into the room in a blue granite container with a spigot.
In addition to Sunday services, special services were held during “juhannus”, and when visiting ministers came to the area. Often after baptisms and special services, the congregation gathered at one one of the homes for dinner and fellowship. Some members walked to church, but there were families who traveled many, many miles, returning home the next day. Horseback, horse-and-buggy or horse drawn sleigh was the mode of travel for the day. In about 1912, when automobiles came into use, they were parked in a row on the east side of the building. The noise and sight of the cars frightened the horses tied to the hitching posts. When a car backfired, the horses often became unmanageable and runaways occurred.
Some of the local Finns were affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church. They found a church three miles to the Northwest, founded by Germans, who came to the are in 1878. Their church was built in 1897.
At an evening service, in 1910, the congregation observed Halley's comet with awe and alarm. Another service was interrupted when a farmer came asking for help. His cow fell into the well. The men used horses to pull her out, but in her agitated state, she turned on the crowd and scattered the people.
|In the chancel, painted maroon, are the
clergy's pulpit and a choir loft for the |
three song leaders. The communion railing is in front of the pulpit, with a gate
on each side. The walls are painted a light blue an the floors gray.
In those days it was the custom for men to sit on the right side of the room; the women and children sat on the left. Older children were instructed to sit quietly. Sometimes little ones escaped from their mothers, opened the gate on the communion railing and wandered behind the pulpit. Their stirring around, or the crying of infants did not bother the preacher as he delivered his sermon.
The Finnish language was used exclusively as long as the immigrants lived. The first generation born in America spoke Finnish from childhood, and they too treasured the inflections of the words and the sacred songs sung in minor key.
|Look at the large potbellied wood stove in the middle of the room|
No collection were taken during the service, but donations were made to pay the expenses of visiting ministers. Members of the congregation provided lodging for them and sometimes their large families as well. Many Finns held fast to their faith and supported other Apostolic Lutheran churches in the Portland area and in Michigan and Minnesota. Families traveled far to visit their countrymen and brothers and sisters in faith. Astoria, Portland, Quincy and Clatskanie in Oregon, Brush Prairie and Centerville in Washington and Long Valley in Idaho were often destinations.
In 1929 were held a memorable occasion for the local Apostolic Lutherans. The Finnish Apostolic Lutheran Church of America had their Big Meeting / Convention in Pendleton. It was held four days at the Methodist Church in Pendleton. Over 700 delegates and guests came to convention by bus, car and train from different parts of the USA. At this National Convention, the by-laws and the constitution of the Finnish Apostolic Lutheran Church were approved.
The local lay preacher and ministers were Andrew Rauhala Jacobson, Sackri Hendrickson, Henry Maaherra, Ingerbrit Holmgren and Gustaw W. Planting. Reverend John Lumijarvi from Astoria is remembered among the most eloquent of former ministers. He owned land in the community which he rented to a farmer who never needed a written lease. Reverend Wilhelm Basi, pastor in Centerville, Washington, conducted many services in the local church. Reverend Andrew Mickelson, a minister from Michigan, brought preachers from the “old country” to speak to the pioneers. They enjoyed news from Finland and this touch from across the sea. Reverend Bernhard Fardig, a former sea captain from Berkeley, California, was a favorite with the young people. Other ministers or traveling missionaries who were invited for special occasions were: Charles Ojala, John Nelson, Carl Sacarisen, Fred Johnson, Isaac Nelson, George Nelson, Liimatta, John Paana, Alwar Leppanen, Monroe Prouty, Kurtti, Evert Maattala, Otto Stadius, Uuras Saarnivaara and many others.
|Baptism certificate on the church wall|
During two weeks in the summer, teenagers attended confirmation school (Rippikoulu) where they studied the Bible, Bible history and catechism. They were required to memorize many passages. A visiting minister taught the class in the Finnish language and held a concluding examination in front of the congregation. Then the students proudly received their diplomas and were invited to partake of holy communion for the first time. The ministers who served the congregation are remembered for preaching the apostolic faith which stressed confession, repentance and forgiveness. The parishioners wished each other, "Jumalan rauha" (God's peace) when they left the worship service.
|Kerosene lamp attached to the wall.|
It was the custom for the people in the settlement to help one another. In times of sorrow, relatives and friends (valvojaiset) stayed with the one in repose until time for the funeral. The casket arrived on the Hunt train at Myrick Station, where someone waited with a team and wagon. The deceased was washed and dressed by family or friends and then placed in the parlor until time for the service at the church. Burial was at Greasewood Cemetery, one-half mile north of the church, where the men of the community had opened the grave. At the concluding ceremony, a trio sang several songs. After the minister's last words, the pallbearers took turns filling in the grave.
The last time the church was used for worship was in the beginning of 1970’s. The church received a generally high degree of maintenance until 1965, when it ceased being used for services on a regular basis. Following its restoration by descendants of the builders in 1985 – 1986, it is still quite good condition.