For more than a century, Denmark Lutherans have clung to their faith and to the enduring rock of their tiny, sturdy church built atop the rise at Denmark, Kansas.
On Saturday, Sept. 10, the Denmark Evangelical Lutheran Community Church flock will rejoice and celebrate the 110th anniversary of the church building with an 11 a.m. service, and at the hall closeby, a potluck dinner at nooon and a special afternoon program.
The beautifully simple, solidly built church gracing the skyline at Denmark has withstood the test of time, its presence a tribute to the pioneer parishioners who, in spite of hardship, saw their dream of building come true. Begun in 1887, it was completed three years later and, in 1901, the bell tower and south entry were added.
From a publication prepared for the church’s centennial anniversary 10 years ago, comes information relative to the architecture and symbolism which will be of interest to many readers.
"Worshippers mount two steps outside, with one more step onto the nave at the base of the alter … these three steps denote the three stepping stones for Christians – baptism, confirmation or instruction, and the final step, communion."
The trefoils carved into the stonework arches over each window and door denote the Holy Trinity. Pointed window tops aim heavenward, also according to Christian symbolism, the booklet relates.
The Trinity is symbolized in the three-section windows, the green and blue glass denoting hope and meditation. The Holy Spirit is also symbolized by the eight panes contained in every window, each pane containing 12 parts, symbolic of the 12 tribes of Israel dating back to the windows of King Solomon’s temple.
High on the front wall of the Denmark Lutheran Church is the Messianic rose, described in Isiah where it is written that the "desert shall blossom as a rose at the coming of the glory fo God." The publication explains, "This advent (coming) of God is in Jesus Christ."
The double fleur-de-lis found at the top of the metal spire denotes the Virgin Mary; the two small circles on either side of the spire are for the Holy Trinity.
The Lutheran cross, carved of native limestone, first stood on the roof over the doorway. In 1901 when the tower and entry were added, the heavy cross was removed. It now stands to the east of the church on a memorial to the early pioneers who built the church.
The centennial brochure tells that the decision to build the church was reached in the fall of 1875. The building was to measure 46˝ x 26 feet, to be of native stone with a shingle roof, on a site located on the summit of a "gentle rise of ground" located on the homestead of Lars P. Nielsen, who donated the ground. The deed was recorded May 3, 1880.
Stone quarrying was done in the community from the Niels Andersen farm, the sand from the farm owned by Clarence Lessor. The lumber came from Ellsworth, a distance of 35 miles. Later, the bell tower rock came from the land of Bob Nelson.
The first regularly called pastor was the Rev. Andreas P.V. Bekker, who served from 1879 to 1883. The booklet relates that the Danish language was spoken exclusively in the church until the mid-1920s.
The community hall was built nearby in 1911.
It was in December, 1950, that a new constitution and bylaws were adopted and the church name changed to Denmark Evangelical Lutheran Community Church.
While there is some doubt as to who was the first to have been buried in the church cemetery, a 5-year-old child, J.M. Larsen (1872-1877) lies beneath a limestone marker that claims, "This is the first grave in the cemetery."