Visiting pastor from Germany to preside over Christmas ending service

Isanti County’s German immigrants – and, of course, the liturgical churches, knew that the Christmas season never really ends until the Three Kings arrived in Bethlehem on Epiphany, two weeks after Christmas Day. And they always celebrated that special day.

Pr. Helge Voigt
Pr. Helge Voigt

Historic St. John’s (German) Lutheran Church of Bradford will once again offer Epiphany Sunday programs replicating these time-honored services – which were first presented in Isanti County way back in 1882 – when Historic St. John’s first opened its doors.

Everyone is cordially invited to enjoy – and participate – and close out the 2015 Christmas season in true German style.

The services will be held Sunday, Jan. 10. The 2 p.m. service is German Language Program (Lesungen und Weihnachtslieder).

The 5 p.m. service is English Language Program (Traditional Lessons and Carols).

The 2 p.m. program is a true German language treat – where all of the readings are presented in native German language, and the most familiar of German Christmas carols are sung by the audience.

Besides providing lots of memories, this can be an opportunity to brush up on your own German language skills, or just soak in the ambiance of the entire historic German Christmas tradition.

Pr. Helge Voigt will be the presiding minister at this German language program. Voigt is a member of the Leipzig District, the Kirchenbezirk Leipzig, and his current assignment is senior pastor of the parish: Evangelisch-Lutherische Sophienkirchgemeinde Leipzig. It’s a congregation that interconnects the outskirts and main parts of the city of Leipzig, with five wonderful old Churches, 3,000 members, two pastors and 14 employees.

Voigt grew up in the former Democratic Republic of Germany (East Germany/GDR) under the Communist regime. He served in the East German military and was a soldier at the time the Berlin Wall fell. Voigt’s wife, Anke, and their two ‘young adult’ daughters, Marie and Hannah, have visited Minnesota previously. Beginning Jan. 5, 2016, he is beginning interim service as a visiting pastor at the beautiful Christ Church Lutheran in South Minneapolis.

Candlit Christmas Tree
Candlit Christmas Tree

The 5 p.m. program is a true Candlelight Lessons and Carols event – where all are invited to join in singing the most familiar old-time Christmas carols, listen to the lessons, and share in the lighting of real old-time candles on a real Christmas tree. This nostalgic program is freely based on the worldfamous Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols offered each Christmas Season from King’s College in Cambridge, England.

Presiding over Candlelight Lessons and Carols is Isanti County’s Pastor Harry Eklund. Eklund is a native of Cloquet, graduated from Cloquet High School, served in the U.S. Navy (1951-1955); graduated from UMD and Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary, class of 1968.

Served congregations in Benson, Duluth, St. Peter, and Cambridge and as the interim pastor of six area congregations. His wife, Jeanette, grew up in Ottertail County, graduated from Sebeka High School, attended Bemidji State College, graduated from the College of St. Scholastica. She is an artist, weaver and a retired teacher. They have three children, three grandchildren and two great–granddaughters. Harry and Jeanette live in Isanti.

Each program will be followed by a sharing time – featuring authentic German treats, hot cider and coffee, and, of course, those real old-time ‘goodie bags,’ just like the ones many received (when some of us were much, much younger, of course) after having participated in the Church Christmas programs.

Historic St. John’s Lutheran Church of Bradford is located at 900 County Road 5 NW, 2 1/2 miles west of Isanti on County Road 5 Northwest. This event is programmed and sponsored by the Friends of Historic St. John’s, Inc.