Updated: May 27, 2020
Check out the page on the Thingvalla Church History, the accidental fire that destroyed the church, and then the wonderful work of the community to design and build the memorial site at this link:
You can read the dedication speech by Susan Sigurdson Powers about the Living Prairie Garden:
Though I know that you have just arrived here, I want to you take a little trip with me, an imaginary one–a trip back in time.
I want you to travel back at least 115 years or more—before the time that the church was built.
I want you to imagine what this spot might have looked like.
Look around you. Take away all the elements that have developed here over time:
Take away the planted rows of trees. Take away the power poles. Take away the paved roads. Take away the sounds of cars and trucks speeding past. Take away the perfectly manicured lawn.
Replace it with the sound of the wind blowing across the prairie, tossing the native grasses in an ancient dance. Mingled amongst the native grasses are tiny bursts of color—wildflowers like Blanket Flowers, Brown-Eyed Susan’s, Purple Prairie Clover, Prairie Roses—that are often visible only if you take time to really look at the prairie. Occasionally, the sound of a meadowlark or mourning dove rises above the wind. In a lull in the breeze, you can hear the creek below the ridge as it bubbles over the rocks as it flows to the east.
Feel the peace and solitude of that place………. This is the vision our early ancestors found when they settled here in what was to be Thingvalla Township. It was in that setting that they chose to build a church. After the Thingvalla Church was lost to fire in 2003, we were all heartbroken.
Word of the great loss spread as fast as the fire itself, quickly reaching all across the US and Canada, and even across the ocean to Iceland. The reaction was universal—shock and sadness, bringing tears to the eyes of strong men and women when they thought of the loss of this symbol of our faith, our ancestors, our history……..
The church was gone, but a question remained….what can we do to remember this place and the people who settled here? Over the coming months, many ideas were discussed. A decision was made to save the foundation— helping keep a visible footprint of the presence of the church, without it, it would be easy to forget that there ever was a church here……Eventually, stones were laid in the path to mimic the aisles in the church…..
More discussion followed.
Rebuilding the church was not really an option—there were only a few members of the original congregation left, and even if a church would be built, it would never have the history the old church had. We toyed with the idea of a miniature replica of the church, but again, it just wouldn’t be the same and the maintenance would be an issue. There was talk of a bell tower, standing alone…..but it risked being more of an eyesore than a landmark on the prairie that we felt it should be. There was talk of planting a flower garden, but its maintenance would be a huge deterrence—the temperature extremes of the region would be a challenge to most flowers and lack of a water source on