Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Chapel in the Hills, Rapid City, South Dakota

On the west side of Rapid City, in the middle of a residential neighborhood, is something very unique -- the Chapel in the Hills.

As a special ministry of the South Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the chapel is an exact reproduction of the famous Borgund Stavkirke of Laerdal, Norway.  The chapel was built in 1969 as the home of the Lutheran Vespers radio ministry.  It was felt the construction of the chapel would honor the radio program's many listeners and their heritage, since many of the original settlers in the Dakotas and surrounding areas were Norwegian Lutherans.

The original Borgund Stavkirke was built around the year 1150 and is considered the most complete reserved church still standing in Norway. 

The wood carvings are the result of Mr. Erik Fridstrom, one of Norway's best woodcarvers, and a local Rapid City resident, Mr. Helge Christiansen. 

To serve as a visitor's center and offices for the Lutheran Vespers, an authentic grass-roofed "Stabbur," or store house, was built in Norway and shipped to Rapid City where it was assembled on site.  Today it is used as the visitor's center and gift shop.

The question of funding was answered by a generous gift from Mr. Arndt Dahl of Rapid City.  The land, all the original structures and landscaping were made possible through Mr. Dahl's generosity.  All he asked in return was to dedicate the chapel to the glory of God in memory of his parents.  His father, the Reverend Anton Dahl was a pioneering Lutheran pastor in the Upper Midwest.  The chapel was dedicated on July 6, 1969 and served as the home of the Lutheran Vespers until 1975.  At that time, the decision was made to move the radio program to the church's headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Also on the grounds is this log cabin:

Mr. Edward Nielsen was born in 1843 in Norway and came to the Black Hills to prospect for gold in 1876.  This log cabin was built by him in Palmer Gulch, near Hill City, South Dakota.  He died in 1925.  The cabin was purchased at an auction, dismantled and moved to its current site in 1987, where it was reconstructed by volunteers.  It is dedicated to those of Scandinavian descent who brought a part of their heritage with them to America. 

The chapel, gift shop and museum are all open from 7:00 a.m. to dusk, 7 days a week, from May 1st through September 30th.  There is no admission fee to visit -- the chapel is completely self-supporting, provided through free-will donations, gift shop purchases and weddings.  Worship services are conducted each evening in the chapel during the summer months.  Everyone is invited to attend and dress is casual.

Behind the chapel is a Prayer Walk, set aside as a place of meditation. 

The first place on the Prayer Walk is "Come to Me and Rest."

The second one..."Lord, teach me to pray."

The third..."Trust God with a childlike faith."
The fourth..."Pray for Children and Families."

The fifth..."Trust God to provide what we need."

The sixth..."Pray for world peace."

And the seventh and final stop..."Amen, God hears our prayers."

We really enjoyed our visit to the Chapel in the Hills and hope to attend a service on our next visit.  The Prayer Walk is a wonderful way to remind us of the things we should pray for each and every day.  I certainly don't claim to be a biblical scholar, but many of us may not know how to pray -- God gave us one example of prayer in what is frequently referred to as the Lord's Prayer found in Matthew 6.  And when we don't know how to pray, the Spirit intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express (Romans 8:26).

We are thankful for the opportunity to travel and see such special places as the Chapel in the Hills and to share our experiences with our family and friends.  Our continuous prayer is that God will continue to bless our voyage, as well as our family and friends everywhere.

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