Ever since I was a small girl, I heard stories about my great-grandfather, Pehr Christianson, from my mom. He was born and raised in a Swedish fishing village on the Baltic Sea, but his love was carving. He used a penknife for most of his carvings, which ranged from a little ship in a bottle to family furniture to a church pulpit.
It is the pulpit that I am the most fascinated with. It was carved in the 1890s, and Pehr was paid $18.00 for his work (which is unbelievable to me). He was a true artist, carving seven beautiful panels of Biblical scenes for the pulpit, each complete with perfectly carved Biblical text (in Swedish, of course) for a small, rural Minnesota church that he and his family belonged to after immigrating to the United States. The story goes that he needed such fine brushes to paint the details that were done with gold paint that he made his own brushes from his wife’s hair!
The church for which my great-grandfather Pehr made the pulpit is Spruce Hill Lutheran Church, located in Douglas County, Minnesota. The pulpit is still the church’s pulpit, and although the church is no longer used for weekly services, it is still used for special services such as reunions and weddings. When the pulpit turned 100 years old, the Douglas County Historical Society hosted a reunion for the descendants of the former congregation members at the church. Needless to say, many in attendance were descendants of Pehr Christianson, including my mom, my brothers, my uncles, cousins and me. My Lutheran roots run deep, and I’m proud to say they are also manifested in that Swedish pulpit in Minnesota.
Kris Brugamyer lives in Dickinson, North Dakota, and is serving a second term on the churchwide executive board.