Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Rebecka Lester with her Confirmation FaithChest.From the left: Pastor Robert Leaverton, Mel Askins, Mick Handley, John Schatz, Larry Koch, John Chepulis, and Chris Gunderson work on FaithChests in Absarokee July 12, 2014.

Woodcrafters focusing on faith formation

A group of craftsmen from Immanuel Lutheran Church in Absarokee have come together to use their skills to equip families.
The men are building FaithChests that are given to church members as a place to store faith items. The chests are often given to young members at their confirmation. Recently a FaithChest was given to a church member on her 100th birthday.
A FaithChest may contain any number of important items from a person’s faith journey, including baptismal certificate, confirmation certificate, candle, and cross, a Bible (especially one containing family history), baptismal clothing, Bible story books, catechism resources, historic mementos, and wedding memorabilia.
Dr. Dick Hardell developed the idea for FaithChests about 10 years ago while he was the executive director of the Youth & Family Institute in Bloomington, Minn. He realized that faith creation happens in the home, and began developing resources to help families share their faith with children at home.
Hardell, who interned in Stillwater County in the 1960s, moved back to the area when he retired and now attends Immanuel Lutheran Church.
Strengthening Families
The FaithChest can also serve as a family altar. The idea is to really encourage families to learn the faith at home, said Hardell.
“It’s such a wonderful gift to the individual and the family,” Hardell said.
Steve Aadland said children really appreciate it when they are presented with a FaithChest. They are “beaming ear to ear,” he said.
Hardell said family systems are weak in the U.S., and FaithChests help to connect generations.
WoodCrafters for christ
Aadland said the Immanuel WoodCrafters for Christ group has been building FaithChests in Absarokee for about a year.
The FaithChest project grew out of another project at Immanuel Lutheran. Several years ago Aadland’s brother, a pipe organ builder by trade, built a pipe organ for the church. Aadland expanded his own woodworking shop at that time for his brother to use in building the pipe organ, and the two worked together on the project.
Aadland said building the pipe organ involved more than 6,000 hours of volunteer work over the span of two years. During that time, he said, it was discovered that they had a lot of skilled people in the congregation.
Aadland, Hardell, and thirteen other men are currently involved in the woodcrafting group.
Hardell said the group is a great way to connect men. Men will gather if they are doing something, he said.
The group meets in Aadland’s wood shop in Absarokee. Aadland said the group meets monthly during decent weather from about 8:30 until noon.
Aadland said it started slowly in Absarokee with the first chest built a little over a year ago. The group met for the first time in May and continued to meet monthly through October when they stopped for the winter. Aadland said the group will begin meeting again in the spring.
Hardell said they take about 15-20 minutes for a little devotional that is often themed around work they are doing.
The woodcrafters are a multi-generational group. Twelve men are aged between their 50s and 80s, while three are younger.
In addition to FaithChests, several group members also make other religious items from wood. Mick Handley makes cross necklaces from wood, while John Schatz makes candle holders. Schatz has been making candle holders out of old cedar fence posts from the Bozeman Trail.
Most of the wood for the FaithChests is donated by Stillwater Lumber in Columbus. Group members also donate some materials.
Santa’s workshop
Aadland described the atmosphere as being like Santa’s workshop. Everyone is having a blast doing fine craftsmanship, he said.
Most of the work is done in Aadland’s shop, though some is done at other men’s shops. One member makes feet for the FaithChests in his own shop, and brings the cut and mitered pieces to Aadland’s shop for eventual use on a FaithChest.
Widespread interest
FaithChests are being used by churches around the world. The chests are also being used by a number of different denominations, including Lutheran, Baptist, and Episcopal churches.
“It’s not about a certain denomination,” Hardell said.
Aadland said there is a lot of interest in the FaithChests. There is more demand than production capacity, he said.