New columbarium almost complete in Elim Cemetery

The columbarium is located across the street from Elim Lutheran Church in Scandia.

More than half of Minnesotans now prefer cremation over burial.

In 2011, according to the state Health Department, there were more cremations in Minnesota than burials.

But what to do with the remains?

At a cemetery, generations can visit the gravesite and read the name on the tombstone.

To accommodate families who like this permanence, cemeteries have allowed urns to be buried in traditional gravesites.

Another option is now available in Forest Lake and Scandia. A columbarium is a place to store urns, with the name engraved on the outside.

One or two urns can be kept in each niche, as the compartments are called.  The niches are above ground, so no digging is required.  They take much less space than a burial plot.

Elim Columbarium

Elim Lutheran Church in Scandia will dedicate its new granite columbarium at 10 a.m. on Sunday, November 4.  This is All Saints’ Sunday, when persons who died in the past year are named.

Four benches facing the center of the circle will be installed in time for the dedication.

The Elim Columbarium came to be because of a gift from Mignon Johnson in memory of her husband, Edsel Johnson.

The architectural design, electrical and plumbing work, and landscaping were also donated by Elim members.

Elim has two cemeteries, one across the road from the church at the southwest corner of Oak-hill Road and Olinda Trail in the center of town, and one a little farther south. The second cemetery has many plots available.

Before the columbarium was built, the central spot at the cemetery by the church was the site of the annual Memorial Day program in Scandia.

Wayne Schmitt, the current cemetery committee chair, said flagpoles will be installed and the Memorial Day service will continue.

The Elim Columbarium is open to members and nonmembers.

A person can buy a single or a double niche, and a couple can place two urns in one space. The price has not been set.

Pastor Scott Westphal said the shift toward cremations has come about for several reasons.  One is that it’s cheaper.

“I highly recommend it, because I know people can become very financially overstressed on burials,” he said.

For burial, the family is required to buy a concrete vault to put the casket in, he explained. Without the vault, the ground tends to sink in the months following a burial.  The funeral, casket, and burial can cost $10,000.

Another reason, he said, is that people have come to recognize that the type of burial is unimportant: “God can resurrect any body Gods wants to resurrect.”

The Memorial Prayer Garden at Faith Lutheran Church in Forest Lake.

Faith Lutheran Church

On the north shore of Forest Lake another columbarium is part of a peaceful setting with paved paths and graceful plantings.

The Memorial Prayer Garden is just outside the front door of the church.

On the memory wall, a six-feet-tall block of granite, anyone’s name can be inscribed–even if that person is buried somewhere else.

Sue Gort said the pavers on the walkway can also be engraved, and instead of just the name, creative persons can choose a Bible verse, or even “We miss you, Grandma.”

The garden began in 2007 and was completed in phases.  The third landscaping project was done last fall.

Niches were sold starting in 2008, the year the columbarium was dedicated.

After a memorial service is held in the church, the mourners walk to the columbarium, where there are benches to sit on.  After the outdoor service, they return to the church for lunch.

“We liken ourselves to a little old country church,” she said.  “They  always had a cemetery to bury the dead by their church.”

It is not necessary to be a member of Faith Lutheran Church to buy columbarium space, Gort said. Most purchasers have some connection to the church.

The columbarium has 112 niches.  In anticipation of needing more space, a foundation was poured under the pavers for future expansion.

Faith sells either a single or double niche.  A one-time charge covers the urns, engraving on the front, and perpetual care.

Engraving a paver is a separate charge.