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The Lillian Building opens

Gene and Connie Rasmusen transformed the old Methodist Church in Osakis into The Lillian Building, an open venue for events. (Annie Harman/Echo Press)

When United Methodist Church of Osakis closed its doors on June 2, 2013, the plan was to tear the building down. The church had been in operation for 144 years, having been established in 1869.

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However, Connie and Gene Rasmusen, former members of the church, bid on the building and became the new owners.

“It was really on a whim,” Gene said. “It’s a good size, in decent condition and in a good location.”

In order for the church to be sold privately, the Rasmusens had to donate all materials in the building to other churches. This included the pews, tables, chairs and more. Everything went except for the altar, the pulpit and the kneeling bench.

People started approaching the couple with requests to rent the building. It made sense, as Connie pointed out, because the only option in town for renting space had been the community center.

Connie, who creates floral arrangements for sale and events, decided the new property was ideal for a craft and vendor show. On Saturday, May 10 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., 25 vendors, including businesses such as Tastefully Simple, will be a part of a show.

As for the name, the Rasmusens wanted to represent the church’s rebirth as a non-denominational venue but still hold true to the building’s history. They agreed on “The Lillian Building” after Connie’s grandmother, Lillian Benson.

“She was a very active member of the church,” Connie said. “She was the pianist, Sunday school teacher, adult Sunday school teacher. She was probably more active than me!”

Connie also pointed out that her great-grandfather, Benson’s father, built the pastor’s office. “It’s just always been a part of the family.”

The Rasmusens have discussed other options for what the church could become, including apartments, a home or even a store. Since they both work full time, they are happy to keep the church an open venue until they retire and can dedicate more time to the project.

In the meantime, the couple plans to keep the sanctuary for a while to use for weddings. One is already booked for this June.

Annie Harman
Annie Harman is a reporter for Echo Press and The Osakis Review. She grew up in Detroit Lakes and graduated from the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire with a degree in print journalism and history in May 2012. Follow her on Twitter at annieharman
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