The Holden Story

posted Jun 23, 2017, 3:20 PM by Grace Lutheran Church

Just a bit about how Holden Village came to be…
Holden Village was the community of the Holden Mine from 1938 until 1960 when the mine was abandoned.  During the time that the mine was running the village housed the mine workers and their families.  Because of its remote location, it had to be self-contained.  Besides housing for approximately 450 people the town included a hotel, snack shop, post office, barber shop, bowling alley, pool hall, school, hospital, dining hall and recreation center.  It was felt that competing religious organizations would create dissension in so small a community, so there was no resident, paid clergy.  Visiting clergy, however, were welcomed on a rotating basis to offer monthly worship services.  Beyond the village that still stands today, was Winston, an addition of approximately 100 houses that were burned down when the US forest service took over in the 1962. 

In 1957 a young man who would soon be a student at the Lutheran Bible Institute in Seattle, saw an article that the Holden Mine was closing and the village would be sold. He thought it would make an ideal retreat.  He sent a request hoping for a “deal.”  The initial response was: yes for $100,000.  After repeated proposals to the mine superintendent over the next 3 years, the village was donated to the Lutheran Bible Institute in exchange for a letter recognizing the value of the donation at $100,000.  Over the next several years the Lutheran predecessor bodies of the ELCA and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod planned and prepared for what we know today as Holden Village.  (An odd connection with the LCMS, but the church body virtually ignores any participation by their members.)

Holden is truly unique.  Its isolation has generated a radical care for the creation around it.  Everything is recycled, composted, burned or hauled out of the village to a landfill. (You think I am a recycling fanatic.) Deer roam the streets and bear are often seen nearby in the woods.  The rushing Railroad Creek that runs through the village provides not only their water but their power.  The food served is often vegetarian because the waste disposal system does not deal well with animal fat!  At one point I panicked because I didn’t know what bucket the dental floss had to go into.  (Biowaste – the only garbage that is not sorted by the garbology team.)

The isolation also requires a very deliberate effort to “get along.”  The staff and guests come from all over the country in many shapes, sizes and backgrounds with all sorts of baggage.  Differences are unavoidable, but realizing this there is a very strong effort to communicate, to understand - to get along. 

Tradition is important at Holden and it is the tradition that many look for as they come back year after year, generation after generation. Worship, welcome, fellowship and learning all are connected to that tradition but with and eye on how this place can remain a refuge and place of peace and healing in the midst of a very chaotic world. 

As we left Holden we were hungry for a good burger and pop! We NEEDED to check email and look at face book (there was nothing much to see) but in fact longed to remain!  We will be back.