Sarah Swegle next to Trinity’s Columbarium

Sometimes an idea becomes reality with a little bit of faith. Trinity’s Columbarium started out as an idea that Leman Olson had after seeing columbariums in a couple of MN and AZ churches. As our congregation knows, we now have a beautiful Trinity Lutheran Congregation Columbarium, thanks to many committee members and a lot of hard work.
Sarah Swegle, chair of the Columbarium Committee, explained what began as a task force has turned into a working committee of four Trinity members: Leman Olson, vice chair; Julie Sanchez, treasurer; and Margie Steinberg, Secretary. From serving as a general contractor to getting her pre-need sales agent license, Swegle has learned so much while making this ultimate faith journey come to life. “It’s been a labor of love,” she said.
For example, the columbarium needed to be attached to the church below and above grade, due to city code. “The saints that have gone before us are literally attached to the church. That speaks to the oneness,” Swegle said. One of her many tasks included working with an attorney who drafted forms and checked policies and procedures with the Iowa Cemetery Act. She said, “We made sure the footprint was as small as possible.”
Trinity had to comply with all cemetery act rules from the State of Iowa as well. Thanks to the work of Dave Randall Construction (of Osage), the footings and base and stonework made the columbarium look like it was built with the rest of the church. Eickhof Columbaria (of Crookston, MN) did the work on the niches and granite. Together, they created a very special place for Trinity members and their families who have passed on.
The Columbarium includes 99 niches which each hold two sets of cremains. Each niche is $3000 and includes features that other columbariums may not: the engraving/inscription when needed and a volunteer to open/close the niche at the ceremony/service. The only piece that isn’t covered is the urn itself, and there are three options available: purchase through Trinity, purchase through the funeral director, or make one of your own designed to fit an 8 x 8 space.
Swegle made sure to point out that even though she is now licensed as a pre-need sales agent, Trinity isn’t taking on the duties of a funeral director. The funeral director still takes care of ushers, the service, and memorial brochures. The deceased are inurned at the columbarium, and the other important details still remain with the funeral home and director.
A Memorial Wall is on the back side of Trinity’s Columbarium. This wall has 99 squares that have room for 198 memorial plaques. Each plaque is $300, with most of that cost going to the inscription fee. “This is a beautiful way to honor people who have another burial place,” Swegle said. The plaques are sent out to Eickhof Columbaria to be engraved, and while out of the wall, a placeholder marked “Out for Inscription” holds the spot.
Whether a person is interested in reserving a spot in the Columbarium or the Memorial Wall, the price is the same for any position, and people are able to choose the exact location. This new ministry is only open to congregation members and their families. “It’s a beautiful way to honor saints that have gone before us in the congregation,” Swegle said. She explained that most spots are purchased pre-need with the option to engrave at any time. “I think it’s a blessing to do this for your children,” she said. “You’re doing your kids a favor.”
Landscaping plans are in the near future for the Columbarium, thanks to a couple who offered funds to put in a sidewalk and concrete patio, softscaping, and a bench to make Trinity’s Columbarium more of a prayer garden. Once all of the niches and spots on the Memorial Wall are taken, there are plans to expand to the east.
Now is a good time for Trinity members to learn more. “We do still have some bills to pay off the construction,” Swegle explained. “The Columbarium is funded independently, and we are keeping it as a separate entity so it isn’t using general funds.” For more information or to reserve a spot, call the church office or CLICK HERE to contact Sarah Swegle.†