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Faith Comes Alive: An Interview with JoAnn Viinikainen

Faith Comes Alive through our story telling. Welcome to Lutheran Church of the Master’s Story Telling segment. Monthly we will tell a story about faith in our congregation. We are going to tell JoAnn Viinikainen’s story about being the Head of the Altar Guild. Brandy interviewed JoAnn on a quiet Saturday morning.


JoAnn Viinikainen joined the Altar Guild in 1985. Being the Head of the Altar Guild has brought her purpose and JoAnn says this is her calling and place in the church. She enjoys working with her hands and being on the Altar Guild allows her to use her skill. JoAnn sees the details that need to be done. The quiet of the Sanctuary is her time to be with God. The silence is a welcome part of her job. We could not even begin to report all of the preparations she does. The festival calendar, the photo book and notebook she has made in the Sacristy couldn’t possibly be updated with every single duty she performs. The perfection of her work far exceeds the fresh mug of water placed under the pulpit and the watering of the flowers.

The Altar Guild typically is run by women, it has always been seen as a woman’s job. However, JoAnn’s late husband Dick would accompany her on her assigned mornings for many years. JoAnn describes him as the pourer of the wine into the tiny cups and she was the busy bee doing everything else behind the scenes.

Things have changed in the 39 years that JoAnn has organized the Guild, as all things do. The communion cups use to be glass and JoAnn is thrilled she has never had to wash those tiny cups as part of her duty. JoAnn has had relationships with many local florists in the area because she is in charge of ordering and picking up those flowers. She and Dick would load up Easter lilies from Bordine’s until delivery directly to the church became an option. Eight to nine wine trays had to filled each week for an average Sunday. The grape juice trays are a constant mathematical and placement quandary.

During the time we shared in the Sacristy and Sanctuary, I felt like I was intruding in her sacred space & time. Not because of anything she said or did. JoAnn is welcoming to all who would like to join her. In fact, she has a couple of new people recently which she is very thankful for. She welcomes the quiet and is content to be in the Sacristy and on the Altar alone. Her work is perfection. She is the one who literally irons out the wrinkles and retrieves and prepares the food for the table. I left her to her duties to achieve that contemplative refreshment to her soul. On Sunday morning, I will see the Altar in a whole new light.