Laura Raedeke, of Nisswa, has been playing the pipe organ from a young age. Growing up in Lakefield, a small community near Worthington, she’d walk down the road to her church to practice in the afternoons and after Sunday services.
“It lives and breathes like a live being,” Raedeke said of the organ. “It fills the room.”
Organ isn’t her only passion, though, as she’s also a leader of the Lutheran Church of the Cross Creation Care Team, a group that promotes ways that people can live in support of the earth.
She’s a member of Lutheran Church of the Cross, in Nisswa, and plays organ at both that church and another church, First Congregational United Church of Christ in Brainerd. She’s been a church organist since she was 14.
Raedeke first learned piano from a local MacPhail School of Music-educated teacher. Looking back, she finds it surprising that in her small town the teacher had a Steinway baby grand piano, two upright pianos and a Hammond organ all in her living room.
Her family’s piano was in the living room, but her parents later added a room to the house where Raedeke could practice without disturbing the rest of the family.
She began taking piano lessons at 11, and at 12 began to learn the organ.
“I had always loved organ music, growing up Lutheran,” she said.
Today she writes her own organ music, participates in an area summer organ recital series and acts as accompanist to the Legacy Chorale of Greater Minnesota, as well as plays at church services.
Playing the organ isn’t the only way that Raedeke’s involved herself in her church community.
The Creation Care Team at Lutheran Church of the Cross came about after Raedeke attended an all-day seminar on the topic that the synod sponsored.
“It seems like human beings are always at war with the earth, and now we’re seeing the consequences,” she said. “It’s really our nest. We do well when other things are doing well. If not, we suffer in the long run.”
The team has undertaken many efforts, including a community garden behind the church with 58 raised beds. They’re open to anyone, not just church members.
On Sundays in the summer the team hosts a sharing market. Tables are set up in the narthex and gardeners bring produce, bread and flowers. People purchase the items with a donation and all the money goes to the food shelf. Last year the sale raised $800.
“It’s a great way to share the bounty from the garden,” Raedeke said.
The Creation Care Team celebrates Earth Day by giving out seedlings to the congregation each year. They hold a harvest potluck in the fall with speakers who talk about some aspect of the food system and the health of the earth. This year the team hosted its first summer eco camp.
Recently the Creation Care Team began investigating the possibility of installing solar panels on the church. Raedeke said that’s something the church congregation and church council would need to agree on, though.
While the project may or may not happen, Raedeke believes it would be a great way for the church to set an example for how people can reduce their carbon footprint.
Raedeke’s also a board member for the Rosenmeier Center for state and local government. The Rosenmeier Center’s mission is to inform, educate and encourage area citizens to participate in effective governance, among other efforts. The group holds forums throughout the year on issues affecting the area. It recently held a forum on healthcare in Brainerd.
Raedeke owns and operates the Raedeke Gallery in Nisswa with her husband, Jerry. Jerry’s work as a painter was published by Hadley House in the Twin Cities, and the two researched the state for a place to establish a gallery. Nisswa had a desirable market, given Jerry’s name recognition. They moved to the area in 2001.
Raedeke also contributes paintings to the gallery. Her paintings are generally landscapes, she said, with an abandoned rural building somewhere in the background.
“It’s just sort of a haunting thing to see what rural life may have been like, and what is no longer,” she said.
Raedeke continues her work in the church as organist and member of the church’s choir from the balcony above the congregation. She makes sure the sound of the organ fills a sanctuary each Sunday.