In praise of Holden Village

  • Fri Mar 30th, 2012 10:00pm
  • News

By Julie Muhlstein Herald Writer

There are two ways to get to Holden Village.

“The hard way is walking. You go to Darrington and hike 60 miles,” said Erik Samuelson, campus pastor of Trinity Lutheran College in Everett.

“The easy way is to go to Chelan and catch a boat, the Lady of the Lake,” he said.

After a boat ride of more than two hours up Lake Chelan, passengers are picked up by a bus at Lucerne landing. Samuelson described the 11-mile road to the retreat center. “It’s up serious switchbacks,” he said.

Once a mining company and community, Holden Village is a Lutheran ministry and retreat center. Since last fall, Holden Village has been recognizing its 50th anniversary with a yearlong celebration.

At 4 p.m. Sunday, in honor of the anniversary, Trinity Lutheran College and Lynnwood’s Trinity Lutheran Church will join churches and groups around the United States and the world in a simultaneous singing of the Holden Evening Prayer. It’s a musical worship service, written by composer Marty Haugen in the 1980s at Holden Village, featuring canticles and psalms.

Samuelson, who spent a month at the village in 2000, said the prayer was originally called Vespers ‘86.

“It became so popular, it started to spread throughout the Lutheran Church. It’s just a gorgeous thing,” said Samuelson, who will sing the prayer Sunday. “And it’s a gorgeous setting,” he added.

Holden Village is a Lutheran retreat center, “but it’s for anybody, Christian and non-Christian,” Samuelson said.

The center hosts hundreds of high school students for a retreat every spring. Families return there summer after summer. People visit winter and summer, and pay to stay or attend as volunteer workers.

“Holden has this kind of wide reach,” Samuelson said. “People come out from Minnesota and the East Coast. It’s their yearly retreat, adults and kids.” And many in Snohomish County have strong ties to Holden Village.

Mark and Lori Schmidt, who live in Edmonds and attend Lynnwood’s Trinity Lutheran Church, met at Holden Village in 1995 when both were part of the retreat’s long-term staff. “I was a cook, and initially Mark was utilities manager. He became operations manager,” said Lori Schmidt, who had visited the village as a child.

She described the place that in the 1920s and 1930s was a copper mining operation run by the Howe Sound Mining Company. “Chalets kind of surround the village. There’s a dining hall and lodges,” Schmidt said.

According to Holden’s website, Howe Sound was persuaded to sell the site to the Lutherans after getting a letter written on April Fool’s Day 1960 by Lutheran Bible Institute student Wesley Prieb. The mine was no longer operating. Holden Village was sold — for $1 — to Lutheran Bible Institute, which is now Trinity Lutheran College.

There are no phones at Holden Village. Cellphones don’t work there. Some staff have Internet access, but guests don’t. Food supplies come by boat from Chelan.

“When we were there, there was absolutely no Internet, no phones, only letter writing,” Lori Schmidt said. In winter, there are maybe 60 people in the village. The summer population can reach almost 500, she said.

“Holden reaches out to every corner of the world. People are coming and going all the time, from all over the world,” Schmidt said. She and her husband take their three children to Holden every summer. There are classes and children’s programs, but also peace and solitude.

Penny Sadis, 65, was raised a Lutheran, but had been away from the church for years. When her husband died in 2005, she began attending a grief group at Lynnwood’s Trinity Lutheran Church. There, she learned about Holden Village. She now visits every spring and summer. “I’m headed up this April for another work week,” she said.

“It’s the first place I have been, after having gone through so much, that I could find complete and total peace,” Sadis said.

“It’s in a valley, you have mountains all the way around. I just feel so totally and completely protected there,” Sadis said. “Surrounded by these mountains, you feel like you’re being cradled by the hands of God. I have my own special rock I go sit on by Railroad Creek.”

Everett’s Debbie Paget spent Thanksgiving and Christmas at Holden Village, and will return next week for Easter.

Paget said the lodgings are like dorms. “Bathrooms are at one end of the hall. It’s not a five-star hotel,” Paget said.

“I don’t know how to put it into words,” Paget said. “It’s just such a community. It gets in your blood. It’s an amazing place.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460,

Holden Evening Prayer

The Holden Evening Prayer, a musical worship service, is being sung simultaneously in many places Sunday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Holden Village. The Lutheran retreat center is in the Cascades near Lake Chelan. The prayer will be sung at 4 p.m. Sunday at Trinity Lutheran College’s Brammer Chapel, 2802 Wetmore Ave., Everett, and at 4 p.m. Sunday at Lynnwood’s Trinity Lutheran Church, 6215 196th St. SW, Lynnwood. Holden Evening Prayer was written by Marty Haugen, a composer in residence at Holden Village in the 1980s. Information: