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Church wants new place to pay respects

All Saints Lutheran Church in Cottage Grove hopes to be part of a growing trend by allowing church members to display the cremated remains of lost loved ones in a memorial wall on the church grounds.

The city's planning commission will take up the issue of amending its zoning codes to allow the church to install a columbarium -- typically a room, building or wall with niches in which funeral urns can be placed. It's an increasingly popular option for families, said All Saints' Pastor Jules Erickson, who noted the average cost of a traditional funeral can run upwards of $10,000.

"More and more churches are moving toward columbaria that don't have cemeteries of their own," Erickson said last week.

The All Saints columbarium would be the first in Cottage Grove, said Howard Blin, the city's community development director. That has left the city needing to update its ordinances to allow the structure that Erickson proposed to church members and city officials.

"The only problem is we don't have anything in our zoning ordinance that allows that," Blin said last week. The planning commission will take up the issue at its Sept. 27 meeting.

"Everybody seems to be in agreement that this is something we should all take a look at," Blin said.

Erickson said the final design for the columbarium had received approval from the church council last week. Now, All Saints will await the city's process and decide whether it's something the church can afford.

The cost of a 72-niche columbarium from Minnesota-based Eickhoff Columbarium would be $22,000, said Ted Frederickson, an All Saints member who has helped lead the planning process.

Erickson said she first floated the idea to church members roughly two years ago.

"There are a lot of people interested in it," she said.

The reason, she believes, is simple: "There is a sense of connection with the church when you have someone buried on the property." A columbarium, she said, would offer a similar connection for the families of individuals who choose cremation.