Trinity Lutheran to celebrate 125 years

Sunday’s celebration service is at 10 a.m.

By MaryHelen Swanson

Their mission: “to engage the curious, encourage the convinced and empower the committed to be fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ.” 

Their vision: “to be a welcoming place of God’s grace where everyone is living passionately for Jesus Christ.” 

They are the people of Trinity Lutheran Church in North Branch.

Twenty-five years ago, it was noted in the 100th anniversary booklet that “the Church is truly the people who express their faith and love for God in service to each other and to those abroad. Each generation faces tough challenges, and it is certainly amazing to see God guide His people …”

Leading today’s flock at Trinity is Pastor Gary Guptill. On Sunday, May 13, as he and the congregation welcomes all to their 125th anniversary celebration, he will note that we too live in uncertain times.

“Trinity Lutheran, like all Lutheran churches, is struggling to find its place in the world. New churches with creative names are popping up all over, drawing large crowds with worship more like a rock concert. Churches are choosing to draw new members by choosing clear definite political and social agendas to encourage people to join their cause. The internet and global changes have made it a smaller world for everybody. Sometimes we wonder if we have a future.”

The future may be the concern, but the rich, rich past of Trinity has filled the pages of anniversary books for decades and detail the changes of the church for the past 125 years.

Still, Pastor Guptill is quick to point out that “there has never been a time in our Lutheran tradition where change has not threatened to destroy the fabric of our lives and identity. Cultural trends and fads have been always present.”

He stresses, “The word of God is our heritage and must inform us today and tomorrow as it did in our past.”

Pastor Gary Guptill, current Senior Pastor

It is Pastor Guptill’s hope that when Sunday is all said and done, “we all have a greater sense of who we are. My hope is that we will be able to see the light of our future.”

A church begins

It was April 28, 1887, a public announcement was posted in North Branch: “Notice is hereby given that on the 12th day of May, 1887, there will be held in the village of North Branch, Chisago County, Minnesota, at the store of Krantz Brothers, a meeting for the purpose of organizing a congregation of the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church and for the election of trustees for the same.”

The notice was signed by Lamech Krantz, P.A. Swenson, C.J. Vallin, Andrew Rystrom, Frank Olson, J.P. Frank, H.O. Herreid and A.P. Krantz.

After the business of electing a chairman and secretary for the meeting, the group moved from the store to the Congregational Church where Pastor Frodeen, the newly elected chairman, opened the meeting with a reading from Matthew 16.

Charter members included: Lamech Krantz, P.A. Swanson, his wife and 2 children; Chas. J. Vallin, his wife and 2 children; Andrew Rystrom, his wife and 2 children; Frank Olson, his wife and six children; John Peter Frank, his wife and one child; John Israelson, his wife and 2 children; A.P. Krantz, his wife and one child; Sven Peterson, his wife and three children; Peter Larson, his wife and four children; Nils Gustaf Johnson, his wife and three children; John Algot Nicklason; Chas. Peterson, his wife and three children; August Edstrom, his wife and five children; N.P. Ekstrom; and E.P. Halleen, his wife and six children.

In the beginning, there were 31 confirmed members and 41 children. The congregation was a member of the Augustana Synod.

The original church building was erected in 1887 and the first annual meeting was held there Jan. 2, 1888.

J. Fremling, first pastor

The first pastor, J. Fremling, was called in February of 1888 and was given a salary of $100 a year.

By 1895 the pastor, Eric Bowman, was receiving $450 per year.

In 1897, the congregation increased the number of trustees from four to six.

In 1910, the congregation voted to have Sunday school at 2 p.m. and service at 3 p.m.

Being that the folks who started the church were Swedish, Swedish was the language used in the service. In fact, it was used not only in the service, but to record council minutes well into the 1900s.

However, around 1904, while there were 16 Sunday school classes, two were in English. Also in 1904, the young people’s organization  starting using English.

In 1913, it was Pastor A.G. Hammarberg who introduced English into the worship services on alternate Sundays.

As late as 1944, though, according to church minutes, one service a month was conducted in Swedish.

In 1931, the church’s name was officially changed to Trinity Lutheran and English became the official language.

By 1962, the congregation numbered 608 confirmed and 258 baptized children at the time, and Trinity joined the newly formed Lutheran Church of America (LCA).

The first church on Elm Street and 6th Avenue, it was called the Swedish Evangelical Church. Photo supplied

In 1968 the congregation accepted a gift of five acres from member Emil Larson. This activated the move toward the building of a Christian Education Building on that land. The dedication of that building was held in April 1971. Thus the Sunday School and other educational activities and the church offices were moved to the new building and the old building functioned for church services.

On May 15, 1983 a congregation resolution was made to agree to build a new facility at the education building site to meet the needs for worship, fellowship, Sunday School, office space and parking. The plans for the new building were approved November 13, 1983. The last day of worship in the old church was December 16, 1984.

“This was an emotional experience for those of us who were there for that service. We formed a procession out of the church during the singing of the last hymn to come over to a new unfinished sanctuary. Our spirits were completely uplifted when we returned the next Sunday to a beautiful new church which had been completed during the week by many committed people…”

By December 1990 they were conducting 3 services each Sunday. A contemporary service was added in September ‘91. In 1993 a once a month communion service was started for shut-ins and nursing home residents who were brought to the church by bus. In 1994 radio broadcasting of services began through the Forest Lake Radio Station.

Teaching children in the way of the Lord was a priority several years before the congregation was even organized, with the first Sunday school sessions being held in the home of Mr. and Mrs. John Sederberg.

It was not uncommon for there to be 80 or more students from the early years on. Education of the children continued strong through the years. Vacation Bible School has been held in the summer since 1933.

In the summer of 1985, Trinity opened a nursery school. Later, the church expanded the education program to kindergarten and again to elementary-aged children. Unfortunately due to economic reasons and declining enrollment, the congregation chose to close the school in 2011. It had served 12 school terms for elementary students and 26 years as a pre-school. A private pre-school continues today.

Toward the future

A series of pastors and associate pastors came and went from the ‘90s on.

On March 14, 2010 the congregation was introduced to Pastor Gary Guptill. The congregation unanimously called him to be their Senior Pastor. He was installed June 13, 2010.

“Thus God has led us through all these reviewed years and blessed us with knowing and working with all of these people and brought us into the present with a new pastor as our leader and guide in our Christian life of coming closer to God through Christ into the future. As we have been Blessed to be a Blessing may we go forward to profess ‘God’s Word is our Great Heritage.’”  -The History Committee

125th Anniversary Committee Members 

Phyllis Lindberg

Irma Ekstrom

Evonne Peterson

Mary Sederberg

Judy Weiss

Carol Gustafson

Shirlee Secord

Joanne Ploetz

Jane Magnison

Deb Aulich

Pastor Gary Guptill

David Johnson

Sharalyn & Butch Olson

Jen & Delmer Fairbanks

Candi & Tom Hals

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