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Celebrating 150 Years of Faith

By Staff | Sep 16, 2018

Immanuel Lutheran Church, located in Emerald Township celebrated their 150th anniversary on Sept. 10 with a special worship service followed by a catered meal. Those in attendance were able to view historical items and enjoy entertainment by Dale Dahmen and the Polka Beats, a German band from Buffalo, Minnesota.

Organized in 1868 by a group of Lutheran settlers, the first congregational meeting was held on July 19, 1868. It was at that meeting the name “Immanuel” was chosen as the name of the congregation.

Much like today, politics was in the forefront in 1868 also. President Andrew Johnson, who had become president following the assassination of President Lincoln, was actually impeached by the House of Representatives but later acquitted by the Senate. It was also the year Ulysses S. Grant was elected by an electoral landside in what was the first presidential election since the end of the Civil War.

The average life expectancy at that time was just over 40 years of age which is evident when you look at the older tombstones in the congregation cemetery located north of the church property.

The first house of worship was built on land donated to the congregation by August Haase and was actually a combination church and parsonage. The lower level provided a place for worship and the upper story provided living quarters for the pastor.

There were several pastors attending the special 150th anniversary church service. Pictured above, left to right, are Reverend Robert Bailey, Reverend Stephen Bongard, Reverend Ron Bongard, Reverend Gregory Hidorn and Reverend Matthew Lorfeld.

When the erection of a separate church building was completed in 1877, it would serve the congregation until 1907 when it was replaced with a wood frame structure of gothic design. An early morning fire on Nov. 5, 1938, completely destroyed that church.

Members of the congregation met the very next evening to discuss building a new church. There was much debate on whether to build another one from wood or brick. According to church documents, an impassioned speech by Emil Krukenberg, who was the treasurer at this time, attempted to sway the congregation to vote for a brick church.

Krukenberg stated, “Well, I look at it this way. The older folks that carried us all this while, built us a church. I think it is only right that we put up a good building for the future, even for our next generation. I’m in favor of the brick.”

The vote was lopsided in favor of the brick option as only 10 people voted for the wood frame.

This is the building that currently serves the congregation. The cornerstone for the church was laid May 14, 1939 and the building was dedicated on Oct. 29, 1939. Total cost, including interest payments, was $24,500.

The education wing was added in 1962. At the time of the centennial in 1968 there were 84 children in Sunday School.

Other buildings have stood on the property over the years. The site was also home to parochial school buildings during the course of its history. Travel to church in the early years was by horse so a livery stable was available to accommodate the congregation.

Immanuel Lutheran Church was also the mother church of four other congregations. They were St. Johns of Willow Creek in 1869, St. John’s of Elmore Township in 1884, St. Paul’s of Blue Earth in 1887, and St. Peter’s of Easton in 1889.

Among the items on display in the history room were the contents from the cornerstones of both the church and the education wing. Included in the cornerstones were local and state newspapers from that time, church pamphlets and catechisms.

Confirmation pictures, wedding pictures, pictures of members through the church’s history along with church history books and record books were available for all to enjoy.

Catching up with friends and relatives comprised a big part of the day. People from as far away as Texas and New York made the trip back to Minnesota to join in the celebration.

Reverend Matthew Lorfeld is currently the pastor of the church. He is the 17th pastor called to serve the congregation.

Other ministers to attend the church service include Reverend Stephen Bongard, a son of the congregation who delivered the sermon, Reverend Ronald Bongard, who served the congregation from 1975 through 1996, Reverend Robert Bailey, who has served as an interim pastor, and the Reverend Gregory Heidorn who is a grandson of the congregation.