After 125 years, Elmore church closes its doors
It was a bittersweet day for the congregation of Trinity Lutheran Church on Sunday, Nov. 4.
Located in Elmore, it was the day the congregation held a celebration for its 125th anniversary.
It was also the day they held the closing service for their church and congregation.
Their congregation began in 1893 with their first ordained pastor, the Reverend Hugo Meissner, beginning his service in 1904.
There have been four different church buildings over the course of the congregation’s existence.
Their final structure was built in 1961, just to the west of the structure it replace.
Trinity is certainly not alone as other churches in the area have closed in recent years or have struggled to remain open.
“You can certainly tie the declining attendance in our congregation to the decline in the population of the city of Elmore,” noted Royce Valvick, the chairman of the congregation.
Elmore’s population peaked in 1960 with a population of 1,078. By 2010 the population had declined to 663, a decrease of over 38 percent.
“The loss of Elmore Concrete and the Cargill Elevator in Elmore had a negative affect on the job market and ultimately the population of the town,” explained Valvick.
The change in the population corresponded to the change in church attendance.
Attendance in the 1960s and early 1970s hovered around 300. Many times extra chairs would have to be placed in the side isles to accommodate all of the worshipers.
By 1994 the weekly attendance had dropped to an average of 86. Three years later it fell to 65.
It wasn’t just the loss of population that had an effect on attendance.
“There is a lack of interest in organized religion by many of the younger generations,” commented Valvick.
One more contributing factor to the situation was the decrease in the number of farms and thus the number of people living in the country.
All of these things led Trinity to form a dual parish with St. John’s Lutheran Church of rural Elmore in 1991.
By 2009 the average weekly attendance was just over 31 and it continued to decrease each year.
Finally, this past May, the decision was made to close the church.
“It really is a 4-6 month process,” explained Valvick. “There are a lot of regulations and rules to follow when you are breaking up a corporation.”
All of the church records, confirmation pictures and other historical documents will be sent to the Concordia Historical Institute in St. Louis, Missouri.
If this were the final end of the story it would be a sad ending indeed.
But there is more to the story, an epilogue as it were, and it contains a message of hope, of giving, and a desire to help others.
The church building itself has been sold but items from inside of the church have been donated to various non-profit organizations.
The bell, which was cast in 1891 at Cincinnati Ohio, and signaled the start of each service, has been donated to King of Glory Lutheran Church in Blaine.