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Winnebago church celebrating several landmarks

By Staff | Aug 4, 2019

The Lutheran Church of Our Savior, located in Winnebago, is shown as it stands today, 50 years after it was dedicated as a house of worship. Members of the congregation will celebrate the golden anniversary of their church building, along with the 50th anniversary of the ordination of their interim pastor, Robert Bailey, with a special service on Aug. 11.

It will be a double golden anniversary celebration on Aug. 11, when current and former members of The Lutheran Church of Our Savior, in Winnebago, gather to worship at 10 a.m.

The congregation will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the year they moved into their current church building. They will also be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the ordination of one of the men currently serving their congregation, Reverend Robert Bailey.

“We will follow the service they used in 1969 when the present house was dedicated,” Annette Jenkins, one of the persons helping organize the event, explains. “The service in 1969 began at the old church and then the parishioners were led to the new church by Reverend Arthur Rasch, who was our minister at the time, and Fran Greger, who was the chairman of the congregation.”

Pastor Rasch is unable to attend the service but has videotaped a message for the congregation which will be shown during the service, Jenkins noted.

“We will start the service outside with two members who were on the finance/building committee at that time, LeRoy Hahn and Nancy Espeland, holding a ribbon across the door,” Jenkins says. “Then, the oldest living member of the congregation, Leora Gilreath, will cut the ribbon.”

Two former pastors, Reverend Fred Buth and Reverend Ron Jobe, will be in attendance, according to Jenkins.

“Reverend Doctor William Utech, who works with missions in the Minnesota South District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, will give the sermon,” Jenkins comments. “Kim Schutt, a professional musician who was raised in the church, will be the organist for the day.”

The following information was taken from a written history of the congregation.

The congregation was formed in 1931, when a traveling salesman from Mankato noticed the lack of a Lutheran church in Winnebago. Contact was made with Reverend G. Schmidt, of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Blue Earth, and regular services were begun in August of that year.

Attendance had increased enough to warrant calling a resident missionary pastor in August of 1932. Services were initially conducted in the Oddfellows Hall.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Our Savior was officially organized on Oct. 15, 1933. Next, the congregation passed a resolution in April of 1935 to build a frame structure on lots which were secured at the corner of Second and Cleveland. The total cost of the church was $2,281.

During the 25th anniversary of the church in 1958, the congregation had 509 baptized members, of which 325 were communicant members.

In 1960, the congregation began a dual parrish agreement with St. Peter Lutheran of Easton.

During the 1960s there was a lot of discussion over the expansion to the church’s facilities. Soon, a building fund drive was underway.

On March 27, 1968, the voting members of the congregation unanimously accepted bids totaling $159,143 to erect a new church. There was also an architect’s fee of $10,850 plus the cost of furnishings.

Ground was broken on April 28, 1968. Burton Pettit was the contractor, Glen Howe, a member of the church, was one of the brick layers. Jim Meyer, of Blue Earth, was contracted to do the electrical work.

The cornerstone was laid on Sept. 8, 1968 and the present house of worship was dedicated on May 18, 1969.

A total of 11 pastors have served the congregation. In addition, 10 pastors have served in the vacancy role over the history of the congregation.

The other reason for the celebration, the 50th anniversary of Reverend Bailey’s ordination, will also take place during the worship service.

Pastor Bailey was ordained and installed at his first church, Holy Cross Lutheran, in Carlisle, Iowa, on July 27, 1969. He went on to serve churches in Storm Lake, Iowa; Cape Girardeau, Missouri; Spring Lake Park, Minnesota; Iowa City, Iowa; and Rapid City, South Dakota. He also was a Chaplain in the Navy Reserve from 1980-1992.

He retired in 2003. Then his life became real busy. He has served as an interim pastor at nine different churches since his retirement. All of these churches have been located within close proximity to Interstate 90, causing some people to label him the “I-90 vacancy pastor.”

Besides preaching, Pastor Bailey has the ability to play the organ, piano, string bass and accordion.

Pastor Bailey is currently serving Our Savior’s along with pastors from Hosanna Lutheran Church in Mankato.

Hosanna began a partnership with the congregation in Winnebago on Oct. 1, 2018. They are providing help and guidance and working to build the congregation up before they call a new pastor.