Visit the Sentinel Tribune website
June 06, 2012
End of an Era
Sunday June 10 members of Trinity Lutheran Church of Johnsonville Township will worship a final time as a regular congregation before closing the doors for the last time
WESTBROOK, Minnesota (STPNS) -- Lucan — For over 123 years Trinity Lutheran Church, locally known as Johnsonville Church, has opened its doors to anyone seeking refuge in the Lord. This Sunday the doors will be closed for the final time for worship.
A booklet was published in 1989 to commemorate the centennial of the congregation. In the first page of the book was inscribed the following verse: “Before the hills in order stood Or earth received its frame, From everlasting you are God, to endless years the same.”
The little prairie church, located about three miles south of Lucan, has stood as a sentinel for the rural area since 1891.
This Sunday morning, June 10, the congregation, with a current list of 38 confirmed members will gather for worship for the final time before closing its doors ending 123 years of regular worship.
Like most pioneer churches in the 1800’s, Johnsonville started when a group of families, mostly of German heritage, gathered to worship in the Lutheran faith in homes in 1885.
From 1885 to 1888 these pioneers were served by pastors from Lamberton, and Springfield. The first adult to be confirmed was Mrs. Alfred (Relfang) Herder.
From 1888 to 1890 they were served by pastor C. Althof from the Springfield area. During that time, on April 15, six children were baptized. They were: Max Otto Schaffran, Heinrich Wilhelm Radtke, Herman Auguse Scharfe, Ida Hulda Schmidt, Julius Friedrich and Clara Lina Volrath. That same day the First Communion was served to 27.
On May 4 of 1889 the first constitution was adopted with 14 families as charter members.
In 1891 the first church was built and dedicated. Contractor was George Black. Grounds for the church were donated by Carl Herder. Cemetery plot was donated by Christian Herder.
In 1892 the first wedding held was Ferdinand and Emma Herder on January 8. The ceremony was performed by Reverend Christian Langholz.
In 1895 Rev. Fred Mieneke was the first resident pastor of the congregation. He was married to a daughter of the congregation, Ida Schaffran. A 16 x 26 foot parsonage was built at that time.
The first class of children were confirmed on March 29 of 1896.
In 1910, while Rev. M.J.T. Ehmke was pastor, a school room was added to the west end of the church. The classroom was used for catechism and confirmation classes. In 1913 the classroom was moved to it’s present location and enlarged.
In 1926 English services were introduced. The first Luther League was organized in 1928. In 1930 the parsonage was remodeled, a basement dug and a furnace was installed. In 1936 the council voted to have services on the last Sunday a month in German. In 1938 a committee was appointed to get bids for wiring the church and parsonage. In 1943 it was decided to have both
German and English services on the last Sunday of the month.
In 1961 the congregation entered into a Parish union with Revere Lutheran. At that time the two congregations shared the services of Pastor Alan Erickson.
In 1962 Pastor A.H.G. Gjvere was installed serving through 1965.
In 1964 the congregation celebrated it’s 75th anniversary.
In 1966 Pastor John Striepe was installed in November. He and his wife served the congregation for ten years.
In August of 1975 pastor Phillip Berg joined the congregation and served until 1978. Pastor Thomas Olson was then installed as pastor. Olson and his family served the congregation until 1981 when he accepted a call to Pelican Rapids.
Pastor David Hagemann was installed in 1982 and he served the congregation until 1984. Pastor Loren Espeland served as pastor through their centennial year of 1989.
Melvin Wille, a life long member, and his wife Darla have been married for 50 years this June, talked about their relationship with the church. Both have been very active in the church, Melvin served for 16 years as church council president.
Melvin was born in 1937 on the family farm located about three quarters of a mile east of the church across the section.
The cemetery is located across the road from the church. A couple of years ago the council appointed a committee to set up a cemetery association to manage the cemetery after the church is gone.
Willes said the congregation is down to 38 confirmed members with about 20 that are still active.
In 2000 the congregation had a straw vote to go with Trinity Lutheran Church in Walnut Grove to share a minister for 40 Sundays a year.
Last April the congregation voted to close the church this year. At that time a committee was formed to see what needed to be done with the synod to close it. Also the date of June 10, 2012 was decided to hold the final service.
With the cost of maintaining the building the congregation decided to take the building down.
Melvin said, “the committee is not planning anything special for the service, but a light lunch and fellowship will take place after the service.” Current pastor Trevor Bailey will be conducting the service.
Willes said the members will be meeting later to decide what to do with the property in the church, and the building itself. The committee is also looking into a place to give the records to, so people can go to see them in the future.
Last week some of the members removed the cornerstone from when the basement was updated. Several well weathered items were removed including: a bible, hymn book, a golden anniversary book, and a couple of other documents.
Willes commented they were not sure where people will go to church after it closes. But quite a few of the members now live in Walnut Grove, so they suspect those will go to Trinity Lutheran there. They said some may go to Lucan.
The Willes were not sure where they will go. But Melvin said, “it sure will be different looking across the field and not seeing the church any more.”
“I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”
© 2013 Sentinel Tribune
Westbrook, Minnesota. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from STPNS