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Paynesville Press - August 13, 2003

Nordland Lutheran to celebrate 135 years

Norldand ChurchNordland Lutheran Church - located in Irving Township about three miles southwest of Lake Koronis - will celebrate its 135th anniversary on Sunday.

Events at Nordland on Sunday include an outdoor worship service at 9 a.m., a brunch in the church basement following the service (with proceeds going to the church's building fund), and a special anniversary service, outdoors again, starting around 11 a.m.

After the first church burned in 1904, this church was finished and dedicated in June 1907.

The anniversary service will offer a time to share stories about Nordland and to honor four confirmation classes - the Class of 1928 (75 years), the Class of 1953 (50 years), the Class of 1978 (25 years), and the Class of 2002.

Throughout the morning, a silent auction will be held, with proceeds also benefiting the church's building fund. Nordland would like to build a new front to the church, replacing the entrance and adding new church offices and bathrooms.

Nordland is located on 180th Avenue NE, a couple miles west of the Tri-County Road.

According to the church's centennial history book, published in 1968, in the fall of 1865, two Civil War veterans came to Irving Township and filed soldier's homesteads. Reimund Emerson and Benjamin Benson had both come from Norway and had joined the Union army. Upon leaving the service in 1865, they came to Irving Township and became the first Norwegian settlers.

Soon more followed: relatives and friends, first by ox train from St. Paul and Wisconsin and then by sailboat directly from Norway.

Soon, according to the history book, the settlers longed for the Christian message in their native tongue. A pastor to the Swedish settlement in New London - Rev. T.H. Dahl - came and ministered to the settlers, and in April 1968 the settlers organized a new congregation.

The name "Nordland" was chosen because most of the settlers came from the northern part of Norway.

Dahl was called as the first pastor for Nordland Lutheran Church, and the church acquired two acres of land (from a land grant to a railroad) where the church is still located in Irving Township.

According to the history book, in 1869, the church's first confirmation class was confirmed; in 1870, a school house was built across from the church (on land the church would purchase some 90 years later); and in 1875 the church decided to built a church.

The church was built with pledges of $608. Work started in the spring of 1876, and the unfinished church was used for confirmation in 1877. In 1881, an altar and altar painting were bought for $70, according to the history book.

In those days, men still sat on the right side of the church, and women and children sat on the left side.

In July 1904, the church was struck by lightning and burned to the ground, according to the church history book. The church rebuilt on the same location, starting in the spring of 1905.

Johan Dalhaug, a local woodworker, built the altar, the altar frame, the communion railing, and the pulpit, using his living room as his shop and using oak lumber that he had to make furniture for his home.

The new church was completed and dedicated in June 1907. The new church cost over $6,000, not including the donations of time and work.

Kerosene lights were replaced by gas lights in 1913, and the wood stove was replaced by a furnace (costing $340) that same year. In 1931, the barns at the church were removed, since with the automobile replacing horse-drawn wagons and carriages, they were no longer needed.

Nordland started celebrating anniversaries in 1918 with a four-day festival to mark the church's first 50 years. Three-day anniversary celebrations were held in 1928 (for 60 years) and in 1938 (for 70 years). During World War II, in 1943, a one-day program celebrated the church's 75th anniversary

Since then, the congregation has celebrated its 80th year in 1948, its 85th year in 1953, its 90th year in 1958, its centennial in 1968, and its 125th year in 1993.

In its 135-year history, the church has had or shared 24 pastors, hosted 11 interns, and had two missionaries (one to China for seven years and another to Madagascar for 33 years).

Nordland has been part of several parishes, sharing pastors with churches in New London and Atwater and nearby Zion Lutheran Church.

Since 1945, Nordland has not required that its pastor speak Norwegian, as the use of that language was phased out over the previous 20 years.

Pastor Keith Ainsley has served the congregation - which now has its own pastor - since 1989.

Nordland Lutheran Church now has around 170 families and 572 baptized members and 476 confirmed members.

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