An anniversary to remember
As former Hope Lutheran pastor Gerald Staehling concluded his outdoor sermon during the church's 150th anniversary celebration Saturday, he passed by current Hope Lutheran pastor Allen Campbell and paused for a moment.
"You're in a good spot," he told Pastor Campbell, placing his hand on his shoulder.
Pastor Campbell smiled and nodded, as if to say "I know."
Staehling was one of three former Hope Lutheran pastors to make the trip to Minneota on Saturday to help the congregation celebrate its sesquicentennial. Another pastor returned on Sunday.
Dennis Orsen, a son of the congregation, was ordained at Hope Lutheran and returned for the anniversary on Saturday, as he did for the 100th anniversary. Although he was never pastor there, he was pastor in Florence, SD; Underwood, IA; Boston, MA; Detroit, MI; Steubenville, OH; and Pittsburgh, PA. His wife, Linda Theophilus, who is currently a pastor in Pittsburgh, drove 20 hours from Pittsburgh.
"I wanted to be here," said Staehling, who was pastor here from 1977-82 and now lives in Mauston, WI. "I enjoyed my time here and I was excited to come back to see some of the people here again."
Jack Thorstensen, who was Hope Lutheran pastor from 1962-1977, made the flight from Denver to Minneapolis with his wife, Louine, and then drove to Minneota. Their three children also attended.Thomas Kolden, pastor from 2010-2014, now resides in Wadena and made the three-hour drive to Minneota on Saturday for the celebration.
"I feel it's important for one to go back to their roots," Kolden explained about wanting to be here for the anniversary. "My Christian journey began here."
Timothy Larson, who was Hope pastor from 1989-1996, came down from his home in Willmar on Sunday for the second day of the anniversary celebration.
There was well over 200 people that attended the anniversary over the weekend.
Saturday's outdoor events kicked off with several carnival-type games for the kids, as well as bean bag toss games played by people of all ages. A kiddie tractor pull drew several young competitors west of the church grounds.
There was also a parsonage and cemetery walk-thru on both days.
A picnic lunch of hamburgers and brats, beans, chips and a beverage was held Saturday afternoon. Root beer floats and ice cream treats were handed out after the outdoor service.
Just prior to the service, a storm cell hovered overhead, but produced little precipitation and only disrupted the service momentarily.
The outdoor service included several numbers by the Praise Band, a greeting from President of the Congregation Terry Myhre, devotion and greetings from Pastor Campbell, and songs from GLOW students.
Spiritual and congratulatory remarks were then heard from representatives of four sister congregations in Minneota; Sue Buysse and Duane Johnson represented St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Marilyn Smith from Hemnes Lutheran Church, Ruth Bot from St. Edward's, and Paul Engels from Bethel Fellowship.
During his sermon, Pastor Staehling's message was "God is Good, All the Time".
"The Christian way is to identify those people in need and help them," he told. "It's simple. It's very simple. This is what Hope Lutheran has been doing for the past 150 years."
He then broke his sermon into the three 50-year increments of the church -- The Founders from 1872-1921, The Builders from 1922-1972, and the Era of Social Consciousness from 1973 to the present, explaining the importance of each one and how each persevered despite facing challenges along the way.
Following the service, memorial lanterns were lit as Scott Josephson read the names of those being honored and memorialized.
A Fire Pit Fellowship concluded the day's events.
A 150th celebration church service was conducted on Sunday, followed by a church dinner in the Fellowship Hall.