"Passing It On"
There are three areas vital to a church's spiritual and temporal life: worship of God, Christian education for all ages, and the mission field beginning at the door of the church. St. Paul's formal worship life began in October 1887; the Sunday School was formed in 1888, with Johannes H. Frost as the first Superintendent (he served until 1896). A Samkoma was held in 1893 between Christmas and New Year's, with funds to be evenly divided between the building fund and the Sunday School. Admission was 25 cents for adults, 35 cents for reserved seats, 15 cents for children. A supper (25 cents for adults, 15 cents for children) was served before the evening's entertainment began.
A Christmas Eve program was held in December 1894, at the G.T. Hall, which had been decorated for the occasion, and was filled to capacity. The young children of the Sunday School -special mention was made of Ella Frost, Bjarni Anderson, Sigga Frost, Bertha Eastman, Runa Sigurdson, Sarah Johnson and Thos gave an excellent program. Johnson -and directed by Rev. B.B. Jonsson. The evening closed with a collection of gifts of money and goods for distribution to needy families by Rev. Jonsson. In the years since then, the Christmas Eve Sunday School Program has changed very little. The pageants of Joseph, Mary, Jesus, shepherds, angels, wise men; the memory verses by the classes not part of the pageant; the Christmas carols; the gifts for the children and for the needy; the special gift given to each child one Christmas by John Ousman - a beautiful doll, which he had obtained from the Eagle Roller Mill in Minneota where he worked; the oranges for each child, donated by the Big Store; the Christmas tree hurriedly dragged down the aisle, in flames, and out the back door! As families began to move away, and we went to visit relatives in other places for Christmas, the Christmas Program changed. One of the first times was when the Jerry and Beverly Lein family planned a Christmas in Arizona with their five children, threatening a large gap in the program. The program was held before they left! Since then, a Sunday morning before Christmas has been the time for the Sunday School Christmas program; Spring Creek Lutheran has been invited to spend the morning with us since the time of our affiliation with them for pastoral services. For Kay Curwick, the most memorable program was the year the Christmas story was acted out several months in advance, with slides taken to be shown with the appropriate narration and singing on Christmas Eve. Bill Holm was Joseph and Kay's sister, Sally Petersen, was Mary. The Sunday School went out to the farm where Frank Josephson now lives. There was a real donkey for Mary to ride, and real sheep to pose with the shepherds.
Lloyd Christianson remembers the Sunday School classes marching to the front of the church with their brief recitations clutched in their hands... a major organization problem for the teachers. One by one, each would read their little piece of the story and file back to their seats, followed by the next class's recitation.
Joseph Hoff remembers the Christmas programs supervised by Mrs. Bjarni Jones, and trooping over to her house (across the street north of the church) after school for what seemed endless practicing, for she was a perfectionist and wanted just the right inflection in the recitations.
Shirley Nosbush will never forget the Christmas Eve programs, and Jennie Frost, who was Sunday School Superintendent for many years. Shirley's sister, Midge Verschelde remembers the cool basement on summer Sunday mornings, with Jennie and Sigga Frost ALWAYS there. Sunday School begins today as it has for most of the children who were raised at St. Paul's: singing songs, the collection, the birthday pennies for each year of age - even for the superintendent, who seemed to put in SO many!
Lillian Brown (cousin of Anna, Pete and Staney Gudmundson) remembers the "fun times" - particularly the Sunday School picnics. Once each summer, parents and children gathered at the church to "board the buses" - which were hayracks drawn by horses. They would start off for a farm somewhere (many times to the S.M.S. Askdal farm north of Minneota) for a day of fun, with contests like races and, of course, food! But on the way, they had to let everyone know who they were so they would yell:
Who are - who are - who are we?
We are - we are - we are the
P-E-O-P-L-E of the S - S - S - P - C!!!
How many of us remember that?
Vacation Church School has also been a part of the Sunday School program for many years. One summer in the 1O's, when Helen Josephson was the VCS superintendent and the theme was "This Is My Father's World", she brought a veritable menagerie: a parakeet turtles, hamster, a goldfish in a bowl, a cactus. In later years, the VCS has been a cooperative effort with Hemnes Church, and the end of the school has been the occasion for a picnic and program with the members of that church.
The Junior Choir was also part of the Sunday School. Bena Sigurdson was the first church organist, and also provided music for the choir. Jennie Frost, Anna Gudmundson, Bernice Stone, Wendy Sarazyn and Kristen Buysse have continued to provide organ and piano accompaniment. Among others, Lorraine Ousman, Dora Harvey and Bob Meyers have been choir directors at St. Paul's.
Arle Mae Mogren was in the Junior Choir one very cold winter when, in practically blizzard conditions, the choir was invited to a rural Norwegian church close to Clarkfield. It was warm by the big stove in the center, but very cold around the edges. She was on the end of the front row in a red Christmas dress, and could feel the "blasts" of cold as the choir sang, "And God So Loved the World."
In earlier years, confirmation classes were granted "release time" from school one afternoon a week, and met at the homes of the various class members. The mothers would always have sandwiches, cake and cocoa with marshmallows to "tide us over", Arle Mae Mogren wrote. She especially recalled riding in Rev. Guttormsson's old car - all the class piled in - to go to Pearl Werpy's home in the country. After one of these trips, Arle Mae's Bible was missing - the one belonging to her uncle, Ole Arnason, who had died in World War I. All efforts to find it failed - until the next summer when the Guttormsson's were cleaning the car and found it under the back seat, much worse for the wear.
Confirmation meant "Reading for the Minister" to Don Johnson. On the Friday night before Confirmation Sunday there was a question and answer session before parents and friends in the church basement. "We were scared to death!"
"We were all a little silly, as most teens are," wrote Lloyd Christianson. Rev. Guttormsson was very patient with us and gently kept us pretty well in check." In one class, Rev. Guttormsson's garter had come loose and was visible to the class - a wonderful opportunity for distraction. He eventually stopped his teaching and asked what was upsetting them; they confessed and he fixed the problem.
The teaching of the Sunday School and confirmation classes do not end with the "white dress and flower in the fridge Saturday night," but are to be carried out in living examples of faith. The patience and gentleness of Rev. Guttormsson is a vivid memory for those who knew him.
Christian education teaches us about our God, our Savior, and how we are to live out our faith. Have we not all wished, in times of confusion or trouble, that we had listened better during our younger years? But knowledge is only the beginning, useless unless applied. The truly faithful live their faith every day in their words and deeds; this is the result of Sunday School - to prepare us for the mission field that lies at the threshold we cross every Sunday as we enter again into the world we live in.
Midge Verschelde said it best: "The assurance of God's Son as our Savior from so many who were and still are there to greet us... There is just a real overwhelming feeling of joy to think of our church - St. Paul's. I know now why Jennie became teary-eyed so often during the message of God's love for us. I give thanks that folks were willing to share and hope I can pass it on."
That's the key: passing it on.
LUTHERAN CHURCH MEN
Before the church and parsonage were built, and worship services were held in the local school or in the G.T. Hall, the men of St. Paul's were responsible for preparing for worship services, ushering, and restoring to order afterward. They have provided the working hands that painted, carpeted, planted, mowed, replaced, repaired, remodeled, insulated, cleaned and polished the parsonage (since 1891) and church (since December, 1895) right down to the frost line - and below at times.
Formally organized in 1955, the Brotherhood included the men of the Lincoln County Church, with membership around forty men at its highest. Westerheim did not have a Brotherhood, but the first officers of the organization included T.P. Stone and Joseph A. Josefson, former members of that congregation. Those men from Lincoln County Church who were most active were Steingrimur and John Isfeld, Marion Stone, Kenneth Swanson and C.P. Nielson. The primary purpose of the Brotherhood was to maintain the parsonage (each congregation maintained its own church). The funds to meet this purpose were to be raised through membership dues and public dinners sponsored by the Brotherhood. (When the Lincoln Church closed, Marion Stone became a member of St. Paul's; the others transferred to churches in the Ivanhoe area.)
Since 1955, there has been an added emphasis on fellowship times, whereas in previous years time together was taken from the field or business in order to work. The congregation and the community have also been invited to share special programs with the Brotherhood from time to time.
There are also times when they have taken an unfamiliar role: they have served the ladies at the Mother-Daughter Banquet, served an Ice Cream Social (still leaving the baking of pies to the ladies!), the annual Easter Breakfast, the annual Soup Supper which has been an excellent fund-raiser for them for several years, and an Oyster Stew Supper occasionally.
The fruit of their dedicated labors for St. Paul's is clear to those who view the church property, and is a testimony of their commitment to their appointed tasks.
THE LADIES' AID SOCIETY
''Someone Who Cares"
The Ladies' Society was the earliest of our service and fellowship groups, continuing to serve as it began in 1890: as a fund-raising group for the building and maintenance needs of the church property; as a collector of food, funds and clothing for the poor; and as the hostess for fellowship activities for the congregation and the community.
At the Annual Meeting in January 1891, Rev. Thorlaksson first proposed the building of a church for the congregation. The Ladies' Society Basket and Ice Cream Socials were soon frequent Friday evening social affairs in Minneota. There were also occasional musical and literary entertainment evenings. During the Christmas season, an Oyster Supper often preceded an evening of entertainment sometimes provided by St. Paul's young people, home from college for the holidays. In the mid-1890's, a gentleman with the price (10 cents included entertainment and refreshments) and a girl would be treated to a dish of ice cream. Held in the Good Templar Hall, in the Rotnem Building on Jefferson Street or in members' homes (Bjarni Jones' and F.R. Johnson's homes were often available), these socials were open to the public. It is certainly true that the generosity of the whole community was a vital ingredient in the building of our church.
When the new church was finished, the ladies had raised enough money to contribute the pews, ten chairs, and the two stoves, which stood in the front corners for many years. Later, since the new altar had not arrived, they donated two chairs and a table for the chancel area.
But the poor and the hungry were not forgotten during the building program. One of the first Christmas Eve services ended with distributing the gifts gathered for families in need. Over the years since then, many hours of work have been spent in organizing clothing and food drives, contributions to the Garden and Pantry Truck and the Southwest Women s Shelter, quilts for Lutheran World Relief, collections for King's Aids (to help Indians on and off reservations), the Mitten Christmas Tree for the Vasa Children's Home in Red Wing, and many other gifts given quietly and without fanfare to those in need of a helping hand.
There have also been many times when funds were difficult to gather for needed maintenance costs for the church and the parsonage. Through their rummage sales, bake sales, coffee fellowships and meals served, the Ladies' Aid has been able to say "Yes, we can help", when approached or when simply seeing a need and meeting it. The small "cut-glass" free-will dish has held far more dimes and dollars that have stretched farther than anyone could have foreseen over the years.
The mothers and aunts and sisters have not forgotten our young people. They have honored our confirmands and graduates each year, and have provided Bibles for the Sunday School's second-graders for many years. The shut-ins have been remembered with May-baskets and Christmas presents and visits during the years. Young people hoping to attend summer camp have received donations. Hard-working hands have been busy in the church, the parsonage and on the grounds when refurbishing or creative handiwork was needed.
The work and the fellowship have made for wonderful memories. Beverly Lein still hears the reading of the minutes and letters by the secretary - as only Helen Josephson could read them! Pam Raeder remembers the times of working together and especially the bake sales when Vi Gislason would pound on the piano to let everyone know they could grab the vinarterta that Mabel Johnson had made. Bob Smith (cousin of Cecil Hofteig) remembers the wonderful meals - "What wonderful women!" Don Johnson recalls the open house bridal showers held for the daughters of the congregation. The Big Store was a popular place to purchase gifts, with its wealth of beautiful china, crystal and linens. Arle Mae Mogren wonders how many remember that when your mother served for the Ladies' Aid meeting, you could come after school, sit on the steps to the basement and, when all the ladies were served, have "meat" sandwiches and cake - but never coffee as that wasn't good for kids. Many of the earlier members of the Ladies' Aid never learned to speak English, and some resisted the change, which began very soon, though on an infrequent basis, in the life of the congregation. The language change and all the other changes over the years were the result of our reaction to the changing needs and opportunities in the church and our community. Yet, Meals on the Move, helping for special times at the Minneota Manor, contributing to shelters for battered women and children is only a change in title. There have always been neighbors who have received a meal when unable to cook for themselves; there have always been friends and family who needed a helping hand with an ill, aging parent; there have always been women and children in need of shelter and someone to talk to.
Our ladies' warm and generous hearts toward their church, their neighbors in the community, and the world have not changed at all.
"If food and coffee with our fellow man can help lighten a burden, share in a sorrow, or increase happiness of a joyous occasion, then let's keep the coffee pots full at all times."
-1977 Annual Report Helen Josephson, Sec'y
YOUNG LADIES' UNION
For the young women of St. Paul's, the YLU was the forerunner for the Ladies' Aid Society (now the Lutheran Church Women), who were welcomed into the group from the age of (approximately) 18 years until their marriage. The YLU was formed in 1895, and functioned similarly to the Ladies' Aid Society, and shared common goals with that group. Raising funds for the new church building was the first task, and the YLU held socials and bake sales (sometimes together with the Ladies' Aid Society) for that purpose.
The YLU sale of aprons and embroidered articles became an annual event and continued until the membership became very small and older and was unable to do the work alone. For the last few years, the Lutheran Church Women lent a helping hand for the sale.
Both time and custom led to the cessation of the YLU. In the last thirty years, particularly, the young women of St. Paul's have left for college and work in other places, and for the most part found new homes elsewhere; also, most young women married, and those who remained members of St. Paul's after marriage became members of the LCW. The YLU has not functioned as a separate fellowship/service group for approximately 20 years.
The group is most remembered for its cookbook, published in 1915, and two older ones, and still in use by many good cooks who all have their favorite recipe - one of them being Lemon Velvet Ice Cream - and enjoy looking through the cookbooks from time to time to refresh memories of the good cooks whose names appear on each page.
THE LUTHER LEAGUE
The Luther League formed in January, 18, with about thirty members. The first officers were Stefan Th. Westdal, Gilbert S. Gilbertson, Hoseas Thorlakson, and Mary Sigurdson. Election of officers was held every six months for the first few years.
Membership was open to young people between confirmation age and marriage. In effect, this served as a forerunner of the Brotherhood for the young men of the congregation, as several of the early officers were "on their own": Stefan Westdal, G.S. Gilbertson, Hoseas Thorlakson, B.C. Schram, and A.R. Johnson were examples of this. There was no formal fellowship group for the young men outside of the Luther League; the young women had the Young Ladies' Union until their marriage, followed by the Ladies' Aid Society.
The Luther League has been somewhat sporadically active in our hundred years; however; approximately the past thirty years have seen fairly continuous activities. Availability of young people in the congregation has been the determining factor over the years.
Those serving as officers in the first few years were:
Stefan Th. Westdal
For the first few years, they organized an annual Literary Entertainment Evening for the people of Minneota, consisting of readings, recitations and music, which were very popular. There were also times of fellowship: in 1898 about 35 young people "Descended" on an apparently very surprised Snorri and Vilborg Hognason for a party.
In the 1950's when Kay Curwick was a member, the Luther League met with the group from Hope Lutheran, the junior high at St. Paul's and the older youth at Hope. There was a lot of table tennis played in the basement during those years. Sally Peterson (Kay's sister) remembers the Halloween parties shared between the two groups.
In the 1960's, the annual Santa Lucia Festival was popular at St. Paul's, and there was good-natured teasing about Icelanders throwing a Swedish party and managing to do it correctly! The Queen for the festival was chosen that evening, the Santa Lucia story was told, carols were sung, and Scandinavian foods were served in the basement following the entertainment. Queens who served were Judith Hanson, Lois Josefson, Cathy Josephson, Barbara Johnson and Darlene Johnson. The advisors for the Luther League during these very active years were John and Bonny Doyle, now living in Marshall.
In the l970's, our Leaguers began sharing many fellowship activities with the Hemnes Church Luther League - softball games and picnics every summer; trips to Southwest State University's pool, planetarium and Religious Center; hayrides and picnics at Halloween. To raise funds for their own group activities, our young people have held car washes and coffees in order to go roller-skating, for pizza parties, bowling and a very special trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in 1978.
The Luther League has also lent a willing hand in service to St. Paul's, serving lunches for sales, helping the LCW to make the church banners, decorating the church for Christmas, serving as acolytes, mowers, teachers, janitors and for Youth Sunday. This service of conducting the worship one Sunday a year gives our pastors another Sunday "off." In some years, they have shared the worship among themselves; in other years skits based on Bible passages have taken place.
In the community, our Luther League joined with the youth from other churches to sponsor "The Gathering Place", a coffee tent during Minneota's 1981 Centennial to provide an alternative to the refreshments offered downtown - certainly neither the first or last service the Luther League has given our neighbors in Minneota.