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Circuit Minister - Then - Now


Brad Hemmes

Clip, Cluch, Clack, Clip, Clack, Cluck. "I can seethe minister coming. He's riding his white gelding again. Boy! What a nicelooking horse!"

This is an impression drawn from the old days when thecircuit minister came riding up to the country church on his white horse,looking a bit tired even before he had started his sermon. Surprising asit may seem, the imaginary minister on the white horse is very much realist.John Hemmes, of rural Humboldt, Minnesota,remembers such a circuit riding minister on a white horse.

From John Hemmes' memory much of the following will berealized.

History has been defined as 'boring' thousands of timesby young people. But when they go out and dig up their own history facts,very few have the same attitude. History is transformed from memorizationof persons and places to quite a challenge. Such was my experience whenI began to search for material for this writing.

There stands in the village of Humboldt, Minnesota, a churchthat has stood many years of weathering. This church is the result of aformer rural church circuit. Now the church is still part of a circuit,but this circuit is greatly changed. One minister presides over a totalof three churches. Quite a load for a pastor. This Humboldt church housesa congregation of about ninety people.

The minister of this church pastors to a church in Joliett,North Dakota, and a church in Pembina, North Dakota. All three of theseMethodist churches have an active church service program as well as sundayschool, Methodist Youth Fellowship, and a choir.

Getting back to the Humboldt Church alone; this is whatit developed from. The Humboldt Church was built in to suit the needs ofthe Methodist people in and around the town of Humboldt. The people of thissmall area joined together and built about one-third of the building thatnow stands. At this time the building suited its purpose very well.

Since the church's congregational area had to be small,due to the fact that the only way to and from church was the horse and buggy,the congregational elders decided to combine with two other beginning congregationsto finance a minister.

The two other congregations were the St. Vincent MethodistChurch and the North Hill Church services held in the North Hill SchoolHouse.

The St. Vincent Methodist Church with a congregation ofroughly 50-60 was perhaps the biggest. This is where the parsonage was builtfor the pastor. At this time the village of St. Vincent was an active Methodistcommunity.

The last congregation was that of rural Humboldt. Sincethe location of the North Hill School House fitted the people of rural areassouth of Humboldt better; church services were set up. The North Hill congregationhad a membership of about 40-50. People not able to join the Humboldt orthe St. Vincent churches attended North Hill. They naturally helped financethe minister. The people were fortunate to use the school house as a church.The school house was accessible by horse and buggy where the Humboldt andSt. Vincent churches were quite a journey.

Every one of these churches had services every week withregular Sunday school. Each church organized their special meetings whenthe need arose. The church was often the head of social activities. TheBoy Scouts of America had troops organized by these churches.

In order to minister at all of the churches each Sunday,the pastor had to meet a schedule. Services began in North Hill at 9:00a.m., in the Humboldt Church at 11:00 a.m., then the minister would havehis dinner and still hold services in St. Vincent Church at 1:00 p.m. wherehe was close to home.

It was quite a sight to see Sunday morning when each familyarrived in their finest clothes, best horses, and looking well-groomed forthe important church service.

As the automobile and such came in the North Hill SchoolHouse was closed and the members of the church were now able to attend theHumboldt Church because the time of the journey was shortened by the auto.Even with the decline of the North Hill Church, the people were able tosupport a preacher.

In 1944, the church in St. Vincent was closed. Most ofits congregation had moved away. Those that were still living in St. Vincenteither entered the attendance of a newly built Evangelical Free Church ortransferred to the Humboldt Church. The parsonage in St. Vincent was soldto Samuel Lapp. The church building was sold and moved away.

The minister now was transferred to a parsonage in Humboldt.But the Humboldt congregation found it hard to survive alone. So, the HumboldtChurch combined with two North Dakota congregations. This was an unusualoccurrence. The Humboldt Church stayed with the Minnesota Methodist Fellowship,but co-operated across the Red River with two North Dakota Fellowships.This problem had complicated matters for various ministers up to this veryday.

In 1955, the Humboldt Church added a new portion and wascompletely remodeled. The church's parsonage was rented out and the ministermoved to a newly built parsonage in Pembina, North Dakota.

Pembina Methodist Church has the largest church, followedby the church in Humboldt, across the river. The Joliett Church, back inNorth Dakota, is the smallest. The pastor, Ralph Kallwiet, resides nearthe largest congregation in Pembina.

Now - . . . the pastor comes putting in riding a red rambler.But one thing is the same, the minister still talks to his red rambler asif it was a white horse.

But one thing is the same, the minister still talks to his red rambler asif it was a white horse.