Evanger Lutheran Church’s roots in the United States begins two years before Minnesota became a state with (East) St. Olaf Lutheran Church, Byron, formed in 1856. The church grew and, ten years later, they divided into 2 congregations, East St. Olaf and West St. Olaf. At the annual meeting of the West St. Olaf congregation held January 30, 1878, a resolution was passed granting permission to those members who lived south of the Mower County line to organize an independent congregation, should they so desire. In compliance with this resolution a meeting was held in the Eastby school house, District 91 in Sargeant Township, February 5, 1878, located at that time on the corner of the late P.W. Jensen farm, which was later moved to its present location. This meeting was attended by members of the West St. Olaf congregation who lived in Sargeant and Dexter Townships. An organization was affected with Rev. J.A. Thorson, president, and Knut Aarhus, secretary. A constitution was adopted and the name Evanger Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Congregation was adopted, so named after the Evanger Church in Evanger, Norway, dating back to the year 1315, where several of the charter members had their roots.
The names of the charter members are: Nils Johnson Fosse Andrew Thompson Sjur H. Aarhus Ole K. Overlid Gunder Gunderson the older Johan M. Pederson Peder Johanneson Jakob Larson Gulleik Larson Johannes T. Gjernos Philip Larson Thoe Jens A. Berge Gunder Gunderson the younger Tollef Paulson Knut Opheim Torkel Gulbraa Knut Aarhus Mathias Simonson Nils T. Gjernos Philip T. Johnson
The congregation voted to call a pastor in conjunction with Hayfield, Kasson and Rochester. Rev. Thorson continued to serve the congregation and conducted services in the school house until the first pastor, Rev O.G. Felland was installed. He served two years. Following, the congregation seemed at a standstill. Several families moved out west to take up homesteads. There was no permanent pastor until 1892, when Rev. J. Linnevold was installed. During his pastorate, the congregation was incorporated and a church was built in 1895, the site donated by Mr. and Mrs. Ole Bungum. There were at this time 17 voting members (only men could vote). The members of the first building committee were J.M. Pederson, Hans Gunderson, William Brekke, lars Brekhus, Mathias Simonson, with drawings furnished by Mathias Simonson of the Church and Altar constructed by Erick Lee. Rev. Linnevold served until 1898. Rev. S.J. N. Ylvisaker became his successor, and server four years. In 1902 Rev. S.T. Normann was installed and served nine years. Rev. S. Berven of Nerstrand, MN, conducted services at Evanger until Rev. H. Halvorson was installed in 1912. [More modern picture of church (still black and white)] Evanger Lutheran, enlarged with basement and barn with 14 stalls During his pastorate it was found necessary to enlarge the church and a basement was added. The building committee was Mathias Simonson, P.W. Jensen and Gregger Gunneson. Rev. J. D. K. Preus served seven months as an interim pastor until Rev. G. Oppen arrived in 1919. He served two years. In the fall of 1919, Evanger became affiliated with Trinity Congregation, Hayfield. May 15, 1921 services were held at Evanger and Trinity on alternating Sundays. Rev. B. A. Johnson was installed and served until 1938. Due to his illness, Rev. J. C. Thompson of Grand Meadow and Rev. M. N. Knutson of Glenwood assisted him for a few months. On July 15, 1922, the church was completely destroyed by a cyclone. This was especially unfortunate because there was no insurance then for cyclone damage. All that was left was the foundation, but in that open basement a congregational meeting was held, and a unanimous decision to rebuild immediately was made. M. Simonson, Oscar Gulbranson and P.W. Jensen were elected to the building committee. Again drawings of the church and altar were furnished by Mr. Simonson. Mr. P.W. Jensen furnished drawings of the steeple. They were constructed by Knut and Selmer Thoe. Ed Thoe constructed the pulpit. Nels T. Lee of Hayfield constructed the Altar. An invitation to hold services in the West St. Olaf Church was accepted. The cornerstone of the new church was laid April 18, 1923. On May 30, 1923, the new church was dedicated by Rev. C. J. Eastvold. Church members would process to the altar and kneel for confession. And a second time, bringing their offering to the altar after communion, processing first behind the altar and emerging from the other side. There was a confessional room off the sanctuary where families would meet with the pastor before church on communion Sundays one Sunday each month. After church, people would leave the church quietly, not saying a word, often until they were part way home. By 1923, cars began arriving at church instead of horse drawn wagons, buggies or sleighs and the horse barn was taken down. In 1929, the Fordson tractor rolled into the area as well as the Stock Market Crash and the Great Depression. The First annual Lutefisk Dinner was held in 1930. In 1931, 21 Norwegian and 12 English services were conducted. The last class confirmed in Norwegian were those confirmed in 1937. It had been tradition for the men to sit on the pulpit side of the sanctuary during worship and women and children on the other. However, newly married couples began sitting together on the same side of the church. Some of the first couples to do so were Ralph and Anita Senjem and Spencer and Ellen Wilson. In the 1940s, Evanger got running water. In 1956, a wedding party of 40 people was isolated in the church and compelled to stay the night as a blizzard raged. Rev. E.R. Weeks was installed Nov. 27, 1938 by Dr. Nils Kleven. He served twenty years, until 1958. Evanger discontinued parish alignment with Trinity in 1958. The south of the church and parsonage was built in 1958. The building committee was Walter Jensen, Stanley Gronseth, Kindred Edgar, Henry Jensen, Ed Severson, Fred Gieser, Manton Johnson, and Lionel Simonson. The parsonage was dedicated Nov. 2, 1958. The first pastor to live in the parsonage was Rev. B. N. Jacobsen. He was installed by Dr. Reinertson and served until 1960. In 1960, Evanger joined the American Lutheran Church (ALC). Evanger was then served by Rev. E. Stolen on an interim basis until 1961. On Feb. 12, 1961, Pastor E. Valen was installed by Dr. reinertson. He served thirteen years until 1974. In 1964, a project was completed which included extensive remodeling of the sanctuary and additions to the church. Members of the building committee were Arthur Johnson, Clarence Peterson, Eddie Spiten, and Carl Scharberg. Upon completion, the new project was dedicated by Dr. Melford Knutson July 12, 1964. In 1971 the basement was fully renovated. Pastor R. M. Torrison was installed September 15, 1974 by Pastor Robert Evans of the Southeast Minnesota District Staff. Until 1975, the amount each member had given throughout the year in offerings was posted next to his/her name in the annual report. At that last public recording, the highest single donation was $1924. In 1976, the kitchen was completely remodeled with a new entrance and small room added. On the kitchen committee were Mrs. Francis Bungum, Mrs. John Linbo, Mrs. Nels Lee, Mrs. Luther Larson, Mrs. Larry Larson, Mrs. Lyall Larson, Mrs. Edwin Olomon, Mr. Luther Larson, Mr. Wayne Anderson, and Mr. Francis Severson. By 1978, one hundred years since its formation with only 20 families, Evanger had grown to a membership of 553 baptized individuals. By the 125th anniversary, Evanger’s membership was 435. The “Fellowship Circle” (outdoor fire ring) was built by Ed Severson in 1974. Each member of the congregation was asked to bring a rock to church which was incorporated into the structure. The red baptismal banner “By Water and Spirit” was given by Richard and Alice Jensen in 1978. It symbolizes the gift of the Spirit and the water of life poured out by our Lord for all members of the congregation. Blue beads on the white cords represent every baptized member of our congregation. A new bead is added during the baptismal service of each child and adult as they are welcomed into the family of our Lord and of Evanger. (Picture of the front of the church) Pastor Delbert Ring was installed in 1981 by a pastor of the Southeast Minnesota District Staff. Evanger hosted several missionaries during his tenure: Priscilla Mdziniso of Swaziland, South Africa; Phillip and Judy Hyland, former missionaries to Japan, and Daniel Namarra. Advent Vespers were an addition to the holiday season. A renewal Committee was also formed. The front addition, elevator and handicap-accessible restrooms were completed in 1990. Pastor Paul Hauschild was installed Januarty 15, 1995 by Marilyn Hanson of the Southeastern Minnesota Sunod of the ELCA. In 1997, he hosted a trip to the Hold Land with 5 members of Evanger. Two “Talent” Shows were held featuring many “old” Norwegians and jokes. A Vision Committee was formed in 2001, a Prayer Chain was begun. New carpet, wiring and lights were added in 2003. Pastor Todd Harkins was installed February 15, 2003 by Larry Iverson, Assistant to the Bishop of the Southeastern Minnesota Synod of the ELCA. Work on Natural Church Development was begun. In 2004 a separate office was made for the church secretary. Pastor Lissa Kahl was installed November 9, 2008 by Pastor Linda Gunderson of the Southeastern Minnesota Synod of the ELCA. She was contracted at ¼ time for 3 years. Passover Seder Meals were held for first communion and confirmation students and their families. A website was created for the church with the help of Ruth Christie. Polka services with Leo and friends became a yearly summer standard. A Prayer Vigil and another “Talent” Show was held. Custodians throughout the years were Oscar Helen, Anton Jensen, Lori Heydt, Ed and Karen Olomon, Betty Reynolds and Larry Wood. Secretaries have been Alice Jensen, Gina Moser, Abby Severson, and Jacque Nelson.
Evanger Lutheran Church 1895
Evanger after Cyclone
Evanger Lutheran with added horse barn and basement
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