Augustana Lutheran Church in Grand Forks celebrates 125th anniversary – Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS – In 1896, three men met to discuss organizing what eventually became the Augustana Lutheran Church. At one point during the Great Depression, the church had only 27 cents on hand. Years later, he survived the devastating flood of 1997.

The church – as well as society as a whole – has witnessed and overcome all sorts of changes and challenges over 125 years, but its members have remained true to Augustana’s core mission, the pastor said. the church.

Augustana Lutheran Church — located at 520 University Avenue in Grand Forks — will celebrate its 125th anniversary on Sunday. The celebration will include a 9 a.m. meeting with muffins, juice and coffee and a 10 a.m. worship service, followed by lunch and a short program, said Pastor Jo Gast, who served as the spiritual leader of the church for seven years.

When asked how the church got to the milestone anniversary, Gast replied, “Strong coffee,” with a chuckle. Then, more seriously, “One thing I discovered about this church – if I understand this story correctly – is that after the flood of ’97 they were encouraged to pick up and move south of the town.”

The members of the congregation decided that the church should remain in place, that their mission was linked to the north side of the city.

“This church is very neighborhood-focused,” Gast said, and its members are concerned about “how can we walk alongside our neighbors.”

That commitment was evident in the decision to stay put and is expressed in “other small ways,” she said.

“We are a downtown church. And if you come here on a Sunday, you’re not a visitor, you’re a person,” she said. “It’s wonderful; it’s a good place.

“We had students who came on Sunday from the rally and the following week we were teaching Sunday school, because they said ‘hello’ to the wrong person,” Gast said with a laugh.

About 80 people regularly attend Sunday services in person, she said, and “we have a nice online presence as well.”

She credits church member Lee Smith with handling “very good quality” technical aspects for congregation members worshiping online. Services are streamed live and can be viewed through the church’s Facebook page and website.

In 1896, three men – OG Wallin, CA Setterstrand and Dr. AA Westen – met to discuss organizing a Swedish Lutheran church in Grand Forks, according to church history. On October 23, 1887, the church was officially organized and a constitution was adopted by 52 founding members. The first services and meetings were held at the Norwegian Lutheran Church in Hauge on Walnut Street and Scandia Hall on Kittson Avenue.

The first name of the church was Gustavus Adolphus Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Congregation.

By 1899 the congregation had grown to 122 members, and the same year the first church building was constructed, for $2,000, at the corner of Alpha Avenue (now First Avenue) and North Sixth Street. In 1908, a parsonage was built at 18 N. Sixth St. In 1931, the church was renamed Augustana Lutheran Church.



The story reveals the formation and activities of the Ladies Aid Society, the Circles and the Men’s Club, as well as a “mortgage fire celebration” in 1918 and the installation of a pipe organ in 1920. offices of the evening in Swedish.

In the early years of the Great Depression, repairs were rare and wages partially unpaid. In 1935, the story notes, “Still in National Depression – 27 cents on hand according to Treasurer’s Report.”


In 1955 the congregation built a new church at 520 University Ave. The first service took place on May 1, 1955.

In 1969, Ethel Booty became the first woman to serve on the church board.


On a wall in the church’s second-story hallway is a rainbow of children’s handprints, each strip a different color and each print labeled with the child’s name and name. school year, to commemorate the 1997 flood.

Visual reminders of Augustana history—as well as Christian history—are evident throughout the building.

The statue of Jesus, which adorned the altar of the first church, was placed in the sanctuary of the new church. The statue was restored by David Hetland Studios in 2002.

A set of two three-armed candelabras that were used in the old church are now used in the social hall. In the narthex are displayed artifacts that reflect Swedish heritage, including a bridal crown, called brudakrona.


The Augustana Lutheran Church has the largest single-themed stained glass window in North Dakota, according to church history. Titled “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” the window is made from 630 pieces of cut glass and took 249 hours to complete. Reverend Stephen Streed, who served as pastor from 1979 to 1990, created the window over a period of a year and a half.

The sparrow is a common bird that Christ refers to in Matthew 10:31 when he said to his disciples, “Do not be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows.”

“Legendary People of Faith”

Augustana is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, or ELCA, one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States.

“ELCA is very good at talking about faith, (in the context of) we are a legendary people of faith,” Gast said. “The Bible is God’s love story for us. And we all have a role in this story. It’s up to us to find space for others to tell their stories, and how we meet Jesus in the midst of it.

The pastor looks forward to Sunday when the congregation pauses to reflect on when their story began 125 years ago.

“It will be a good day,” she said.

Jerry B. Hatch