Much of Minnesota was settled by Norwegian families dating back a century and a half ago. Today's church story is no exception.
The South Zumbro Lutheran Church, six miles southeast of Kasson and 20 miles from Rochester, has a rich history — tough times at the beginning, now overshadowed by the good times — that dates back almost 150 years. In fact, they are already planning for their 150th in 2018.
The Rev. Mark Schwartz (hardly a Norwegian name) has shared with me histories of the 100th celebration in 1968, the 120th in 1988 and the 125th in 1993. Looking through the history of pastor tenures, I found some in the teens, but Pastor Mark, now serving South Zumbro for 25 years, is the longest to lead this congregation.
In 2010 the church voted to leave the Southeastern Minnesota Synod of the ELCA and join the LCMC (Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ). And they are happy to be part of the organization.
Pastor Mark said, "The church has one part-time secretary, Michele Stromme. Our main church organist is Tony Boldt, band director at Kasson-Mantorville High School, and our senior choir director is Cindy Bernards, who also serves as our parish nurse." They even have junior choir for pre-school through seventh grade students, and their "Mountain Movers" for grades 8-12.
Music has been a big part of this church's history dating back to 1888, when Gullick Larson bought the first reed organ and his daughter was the first organist.
A decade before South Zumbro was started, records show an assist from the Arendahl Lutheran Church of rural Peterson, which helped organize South Zumbro. Small groups met in February and March 1868 in the Johannes Sorum and John Bottolfson homes.
Church membership was 104 in 1868. A decade later, in 1878, the church building was completed. At their annual meeting that year, on Sept. 30, it was decided that whoever brought their dogs to church would be fined 50 cents. In 1920, men dug out dirt for a basement and a furnace was installed. Electricity was installed in 1939.
Since 2003, there have been three building phases, mainly to make the church more accessible and to create room for more worshipers. Average Sunday attendance today is 150. Sunday worship services are at 10 a.m., which changes to 9 a.m. in the summer. Sunday School is at 9 a.m., with 82 students enrolled.
Pastor Mark and wife Anne have three sons, all with Biblical names: Samuel, Luke and Peter. A big celebration is set for August with dinner and two bluegrass bands. The event is called "Joyful Noise." For Easter Sunday, the church will celebrate with music from CBB (Classic Brass Band). Christmas Eve has two services led by singing, guitars and candlelight, closing with "Silent Night."
When it comes to mission outreach, South Zumbro Church supports three missionaries and monthly sends benevolence offerings to ministry partners in the Kasson-Byron communities and throughout the world. Pastor Mark, who turned 62 on March 6, told me, "Our growth in membership and spiritual life continues, and we look proudly ahead to see what new ministry opportunities are ahead of us."
South Zumbro Lutheran Church is at 4830 120th Ave. SW, Kasson. The church telephone is 507-365-8110. Website: szlc.org.
Next week: The Viola Bible Baptist Church for over 125 years.