From merger, 'a new congregation was born'
When I first visited Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Spring Valley in 1954, I didn’t realize how new it was. I was there helping record the wedding of my former country school teacher and neighbor Phyllis Anderson to Ray Bartel of Sargent. My mother was playing the nuptial music as requested by Phyllis.
I called Our Savior’s Church and talked with Jennifer McCurdy, the church secretary. She kindly fulfilled my request for a church history, which reveals the church cornerstone laying and dedication took place May 7, 1952, at 11:45 a.m. The first divine service was more than a year later on June 14, 1953. But the history goes back three quarters of a century prior to the early 1950s.
This church is on the south side of Broadway Avenue, just south of downtown and a block west of U.S. 63. But the story of two earlier church congregations voting to merge and come up with a new name? That’s an accomplishment.
They all agreed to call the church Our Savior’s Lutheran Church. Now nearly six decades later, it’s older than one and younger than the other of those merging congregations. Our Savior's is a member of ELCA.
Zion Lutheran was 50 years old and Trinity Lutheran was about 75 years old at the time of the merger. Zion Lutheran Church was organized by a small group of Christian families in 1901. Only four pastors served Zion for the 50 years.
Meanwhile, Trinity Lutheran Church was organized in 1875, but times were tough and the first building went up in 1889. Dedication services were held the following year.
In 1950, Zion and Trinity Lutheran churches voted to merge. It was decided that a new church would be built. History states: "Truly a new congregation was born. The prayers of the many members of the congregation were answered and the tireless efforts of their former two pastors, Rev. W. Huseby and Rev. William Ubrich, were crowned with success."
When driving by the church today, you’ll notice the bell tower and front entrance. That tower points heavenly 56 feet. It’s surrounded at the top by a 12-foot neon lighted cross.
The large Nave has blonde finish, Appalachian Oak pews on each side. At the writing of this description, seating would accommodate 450 worshipers. The spacious channel containing the altar, pulpit, baptismal font and communion rail is the focal point of the church interior.
A balcony seats 80 more people. A banquet room with capacity of 450 people has been filled many times over these nearly 60 years in the life of this church.
I have not included the total description since congregations do updates and renovations over the years. When Trinity Lutheran Church (1875 – 1950) was torn down around the early 1950s, the altar painting disappeared for 40 years. It was later discovered in the attic of the new church and restored.
It was then framed by Wilbur Brandt and painted in the 1870s by Herbjorn Gausta, a noted Norweigian-American artist. The painting is on display at the Spring Valley Church Museum. Gausta is buried in a cemetery near Harmony.
The bell from Zion Lutheran Church on South Washington Avenue is in the 56-foot bell tower at Our Savior’s. It tolls every Sunday. The old Zion Church building is now a residence of the Curt Osterhus family.
I asked Jennifer if Our Savior’s Lutheran is a "singing" congregation. "Very much so," she said, "with 1,000 membership, we really sing, led by Evelyn Clark at the organ for the past 23 years."
The church's lead pastor has been Dennis Timmerman for 11 years and Laura Fladten for seven years. During the summer, a 5:30 p.m. service is held on Saturday and 9 a.m. service is held on Sunday. From Labor Day to Memorial Day, services are held Sunday mornings at 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.
From Jennifer's historical notes, a short prayer was included and I’m sure it was at the church dedication or perhaps earlier at the ground breaking in 1952. I’ll conclude with this: "O Lord our God, accept we pray, the house we consecrate this day. And let thy glory fill this place, the glory of thy truth and grace."