Congregation makes its stand among stand of trees
What: Red Oak Grove Lutheran Church sesquicentennial.
• Service will be at 9 a.m. Sunday celebrating the congregation’s Norwegian heritage. Bishop Harold Usgaard will provide the message, and the Sons of Norway singers will sing songs in both Norwegian and English. Following the service, brunch will be served, and a display of classic tractors and equipment will take place outside the church. Horse and cart rides to the Red Oak Grove Cemetery also will be provided along with displays of rosemaling, hardanger and Norwegian memorabilia.
• On July 19, a service will be held at 10 a.m. with an anniversary choir and a catered luncheon at 11:30 a.m. An afternoon program is set for 2 p.m. and will include music from The Way Word singing group of Blooming Prairie.
By Sarah Doty
The church is at the "crossroads of some fields," but for 150 years, it has been the center of faith for hundreds.
This weekend, the sesquicentennial celebration for the Red Oak Grove Lutheran Church, in rural Austin, will commemorate its history with the theme "Celebrating God, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow."
"It’s an exciting time to look at how the church has touched the community and the world in 150 years," said the Rev. Gene Leiter, who has been at the church for a little more than a year.
The church was established in 1859 by families who had fled Norway to escape religious frictions in the 1800s. The families arrived at the church’s location in 1855, and they spent the first few years building log houses and holding church services in their homes. In fall 1859, the Rev. A. C. Preus officially organized the congregation. The original frame of the church was raised in 1869 and still remains in the church today, although it is covered with siding and has been lifted to place a basement underneath, Leiter said.
"We are connected to faith and family," said Leiter of the congregation. "We don’t have 600 houses around us. We never became a population center, but the church sitting here at the crossroads of some fields, the faith and families connected to it have remind vibrant."
That is what makes the church so special, Leiter said.
Leiter encourages all former and current members to come out and celebrate the anniversary.
"I think that, just like in 1859, when it was important and exciting to make the church a part of your life, it’s just as exciting 150 years later," he said. "Facing all of life’s issues, it’s an important and exciting time to be a person in a faith community, especially in Red Oak Grove.
"There is just as much pioneering to do today, it’s just a different kind of pioneering."
A version of this story appears in the Austin Post-Bulletin.