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Church celebrates 150 years (video)

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Directing pastor Vern Christopherson (right) welcomes over a dozen current and former pastors with ties to Zumbro Lutheran Church to the service Sunday celebrating the church's 150 year anniversary.

Of the 21 original signers of the constitution for what became Zumbro Lutheran Church in Rochester, nearly all were of Norwegian heritage, the first minister was Norwegian and the early church records were written in Norwegian

There are still many Scandinavian names associated with the church, which celebrated its 150th anniversary over the weekend, but membership has branched out a bit since 1865, or even since 1973, which is when Mark Larson started attending Zumbro Lutheran as a high school student.

"The diversity of the congregation has changed tremendously," Larson, now president of the congregation, said Sunday.

Sunday's anniversary service was about breaking down walls, and Larson said he's all for that — in a metaphorical sense, at least.

"This is just a building," he said shortly before Sunday's service. "We've got to get out of here and reach people not just inside this building."


One of Zumbro Lutheran's current efforts to do exactly that comes in the form of the Open Table mobile food ministry, which Zumbro operates with People of Hope Lutheran Church. "We're raising money for a food truck, so we can go out in the community and take meals to places where we know children are going to bed hungry at night," said the Rev. Lisa Kipp, a pastor at Zumbro Lutheran.

"This is what energizes us as a congregation, to look outside our walls," Kipp said.

The service included a sermon by the Rev. Harold Usgaard, who began his career at Zumbro Lutheran. Usgaard picked up on the theme of breaking down walls, noting that politicians and even countries today are advocating the building of barriers between people of different faiths and ethnicity.

After 40 years of paying attention to what goes on at Zumbro Lutheran, Usgaard said, "what I have observed is a congregation that has refused to hide behind walls, but instead, again and again, stepped out into the world and into its issues."

Latest efforts include hosting Sudanese Dinka services on Sunday afternoons and sending members of the congregation to do work at a hospital in Tanzania.

The anniversary service included the singing of a newly commissioned hymn, "Come and Hear the Word That's Worshiped," with music by Northfield composer Daniel Kallman and words by the Rev. Vern Christopherson, directing pastor at Zumbro Lutheran.

A concert by Zumbro music and vocal ensembles was presented Friday, and an anniversary dinner was held Saturday.

Zumbro Lutheran moved into its current building on the edge of Soldiers Field Park in November 1969. Before that, the church was located at the corner of Fourth Street and Third Avenue Southwest.


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