The history of Emmons Lutheran Church can be traced back to the beginnings of the Lutheran Church among Norwegian immigrants to Freeborn County, Minnesota and Winnebago and Worth Counties in Iowa. The first Lutheran worship service in the area was held July 20th, 1858 on the farm of Lars L. Loberg near Silver Lake. Services were held approximately four times a year and the early pastors who would come to the area were Rev. C.L. Clausen, Rev. A.C. Preus, and Rev. V. Koren. Soon, four congregations would come about as a result of these services: Round Prairie, Silver Lake, Shell Rock, and Lime Creek. Lime Creek became a separate congregation in 1859.
In May of 1865, a meeting was held and a call was extended to T.A. Torgerson, a candidate of Theology at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri to become Pastor of a parish consisting of the congregations of Lime Creek, Silver Lake, and Shell Rock. Pastor Torgerson began his ministry in the area in August of that year. As the United States was emerging from the Civil War, a theological debate of the day in the old Norwegian Synod was on the topic of slavery. At a congregational meeting in February of 1869, a majority of the Lime Creek members voted to withdraw from the Norwegian Synod. As a result of the division within the congregation, the majority left to organize a congregation of their own, which would also become known as “Lime Creek Lutheran Church.” Rev. Torgerson remained with the original Norwegian Synod congregation on the Iowa side of the state line in Norway Township until his death in 1906. This congregation is the modern day Lime Creek Evangelical Lutheran Church and is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS).
The new Lime Creek congregation joined Silver Lake in calling Rev. B. Gjeldaker as Pastor in 1869. In 1874, Lime Creek built a house of worship on a site west of Emmons on the Minnesota side of the State Line Road, just north and west of the Lime Creek “synod” church. In 1878, Lime Creek joined with the Lutheran congregation in Lake Mills, Iowa in calling Rev. P.G. Ostby to become their Pastor. Later that year, he organized Bethel Lutheran Church at Vinje, Iowa which also became a part of the parish. In 1893, Lake Mills withdrew from the parish and called its own Pastor.
In 1902, several families living in Emmons and the nearby neighborhood desired to form a congregation separate from Lime Creek. A meeting was held in the Emmons schoolhouse on January 11th. A subscription had been taken among the people, with the understanding no movement toward building a church would begin until at least $2,000 had been gathered for that purpose. It is interesting to note that this meeting was conducted in English, not in the “native” Norwegian, the language most church meetings would have been conducted in at that time. All present were given voice, with voting privileges given only to those who had given a subscription. Pastor Ostby agreed to conduct services on Sunday afternoon twice a month in the English language in Emmons, with services held in the school house until a church was finished. On March 25th, Emmons Lutheran Church was incorporated with 80 members. The congregation would remain united with Lime Creek for pastoral services, and they would join the United Norwegian Lutheran Church of America. The church was constructed later that year on a site on Main Street just north of the Emmons school and was dedicated in 1903. Pastor Ostby would continue to serve the Emmons, Lime Creek, and Bethel congregations, while residing on his farm west of Emmons. He served the three congregations faithfully until poor health forced his retirement in 1915, ending a 38 year active ministry in the Emmons area. He passed away June 15th, 1917, with funeral services held at Lime Creek. He is buried at the Lime Creek cemetery west of Emmons.
Rev. R.M. Fjelstad was called by Emmons, Lime Creek, and Bethel upon Pastor Ostby’s retirement. He was the first pastor to reside in the city of Emmons in the newly constructed parsonage one block north of the church. Bethel at Vinje left the parish in 1919. Pastor Fjelstead remained at Emmons and Lime Creek until 1922. Emmons and Lime Creek continued to share a pastor, with the parsonage in Emmons, as the Emmons Lutheran Parish until Emmons voted to become a sole parish in 1962. Since that time, Emmons has had its own Pastor. Lime Creek shared pastors with Mansfield Lutheran Church from 1962 until Lime Creek closed in October of 1983, at which time, many of Lime Creek’s members joined Emmons Lutheran Church. The Lime Creek cemetery remains, but the Lime Creek church building was moved to the Farm of Yesteryear site near Kiester, Minnesota in 2003, and a monument to the Lime Creek church was erected where the church once stood.
By the mid-late 1950’s the Emmons congregation had outgrown the original church building on Main Street. Land was purchased west of US Highway 69 in 1957. Ground was broken on the current church in 1959, with first services and dedication taking place in 1960, all during the pastorate of Rev. L. Donald Docken. As a way to help raise funds to pay off the debt associated with the new church building, Pastor Docken suggested the church have a Lutefisk Supper. Thus began an annual tradition that continues to this day on the 2nd Tuesday of November each year, with members and friends of the congregation young and old alike pitching in to help.
The present parsonage was constructed in 1968, with Rev. Clifford Paulson and his family being the first to live there. A Rodgers 330 electric organ was installed in 1974, with the instrument having to be repaired in 1979 following a power surge as a result of a lightning strike in the area. In 1997, several improvements were made to the church, including the installation of the beautiful stained glass windows that adorn our sanctuary, expansion of the narthex, and addition of handicap accessible restrooms near the sanctuary. The sanctuary was air conditioned in 2014. In 2015, the congregation was the recipient of the gift of a strip of land north of the church for use as a parking area as a memorial from the family of Parnell Brackey . That same year, the congregation was the recipient of the gift of a Young Chang Baby Grand Piano from Virgil and Helen Holstad. Much needed landscaping was done at the parsonage in 2016. A new Allen Chancel Series Organ was installed and dedicated that fall, with a dedicatory program being held on Reformation Sunday, during which many current and former organists of Emmons Lutheran Church participated. In celebration of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, a special “Luther’s German Mass” Communion service was held on Reformation Sunday, 2017. The parsonage was re-shingled in 2018. Also in 2018, Pastor Martin began serving Bethel Lutheran Church at Vinje, Iowa, on a limited basis, while remaining full time with us at Emmons for the remainder of his call, renewing a relationship between our congregations that had once been in place nearly a century ago.
Over the years, Emmons Lutheran Church has been in several different synods. At its organization, the congregation belonged to the United Norwegian Lutheran Church of America. This group united with two other Norwegian churches to form the Norwegian Lutheran Church in America in 1917. This body was later renamed the Evangelical Lutheran Church, and would merge with several other Lutherans to form The American Lutheran Church (ALC) in 1960. The ALC merged into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) on January 1, 1988. In January of 2012, Emmons Lutheran Church voted to withdraw from the ELCA and became a member of the North American Lutheran Church (NALC).
Pastors Who Have Served Emmons Lutheran Church
1. Rev. P.G. Ostby (1902-1915)**
2. Rev. R.M. Fjelstad (1915-1922)**
3. Rev. O.T. Storaasli (1922-1943)*
4. Rev. H.A.. Oerke (1943-1948)*
5. Rev. George K. Berg (1948-1952)*
6. Rev. Carl J. Hanson (1953-1957)*
7. Rev. L. Donald Docken (1957-1962)*
8. Rev. Clifford Paulsen (1962-1973)
9. Rev. Terje Hausken (1973-1976)
10. Rev. Clarence Baalson (1977-1991)
11. Rev. Dennis Johnson (1992-2000)
12. Rev. Julie Fiske (2000-2012)
13. Rev. Christopher Martin (2013-2018)***
14. Rev. Ryan M. Henkel (2020 – present)
*-Also served Lime Creek Lutheran Church, Emmons
**-Also served Lime Creek Lutheran Church, Emmons and Bethel Lutheran Church, Vinje, Iowa
***-Also served Bethel Lutheran Church, Vinje, Iowa
Interim Pastors who have served our congregation between permanently called Pastors have included: Rev. Peter Lundholm (1991-1992), Rev. Scott Duffus (2000), Rev. Dr. Cathi Braasch (2012-2013). and Rev. Dr. David E. Schafer (2018 – 2020).