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History of Our Congregation

 

Our Saviour's Lutheran Church has a rich history that dates back to 1860, in the early years of Trempealeau County. It is a story of folks coming together in Christian unity for the sake of sharing God's love with all.  Our story is part of the Greatest Story Ever Told--the story of God's love for the world, and how God's love brought us together in this place and this time to share that love with others.  Our Saviour's Lutheran is a story of a union between two congregations in 1918:  Whitehall Evangelical Lutheran Church and Emmanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church.  This is our story and we invite you to find yourself in the story as it continues to unfold.

 

Whitehall Evangelical Lutheran Church

The congregation of Whitehall Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized on June 14, 1870, by the Reverend Erck Jensen.  The charter members were Hans Bringsosen, Lars Skjonsby, Peter Christianson, and Kristian Pederson.  Reverend Jensen served the congregation a little over a year and was succeeded by Rev. Svennungsen who served only a few months, until the Rev. L. L. O. Sherven was called.  He served the congregation until 1876.  During the first four years the congregation had no church building, but worshipped in various homes and school houses.

In 1874 the congregation purchased a church building from the Baptists, located a mile northeast of Whitehall on the site of the old Whitehall Cemetery. 

Upon the resignation of Rev. Sherven, the Rev. Emmanuel Christopherson became the pastor, serving the congregation for 28 years, and seeing it grow from a small group to a substantial congregation that numbered 264 souls in 1890.

In 1889 the congregation sold its place of worship to the Presbyterians, and moved into Whtiehall.

  Whitehall ca 1920In 1893 a new church was built on the site which now stands Our Saviour's Lutheran Church.  The cost of building that first church was about $6,500 and it was dedicated in 1893 by the Rev. H. A. Preus, president of the Norwegian Lutheran Synod of America.

Rev. Christopherson was succeeded by the Rev. O. K. Ramberg, who was the congregation's first resident pastor.  He served for eight years, from 1904 to 1912, and was succeeded by the Rev. E. B. Christophersen, who served until 1918 when the congregation merged with Emmanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church of Whitehall.

 

Emmanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church

The congregation of Emmanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized by the Reverend A. J. Oerke of Pigeon Falls in 1899.  The charter members were Theodore Erickson, Andrew Bensend, John Vold, J. H. Skjonsberg, Simon Pederson, Gullick Knutson, E. B. Gullard, Peter Nelson, Mrs. Ingeborg Larson, E. Berg, Mrs. Lars Engen, H. O. Hovde, and Mrs. Johan Olson. The church, located on Dewey Street in Whitehall, was built in 1902 and dedicated in 1910 by the Rev. R. Anderson of La Crosse. In 1914 the congregation numbered 190 souls. Rev. Oerke served the congregation until the merger took place in 1918.

 

The Union of Two Congregations

In 1917 three Lutheran denominations merged: the Hauge's, United Lutheran Church, The Synod Lutheran Church, formed the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.  Soon after, negotiations began for the merger of the two Lutheran congregations of Whitehall. The Union committes consisted of Tom Lindem, Claude E. Everson, Gilbert Pederson, P. C. Pederson, and A. H. Bringsosen from Whitehall Lutheran and Ole Erickson, Knudt Knudtson, O. C. Haraldsrud, Peder Ekern, and L. L. Solrud from Emmanuel Lutheran.  The merger was completed June 25, 1918 forming Our Saviour's Evangelical Lutheran Church of Whitehall.

 

Our Saviour's Evangelical Lutheran Church

The Rev. M. Casper Johnshoy was the first pastor to serve the new congregation, and it was only for a short time, from February 1919 to August 1920.  However, it was during this time that plans were laid and funds subscribed for the present church building.  The church of the former Whitehall Lutheran had been struck by lightening and burned down.  A new church for the large consolidated congregation was imperative.  The new church was completed and dedicated during the time of Rev. O. L. Hofstad, who served for about five years.  He resigned in 1925 to go to Madagascar as a missionary.OSLC Interior prior to 1958 remodel

Rev. N. G. Maakestad served until the close of 1930 when Rev. O.G. Birkeland was called.  Rev. N. C. A. Garness served as interim until Pastor Birkland was installed in July of 1931. The congregation enjoyed steady and substantial growth following the union.  

In 1940, the congregation of approximately 1000 souls celebrated its 70th anniversary. In 1950 the Church edifice was completely remodeled and renovated and a Parish House was built in 1951 to accomodate Sunday School classes, Ladies Aid, seven women's bible Study Circles, two Luther Leagues, the whole family of Scouts (from Cubs to Boy Scouts, Brownies to Girl Scouts), office space for pastor and support staff, and meeting places for other groups of the congregation and community.  

Over the years, several interns (seminary students preparing for ministry) learned and served at Our Saviour's:  Richard Ulvilden, Allen Vik, Ronald Staber, John Schwartz, Lars Odman, Cecil Bradfield, and Cameron Liebenow. By 1960 the membership numbered 1522 souls. In 1965, Rev. C. J. Ritland was called to serve as pastor. Pastor Birkland retired in 1966.

Our Saviour's Lutheran Church celebrated its Centenial Anniversary in 1970. Four "sons of the congregation" had entered the ministry:  Richard Rice, John Speerstra, Paul Birkeland, and Leonard B. Ellison. A new pipe organ was installed in 1972.

As the congregation celebrated its 125th Anniversary in 1995 it was pleased to acknowlege it had sponsored four missionaries in countries around the world, it was reaching out to thousands of homebound and unchurched through its radio ministry, and the church was fully accessible.  

 

Rev. O. G. Birkland (1931-1966); Rev. C. J. Ritland (1965-1975), Rev. John Gannett (1966-1972); Rev. Richard Kelling (1972-1999 ); Rev. LaMoine Jacobs (1976-2002); Rev. Dale Moe (Interim 2000-2001);  Rev. Gloria Fredrich (2002); Rev. Lowell Bolstad (Interim 2003-2005); Rev. Flaton (Interim, 2003); Rev. Jon Becker (Interim 2005); Rev. Tom Smith (2006-2010 ); Rev. Joel Olsen (Interim 2010);  Rev. Scott Thalacker (2010-2012); Rev. Kris Fahy (Interim 2012-2013); Rev. Denise Anderson (Interim 2013); Rev. Yvonne Marshall (2013- 2016); Rev. Dorothy Sandahl (Interim 2016-Present)

 

Our Saviour's Lutheran Church of Whitehall is a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  Learn more at http://www.elca.org/

 

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