Wild Rice Lutheran Church
Flom Township, Norman County, Minnesota
In the beginning the parish had no church but gathered for services in small log houses, usually at those of Jens Urdahl or Anders Hanson. In 1874 it was decided to raise a log church, 20x24 and 10 feet high with a birch bark and soil roof. Each member was to bring 4 logs, which were to measure 6 inches thick. The building was not in useable condition until the summer of 1876. It was built on John Kvidt's land in Section 6 where 2 acres of land was secured for a cemetery. Within a short time this church became too small and it was enlarged by 16 feet so it became 20x40. At the same time, the roof was shingled. Even though the church was now rather large, it soon showed that it was not big enough and it was agreed in 1885 to start a subscription for a new church, and in 1887 it was built. The nave was 34x34, 20 feet high, the chancel 18x20 and 16 feet high with two sacristies and a steeple 14x14 and 100 feet high. In the years 1889-92 it was completely finished and consecrated in 1892 by Pastor Bjørgo with the assistance of several ministers.. In 1914, a full basement was built under the church.
In 1917, the 17th of August, a tragic occurrence occurred to Wild Rice Parish. Lightning struck the beautiful and magnificent church and the parishioners stood helpless and watched their church laid in ashes. But He who had helped them to this point stood by them now in this great loss, and on the 2nd of January 1918, the first parish meeting was held to plan the erection of a new church. And on the 6th of October the same year the parish trustees and building committee turned over a fully completed new church, and on the 19th October it was consecrated by Pastor J.G.D. Bothne with a very large gathering.
The Parish History
The first settlers came to The Wild Rice Settlement in the summer of 1871, the 3rd of June. Of the 5 Families who came to the settlement on that date were Søren Bergeson, Gulbrand Hogenson, Martin Johnson, Andrew Johnson and Edvardt Engen, who came some days later, there was one, namely Søren Bergeson who took part when Wild Rice Parish was established. On the 24th of June, that year three more families came, namely Johnas Homlevik, Peter Helle and Peder Valer. Of these, Johnas Homlevik and P. Helle became members of the parish on its establishment. In the month of July, Ole Hansen Aastad came. The following year, even more families came and by 1873, there were so many that they felt it was necessary to gather for God's word and sacraments.
Pastor Lauritz Carlson from Douglas County had visited these families and shared Life's word with them in 1872.
Similarly, Pastor Bernhard L. Hagboe of the Norwegian-Danish Conference had also visited the settlement a couple of times but no parish was formed. In 1873 Pastor K. Bjørgo, who was then the pastor in Lake Park, came to the Wild Rice Settlement at the invitation of some families who had attended his services held in Andreas Larson's house in the Town of Goose Creek in Clay County and where he had founded the Buffalo River Parish. Pastor Bjørgo promised to come and hold services on the 20th of July and Andreas Larson promised to fetch him at Lake Park and drive him to Wild Rice. It was decided to hold the services in Andreas Hansen's home since he had a somewhat roomy house, consisting of three rooms. His home lay in Section 6 of the Town of Flom. "The 20th of July," said Pastor Bjørgo, "was a beautiful day with brilliant sunshine and comfortably warm and the trip over the prairie, which was completely unpopulated, was very uplifting, and I was totally certain of good results in the day. We arrived at our destination at 10 o'clock, but nobody had arrived for the service, just a woman by the name of Kirsti Bergeson." When she saw Pastor Bjørgo, she blurted out, "So!, is it you? I thought it was Lars Reque that was coming." Pastor Bjørgo asked if he should leave, the woman answered, "No, I would like to hear how you are as a preacher."
The people began to arrive and the services began, and Pastor Bjørgo took as his text the gospel which dealt with God's justice. In the afternoon a meeting was held and it was suggested that a Lutheran parish be formed and the following enrolled and signed a provisional constitution: Henry Bensen, Peder Helle, Jens G. Urdahl, Johnas P. Homelvig, Erik G. Erikson, Lars B. Huseby, Ole T. Rogen, Nikolaus Overgaard, Søren Bergeson, Andrew Hanson, Lars H. Aamoth, Knut Larson, John Jensen, Jens Jensen, Christian Olson, Ole Ingebretson, John P. Lien, Peter H. Lien and John O. Vaaler. Pastor Bjørgo held his next service in September of the same year and conducted his first wedding in the parish, namely that of John Gronoien and Amalia Larsen, and his last bridal couple were Tvedstulen and Johanna Kallerut.
Of the 19 families who signed the parish' first constitution the following are still alive: Mr. & Mrs. Henry Benson, Mrs. P. Helle, Mr. Erik Urdahl, Mrs. Ole T. Rogen, Mrs. Andreas Hansen, Lars Aamoth, Mrs. Knut Larsen, John Jenson, Jens Jensen Morland, Mrs. Christian Olsen, Mrs. Ole Kvidt, Mr. & Mrs. Johannes Lien, Mr. Peder Aamoth, Mr. Johannes Vaaler and Mr. & Mrs. John P. Lien.
As early as 1875, the 1st of April the question of joining the Synod was considered, and at later meetings the same matter came up, without any result, and not before the year 1896 did the parish join the Synod. When Pastor Bjørgo retired from his work in 1879, the parish got its own minister in Pastor A.K. Sagen, who later served St. Petri, North and West Wild Rice together with Nanstad parish at Faith. In the spring of 1884, he retired from the post, it was taken up by Pastor H. Johnson until 1895. His successor then was Pastor J.R. Vaaler, who served Wild Rice Parish until 1919. In the spring of 1889, the Wild Rice Parish was divided in two sub-parishes and was constituted of Wild Rice Twin Valley and Aspelund parishes.
In 1893, Aspelund Parish left the combination and Wild Rice and Twin Valley stayed together until 1919 when they separated from one another and Wild Rice went into connection with Bethlehem and Immanuel Parishes. In the spring of 1920, the 23rd of January, Aspelund Parish sought union with Wild Rice and annex parishes and these four make up the Call.
By the spring of 1880, the parish had already bought 80 acres of land in Section 7 of Flom Township for a parsonage, on which a house 16x24 was built and an addition 16x22 was raised in 1885. In 1890 there were also built the necessary outbuildings. In 1903, this parish property was sold and a new parcel of land, consisting of 21 acres, was bought from Hans Erikson, and in 1904 a new parsonage was built at a cost of almost $5000.
The parish secretaries in these 50 years have been: Henry Benson, Edvart Evensen, Andrew Hansen. At a parish meeting, Thursday the 3rd February 1881, R. Grutle was selected parish secretary and has served with much blessing for the parish, as well he has also been the parish choirmaster and teacher. He retired from his faithful service in the fall of 1910.
After Grutle retired, N.O. Skauge was elected and still serves as parish secretary. Much more could and should have been mentioned, but there is little more room in this little account.
And now a concluding words from the author. For 50 years now, God's word has been proclaimed at this place.
The parish has sailed between islands and skerries and thrown out the net of salvation in sunshine and storm.
Now they have brought the boat into harbor for a celebration and to thank God for what He has done for us as a parish and for our homes. Truly, God's favor has not been in vain and the sown word has not been in vain. Let us continue to awaken, pray and work. Our work life reduces day by day. There is, perhaps, not too much strength to fight against conflict, but there is another danger that threatens more, danger of being lukewarm and or indifferent to the Lord's word and sacraments. The old are being plucked away in recent years and in a short time those who built this parish will lie under ground. May God's grace give our youth the interest and love that stands in truth in these difficult and dangerous times we are now up against.
Your humble servant in Christ, B.L. OPDAHL
Translated from Norwegian by Olaf Kringhaug Vernon, BC, Canada