"Yesterday . . .Today;
First Lutheran Church Golden Anniversary"
Numerous homesteaders of Lutheran origin, lured by the promise of "free land", started coming to Montana in 1909 and were imbued with a deep and abiding love of their Heavenly Father. One of the ways in which this love and concern was shown was in their readiness to establish churches of their faith to insure the nourishment of their souls as well as their bodies. Sometime in 1910, a small group of these people living in Havre organized a Synod Ladies Aid with quite a large membership. At that time there was no Lutheran Church nor pastor in Havre, so Rev. A. A. Lunde of Great Falls, occasionally came and held church services in the Old McKinley School. His duties while in Havre were numerous. They ranged from accompanying the congregational singing, to attending Ladies Aid meetings at which time he held devotions and baptized the babies. Rev. Lunde was of the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Synod. This was one of the uniting bodies of the church which later joined with the United Norwegian Lutheran Church of America and Hauge’s Evangelical Lutheran Synod to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Our church affiliation stems from the United Norwegian Lutheran Church.
In the late summer and fall of 1910 and the early spring of 1911 many members of the Synod Aid moved to their new homes in the country. Those who moved to North Havre still held meetings as the Synod Ladies’ Aid. However, the meetings were few as the distances were great in that period of horse and buggy travel. During this time church services were held in several of the homes in the country. These people were eagerly looking forward to the establishment of a congregation. On October 22, 1911 a group organized and voted to build a church, and at this time the name "Norway Prairie Norwegian Lutheran Congregation" was chosen. A second meeting, held December 10, 1911 was necessary to get the congregation duly organized. This meeting was held in one of the farm homes about four miles southwest of the site chosen on which to build the church. Pastor T. O. Kjos was present at the organizational meeting and wrote the minutes in Norwegian.
Eight miles north of Havre a small church sixteen by twenty-four feet was built on land donated by Mr. and Mrs. Knut Kjorli. This two-acre plot for the church and cemetery is located in the NE corner of the NE 1/4 of Section 6, Township 33, Range 16. With the help of donated labor and generous support of the Havre businessmen, a dream became a reality In 1912 Pastor O. J. Norby a missionary minister from Havre, began serving the country church. Services were held there twice a month.
The first annual meeting was held October 27, 1912. The constitution and by-laws written in Norwegian were adopted. Pastor O. J. Norby attended this meeting and wrote the minutes. Until 1922 the services and all the minutes of the annual meetings were written in Norwegian. One of the problems of this time was that most of the elders and the pastors would have loved to continue with the Norwegian language, but the young people were forgetting their Norwegian at fast rate.
On June 8, 1913, Pastor Norby confirmed the first class in the Norway Prairie Norwegian Lutheran Church. Henry Belland and Edward Hagen were from Havre, and the other class members, Joseph and Arnold Larson; Axel Barney and Selma Moe; Lawrence Peterson, Carl and Dewey Rudie; and Lydia Swenson, lived in the country. This was a big day in the life of the community, as the new church was also dedicated. One other confirmation class was held in this little church on September 2, 1934. Pastor O. J. C. Norem confirmed Harley, Oliver and Avis Peterson; Edna and Lloyd Hellebust; Mrs. Jake and Edwin Hoyum; and Evelyn Christianson.
Butter and Eggs
Pastor A. Brandrud followed Pastor Norby and served from 1914 until 1919, Pastor A.S. Running from 1919 until 1922; Pastor O. O. Andvik from 1923 until 1930; Pastor O. J. C. Norem from 1930 until 1937; and Pastor Martin Trygstad from 1937 until 1940. On occasions when the roads were closed by snow during the winter storms, Pastors Brandrud and Andvik came out on skis for afternoon services.
The congregation was a mission church and the Ladies’ Aid played a large part in raising the necessary funds to keep the congregation operating. At one time the group purchased a new car for one of the pastors. During the drought and depression of the early 30's after the congregation became self-supporting, the pastor was paid with butter, eggs, cream, chickens or any produce raised on the farm.
When the ladies held dinners, bazaars and ice cream socials, it was necessary for them to bring tables, chairs, gas lights, and water from home. Many times they cooked meals on small kerosene stoves. No matter how hard their work or how difficult their working conditions they had one goal in mind: support a church in which to worship God, to receive His Grace in Word and Sacrament, and to pass on this faith to their children.