Archived Story

Tonseth Lutheran celebrates historic community for 125th anniversary [UPDATED]

Published 9:47am Thursday, June 27, 2013 Updated 11:59am Thursday, June 27, 2013

In the hills of Friberg township, parishioners at Tonseth Lutheran Church trek the same trail to worship their families have for generations.

Tonseth Lutheran Church will celebrate its 125th anniversary this July with a weekend bonanza celebrating what makes the little parish so special: history.

“It’s an honor to continue it,” said Darla Marty, a member of the anniversary committee. “A call of duty almost. We’re here to continue to do what our ancestors have before us.”

The church was established in 1888 by residents of Norwegian and German descent. Logs were brought from around the area by families looking to establish a place to worship. Each family head brought one layer of logs for the build, and single men brought one log 25 to 27 feet long.

Some current members are descendants of the original church fathers and many are second, third and fourth generation families. That local support base has stood the test of time and flourishes today.

“It’s pretty dear to our hearts,” said Debbie Samuelson, also a member of the committee. “This is for the love of our church. We’re a community.”

After first holding services in school houses and other structures before the church was built, including the building that is now the Ye Olde School House restaurant in Edwards, Tonseth has continued a bountiful membership. The small church had 354 baptized and 286 confirmed members at the end of last year.

Many of those members have made history as well. The church’s rural cemetery includes 55 veterans from the Civil War to present. Hannah Kempfer, one of the first of four women elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 1923, is also buried in the cemetery.

Over 125 years, the church building has been slightly updated. In 1956 an office area was built and in 1969 a larger addition expanded the worship area.

Even with the updates, however, the past is still a centerpiece. The church still uses the original alter, railing, pulpit, baptismal fountain and painting of Jesus in prayer at the garden of Gethsemane.

“God has blessed us for 125 years and will continue to bless us for more to come,” said Carol Splittgerber, who also serves on the committee.

The celebration begins Saturday, July 13 at 5 p.m. with a meet-and-greet followed by a celebration supper at 6. The evening will include a brief history, special music and a roll call of all the church’s confirmation classes, starting with the first in 1893.

On Sunday morning, a worship service with special music will be held at 9:30 a.m.

Anniversary cake and ice cream will follow. The events are open to the public and the congregation encourages area residents to attend.

“If anyone wants to join us in the hills of Friberg, they’re more than welcome to any time,” Samuelson said.

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