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Immanuel Lutheran marking 75 years

Immanuel Lutheran Church is celebrating its 75th anniversary the weekends of Oct. 9 and Oct. 15-16.1 / 2
Organist Allen Moe is building the new Immanuel Lutheran Church 24 rank pipe organ to be ready for dedication at the church's 75th anniversary.2 / 2

Immanuel Lutheran Church will celebrate 75 years of existence in Wadena this month, tracing its roots to Oct. 18, 1936.

Festivities for the milestone will be Sunday, Oct. 9 with a traditional smorgasbord; Saturday, Oct. 15 with a concert; and Oct. 16 with the anniversary worship and dedication.

The Oct. 9 smorgasbord, complete with Scandinavian costumes, is a fundraiser for special projects and missions.

The Oct. 15 music program will be at 4 p.m. followed by a potluck. The general public is encouraged to attend and bring a dish.

The Rev. Larry Wohlrabe, bishop of the Northwestern Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), will preach at the two Oct. 16 worship services at 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.

There will also be a past presidents' forum emceed by congregational president Ann Pate and a 1 p.m. catered meal with Sharla Fillhouer as emcee.

Fillhouer, the anniversary committee chair, said that the 75th anniversary celebrations had started in January with monthly celebrations, and they would culminate in the Oct. 15-16 celebration where they would invite former pastors back.

"As people of faith, Immanuel has a lot of amazing and wonderful stories of ministry over these past 75 years," the Rev. Marilyn Breckenridge stated. "And this story is not just about us, but also about God ... It's the story of a God who is with us in the valleys and mountain top experiences of our lives."

The 75th anniversary theme is "Rise, Shine, You People!" and the theme verse is Isaiah 60:1.

New pipe organ dedication

Immanuel is getting a new 24 rank pipe organ - about 1,500 pipes in laymen's terms - to be dedicated on Oct. 16.

Allen Moe, an organ builder who owns the Moe Pipe Organ Company along with his wife Suzanne, is working on the new organ to be ready for dedication at the anniversary service. Allen Moe is one of the church's two organists and has also worked for the Wicks Organ Company out of Highland, Ill.

The original organ was eight or nine ranks and about 500 pipes. A major donation from the congregation put up half the money for the new organ project, and a lot of the "guts" from the organ were donated by the Moes.

"A rank is a set of pipes, one for each key on the keyboard, all having the same tone but each one speaking a different note," Allen Moe said.

Several years ago, Moe Organ Company worked on First Congregational United Church of Christ. Their most high-profile organ project was the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis.

An organist from the Basilica of St. Mary, Christopher Stroh, is slated to perform at Immanuel some time this winter after Christmas.

Breckenridge said the church plans to share the organ with the community with periodic concerts.

"Music has been a high priority of this congregation," she said.

"It's been a tradition for a long, long time," Suzanne Moe said.

Micro enterprise partnership

Breckenridge said the church is also raising funds to support a micro enterprise partnership to help people with low incomes start businesses in the community.

"When we do something for ourselves, we also like to do something for people outside the congregation," Breckenridge said, adding that the church has participated in global projects like helping women in developing countries start small businesses, so it made sense to do something similar right here.

"Basically, we were chosen by Minnesota Without Poverty to be a trial community," Davis Leino-Mills of Otter-Tail Wadena Community Action said. "It's trying to help low-income individuals who want to get started in business or expand a business."

He said there would be more details about the project in October, and that several other churches in the area had shown interest in the Micro Enterprise Partnership.


According to Immanuel's history booklet from the 50th anniversary in 1986, the church had its roots in 1870s Lutheran settlers and Emmanuel Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church in Wadena in 1891. In 1936, the church began its transition into the English language, changed its name to Immanuel Lutheran Church and formally ceased to exist in July of that year.

On Oct. 18, 1936, Immanuel English Lutheran Church formed and has its first worship service after buying the property on Deerwood Ave. and 1st Street NE from the old congregation for the price of $1.

The first pastor was the Rev. Joseph Langemo, and the congregation was affiliated with the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America. That same year, the church outgrew its building, so it purchased the property on Dayton Ave. and 2nd Street.

Immanuel English Lutheran Church worshipped in the basement, and they burned the mortgage for the parsonage and the basement in 1944. The main building was postponed partly because of a shortage of materials from World War II. The Norwegian Lutheran Church of America became the Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1946.

In 1950, the church building was finally completed, and the congregation held its services in the Cozy Theatre during the construction. 1955 saw the name change from Immanuel English Lutheran Church to just Immanuel Lutheran Church, since English church services had become the normal practice by then.

In 1960, the church completed a building project with new chancel, classrooms and office. The Evangelical Lutheran Church merged into The American Lutheran Church that same year, and The American Lutheran Church in turn merged into the ELCA in 1988.

In 1980, another building addition was completed.

Like many other churches in the ELCA, Immanuel has gone through the "Red Book" Service Book and Hymnal in 1958, the "Green Book" Lutheran Book of Worship in 1978 and the "Cranberry Hymnal" Evangelical Lutheran Worship in published in 2006.

Breckenridge said that Immanuel Lutheran Church has had 14 called pastors throughout its 75-year