Ebenezer Evangelical Lutheran Church History
The members of Tripolis Evangelical Lutheran Church who lived in or near Kandiyohi felt there was a need for a place of worship in the village itself. In about 1905, during the ministry of Rev. S. A. Lindholm, a chapel was built on land donated to them by Mr. and Mrs. Knut F. Backlund.
Due to the foresight of these pioneer families, a new congregation was organized under the leadership of Rev. B. E. Walters. On January 17, 1910, a constitution was adopted and a name chosen for the new congregation, “Ebenezer Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church.” (Ebenezer is a biblical name, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us”—1 Samuel 7:12.) The congregation was incorporated according to the laws of the State of Minnesota on January 6, 1911, and admitted into the fellowship of the Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church of America in June of 1912. According to the 1910 annual report there were 74 communicants and 46 children listed as charter members. Rev. Walters was called as our first pastor; and we joined the Tripolis Evangelical Lutheran Church to form one parish, continuing with them in the same mutual Christian spirit of love.
The first full morning worship service was held Sunday, April 3, 1910. During the early years of the congregation, many of the worship services were held in the afternoon and high mass (Holy Communion) was celebrated the first Sunday of each month. As was the custom at this time, the women sat on the left side of the church and the men on the right. A large stove stood in the center of the east side of the building with overhead pipes extending into the sanctuary. During the cold winter months it was fired up on Saturday so that the building was somewhat warm for Sunday.
To care for and nurture the growth of the new congregation, the Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, Confirmation Class, Luther League, Women’s Missionary Society, and the Ladies Aid were organized immediately. It wasn’t until 1918 that the Lutheran Brotherhood men’s group was organized. With the guidance and grace of God His word was preached and taught and the sacraments were administered
Also in 1910, two acres of land were purchased for a cemetery, an altar, altar table, pews and pulpit were secured, the exterior of the building was painted, steps with rails were installed, and a sidewalk laid to the street. Sunday, September 4, 1911, was a festive and memorable day as the new church and cemetery were dedicated to the glory of God.
The following year, a bell was purchased for $357.74. Inscribed on the bell is: “Hör klockan klang och ljud. Hon kallar dig till Gud! Kvinnornas Missions Forening och Ungdom Forening i Ebenezer skänkte denna klocka år 1912.” When translated from the Swedish language to English it reads: “Hear the bell ring, the sound calls you to God! The Women’s Mission Society and Youth Society of Ebenezer present this bell, year 1912.” As a reminder to prepare for the Sabbath, the bell was rung at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday evening (as was the custom in Sweden) and again on Sunday morning before the worship service. Upon the death of one of our members, the bell would toll the number of years of that person’s life here on earth.
The Luther League and early confirmation classes purchased the baptismal font and the altar paintings. The Ladies Aid helped raise funds to purchase pews for the new church and whenever building or repair on the church property was needed, it was done by the Lutheran Brotherhood.
A basement was built in 1922 and the church was moved forward to its present location. At the same time, the building was lengthened by 12 feet making room for a chancel and small sacristy. A kitchen and new heating system were installed in the basement. During the ministry of Rev. Carl G. Olson (1923-1927) the transition from the Swedish to the English language began. Another important step taken at this time was the adoption of the envelope offering system in 1924.
While Rev. G. W. Sanstead served as our pastor (1933-1936), beautiful leaded stained-glass memorial windows were purchased by pioneer families and organizations of the church. The 25th anniversary was commemorated with special festive services on Sunday, November 3, 1935.
The kitchen and church basement were improved and redecorated in 1941, the church was re-shingled, the sanctuary beautifully redecorated, and new lights were installed in 1942. A new Wurlitzer Electronic Organ was purchased and installed in September 1947 at the cost of $2,457. Beautiful organ music made our worship services more rich and meaningful.
On Sunday, October 1, 1950, Ebenezer Church celebrated its 40th Anniversary. Many fine improvements were made in the early 1950’s when two bathrooms, a sacristy/classroom and larger furnace room were added. A major $7,000 building project (24’x32’) was completed in 1954 and provided for an indoor stairway, cloakroom, narthex and two classrooms/overflow seating. The sanctuary was redecorated with carpeting laid in the center aisle and chancel. The enlarged basement fellowship room was redecorated with new draperies, steel folding chairs, a large book case, cabinet, and tile flooring. In 1958 and 1959 an altar was placed in the basement fellowship room and curtain partitions were installed to provide more classrooms for our large Sunday school enrollment.
Memorial gifts provided for a lighted outdoor church sign in 1960 and our first public address system in 1967. Exterior maintenance-painting, re-shingling and steeple repair-was done in 1967. During these years extensive work was done at the cemetery, including the planting of many trees.
At the cost of $54,763, an educational wing was built in 1972. It provided classrooms, a pastor’s study, nursery, large kitchen, new furnace room, east-side entry and additional space in the fellowship room. The church was insulated in 1974. We purchased an Allen Digital Computer Organ in 1976, and the sanctuary was re-painted in 1977.
Major roof repairs and re-shingling was done in 1980, and the basement was paneled and insulated in 1981. Four furnaces were purchased and installed in 1988, each providing heat to selected areas. A 20’x24’ foot storage garage was erected west of the church building in 1989. About the same time, the baptismal font and pulpit were refinished to bring back the natural wood finish.
In 1981, Ebenezer and Tripolis Lutheran, Svea Lutheran and First Lutheran of Lake Lillian became part of the LCA Youth Staffer Program. Participation in this program continued for several years and was well accepted by our youth.
Beginning in the fall of 1990, Ebenezer and Tripolis Churches began to participate in the Horizon Internship Program in which an intern pastor was hired to assist the pastor with his duties. Internships such as Kandiyohi were felt to be a vital way of giving future pastors experience in rural settings. We benefited greatly from our two-year participation in this worthwhile program. To keep up with modern electronic technology, a computer was obtained for use by the church secretary and pastor in January of 1992.
On Sunday, August 9, 1998, a special ground-breaking ceremony celebrated the beginning of another major building and remodeling project. The $340,000 project included installation of an elevator, a larger and redecorated sanctuary, new narthex, and a classroom. All the original stained-glass windows, removed from the former narthex, were re-installed in the enlarged sanctuary and new narthex. The increased building size allowed for two handicapped accessible bathrooms and more fellowship space in the basement. New windows were installed throughout the basement and the educational wing. The exterior of the entire church was given new shingles and steel siding. A new spire replaced the former bell tower, and our public address system was updated. On Easter Sunday, April 4, 1999, we joyfully celebrated the completion of this project with our first worship service in the newly remodeled sanctuary.
A decorative block church sign and bulletin board, incorporating the church bell into its structure, was constructed on the southeast corner of the church lawn in 2002. Central air conditioning was added in 2003 and the office and classroom areas received new carpeting. A new speaker system replaced our outdated one in 2004.
Ebenezer Evangelical Lutheran Church has been served by 28 full-time, interim and intern pastors.
This brief history has touched largely upon the external and material part of the work accomplished here. Perhaps there is much more that could or should be added to the above account. We have had talented craftsmen and women in our congregation who have built cupboards, benches, and railings; sewn altar clothes, banners, choir robes and many other items too numerous to mention. As accurate accounts have not been kept, we have not included any names in fear of inadvertently leaving out something or someone. We are most grateful to all the persons who have shared their God-given talents and skills allowing us to have a lovely church home. To God be the glory!
When we think of the efforts and large sums of money expended in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ and his Kingdom, we believe, together with all Christians everywhere that there is no institution on earth in which we can better invest our time, talents, and means. As to the spiritual fruits of these efforts put forth by our pastors and members, God alone can give a full and true estimate; but we are assured by His word that the Church of Jesus Christ has grown and gone forward here in Ebenezer.