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Events at First Lutheran Church


First services conducted in Stephen by Rev. Halvard Roalkvam, a pastor from Crookston.


A theological student, Rev. J. A. Urnes was called to be the first resident pastor.  He lived in Warren, and made his

first visit to Stephen in August.

February 27, 1891:   

“Trefoldighed Evangeliske Lutherske Menighed” elected its first eight officers and had 41members. We join the United Norwegian Lutheran Church synod.  The first marriage performed was Mr. and Mrs. J.C. Berge. (The Berges were still living in Stephen during FLC’s 50th Anniversary celebration in 1941.)

November 25, 1895: 

A new constitution was adopted and the reorganized congregation was named “Trefoldighed  Skandinavisk Evangelike Lutherske Menighed” Services were conducted in Norwegian. In 1925, Norwegian and English services were held alternately.

June 1, 1896: 

$1,520.85 was raised for the construction of the church


The first baptisms were recorded; Monrad Hanson, Martin Hanson and Olga Christoferson.


The first girls’ “society” was organized by Pastor and Mrs. A. J Gravdal. It was for school age girls and met on Saturdays at various homes. After a short program, they spent time on fancy work articles that were sold at the annual Ladies Aid sale.


The three major Norwegian Lutheran groups merged, and we became a part of the new synod, “The Norwegian Lutheran Church of America.”


A parsonage was built in the new Riverside Drive addition.

February 1925:

The name “The First Lutheran Church of Stephen, MN” was adopted.


Miss Marie Torgerson, daughter of the congregation and graduate of St. Olaf College served a one  year mission in South Madagascar. She returned to America in 1929, broken in health, and went home to God in 1937.

January 1937:

The new Parish Hall was dedicated.

Fall 1937:

The Senior choir proudly wore their new black vestments sewn by several women of the congregation.


In early years, several from Wagner township were active in the town congregation.  They later thought they could support their own church, and worshipped in homes and schoolhouses. Better automobiles and roads made the distance to town less prohibitive, and Wanger Lutheran congregation disbanded and joined First Lutheran.


The annual supper was canceled because of food rationing.

July 13, 1943:

The Church building was destroyed during a storm. Items salvaged included the alter painting, the bell, chancel chair, organ, altar table, 3 pews and a few chairs. The Parish Hall was then used for Sunday School and Sunday Worship services.


We join the synod the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

October 31, 1948:

The cornerstone was laid for the new church. A bid of $79,933 was approved for the stone church construction.

November 20, 1949:

New church was dedicated.

September 21, 1952:

Commissioning services were held for Rev. and Mrs. John Abel. John was a 1943 graduate of Stephen Public School, a 1949 graduate of Concordia, attended Luther Theological Seminary  and ordained on June 8, 1952. Rev. and Mrs. Abel were missionaries in Brazil with World Mission Prayer League.

Friday, March 30, 1956:

The final Norwegian language service was held on Good Friday.

Dec 1, 1957:

Formal dedication of the new fellowship hall and education wing. Members of the Building Committee were Earl Benson, Earl Hvidsten, Herman Lundeen, Mrs. Clarence Peterson and Mrs. Monrad Hanson.  The Ladies Aid served a free will contribution meal after the service.


We join the American Lutheran Church synod.


Mrs. Lane Doerring organized the Cherub Choir.


A new parsonage was completed at a cost of $40,741.85. The mortgage was retired in 1986


St. Petri congregation joined First Lutheran.


A new organ was purchased for $13,267.98


First Lutheran Church Trust Fund was established.  The committee of 5 members manages the memorial and perpetual funds.  In 1987, the trust was richly blessed with gifts from Clarence Berge, Selma Fodstad, Odin Olsen and Olga Olsen estates.


We join the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.


We start mission support for Community Lutheran Church of Bullhead City, AZ. Many of our congregation members winter in Bullhead City.  Peter and Rachel Roland, former members of First Lutheran, are active year round in the establishment of the new church.


Lutheran Social Services establishes a counseling office at First Lutheran Church.


Servant groups are established to help with monthly duties.


The Senior Youth League took a summer retreat to the Wisconsin Dells.


We start celebrating Holy Communion twice a month. The first Sunday of the month will be held in the traditional form with kneeling at the communion rail. In the middle of the month, it will be served in a “continuous style.”


We add People’s Church in Bemidji as our mission partner. This multi-cultural church has a special emphasis on outreach to people living in poverty.  The church is located near three of the largest Native American reservations in Minnesota.

Dec 2001:  

A new organ is installed.


We begin offering a Spanish service once a month with Pastor Deb Hanson from Zion/Big Woods.


During maintenance work, it was discovered the kitchen floor would have to be torn up to access pipes below. Making lemonade out of lemons, the kitchen was remodeled and functionality improved.


Mision Luterana Valle Rio Rojo was established with grant money from the ELCA. Vicar Jonathan Halvorson  is working with committee members from First Lutheran to give oversight and guidance for this ministry.


WELCA, Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, disbands at First Lutheran. Duties are absorbed mostly by servant groups.


The new cranberry colored hymnals, Evangelical Lutheran Worship, are used during services.


Church council size was reduced from three, to two members per board. Terms are also reduced from three years to two years.


The Fireside room is remodeled.


Sunday School switches to Wednesday after school, and kids can walk over right from the school. Preschool classes remain on Sundays.


Pathways closes the Lake of the Woods location for bible camp. Emmaus and Minne-Wa-Kan are the two remaining camp locations.

Oct 25, 2015:

Bishop Rev. Dr. Lawrence Wolhrabe joins our service to celebrate the 30th year of Pastor Mike’s service.

October 16, 2016

First Lutheran Church celebrates 125th Anniversary


During a global pandemic, First Lutheran shut the doors to in-person services under the emergency orders of the Governor of Minnesota. To continue reaching out to the congregation, services were moved to on-line services on Facebook Live. At first, just using a cell phone, but as time when on and the realization that in-person services would be on hold for several months, the church council voted to purchase a video recording system. In August, 2020, the new system was installed and on-line services continued. 

March 2021:

After being closed for one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the church council voted to begin in-person services on a limited basis. In-person services for Wednesday evening Lenten Services began. On Palm Sunday, March 28, the first Sunday Service was held in-person. On-line services also continue.

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