Summer service in historic wooden country church
What began as an meeting among immigrants in the sod home of Mr. and Mrs. Severin J. Steen of Clinton, Minn., in October of 1877 became the St. Pauli Lutheran church congregation. The little western Minnesota Norwegian congregation met in sod houses and stables. The first pastor was Pastor Hartman, who lived in Benson and was only able to visit the congregation four or five times a year.
On Feb. 14, 1896, the members met again in a sod house and Severin J. Huselid offered the congregation the northwest corner of his land for the church building and cemetery. Located two miles south of Clinton, the church was built later for $1,600.
After the church building was built, Pastor Abel Anderson traveled by train from Montevideo. A family was designated to pick up the pastor at a whistle stop about one-third of a mile southwest of the church. The pastor would stay with the family and it was their responsibility to return him to the Rupert Station after his stay was completed. Pastor Anderson received $75 per year plus the offering on Christmas, Easter and Pentecost.
At the turn of the century, 90 percent of the Norwegian congregations were united into the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America. The 1917 merger combined Trinity which is located in Clinton and the St. Paul congregations. The two churches then united in 1957.
At that time St. Pauli closed, but the church was preserved with the original contents including the old pump organ, very high pulpit and ornate altar. It has no electricity or indoor plumbing. For the July 2 service, a portable generator was powered up to provide a microphone for Pastor Bev. Mc.Neill and Lector Joanne Vangness.
In 2014, a parishioner found the church bell had fallen. The steeple was reconstructed and the bell placed in a solid cradle during the summer of 2015. Storms have ravaged the cottonwood trees causing them to fall on the fence around the church.
This year, the services began on July 2 and another will be offered on Labor Day weekend.
Music still fills the historic old church, when it is used for a hymn sing and picnic by Trinity Church. Couples now are married in the historic old church as well as children baptized
On July 2, services were held for the second time since the bell and steeple was repaired. Stories and accounts were shared of the how close the congregation came to danger when a partitioner found the bell in the basement.
The old church still stands watch over the soybean and corn fields of Big Stone County. Cars travel by on busy Highway 75, some stop to take a picture of a symbol of our cultural and religious heritage.
The historic church which began in a sod house now stands as an icon on the western Minnesota prairie.