As we mark 140 years of serving southern Isanti County, we celebrate with a festival worship service on October 21 (more on that at the end).
140 years have passed since Swedish immigrants established Athens Lutheran Church in Athens township, Isanti County. These brave, hopeful folks who had journeyed across the sea to America, then deep into the US interior by rail and riverboat, and who’d finally arrived in Anoka to purchase homesteads at the state land office, were seeking better lives. They were also seeking land on which they could build homes for their families and raise crops and livestock. They had, each of them, risked and sacrificed much in this pursuit.
Most of them had little at the start of their journey. Yet, driven by their desire to carve out a better existence, and carried forth by their faith in the God who they knew would not leave nor forsake them, they built good lives in this place.
Initially, those immigrants were members of Cambridge Lutheran Church. Winters, though, were difficult, and making the 16-mile journey (a long way in those days) to services was not always possible. These were people of deep faith, though, and they wanted to see their children raised in that faith, to bury their dead in the hope of that faith, and to live together in the fellowship of that faith. So, the Lutherans of Athens township organized their own congregation. After just over 50 years in that place, the little church moved into Isanti and changed its name from Athens Lutheran to Faith Lutheran. And here we are.
140 years is a long time (though, not too long, we should remind ourselves, lest we overestimate our importance, which would be rather unbecoming for Scandinavians). The world has changed immensely in that time. Our community has changed immensely in that time. Our congregation has changed, too. Jesus Christ, however, has remained the same, still with a word of forgiveness and hope, always faithful to his promise. It’s remarkable to me that the seed of faith in that promise, planted 140 years ago by a few humble farming families, has grown into the congregation I serve today. Remarkable as it might be, I shouldn’t be surprised; Christ has always carried his people, holding us in his word. So, as we celebrate 140 years, we give thanks for the journey of faith on which we’ve been taken, and we look forward with hope to whatever future Christ has in store.
The whole community is invited to a Festival Worship Service on Sunday, October 21 at 9:30 a.m. The bishop will be in town to preach and we’ll use the liturgy from the 1925 Swedish Augustana Lutheran Hymnal. We’ll also hear personal stories from the history of Faith Lutheran. Brunch will follow the service. So, come join us, and be part of the history.
Pastor Cliff Hanson