Dilworth Lutheran Church History
In 1946, Rev. J. W. Johnshoy from Concordia College, Moorhead, MN, began laying the plans for what is our Lutheran Church here in Dilworth today. A plot of ground was purchased by the ELC Home Mission but was struck a sad blow when Rev. Johnshoy passed away and plans came to a standstill. But through determination and faith of our Lutheran people, we continued on and a ray of light appeared in the spring of 1948 when Alvin Stenberg, student of the Luther Seminary in St. Paul, came to Dilworth on weekends and made personal calls on our Lutheran families working toward the goal of getting a Lutheran church started. Pastor Stenberg was ordained and installed as pastor at Glyndon and appointed by ELC Home Mission to serve Dilworth. In August 1948, twenty-four people met at the public school to hold their first official business meeting in order to incorporate and elect officers.
At this meeting, “Dilworth Lutheran Church” was officially named as a new church, and church services were held in the school’s small gym until October. A vacant church from north of Glyndon was bought and moved to Dilworth. The men made a ceaseless effort to get this in condition for services and we held our first service in this building on October 3, 1948. It was crude and very uncomfortable. The floor was in such bad shape because of termites. It was a miracle everyone attending didn’t fall through into the basement. Benches made of planks across nail kegs served as seats until folding chairs were finally purchased. A pot-bellied wood and coal burning stove stood at the front of the church in the center aisle belching smoke and soot. Entrance into the church involved maneuvering over a wood gangplank, but with will and determination to have our own church, we remained faithful and pioneered to grow to the church we have today.
On January 17, 1949, our first official annual meeting was held and we declared ourselves self-supporting and became part of the Glyndon parish. We borrowed $10,000 from the Home mission office for expenses to be repaid over fifteen years at a rate of $50 per month. In December 1949, the Senior Choir (about twenty-five voices) sang a Christmas Cantata at the Syrie Lutheran Church as good-will payment for pews we purchased from them, which the men helped rebuild and refinish. In 1950, we purchased our organ.
In June, 1951, Rev. Stenberg moved to Nebraska – Rev. Harold Dordahl from Concordia College served as interim pastor when in January 1952, Rev. H. M. Finstad came to us and stayed until June 1956. Rev. Gerald White served us until our new pastor arrived. In the spring of 1956, we separated from Glyndon and issued a call to Rev. R. E. Melheim from Souris, ND. He was installed in October of that year and rented a house until the parsonage was built and completed in 1958. In 1947, a special effort was made to pay off our debt and this was accomplished and we had a mortgage burning ceremony on September 22, 1957.
Because of constant growth in our membership and attendance, it was again necessary to do some planning and we purchased 5 ½ acres on the north edge of Dilworth through a loan from Lutheran Mutual and a sponsorship from Trinity Lutheran of Souris, ND. This addition was name “Faith Addition” and became part of Dilworth. In the spring of 1961, we started our building construction of the Fellowship Hall, education and office units. But we continued to grow and needed a sanctuary and more classroom space but the indebtedness was still too great and our early attempts failed. However, in 1973, a group of people (The D-1000 Club) each gave $1,000 over their regular pledge and by June 1978, the church was again debt-free.
Preliminary plans for a new sanctuary and addition for $420,000 were voted down so a “brick fund” to raise building funds was launched in 1979. Revised plans for $195,000 were approved and ground-breaking services were held on June 14, 1981. After thirty-four years, we were able to complete our present building and held dedication services on February 14, 1982.
Pastor Richard Kastner came in the spring of 1966 until August 1971. Pastor Elwood Rieke began in September of 1971 and remained until November 1984. Pastor “Bill” Tolo served Dilworth Lutheran for over 11 years as our “visitation pastor” from August of 1974 and until his sudden death in November 1985. He served with Pastor Rieke, our interim Pastor Rev. Ernest Simmons from Concordia, and then with Pastor Hal Andersen. One of Pastor Tolo’s favorite verses was this prayer from Romans 15:5-6 – “May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
We are ever thankful to Lance Johnson who built our pipe organ in 1980 which was first used in February 1981, in the fellowship hall, and later moved to its present location in the sanctuary when it was completed in 1982.
Over the years music has played a very important role at Dilworth Lutheran. We have been served by many fine directors, both for the Senior Choir and for our many youths and Sunday School Choirs.
Pastor Hal Andersen was installed on September 29, 1985, and served until December of 1993. Pastor Jim Palan served as an associate with Pastor Andersen from October 1987 until 1989. Pastor Justin Kvanli served as an associate with Pastor Andersen from April 1990 until November of 1993.
In January 1994, Pastor Roger Olson came as interim pastor and served until January of 1996. In January of 1996, Pastor Mark Asleson was installed as Senior Pastor. In January of 1997, Pastor Roger Olson returned to served the congregation as our second “Visitation Pastor” and served that position until January of 1998. In February of 1998, Pastor Clay Ellingson accepted the call as Associate Pastor and served until August 1999. In April of 2000, Dawn Reisig joined the staff as an Associate in Ministry and worked with our Home Centered Ministry program until 2007. In the summer of 2007, Tara Ulrich joined the staff as a Diaconal Minister and currently works with our Home Centered Ministry Program.
Most recently Pastor Elizabeth Hiller (November 2014) accepted the Call to serve as the Associate Pastor at Dilworth Lutheran.
“Building on Faith” dreams and visions were again fulfilled when in the summer of 2003, groundbreaking was held for another new addition. Moving into the new building in February 2004 was fun and everyone enjoys the opportunities of teaching, worshiping, and fellowship that it has brought to our congregation and community.
Dilworth Lutheran Congregation has celebrated four previous anniversaries – our tenth on September 13-14, 1958, at the site of the former church on the corner of First Avenue and Second Street NE; our 15th on September 22, 1963, at our present location; our twenty-fifth which was held on September 15-16, 1973, that included a noon dinner being served in the big gym at the school; and our 40th which was held on October 1-2, 1988 at the Dilworth Community Center.
Worship has always been central to the life and mission of Dilworth Lutheran. The congregation has a tradition of worship that has included special summer services, mid-week services, multiple worships on Sundays, ecumenical and community worships, outdoor worship services, and of course, Sunday morning worship and Sunday school.
Our Mission today remains the same as it did 65 years ago: to open the doors of the church to neighbors and strangers; to offer a place and opportunity for worship, praise, and prayer; to reach out and care for those in need both near and far; to teach and encourage the faith through Bible study and education; and to pray for the wisdom, compassion, and courage to be the church God has called us to be.