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The Church’s One Foundation Verse 1

The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord. She is His new creation By water and the Word. From heav’n He came and sought her To be His holy bride With His own blood He bought her And for her life He died.



The pulpits in both West Nidaros and East Nidaros feature the frequent use of the Quatrefoil, a symbol of the four geographical directions. It calls to mind Christ’s commission.



West Nidaros Lutheran Church pulpit

East Nidaros Lutheran Church pulpit



PASTOR RANDALL QUESTAD It was only two years before the Nidaros church was established on the prairies of South Dakota in 1868 that Samuel Stone wrote the words to the hymn, “The Church’s One Foundation.” Jesus Christ was the Foundation of the first Nidaros church, and it is the foundation of the four churches that evolved from that first Nidaros church which faithfully serve this community 150 years later. In reality, compared to our namesake, the Nidaros Cathedral which was established in 1070 in Norway, the Nidaros churches of South Dakota are quite young, and the unique vibrancy of each of these churches is evident in their ministry. It is exciting for me to be a small part of this rich tradition by serving the Baltic Lutheran/East Nidaros Lutheran parish which was established sixty years ago. Regardless of the age of a church, the doors remain open when there is a preacher to deliver the words of Jesus and when there are people eager to hear these words. So, it should be no surprise that the Holy Spirit is still at work calling and gathering people together in this community to faith by hearing the good news of Jesus Christ. As we gather to celebrate this 150th anniversary of our beginnings, we give thanks to Jesus Christ who has been our church’s one foundation and is our hope for years to come. Pr. Randall J. Questad Pastor of Baltic Lutheran and East Nidaros Lutheran


East Nidaros Lutheran Church, 47560 252nd St., Baltic, SD

Baltic Lutheran Church, 301 Nidaros Avenue, Baltic, SD


PASTOR JAMES STEEN Many things have changed during the 150 years since the beginning of the Nidaros Lutheran Church. Although Renner Lutheran Church continues to use the original Nidaros church building, including the altar-pulpit and baptismal font that had been used by the Nidaros congregation since 1886, there are things even in that worship space that have changed to accommodate opportunities created by technology. A chandelier that once was lowered each time it was used so that it could be lit is now equipped with LED lights. Those speaking and preaching can now be heard more easily with a sophisticated sound system. Liturgy and hymns for worship are now projected onto a screen with a computer and high-tech projector, and worship services are digitally recorded and can be seen on YouTube by members in their homes when they are not able to attend worship in person. Clearly, some things have changed. However, the most basic and fundamental things have remained the same. Whether the church is made up of people in the 1800s or in the 21st century, that Church is here because every person needs the salvation that only Jesus Christ provides. Whether we are holding a pocket watch or a smart phone, we need the love and grace that only God can provide, that has been celebrated and continues to be ‘lifted up’ by the Church through the presence of the Holy Spirit. Since the time that Renner Lutheran Church had its first worship service in 1922, it has been a congregation receiving God’s grace through the Word and sacrament; empowered and equipped by the presence of the Holy Spirit; enlightened by faith that God has given us to trust in God’s promises of hope and salvation. Yes, things change, but God’s love, grace and forgiveness that we receive through Jesus Christ never have changed and never will. Thanks be to God!

Pr. Jim Steen Pastor of Renner Lutheran Church 6

Renner Lutheran Church, 47474 258th Street, Renner, SD


PASTOR JARED RAKNESS This year we celebrate a milestone for our congregations. August 12, 2018 marks 150 years since the founding of the original Nidaros Church in Minnehaha County, South Dakota. Though much has changed in 150 years, one thing has not– the Holy Spirit through God’s Word continues to call us through the Gospel, enlightens us with his gifts, and sanctifies and keeps us in true faith. While we celebrate and honor those who established and built the original Nidaros Church, I believe we honor them best by continuing to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ and by engaging in ministry today. Like those who founded the original Nidaros Church, we believe knowing Jesus matters. It matters for this reason, “In this Christian church day after day, he fully forgives my sins and the sins of all believers.” Today we continue this important work; we continue to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ; we continue to administer the sacraments, and we continue to be the feet of those who bear the Good News. This year as we pause to give thanks for the faithful ministry begun 150 years ago, we continue to look to what is ahead, pressing on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus, (Philippians 3:13-14). Blessings, Pr. Jared Rakness Pastor of West Nidaros Lutheran Church


West Nidaros Lutheran Church, 25403 471st Avenue, rural Crooks, SD


The Church’s One Foundation Verse 2

Yet she on earth has union With God, the Three in One, And mystic sweet communion With those whose rest is won. O blessed heav’nly chorus! Lord, save us by your grace. That we, like saints before us, May see you face to face.


WHAT DOES NIDAROS MEAN? The name “Nidaros” refers to a geographic place with spiritual significance beloved by those who chose this name for their new church. Nidaros was the old name of the city of Trondheim, Norway. The town owed its name to its location at the mouth of the river Nid, or Nidelva with “elva” meaning river and “os” meaning river mouth. During the Middle Ages, Nidaros was Northern Europe’s most important Christian pilgrimage site, the goal of pilgrims being the Nidaros Cathedral, the site of Saint Olav’s tomb and the largest cathedral in Northern Europe. As a result of the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Archdiocese was abolished, and a Lutheran diocese with the name of Nidaros was established there in its place.

Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, Norway


TRONDHEIM, NORWAY From near this river community of Trondheim, eight families, totaling 36 men, women and children, left Norway in 1854 with Wisconsin as their ultimate destination in the United States. En route to New York, the group endured a cholera epidemic that claimed the lives of 12 of these people, including the entire family of a thirteenyear-old boy named John Thompson. It is this orphaned boy and his childhood friend, John Nelson, the youngest child of the expedition’s leader, who later answered the call of the west that brought them to the Dakota Territory where they set about transplanting the faith of their fathers in the new world.

Left: John Thompson Right: John Nelson 12

Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, Norway

The story begins in Norway, in a town named TRONDHEIM near a river so loved that it has its own song. Nidelven Stille Og Vakker Du Er (Literally NIDELVEN [HOW] STILL AND BEAUTIFUL YOU ARE). LYRICS: Oscar Hodde MELODY: Christian Christensen og Kjell Rian ENGLISH TRANSLATION: Far in the distance behind mountains blue, There lies a place I love dear. There all my thoughts and my dreams wander too Always you seem to be near. Nid River beautiful, silent you are, Here where I walk in dreamland. Dreaming of her that I love most of all, Now it is only memories. The old city bridge was the portal of love, Together we sailed under stars up above, Nid River beautiful, silent you are Here where I walk in dreamland.


OLD NIDAROS AND ITS BEGINNING In the spring of 1866 the John Thompsons and the John Nelsons arrived from Goodhue County, Minnesota, and settled along the Sioux River about ten miles north of Sioux Falls. On August 12, 1868, fifty pioneers gathered at the John Thompson sod house to organize a church. They chose the name Nidaros, the former name of Trondheim, Norway, the area where many of the settlers had been born. To begin with, worship services were held in log schoolhouses and in members’ homes. They were served by itinerant pastors so confirmation, funeral rites, and weddings were held whenever the pastor arrived. In 1871 Pioneer Cemetery was established, the first cemetery in Nidaros and in Minnehaha County. (There are currently five cemeteries that serve the Nidaros churches: Pioneer, 1871; Berg, 1873; East Nidaros, 1883; St. Olaf, 1903; and West Nidaros, 1911.) In 1873 Rev. O. O. Sando became the first resident pastor. His annual salary was $200 plus hay for his horse. Gudmund Brendes provided living quarters for the pastor; Mrs. Brende knitted heavy wool socks for him, and Gudmund loaned the pastor his heavy sheepskin coat for Sando’s long trips on horseback. In the early years the congregation consisted of other congregations. At one time Sando served as many as seventeen congregations. He had one vacation in his thirty years of service when he and his wife traveled to Norway. The early years were difficult ones. The grasshopper invasions in 1874, 1875, and 1876 destroyed all the crops, and interest rates were from 12-15%; thus, the building of a church was delayed until 1877, at which time a simple building measuring 60’ x 34’ x 20’ was erected on the east side of the river at its bend south of Baltic. Church minutes refer to the church as a “SHIP.” This seems strange until one realizes the intent. According to one member’s recollection, the church was to be like a ship to carry us through our earthly journey unto our heavenly home. If the church were turned upside-down, it would float like a ship, and the steeple would be its rudder, which, as it points to heaven, would also “steer” one on the correct path in life. Unfortunately, only three services were held in that building when a wind storm in April of 1878 blew it down just weeks after it had been finished, and, as a result, criticism was directed at the building committee. It is believed, however, that the design of the church brought about its own demise. The 100’ bell tower lacked the proper 14

Old Nidaros Church ConďŹ rmation, 1894


OLD NIDAROS AND ITS BEGINNING CONT. footing and support for its height, and since it was attached to the main structure, it became an easy prey for strong winds. Sando was given the contract to rebuild the church (with volunteer help) which was very crude and simple and had no bell tower or steeple. The walls were filled up to six feet with river sand which was thought to give it a better anchor against future storms. Many interesting stories have been told about the difficulty of crossing the river for the “West Siders” to get to worship. A boat was available on the east side of the river, but someone had to be there to bring the boat across for the West Siders. If anyone was late and services had already begun, they either had to wade or go home. The first “engineer” was West Sider Johannes Williamson who devised a pontoon bridge across the river to make it easier to get to the church. Although told that it couldn’t be done, Williamson proceeded to build the bridge made from eighteen kerosene barrels which were placed by two’s at regular intervals across the river and which were fastened together by planks nailed to the top of them. To keep the bridge in place and to make it more secure, he tied ropes to the middle of it and fastened them to trees along the river banks. The East Siders also had difficulties reaching the church whenever it had rained because of the gumbo flat east of the river.

High lines and mail boxes had to be watched carefully. If you look closely, you can see heavy cables on either side of the truck, so more than one truck was used to pull the building with its extra load of sand in the walls. (1939).

Controversy arose in the congregation in 1875, and four men were expelled from the church for belonging to the Grange, an organization, much like the Farmers’ Union today, that represented farmers’ interests nationally. Because of its secret rituals, the congregation questioned the loyalty of these men to God and to the church. The congregation eventually reconsidered its action because in 1892 it welcomed these expelled members back into the church. There is no record, however, that they ever returned. In 1882 discussion was held at a congregation meeting about repairing the church or perhaps dividing the congregation, These rollers were used to move the church in 1912. 16

but no decision was reached. In 1886 the question again arose. The West Siders wanted to divide the congregation while the East Siders wanted to improve the church, but it was in 1886 that it was finally decided to complete the church. That year saw the completion of the bell tower and steeple, the balcony, the altar/ pulpit (a unique feature of the altar being the pulpit built into it with a canopy over it), the communion railing, and the baptismal font. The bell was ordered at that time. In 1903 Rev. Sando resigned because of failing health and died Christmas Eve that same year. The membership at this time was over 950. Rev. N. N. Boe became the second pastor, who served until 1918 when he became the first district president in South Dakota of the newly organized Norwegian Lutheran Church of America. Rev. Boe supported the two-congregation concept. Nidaros decided to build two churches, one on the West Side and one on the East Side. It was Boe who accomplished the “loosening of the purse strings” in 1911 to build the new churches. Rev. Boe and one member from each of the East and West building committees traveled to Minneapolis to select the stained glass windows.

Rev. N.N. Boe conducts a wedding in 1906. Notice that the men sat on the right and ladies on the left. Looks like no pews were used yet at that date.

The office of the klokker was established to assist the pastor during worship services. The klokker wrote the number of the hymns on a blackboard, led the singing, and gave the opening and closing prayers. Sometime between 1928 and 1933, the church discontinued use of the common cup and instead began using individual communion glasses. Back in pioneer days, members paid 5 cents for communion, and the pastor furnished the bread and the wine. Communion was held just a few times a year. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Rev. O.O. Sando, who served us and seventeen other congregations for thirty years, traveling on horseback through all kinds of weather and taking only one vacation in thirty years. We just plain wore him out; he was only 54 years old when he died. We certainly also owe gratitude to Rev. N.N. Boe for his leadership in the building of our beautiful East and West churches.

Thompson sod house marker at the site where Nidaros was organized in 1868.


1868 August 12th

Nidaros Lutheran Congregation chartered in sod home of Norwegian immigrants John and Kirsti Thompson, who were among the very first people to take up land and farm in Minnehaha County. Their daughter Berthine was the first white child born in Minnehaha County.

1873 October 23rd

1877 Summer

Nidaros Church’s new pastor, Rev. Ole O. Sando, preached his introductory sermon.


Nidaros congregation built a parsonage for Rev. Sando and his wife on Tosten Gudmundon’s (Gunderson’s) land on the east side of the river at a total cost of $337.70. Services were held in a schoolhouse before the church was built.

Nidaros congregation built new church near parsonage built for Pastor Sando and his wife. Building measured 60’ by 34’ with a 100’ bell tower and cost $2,000.00 to build. (The tower was not completed to its full height before its destruction in wind storm.)

1878 March 1st

First service held at new church.

1878 April 9th

New church destroyed by a strong wind storm.

1878 June 14th

Second church, now known as Old Nidaros (Renner Lutheran) was constructed and accepted by the Nidaros congregation. It was rebuilt from timbers of wind-wrecked church and walls filled with river sand to support it against future storms.


Rev. Sando organized Ladies Aid





1912 1910


1939 1939 1945 WWII

1930 - 1936 “Dirty Thirties”




1903 1905



1911 Old Nidaros Church up on blocks ready to be moved from its first home by the Big Sioux River up to Baltic

St. Olaf Lutheran Church (now Baltic Lutheran), 1903


Organ dedicated to West Nidaros ($2,500, paid for by Luther League)


Nidaros Congregation celebrates 60th Anniversary

1930 - 1936

“Perhaps it is a tribute to say that the church hung on through the “Dirty Thirties”, drought, extreme weather conditions including temperatures over 100 degrees and blizzards, as 18

they struggled to survive. Like the early settlers in the 1870s and 1880s, the people of the 1930s persisted in their devotion to the Lord and in their commitment to the church.” (Nidaros 125th Anniversary: One in Christ-Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow)

1939 March

Old Nidaros Church moved to Renner.

WWII: SEP. 1, 1939 - SEP. 2, 1945

“Perhaps the most notable effect on the church was spiritual. An increased awareness of unity, a strong reliance on prayer when sons and daughters left home to serve in

the armed forces during World War II, and a recognition of the transitory quality of life characterized the life of the church during the war years. (In June 1943, 125 members of the parish were in the service.) Patriotism crept into the worship service, as it was during World War II that the American and Christian flags were placed by the altars in each church by the Nidaros Men’s Brotherhood. The closing hymn every Sunday was “God Bless our Native Land.” During the 75th Diamond Jubilee Anniversary of Nidaros in 1943, the anniversary ribbons included the “V” for Victory.” (Nidaros 125th Anniversary: One in Christ-Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow)


Nidaros congregation celebrates 75th Anniversary


Renner congregation requests release from Nidaros parish.


Baltic Lutheran and East Nidaros ask to be released from Nidaros parish. The two congregations establish a joint parish.

1886 February

Congregation completed improvements to Old Nidaros including complete bell tower and steeple and interior gallery (balcony), altar/pulpit, communion railing, and baptismal font renovations.

1890 March 16th

33 people gathered in Baltic, SD to establish a Lutheran Church in the Norwegian language. Originally named St. Olaf after the patron saint of the members’ homeland.

1957 1960


Rev. Sando’s farewell sermon. He retired because of failing health and passed away later that year.

West, Baltic, and Renner were a part of one big Parish. Families were intermarried, friendships were closely knit, there was one brotherhood, and a good spirit prevailed. West Nidaros remains sole survivor of the Nidaros congregation, holding the charter and by-laws.

1905 December

Congregation membership over 950

1910 October

St. Olaf Lutheran Church (now Baltic Lutheran) was built.

Congregation decided to build two churches: one on the west side and one on the east side of the Sioux River but to remain as one parish.


1910 Winter to 1911


Rev. Nils Boe answered call to serve.


Rev. and Mrs. Boe reorganized the Ladies Aid into four separate branches: Baltic, East, West #1, and West #2 to make travel easier.


1958 1961

Nidaros people from East,




Rev. Boe and one member from each East and West Nidaros go to Minneapolis to order windows.



The Nidaros churches joined other ELC churches in a merger of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELC), the American Lutheran Church (ALC), and the United Evangelical Lutheran Church to form the new American Lutheran Church (ALC).


East and West Nidaros commemorate the 50th Anniversary of their buildings.


Nidaros Lutheran Congregation’s Centennial

Both East and West churches ready for laying of their cornerstones.

1912 March

Old Nidaros moved to Baltic using planks, rollers, and horses

1912 June 2nd

Parishioners haul many loads of rock with bobsleds and horses from Dell Rapids for both East and West.


1911 August

West Nidaros Lutheran church dedicated

1912 June 5th

Dedication of East Nidaros Lutheran Church





1993 August

1978 June 15th


Historical marker placed in front of Renner Lutheran to coincide with Nidaros Centennial.

Renner Lutheran 100th anniversary of Old Nidaros building. Historical marker placed at the original site by the river.


East and West Nidaros’ 75-Year Building Anniversary. 100th Anniversary of Old Nidaros dedication – Renner Lutheran.

Nidaros 125th Anniversary when the Old Nidaros Replica Church donated to West Nidaros

Baltic Lutheran Church 100th anniversary of the Building


East and West Nidaros 100 Year Anniversary of Building

2018 August

Nidaros 150th Anniversary



EAST NIDAROS LUTHERAN CHURCH Nidaros congregation members from east of the river met in 1909 in a schoolhouse to discuss the possibility of building a church on the east side of the Big Sioux River. The ďŹ rst proposal considered was to locate the church one-half mile west of the East Cemetery. Several other proposals were suggested including to locate the East Side Church in Baltic. In 1910 the Nidaros congregation voted to divide the congregation by building two churches to make travel easier for members, one on the east side of the Big Sioux River (East Nidaros), the other on the west side of the river (West Nidaros). In October of 1910, it was decided to build the East Nidaros Church across the road from the East Cemetery. Local farmers drove their horses and bobsleds to the Dell Rapids quarry and hauled the many loads of quartzite rock to the building site. (This was done in the winter when the ground was frozen to avoid the obvious weight problem.) In the summer of 1911, the stone masons began building the church. They stayed and boarded for the entire summer at the farm home of Thomas and Johanna Brende, one-half mile east of the building site. The church was ready for use by December of 1911, although it was not dedicated until Wednesday, June 5, 1912. 21

EAST NIDAROS LUTHERAN CHURCH CONT. The East Nidaros Church is perhaps the most unique in architecture of all the Nidaros churches with its Sioux quartzite exterior walls and bell tower. The interior of the East Nidaros Church exemplifies the glory of God with its Gothic stained glass windows and the ornate altar, pulpit, and baptismal font. These features identify the East Nidaros Church as one of the most beautiful country churches in South Dakota. The twelve stained glass windows of East Nidaros sanctuary tell stories, four of which depict scenes in the life of Jesus. The north window on the west wall shows Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee; the middle window represents Jesus ascending into heaven; the south window portrays Martin Luther in his “Here I stand” pose, which represents the beginning of the Reformation. The north window on the east wall depicts Jesus as “The Good Shepherd”; the middle window pictures Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane; and the south window represents the Guardian Angel protecting a young child. The two windows which are on either side of the altar have symbols at the top—the west one with the cross and crown, the east one with the bread and wine symbolized by the wheat and grapes. The remaining four windows are found at the back of the church. An additional three stained glass windows are located in the original front entrance, including one over the front door with the words “ØSTRE NIDAROS KIRKE,” which is Norwegian for “East Nidaros Church.” The other two stained glass windows in the entry are narrow windows, one facing east and the other facing west. The stained glass windows are recorded to have cost a total of only $600 to $700. Today they are considered priceless treasures.



EAST NIDAROS LUTHERAN CHURCH CONT. The ornate Gothic altar is white trimmed in gold. The main focus of the altar is the oil painting of Jesus and Mary Magdalene kneeling before him outside the tomb after the resurrection. Norwegian artist Herbjorn Gausta from Decorah, Iowa, painted it for $150 which was paid for by the Ladies Aid that also paid for the altar and pulpit. According to congregation minutes, the baptismal font was donated by the Baltic Ladies Aid. The original steeple, which was covered with slate, was removed in 1975 and replaced by a ďŹ berglass steeple that was taller and narrower than the original. The original steeple also had window facing each of the four directions. The ďŹ berglass steeple was removed in 2011 and has not been replaced. The pulpit was originally much higher, but sometime in 1933 it was lowered to symbolize a lesser distance between the pastor and the people. The interior was repainted in March of 1940, and at that time the beautiful cross and crown were stenciled on the arch above the chancel. The East Nidaros Church was the last of the four Nidaros churches to convert the language of worship services to English. All services in the East Church were in the Norwegian language until 1928. The transition was diďŹƒcult for many, especially the old Norwegian immigrants, to break from this tradition, as it was the only tie left 24

to the “old ways” and the “old country.” After the decision of the Renner Church to form a separate congregation in 1957, East Nidaros decided in the fall of 1957 to do the same, but to join with the Baltic Church as a joint parish. By June 1958, the East Nidaros and Baltic congregations had withdrawn from the Old Nidaros parish to form the Baltic Lutheran Parish. A new parish hall was constructed in 2000 on the east side of the church. It contains a spacious dining room, kitchen, meeting room, and Sunday School classrooms on the lower level. The exterior brick was closely matched in color and style to complement the original quartzite church. The members of the East Nidaros Church feel a debt of gratitude to the pioneer ancestors of Nidaros for bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ into this community. They pray that this “Rock of Ages” sanctuary will continue to serve the gracious God who has blessed them throughout all of these generations.

EAST NIDAROS LUTHERAN CHURCH 47560 252nd St. Baltic, SD 57003 EastNidarosLutheranChurch 25

WEST NIDAROS LUTHERAN CHURCH The interior of the West Nidaros Church is a striking example of artistic beauty. The magnificent Romanesque stained glass windows; the exquisite ornate Gothic altar, pulpit and crown; the unique sculpted angel baptismal font; and the grandeur of the mighty pipe organ mark West Nidaros as one of the most beautiful churches in South Dakota. West Nidaros was built in 1911-1912 for a total cost of $12,103.75. Sigurd Huseby of Baltic was awarded the contract as head builder, and Crooks Lumber Yard had the contract for the lumber. Alfred Otterby recalled that carpenters sawed lumber for two weeks before they started building. Sigurd had felt the church could blow down more easily when partly built and wanted it constructed in as short a time as possible. He likely was recalling the storm that had blown down the first Nidaros Church in 1878. It is thought that men from the congregation dug the basement. They hauled 200 loads of rock from the Dell Rapids Quarry by bob sleds and horses and also hauled the cement from Morefield, then a station on the Milwaukee Rail Line. The carpenters boarded at the Gus Gunderson home near the church. The church was dedicated on June 2, 1912. The first years were busy with finishing the basement, installing the organ, planting trees, pouring sidewalks, erecting the arch over the front gate with the name VESTRE NIDAROS KIRKE on it (which means “west,” which identifies the church west of the Sioux River); NIDAROS referred to the Nid River in Norway that has an outlet or mouth (“os”) to the sea; and KIRKE means “the Lord’s Possession.” 26


WEST NIDAROS LUTHERAN CHURCH CONT. The church is patterned after a church in Lake Preston that has since been torn down. If one disregards the two sacristies on either side of the chancel and the two entries, the sanctuary is roughly in the shape of a cross. The 18’ ornate altar, with its delicate designs featuring Gothic spires and arches highlighted with touches of gold, dominates the hemispherical chancel on the west end of the sanctuary. Kathleen Stokker, Director of Scandinavian Studies at Luther College, thinks it is quite likely that the sharp spires on the altars and crowns of old Norwegian churches and rounded chancels instead of ones with corners originally had the function of keeping away evils spirits, a mixture of pagan and Christian elements much in evidence throughout medieval art. The communion rail is rounded to compliment the shape of the chancel. The altar painting “Angel at the Tomb” alludes to Mark 16:5-6: “He is not here; he is risen.” This painting was done by the Norwegian artist Herbjorn Gausta for $150. A rather unusual feature of the chancel is the crown that hangs suspended over the pulpit. Interestingly, some visiting pastors have expressed concern about the stability of the crown when they are preaching from the pulpit. At one time, the pulpit was about 9 to 10 inches higher but was cut down by one step in 1933 to symbolically close the gap between the pastor and the laity, although several members claim that it was to ease the stiff necks of those who sat up front close to the pulpit and were forced to look up so high. Perhaps the most unique feature of the chancel furnishings is the baptismal font that is a replica of the Angel Holding Font sculpture in Copenhagen, Denmark by the Danish artist Bertel Thorvaldsen This angel font is one of eight models known to be in existence in the United States. The mighty pipe organ cost $2500 and was paid for by the Luther League. The original organ was powered by a hand pump in the sacristy behind the organ, which two men from the congregation took turns pumping to provide sufficient air pressure so that the organ would not wheeze. A small sign in Norwegian Passeligt (meaning “just right”) was 28


WEST NIDAROS LUTHERAN CHURCH CONT. taped to the wall beside the slot to mark the best level for the pumpers to maintain. The beautiful stained glass windows, which decorate every wall of the church, cost only $800 (a rather hefty price for those days) but would likely be beyond the church’s ability to replace, should anything happen to them. They are priceless, but with new additions to the church, some new stained glass windows have been added. The original bell from the Old Church now hangs in the bell tower at West Nidaros. There had been speculation that it hung in the tower at Renner, but Alfred Otterby insisted that it was hanging in the West tower. When Art Moe climbed up into the two towers, he discovered that the West bell has a date of 1886 on it (the year the Old Church was finished), whereas the Renner bell is dated 1913. The old bell measure 27” in height and 36” in width and weighs approximately 1,000 pounds. Several additions have been made to the original church. In 1955-1956, a parish education unit was added to the southeast side of the church, devoted primarily to Sunday school classrooms. A parsonage was built in 1958 since West Nidaros was then an independent congregation and needed a parsonage for the pastor, and in 1985-1986 a 32’ x 30’ addition was put on the parish education unit as well as much updating and remodeling in preparation for the 75th anniversary celebration. The latest projects include a much needed narthex in 2002, which includes a large entry and an elevator and in 2007 a large addition to the south (Family Life Center), which includes offices, Sunday School rooms, a kitchen and bathrooms, and a large gym that has greatly expanded the youth program. The gym is also used by groups for athletic practices. We are grateful for having wonderful pastors who have carried on our mission, “Sharing Christ’s Love with All” and also for Jessi Rakness who has done so much to develop our youth program. Luckily we are a growing congregation, and we are thankful for all the young families and children who will be the future of our church. 30

God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.� (Genesis 9: 12-13)

WEST NIDAROS LUTHERAN CHURCH 25403 471st Ave. Crooks, SD 57020 WestNidarosLutheranChurch 31

BALTIC LUTHERAN CHURCH In 1890, thirty-three individuals gathered in Baltic for worship and established a Lutheran church using the Norwegian language. The congregation originally named their church St. Olaf after the patron saint of the members’ homeland. (This was also the original name of the town of Baltic from 1881 – 1885 when it changed to Keyes and ultimately to Baltic in 1887.) For the first thirteen years, the congregation met for services in the one-room schoolhouse in Baltic. Economic conditions prevented a church building from being constructed until 1903. According to church minutes, in late 1907 or early 1908, the steeple was struck by lightning and damaged by wind. The bell tower was lowered and a much shorter steeple was constructed. The bell currently in the tower was made in 1907. When St. Olaf merged with Nidaros in 1932, it became known as Baltic Nidaros until 1958 when it became Baltic Lutheran Church.



BALTIC LUTHERAN CHURCH CONT. The St. Olaf / Baltic Lutheran Church has undergone many changes in its appearance. The entrance to the church has changed several times—originally the doors were at an angle facing northwest. Later, they faced directly north in order to build an inside stairway to the basement. In the 1940’s, the entrance was extended a few feet north. A new vestibule entrance was added in 1975 to the north of the original entrance, along with a new stairway to the basement. The chancel and choir areas were built onto the east side of the church in 1914, and it was wired for electricity at the same time. The altar presently used was added in about 1914, but it was in 1924 when the Ladies Aid ordered the painting “Christ on the Sea of Galilee” from the Klagstad Studio in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The church was finally dedicated on July 18, 1926—twenty-three years after it was built. Baltic Lutheran Church separated from the Nidaros congregation on June 1, 1958. Together with East Nidaros Church, they formed the Baltic Lutheran Parish and called a pastor to serve both churches. In the summer of 1960, the sacristy was added to the northeast corner of the church. A two-story parish hall was added in 1962 to the south side of the church. In 1989, the sanctuary interior was redecorated. The project replaced the five larger windows with a type of stained glass depicting several of the Christian and Lutheran symbols. The interior was painted as well as the altar, railing, pulpit, and baptismal font which were trimmed with gold leaf. The members of the Baltic congregation will always be grateful to the pioneer ancestors from both Nidaros and St. Olaf for planting the seed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in their community. 34

BALTIC LUTHERAN CHURCH 301 Nidaros Ave. Baltic, SD 57003 BalticLutheran 35

RENNER LUTHERAN CHURCH Although the Nidaros congregation was founded in 1868, they did not build their church until 1878. Over the years, its structure has been demolished by a windstorm, rebuilt and renovated, and moved twice— hence, the name “the Traveling Church.” However, its beautiful Sanctuary holds much history and is a testament to the strong faith of the congregation and its dedication to building and maintaining a worthy House of the Lord. John Thompson and John Nelson are credited with establishing the Nidaros Congregation. The two men were among a group of eight families—36 individuals total, who left Meraker, Norway bound for the Koshkonong Prairie of Dane County, Wisconsin in 1854. After seven weeks on the Atlantic Ocean, they arrived in Quebec, Canada. The final portion of their journey took a total of five months before reaching their final destination. Unfortunately, 12 individuals did not continue on the journey; 12 died as victims of a cholera epidemic.



RENNER LUTHERAN CHURCH CONT. In 1913, Nidaros women in the Renner area organized a Ladies Aid. These women wanted a place for worship and for Sunday School. In 1920, a Sunday School was organized and held in a local school and later in the Renner hall. By 1921, the Ladies Aid had raised $1,000 for a basement church which was completed the next year. The Sunday School moved in 1922 into the basement church, which also served for seventeen years as a worship sanctuary until the Old Church was moved from Baltic. The Old Church made the second leg of its journey as the “Traveling Church” when J. H. Brandt of Sioux Falls moved the Old Church in March of 1939. It took a week to move it across the prairie southeast of Baltic to old Highway 77. When turning west off the highway at Renner Corner on to the gravel road, the church sank into the mud because the frost had left the ground. It was then that Brandt discovered the sand-filled walls, and to his chagrin the sand had hardened so that he could not drain it from the walls. His bid had been $839.60, and he complained that he would have charged another $1,000 if he had known about the sand. A member recalled that each board member spent ninety-two days, helping with carpentry, painting, and the like to get the church ready for use. On June 4, 1939, a new cornerstone was laid, and a service of rededication was held. The most outstanding feature of the church’s interior is the altar, handcrafted in 1886 by Jacob Tveit, an immigrant carpenter from Norway. The altar’s unique feature is the pulpit built into it. A canopy over it, crowned by three dormers, represents the Trinity. It is painted 38


RENNER LUTHERAN CHURCH CONT. predominantly Norwegian red and green and adorned with several Christian symbols, rosemaling, and Norwegian writing. On the back wall inside the altar are Norwegian words (“Guds Ord bliver Evindelig!”) which translated into English mean “God’s Word Lives Eternally!” On the front of the altar, above the table, are scenes painted from Jerusalem with Calvary and the open tomb with Norwegian words (“Dette Gjörer til Min Ihukommelse”) that mean, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” The translation of the Norwegian (“Ære vere Gud i det Höieste”) on the back wall above the altar is “Glory to God in the Highest.” Beneath the table in front of the altar are the Greek letters Alpha and Omega, symbolizing the Beginning and the End. In the center are the first three letters (IHS) in Greek for Christ. The cost for the altar/pulpit, altar railing, kneeler and a hymn board totaled $175. The baptismal font was built for the sum of $9.00. The Old Church was redecorated and rededicated in 1949. The altar rail was changed to accommodate more communicants at one setting, and the stairway to the balcony was moved from the vestibule to the back left corner of the sanctuary. The lead glass and crystal chandelier in the sanctuary is the original from the pioneer days, except that it has 40

The Altar-Pulpit

been electrified. In 1965, a Sunday School wing was added to the west of the basement. In 2003, a twostory addition was built on the east side that included a fellowship room, conference room, Sunday school rooms, and handicapped bathrooms along with an elevator for handicap accessibility. The Renner congregation takes humble pride in their sanctuary home. To them, and all the members of Old Nidaros, that House is much more than a mere museum. It is a holy place of worship, reminding us of a gracious God who has walked with us throughout the generations of our pilgrimage on earth. It is a testimony to the devotion and faith of our pioneer ancestors and to the legacy of faith they left to their descendants.


Renner Lutheran Steeple



RENNER LUTHERAN CHURCH 47474 258th St. Renner, SD

This basket ďŹ lled with rocks controlled rope that lowered the chandelier to light its candles. RennerLutheranChurch Baptismal Font 41

OLD NIDAROS REPLICA CHURCH The architectural history of the Old Nidaros Church is never very far away at West Nidaros, thanks to the dedication of West Church member Art Moe who started this retirement project of building a replica of the Old Church in the fall of 1976 and finished it about fifteen years later. Built on a scale of 4 inches to one foot, he modeled it after the original church, which now stands in Renner. After taking a class to learn how to make stained glass and observing one of the replica church’s windows being made, Art hand-crafted the windows for this project, duplicating the color and design of the windows in the Old Nidaros Church in Renner. Many people and organizations contributed building materials and fixtures to help Art create this beautiful and unique masterpiece that has been utilized and enjoyed by members and visitors from across the country and around the world. The original old reed organ was also donated to the replica church. In 1993 Art donated the church to West Nidaros where it now stands.

Art Moe 42

Art Moe passed away in 2007.


ur intent is not to glorify our pioneer ancestors, for they were only human. Our intent, rather, is only to illustrate how these prairie pioneers and their descendants prioritized the Church of Jesus Christ in their lives. Most of these immigrants worshiped in a frame church structure before they themselves lived in a frame house. The generations that have followed have continued to be faithful in their devotion to Jesus Christ their Lord and in their commitment to the church.”

“To the members of the Nidaros Congregations—past, present, and future, we dedicate this history, always remembering our unity in Christian Heritage that has made our four individual churches ‘One in Christ— Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow.’ ” (page 1, Nidaros joint 125th anniversary book)





Minnehaha Funeral Home This commemorative book is funded by a grant from Rosenbauer South Dakota and Minnehaha Funeral Home.

Designed and published by AGE Media, Sioux Falls, SD

Nidaros 150th Anniversary: Celebrating Our Churches' One Foundation Commemorative Book  

In celebration of the Nidaros congregation's 150th Anniversary, this souvenir book highlights the congregation's history, challenges, and gr...

Nidaros 150th Anniversary: Celebrating Our Churches' One Foundation Commemorative Book  

In celebration of the Nidaros congregation's 150th Anniversary, this souvenir book highlights the congregation's history, challenges, and gr...