“Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but to Your name give glory, because of Your mercy and because of Your truth” (Ps. 115:1).
It was on these words that the Rev. L. W. Schierenbeck addressed the members and friends of St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church of Austin, Minnesota on June 9, 1996 when the congregation’s new house of worship was dedicated to the glory of God. Well over 200 people listened attentively as St. Paul’s second pastor (1944-69) spoke how God’s name–His Word of healing and refreshment–is the glory of His house. During his sermon the Rev. Schierenbeck mentioned how he had preached at all three of St. Paul’s dedications — in 1942, 1953, and now.
Other former pastors and vacancy pastors took part in the service: the Rev. Carl Thurow (1969-84), the Rev. Albert Sippert (1969), Prof. John Pfeiffer (1984-94), and the current pastor, the Rev. Stephen Kurtzahn (1995- ). Several former teachers of St. Paul’s School were also present. The first hymn was The Church’s One Foundation (TLH, 473). This was the first hymn sung at the very first worship service of St. Paul’s on June 15, 1942. The organ was accompanied by trumpet and violins. The choir, joined by friends of the CLC, sang Christ Is Our Cornerstone. The children of St. Paul’s sang To Thy Temple I Repair. A delicious catered dinner was served immediately after the service by one of the members.
The Old And The New
St. Paul’s former building, a beautiful stone structure next to the Cedar River, had been plagued by floodwaters several times since it had been built in the early 1950’s. Two major floods struck within two weeks of each other in 1978, and another in 1993. It was after this last flood that the congregation took advantage of a federal buy-out program of flood-ravaged properties administered by the city of Austin. Construction of the new building began in May 1995 on property previously donated to the congregation by members. The groundbreaking service took place on June 4, 1995. The very first service in the new facility was conducted on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 21, 1996.
St. Paul’s new building is very functional. The sanctuary is wide, airy, and bright, with a seating capacity of 162. Many items from the old church were reused in the sanctuary, such as the pipe organ, stained-glass windows, leaded glass, pews, altar and light fixtures. The narthex offers plenty of room for worshipers to visit before and after services. There is a spacious kitchen where several people can work at one time. The fellowship hall has a high vaulted ceiling and utilizes new tables and chairs purchased by the members. The pastor’s office is large enough to hold meetings comfortably and faces a large field with a beautiful view of the countryside. There are two classrooms for the Christian Day School and Sunday School, with plenty of storage space as well as a cry-room for the little children.
“In Spite Of Ourselves…”
St. Paul’s has been blessed beyond measure by our gracious Lord and Savior. We pray that in boldness we may share the Means of Grace with our community from our new building. In this connection we would like to quote from the closing paragraphs of the 25th anniversary booklet:
“As we look back upon our history . . . we marvel at the wondrous grace of God. We are living proof of the long-suffering and mercy of our God; for our history and a knowledge of the same is a sobering and humbling record, a reminder of our many sins and shortcomings, of our ignorance and obstinacy. And yet we gather to praise the God who still dwells among us with His grace and mercy in Word and Sacrament.
“As we look toward the future we are reminded by the past that we have no future of ourselves; that our only hope for continuing in God’s Word and the saving grace it brings rests with ‘the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that fadeth not away.’
“Therefore, in spite of ourselves, it is with confidence that we face an unknown future in an uncertain world, a confidence founded in the only-saving God, who has promised, ‘Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.'”
— Pastor Stephen C. F. Kurtzahn