“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).
In 1931 a layman, William Arndt, moved to Jamestown, North Dakota, with his family. Eight souls gathered in his home in August of that year to hear the Gospel preached by Rev. Eugene Hinderer, a Wisconsin Synod pastor serving in Tappen, North Dakota, about forty-five miles to the West. They began renting a church building from the Free Church for five dollars a month. They worshiped in the basement because the sanctuary was unfinished. Also unfinished was the exterior, which was covered in tarpaper and awaiting stucco. For this reason the building was known to area residents as “the black church.”
In 1934 the property came up for sale, and the congregation, by then well-established, purchased it. Our Savior’s Evangelical Lutheran Church had found a permanent home at the intersection of Fourth Street and Fifth Avenue Southeast in Jamestown. The parsonage, a spacious home one block south, was purchased later. The congregation began a Christian day school in the church basement in 1947, with an opening enrollment of twenty-nine students.
In April, 1959, Our Savior’s sent a memorial to the convention of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), asking them to acknowledge their error and offense for failing to break fellowship with the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). These and similar memorials were rejected by the synod, and Pastor Helmuth E. Rutz instructed the church membership in these matters. The voters were led by Spirit and Scripture to withdraw from the WELS that September. The congregation applied for membership in the fledgling CLC in October of 1960, and was formally accepted into the CLC in January of 1961.
As the years passed, many faithful servants preached the Gospel of forgiveness in Christ Jesus from the pulpit, and taught the youth in the Christian day school. In the early 1970’s a summer camp was begun which was eventually named Roughrider. In the early 1980’s a dedicated school building was built across the intersection from the church. Our Savior’s continued to operate a Christian day school until 2006.
Recently the church has undergone extensive renovation, especially to the basement, where everything from floor to ceiling was replaced and the kitchen was repositioned and rebuilt. Also new is an elevator which gives access from the outside street level to both the sanctuary and the basement. A dedication service and open house are planned following completion of the project.
Our Savior’s is a congregation of about 115 souls and 75 communicants. We worship on Sunday mornings at 10:00 A.M. year round, and have adult Bible Class and Sunday school at 9:00 A.M. during the school year. “Wolff class” is a less-formal weeknight Bible class, named for a departed sister who loved Bible study. It is held about twice a month.
The Outreach Group meets irregularly to find ideas for sharing the gospel with the community and making our church more visible. Recent efforts in outreach have included participation in the annual local Christmas parade with a float, distributing information and promotional materials at the local University street fair, and planning for signage around town.
The history of Our Savior’s shows God’s faithful hand guiding and providing for His believers in Jamestown. For these blessings we give glory to Him.
James Naumann is pastor of Our Savior’s Ev. Lutheran Church in Jamestown, North Dakota.