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Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church Bowdle, South Dakota


Snapshots of Congregations from Around the Church of the Lutheran Confession

Redeemer of Bowdle has been a member of the CLC since 1962, the year the congregation was organized. In addition to this blessing, it had the honor of being served by the first president of the synod, Pastor Paul G. Albrecht.

When these Christians broke from the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod over the doctrinal difference on church fellowship, they did not leave with the church property. Their first place of worship was the town movie theater. This did not last long, as the congregation quickly went to work on planning and constructing a church/parsonage combination. The architect was Pastor Albrecht, and the construction workers were members of the congregation. Redeemer was blessed with a number of farm families who had the necessary equipment for the project.

The men not only built a new church for their congregation, but also helped build Immanuel Lutheran College. Along with Pastor Albrecht, members of Redeemer made weekly trips to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, in 1963 to remodel the large barn on the Ingram estate into “Northwest Hall.” This building housed the boys’ dormitory and classrooms for Immanuel Lutheran High School and College (another little barn was remodeled to provide space for the seminary). The workers were known as “The Bowdle Boys.” Though Northwest Hall was later razed and replaced by a parking lot, the teachers and students who made use of it still hold fond memories.

During its heyday, Bowdle was a thriving small town with numerous businesses. But as years passed by, it became smaller and smaller, dwindling to its current population of five hundred. This population decline was due mostly to young people moving away to bigger cities. This was also the case with Redeemer; what started out as a sizeable congregation has decreased to a present active membership that is comparable to one of our mission congregations.

Even though Redeemer is relatively small, it has been able to support a full time pastoral ministry by sharing a pastor with Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, in nearby Ipswich, South Dakota. This arrangement has also made it possible for the Gospel message to be shared with others who are not members of either congregation, as well as with precious souls in other communities. Weekly chapel services are conducted in the Bowdle nursing home, bringing the message of life and salvation through Jesus Christ to elderly folks of various religious backgrounds. The average attendance at the nursing home rivals that of the Sunday morning services at Redeemer or Zion. What a wonderful opportunity to help those in the winter years of their lives to be prepared for an eternal retirement in heaven! The Word of God is also shared on a weekly basis in the town of Aberdeen, some sixty miles away. At small group gatherings, nonmembers are invited to learn about their Savior through Bible devotions and Bible studies.

For those members who were a part of the birth of Redeemer congregation, it is not an easy thing when they remember the size of their local fellowship then, as compared to today. However, they can take heart in knowing that God has made it possible for the pure Word of God to continue to be proclaimed in their midst, ministering to their individual needs and preparing them for an eternity in heaven, as well as to provide an opportunity to reach out to others in need of being nourished with the Bread of Life.

Mark Gullerud is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Bowdle, South Dakota, and Zion Lutheran Church in Ipswich, South Dakota.