Started as a mission in the early days of the Synodical Conference, St. Luke’s Evangelical Lutheran Church was founded in 1909. In March of 1908, the Herman Ferking family was making its way from Greenway, South Dakota, to Lemmon. At Roscoe, South Dakota, there was a layover of several hours between train connections, and Pastor Scherf of the Minnesota Synod in Roscoe was sent for to perform a baptism. Roy Ferking was the child to be baptized. Pastor Scherf, however, was not in town at the time, so the Ferkings boarded the train for Lemmon.
The child, however, was not forgotten. Soon Pastor Scherf, together with Pastor Keller of Bowdle, South Dakota, came to Lemmon for services. Pastors Scherf and Keller ministered to a fledgling group of Lutherans in the Lemmon area until they called a student from the seminary, Vicar Julius Lenz. To him was given the privilege of finding Lutheran families in the Lemmon-Meadow area, and of conducting worship services. The worship services were held in various homes.
In 1909 the first resident pastor was called—Pastor William Pankow. Under the shepherding of Pastor Pankow, St. Luke’s Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized. The congregation began planning at once for a church building. The grand total of the cost of the building and its contents was $2,400. The building was dedicated in the fall of 1910.
The congregation, along with the town of Lemmon, experienced a steady growth in its early years, yet not without hardships. During WWI the German language was prohibited by South Dakota state law, so services were moved to the homes of various members in North Dakota. The 1930’s brought additional trials as drought and depression made life in the area difficult. Ten pastors came and departed in a span of twenty-five years. Yet, through it all, the Lord continued to bless this flock of Jesus through Word and Sacrament.
In the late 1950’s, the membership of the congregation outgrew the size of the original house of worship. In 1961, the present site of St. Luke’s was purchased. Construction began on this new building, and on April 5, 1964, the new church was dedicated. A decade later a Christian day school was added, and though it only remained open for eleven years, the Lord blessed it with faithful teachers who fed Jesus’ little lambs.
Since that time, the congregation, like the town of Lemmon, has experienced a downward trend in terms of numbers. Yet the Lord continues to reserve unto Himself a faithful core of Christians who eagerly gather to hear His Word and to live their Christian faith. Some of the current membership are second, third, and fourth generation members. Some are first generation members who treasure the Word of God which they have heard through the ministry of St. Luke’s.
In 2009, St. Luke’s Evangelical Lutheran Church celebrated 100 years of God’s faithfulness to His promises and mercy toward His people. Throughout the history of St. Luke’s, our Savior God has proven Himself faithful to His promise: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David” (Isaiah 55:1-3ESV).
Frank Gantt is pastor of St. Luke’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lemmon, South Dakota.