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Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church Watertown, South Dakota


As I am writing this, Watertown is expecting a major weather system to be coming through in the near future. Unfortunately, this will bring an end to the unseasonably warm weather we have been enjoying and give us several inches of snow and ice-cold winds.

Change. If there is anything constant in this life, it would have to be change!

That has certainly been true for Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Watertown, South Dakota. The first change came in the late 1950’s as former WELS members (most coming from congregations in Grover and rural Mazeppa Township) met, calling Christian Albrecht to serve them as their pastor. The church they dedicated on July 31, 1960, served as the location for the organizing convention of the Church of the Lutheran Confession.

Many changes have taken place around the church property itself. The once-open fields have given place to housing as the city has grown. The north/south street that runs past the church now serves as one of Watertown’s main business arteries.

As for the church and school campus, the years have seen many changes. The church itself has seen various renovations. Recently a big screen TV was added to the fellowship room; it is connected to the new sound and video system, and allows our services to be broadcast on the internet for our members at a distance. We installed new carpeting, as well as shingles (after last summer’s hail storms).

One thing that has not changed over the years is Trinity’s commitment to Christian education. School was first held in the church basement. Later, the house next door to the parsonage was purchased as a teacherage, and was expanded to include a classroom. In 2008, a fellowship hall/school/office addition was built onto the church, and the former classroom/teacherage building was converted to expanded living quarters.

Over the years, the congregation has gone to great lengths to keep its school open, whether the student body numbered in the dozens, or just one! That commitment has continued in the last three years, and has resulted in Trinity willingly altering its format to best serve those we have. When the school’s only two students moved out of state with their family in 2016, Trinity shifted its efforts to providing a preschool for the following year. Currently there are three students enrolled. Efforts have been made via flyers, word of mouth, and radio to inform the community of the excellent Christian education offered here.

Another factor that has not changed at Trinity is the people’s dedication to the Word of God. As the membership (numbering just over one hundred souls, Sunday attendance around fifty) appreciates their God-given forgiveness in the Gospel, forgiveness which the Law has revealed they desperately need, they continue to look for ways to pass God’s Word forward. Vacation Bible School has become a yearly calendar item, seeing a goodly assortment of neighborhood children participating. Sunday school has also continued to be conducted regularly for our children, especially those who are not able, for various reasons, to be involved in our Christian grade school. Last school year saw the beginnings of our nursery Sunday School (ages birth to 3), with a couple of our members helping parents to get their little ones off to a good start with their Savior. (For more on this, see one of the feature articles in the July 2017 issue of the Branches magazine, pages 12-13.)

The seeds of involvement with church work outside our congregation were planted already with the 1960 convention. Trinity has been blessed to have members to serve as delegates to our West Central Delegate Conferences and also to the biennial CLC Conventions in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Several of our members have attended our synod’s Immanuel Lutheran High School and College; currently we have two high schoolers attending. The Women of Trinity meet once a month at the care facility where one of our women resides; this group has sponsored a number of foreign seminary students over the years. The congregation also generously supported one of our youth recently when she went on a CLC Mission Helper Trip; and we are anticipating another one traveling this coming summer.

Watertown is currently the fifth-largest city in our state. No doubt this is due in large part to our location at the crossroads of Interstate 29 and US Highway 212, putting us between the more major cities of Fargo, North Dakota (145 miles north); Sioux Falls, South Dakota (100 miles south); and the Twin Cities, Minnesota (200 miles east). In March of 2017, the city’s technical school, Lake Area Technical Institute (LATI), achieved national prominence as the winner of the 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. South Dakota State University (SDSU), located in Brookings, South Dakota (50 miles south), brings in thousands of students from our state and others, and has served as an avenue of outreach for Trinity’s sister congregation, Zion Lutheran, located in rural Hidewood Township along I-29 between Watertown and Brookings.

Yes, we have seen many things change related to our congregational life at Trinity. But no matter what change occurs, our trust is in the Lord Who does not ever change! With His blessing and forgiveness, guidance, and strength, we will move forward with the work He has put before us here in the Watertown, South Dakota, area.

Paul Krause is pastor of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Watertown, South Dakota, and Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hidewood Township, South Dakota.