A SLICE OF LIFE IN THE CLC
Snapshots of congregations from around the Church of the Lutheran Confession.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Like many congregations of the CLC, Faith Lutheran Church in New Ulm was born out of a desire to stand firm on the truth of God’s Word. It was one of six congregations along the Highway 14 corridor in southern Minnesota (within a seventy-five-mile stretch) to leave their former fellowships and become part of the fledgling Church of the Lutheran Confession. The congregation numbered 113 members when it was formed and was served by Pastor Rollin Reim. The congregation began in a rented facility until it was able to build a church/parsonage right on the main road through town. Seven years later they sold that property and purchased an older church and parsonage near the center of town. Though the people and the pastors have changed, this is the building where the members of Faith have worshiped for the past fifty years.
Faith is now the smallest of the four remaining CLC congregations on the Highway 14 corridor, with thirty-seven members. Over the years, Faith has partnered with two other congregations, forming a dual parish and sharing a pastor. First, it was a dual parish with Faith, Nicollet from 1983-2000, until the pastor accepted a call to another congregation, and the Nicollet congregation disbanded. After a vacancy of almost two years, Faith met with Grace, Sleepy Eye, which had also become vacant, and the congregations decided to form another dual parish, a partnership which continues to the present.
Dealing with challenges
One of the challenges for Faith is that most of the younger families of the congregation live a substantial distance from New Ulm, making many regular church activities more difficult. The congregation has incorporated online classes for the instruction of catechism students. In-person classes are conducted as well, and the combination of the two has been an effective method for dealing with this challenge.
Another challenge is maintaining a church building that was built in 1891 and a parsonage that was built in 1955. Because of the age of the church building, a great deal has been required by insurance carriers to keep the building up to the standards they require. It has tube and knob wiring, which may have to be replaced at some future date. The exterior was also in need of work. Several years ago the congregation contracted to have the wooden portions of the exterior repainted. Although the building has a brick exterior, the trim and steeple are wood. This was a difficult project due to the sloped ground around the church and the height of the steeple. While it looks like an old building (and is!), the congregation works together to maintain it in a manner that is worthy of the God Who has redeemed us from sin and dwells among us here in His Word and Sacrament.
One of the drawbacks of a dual parish is that the pastor’s time is divided between two congregations, leaving less time and opportunity for regular activities of the congregation. In many congregations, one of those things is often outreach efforts. Faith has held Vacation Bible School just once in the last fifteen years. Since then, members of Faith have joined Grace, Sleepy Eye for their VBS program. While this is a workable solution for members of the congregation, the community connection or outreach aspect is lost for Faith, New Ulm.
One of the ways that Faith has worked to incorporate community outreach is by offering yearly seminars. In the last few years, Faith has put on or hosted several seminars which have been advertised in the community. Each of these has been attended by a few visitors, in addition to members of the congregation, which has been encouraging.
The truth still matters
New Ulm is a known hub for Lutheranism. There are five other Lutheran churches in the town of thirteen thousand people. There are two ELCA congregations and one LCMS congregation, but the largest congregations are WELS congregations, and the largest of these is less than two blocks away from Faith. The WELS also has a large Christian day school and Martin Luther College in New Ulm. From an outward perspective, one might ask why another Lutheran church is necessary in a town filled with Lutheran churches. Faith is by far the smallest of these churches and it may not seem as if it has anything to offer. But this small Lutheran congregation does have something to offer, just as it did sixty years ago when it was first formed. It is here at Faith that the pure Word of the Savior is preached faithfully and where His sacraments are administered according to His command. Here at Faith, both young and old are taught to know the Savior Who has died for them and learn how they can serve Him with their lives during their time of grace. Why another Lutheran Church? Because the truth still matters and we are called, by our Savior, to proclaim it.
Nathanael Mayhew is pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, and a member of the Board of Missions of the CLC.