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St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church—White River, South Dakota

What’s new at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church of White River, South Dakota? Probably not much—or so one might be tempted to think! After all, St. Paul’s is an old congregation. Its first services were held by German immigrant families 104 years ago when Mellette County was first opened to homesteaders; its first resident pastor arrived 100 years ago; its church building was erected 95 years ago with an entrance addition added 40 years ago; one-third of its small congregation is considered by many to be old—now of retirement age; and its pastor, well, he is that old too!

So, what’s new at St. Paul’s? Our Lord’s compassions are “new every morning” (Lam entations 3:23), as the prophet Jeremiah assures us! That being the case, the members and pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church can rise each day with joy, hope, and confidence within our hearts knowing that Jesus will be with us to guide and bless the ministry entrusted to us in White River, and enable us to carry out that ministry with faithfulness!

Apart from those most important daily blessings of the Lord’s good and gracious care , there are some new aspects of our ministry at St. Paul’s to mention. The congregation has a new logo, as well as a new sign advertising its presence in the community. Its facility has been blessed with a new central heating and air conditioning system, which makes the building much more comfortable in all seasons of the year. Its kitchen has been blessed with a new refrigerator and stove. This makes fellowship meals and provisions for weddings and funerals much easier and more efficient. In addition, its sanctuary has been blessed with new cellular window shades and two new sets of altar cloths, all of which enhance our worship environment.

A new outreach pamphlet has been produced and a city-wide canvass has been begun to reach out to those unchurched members of our community. The pamphlet asks three questions: Do you want to know God better? Do you want to live with greater joy and confidence? Do you want to be certain about your eternal future? Inside the pamphlet those three questions are answered with appropriate Bible verses, and an invitation is extended for all to join us at our Sunday evening Bible studies and worship services. The back of the pamphlet provides information on St. Paul’s location and affiliation with the CLC, along with a brief statement of our confessional beliefs.

Since the lifting of covid restrictions last fall, a renewed Friday morning Bible Study is being conducted at the White River Health Care Center, a facility owned and operated by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and occupied for the most part by native Americans. Average attendance has risen to fourteen. In that study we discover, discuss, and delight in those many new compassions of our Lord and Savior bestowed upon us and experienced by us “every morning” !

Yes, in many ways St. Paul’s Lutheran of White River is old, but in our Lord “all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17), and for that we rejoice and are truly thankful!

Paul D. Nolting is pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Valentine, Nebraska, as well as St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in White River, South Dakota, and Peace Lutheran Church in Mission, South Dakota.