July 9, 2007

Albion Free celebrates 125 years

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

Albion Evangelical Free Church will be remembering its past and looking forward to the future as it celebrates 125 years as a congregation during an open house Sunday, July 15.

The morning will begin with a 9 a.m. coffee fellowship, followed by a 10 a.m. worship service and a noon catered picnic dinner, and end with a 2 p.m. program remembering Albion’s past ministers and acknowledging its oldest attendees.

Albion Free is located in Albion Township, just north of Cokato. The church was organized in 1882 and built in 1887.

Over the years, the church has been changed and remodeled. In 1981, an expansion added 24 feet to the north and west side. Also in 1989, 13 feet was added to the east side of the church.

The church has had many different faces behind its pulpit. In the early days of the church, it was not able to support a resident pastor. By the earliest record, Rev. A. J. Bergren, residing at Delano, made regular visits to the church.

In 1911, Rev. John Kalson began his ministry at the church and during that time, the parsonage was built.

Other pastors included Paul A. Cassel, Paul E. Carlson, Wallace Larson, LaDon Rydberg, Daniel Runke, and currently Philip A. Geoffrion.

During the 2 p.m. program, the daughters of Rev. Cassel will present his memoirs to the congregation. Cassel was pastor for Albion from 1925 to 1930.

Currently, the church has an average of 100 attendees, but seats 250, which is the number expected to attend the open house.

To Geoffrion, the church’s 125 years is a testimony to God’s faithfulness and the faithfulness of its members.

“We are thankful for the rich heritage we have. We are standing on the shoulders of some great saints,” he said.

“This is a time to look back at what God has done for us, but we also want to concentrate on what he is doing and what he will do,” Geoffrion said.

“The past is a good place to visit, but we can’t live there,” is one of Geoffrion’s favorite quotes.

For the church’s 125th anniversary, returning member, Joyce Hall has put together a history book of the church.

The book begins with the immigration from Sweden of the area’s early settlers. It highlights church families and attendees throughout its early years, with photos.

Hall got much of her information with the help of her sharp 94-year-old father, Ben Anderson.

“He remembers everything,” Hall said.

Anderson is the oldest living member of the church today.

It’s been interesting for Hall, having spoken to many past members who are now all over the US, she said.

“The book isn’t about the church,” she said. “It’s about the people and the saints buried in the cemetery.” The book will be given to each member family Sunday.

The church continues to grow, with attendees coming from as far away as Fair Haven and Dassel.

Geoffrion, having come from Buffalo Evangelical Free Church, brought with him a following from there, as well.

The congregation is much like a family, Geoffrion said.

“Everyone enjoys working together, serving together, and worshiping together,” he said.

This was proven when its members came together to rake and clear the cemetery after the recent hailstorm.

Geoffrion describes the people as friendly, genuine, appreciative, and down-to-earth.

The church is also generous in giving, and outreach-oriented, he said. Recently, the youth raised $1,200 for AIDS orphans in Africa. Along with the money, prayer bears were made and sent, as well as a book in the orphans’ native language, French.

The public is welcome to join the Albion congregation as it celebrates 125 years of fellowship, as well as learn more about its rich heritage.

There is no charge to attend the program, only a free-will offering.

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