Public invited to a weekend of activities; country fair Saturday
By Kristen Miller
DASSEL, MN Lake Jennie Evangelical Covenant Church will celebrate 125 years with a weekend of events beginning Friday open to the community, including its annual country fair featuring an afternoon of hayrides, games, and music Saturday.
The history of the church dates back to the spring of 1886, when two separate groups of Swedish immigrants one on the west side, the other on the north side of Lake Jennie came together to organize the church.
Representatives from both groups, who had been leading their own home prayer meetings, elected the following officers: John Engquist, Hallsten Settergren, Per Holmquist, Aron Nilson, and August Anderson.
Among the current 46 members “a fair amount of [them] can trace themselves back to the early day of the church,” said Rev. Doug Pierce, who has pastored with the church for 12 years.
The biggest change the church has seen even in the past 25 years, has been, the steady decline in the number of members who make their living from agriculture, Pierce noted. Many farmers are now working other jobs for a living, he added.
Typically, the members live within a 10-mile radius of the church, which is located on 705th Street (just one mile east of Highway 15). There are some members who come from Litchifeld and Hutchinson to attend the country church, he said.
In March, the church celebrated the birthday of the oldest member of the congregation, Harry Settergren, who turned 97 years old. He has been a member for 80 years, having joined in 1931.
What the Lake Jennie church is best known for throughout the Dassel community is its annual Memorial Day hymn sing, which is open to the public.
This is a well-attended event, Pierce said, with between 70 and 100 people coming out to participate.
One unique fact which Pastor Pierce shared was that the church is the oldest existing member of the Meeker Cooperative.
The church’s centennial history book, compiled by member Amy Wilde, sites its first service with electricity as a memorable one.
“The Christmas of 1936 was long remembered, for that is when electricity arrived in the countryside. All around the area, houses were lit up for the first time on Christmas Eve,” Wilde wrote.
“Gas lighting fixtures had been removed and electric wiring installed at church, as well. However, when the worshipers arrived for Julotta, they found the building dark.
“The new lights would not operate! It was not until after dawn that it was discovered that a squirrel had climbed onto the transformer box and shorted out the new electrical service,” Wilde wrote. The problem was fixed and the congregation was able to conduct the Sunday school program that evening with electricity.
As it celebrates 125 years, the congregation is honoring the past, but looking forward to the future.
After 125 years, the church is doing well. “We’re holding our own,” Pierce said, noting the really nice facility it has. “It would be nice to have a few more families,” he added.
As for now, the church will continue as it has for the last 125 years. “We think God has a purpose,” Pierce said.
The congregation meets for Sunday worship at 10:45 a.m., with a prayer time 7 p.m. Wednesday nights.
A weekend of events
The 125th celebration begins Friday, July 1 with a 7 p.m. worship service focusing on Lake Jennie and the community it serves.
As part of this, there will be four pastors from the area, who will each preach the same scripture passage, but in their own way.
The pastors will be Dave Herring of Dassel Church of Christ, Steve Olsen of Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Dassel, former member Peter Lee who is now pastor of First Baptist Church of Grove City, and John Cedar of Lamson Evangelical Free Church in Dassel.
The celebration will continue Saturday with the annual country fair featuring activities for all ages from 1 to 5 p.m.
There will be hayrides given throughout the afternoon, along with food and root beer floats served.
At 2:30 p.m., there will be a Foam Family reunion performance. This is the church’s puppet ministry and will include past puppeteers.
Starting at 3 p.m., there will be an old-fashioned picnic, games, and races, including a water balloon toss and three-legged races.
Inspirational musical entertainment will begin at 3:30 p.m.
Saturday evening, there will be a worship service at 7 p.m. highlighting the musical heritage of Lake Jennie. Former pastor, Nathan Langager (1975-1979) will preside, with musical selections from former and present members.
Sunday worship service will begin at 10:30 a.m., followed by a 12:30 p.m. lunch. A heritage service will begin at 2 p.m. and will focus on the history of the church and sharing of memories.
History DVD and cookbook available
Since a history book had been written for the church’s centennial 25 years earlier, it was decided to provide something digital, rather than in written form this year.
The church has made available a DVD with pictures of the church throughout its years.
There is also a 125th cookbook for $10, with roughly 400 recipes. To purchase, contact the church at (320) 275-3233 or stop in.