Remembering burned church

The congregation at Grace Lutheran Church gathered Sunday to honor their roots by inviting charter members of the church to come and speak about their memories.

In all, there were 10 charter members who attended Heritage Sunday, which had the theme of “Getting Back to Our Roots.”

Grace Lutheran Church was formed in 1947 when First Lutheran Church and Bethlehem Lutheran Church merged.

Church member Gwen Anderson said the idea for Heritage Sunday came about in June after the building where Bethlehem Lutheran Church once stood was destroyed in an arson fire.

“We had questions, but not many answers,” Anderson said. “Who would know what we wanted to know?”

After discussions with church leaders, it was decided to have Heritage Sunday and invite the charter members of Grace Lutheran to speak about their memories from their time in the church.

“These memories will be forgotten someday,” Anderson said. “Someday there won’t be anyone around to ask. Without your memories, we wouldn’t have our heritage.”

One by one, the 10 charter members spoke about their memories from Bethlehem, First Lutheran and Grace Lutheran.

Marilyn Anderson Bishop said she was part of the first confirmation class at Grace Lutheran Church.

“My class was held in the kitchen in the basement,” Bishop said. “I also attended Sunday School classes and sang in the choir.”

Fred Larson, another charter member, also sang in the predominantly female choir, but added it was only after the choir director told him to.

“One day she grabbed me and said, ‘you’re going to sing in the choir,'” Larson said. “I told her that I couldn’t sing, and she said, ‘it doesn’t matter. You’re a man!'”

He also described taking a photo in the church that showed all the women wearing hats and gloves and all the men wearing three-piece suits.

Marjorie Eastwood said she remembered all the women in their hats.

“Everybody wore their hat,” Eastwood said. “On Easter Sunday, you would always wear your new Easter bonnet.”

Some of her favorite memories include attending church dinners in the basement.

Will Saboe met his wife, Monna Saboe, at Bethlehem Lutheran Church. The Saboes later became the second couple to be married at Grace Lutheran Church.

“We met in the Luther League,” Will Saboe said. “We had some great times.”

He added the church helped him after he joined the Army.

“The best memory I have is when I came to faith in Christ,” Saboe said. “It was a source of strength to me. I went into the Army and that brought me through some tough times.”

Monna Saboe also attended Bethlehem Lutheran.

“Sunday School allowed me to have the basis for my faith,” she said. “And on Palm Sunday, when I was 7, all six of us (siblings) stood there and were baptized.”

Local historian Al Nelson was only 22 months old when the churches merged. Even though he has no memories of the actual merger happening, he said his family has a long history with the church.

“In 1870, the (First Lutheran Church) congregation was formed,” Nelson said. “The services were held in the home of my great uncle, August Nelson.”

Leslie Reetz said her favorite memory from the church was the lifelong impact it had on her family.

“The legacy from my parents was my Grace Lutheran family,” Reetz said. “I always had extra parents and aunts and uncles.”