A History of Calvary Lutheran Church
Those seeds fell on fertile soil and on April 13, 1945, seventeen individuals voted to organize a Congregation, drew up a constitution, and chose the name "American Evangelical Lutheran Church." The name and constitution were officially adopted on June 28, 1945. Glen Groth was installed as the first Pastor, and a joint parish with Grace Lutheran Church in Dorset was formed.
The newly planted congregation flourished and by 1947, the present church site had been purchased. Services were held in the Municipal Auditorium and the Park Theater until 1949 when the new Sanctuary was dedicated. Sunday School was held in the Armory Building above what is now the Senior Citizens Center. A house that stood on the property was first used as a parsonage until 1954, and then as a Sunday School until 1957.
Groundbreaking for the first Sanctuary, the present Narthex, took place on September 20, 1948. The cost was approximately $22,000. Services were held in the new Sanctuary for the first time on August 14, 1949. The building was formally dedicated on November 20, 1949, with a Congregation of about 200. The following April, the Congregation voted to change their name to “Calvary Lutheran Church,” and in 1951, they called Rolf Aaseng as Pastor.
The seeds of Calvary Church were planted in early 1944 when Pastors Harold Forseth and Edmund E. Olson surveyed the Park Rapids area and found considerable interest in forming an ALC congregation. Pastor Olson, who served other area churches, conducted the first worship service on November 12, 1944, in the Ringer Municipal Building.
The Congregation grew in strength and numbers during the next decade. A new parsonage was purchased on West North Street in 1954. In 1958, Grace Lutheran of Dorset formally merged with Calvary, adding fifty members. It became apparent that a larger facility was required. Groundbreaking for a larger “second” Sanctuary, the present Fellowship Hall, and a new Education Wing on the west side of the property took place on September 20, 1959. Construction was completed in 1960, costing $120,000. The new building was dedicated on September 11, 1960.
In 1963, Roger P. Olson was called as the fourth Pastor of Calvary and served through 1970. Property north of the church was purchased for an expanded parking lot. In 1969, a lot was purchased to build a new parsonage on Fish Hook Lake and the old parsonage was sold. Loren Fevig was called as Pastor in 1971.
In 1973, the John Haugland family donated a pipe organ to Calvary. Installation and materials costs were covered by memorials and gifts from the Congregation, as well as donated labor. By 1974, the Congregation had grown enough to support the addition of Worship Services on Saturday evenings.
In 1977, ownership of Bethel Cemetery, located four miles south of Dorset corner on County Road 11, was transferred to Calvary. The cemetery, adjacent to the former Bethel Lutheran Church, had been in the care of a Cemetery Association that was formed when Bethel disbanded several years earlier. Most of the Association members had joined Calvary and they asked the Congregation to assume official responsibility for the cemetery.
By the 1980s growth in the Sunday School necessitated the construction of additional space north of the Education Wing. A cornerstone service was held on September 26, 1982. Allen Oman served as Associate Pastor from 1980 until 1985, with Pastor L.E. Bomgren assisting with visitations. Jerry Protextor was called as Senior Pastor in 1983, and Gene Broughton as Associate Pastor in 1986.
Calvary’s growth bore fruit and by 1995, the Congregation had more than 1,300 baptized members and an annual budget of $277,000. The construction debt had been retired in 1994. Associate Pastor Gene Broughton was installed as Senior Pastor in 1996, and the Congregation approved a Master Plan for remodeling and expanding the facilities on the present site. To facilitate the Plan, the parsonage was sold in 1996. Jake Dyrhaug was called as Associate Pastor in 1997.
The Master Plan resulted in the present Sanctuary, which was dedicated on Reformation Day, October 31, 1999. The first Sanctuary was transformed into the Narthex and the second Sanctuary became the Fellowship Hall. Additional remodeling and expansion, including new office space, was completed in 2000. The beautiful stained-glass windows were added above the Chancel in 2002.
The church grew musically as well, and a Hand Bell Choir was organized in 1995. And the number of young people in the parish had increased enough to warrant the installation of Josh Swanson as Director of Youth Ministry in 2003. Dana Kocka, the present Youth Minister was called to that position in 2006. By 2007, the Calvary Congregation had grown to 1,528 baptized members.
But, the most important growth was in the Congregation’s mission and outreach. In 1986, Calvary had formed a mission partnership with Calvary Lutheran of Orr, MN. That mission continued until 1994, when a new partnership with Iglesia Luterana San Lucas in Eagle Pass, Texas, was established. That relationship has grown to include a mission parish in Piedras Negras, Mexico, just across the border.
In 2019, Calvary established a Mission Partnership with Iglesia Evangelica Luterana San Pedro in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. Three mission groups from Calvary traveled to Puerto Rico to assist in ongoing recovery efforts from Hurricane Maria and then from the earthquakes that devastated the Commonwealth in 2020. Since then, San Pedro has become a service center for the entire community during emergencies.
Other ongoing mission programs include:
- Hardhat Ministry made up of members of the congregation who are able and willing to help others with property maintenance and other “issues” that need to be addressed
- Jail Ministry, which visits and conducts Bible Study with inmates at the Hubbard County Jail
- Hunger & Justice Ministry that responds to those in need locally through Helen’s Kitchen, the Hubbard County Food Shelf and LSS Meals on Wheels, as well as nationally and internationally through the programs of the ELCA
- The Congregational Discretionary Fund which helps people who need funds for food, shelter, transportation or other necessities of life
- Hospital Visitation Team and Prayer and Care Team
Pastors of Calvary Lutheran Church
Roger P. Olsen
Interim and then Associate Pastor
Senior Interim Pastor