By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
Upsala’s Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, a member of the Missouri Synod which believes in a literal interpretation of the Bible, will be closing its doors Sunday, Sept. 28. Its final service will be held at 8 a.m. with a closing service at 2 p.m. Cake and coffee will be served at the Upsala Community Center following the closing service. All are welcome to participate.
Council chairman since 1969, John Heisick, said the church membership has decreased to 15 members and the income is not enough to sustain the church.
“The cost of electricity, heat, wages for a pastor and an organist are too much to maintain the church,” said John’s wife, Ruth.
The decision to close was the general consensus of the 15 members.
“We don’t want it to stand empty and deteriorate,” said John. “We approached the Upsala City Council, asking them if they wanted the building.”
The city of Upsala accepted the donation of the church and plans are to renovate it for use as the city hall. The keys to the building will be turned over to city officials after the deconsecration of the building Sept. 28.
“The City Council now meets at the Upsala Fire Hall,” said City Clerk Reva Mische. “This new location will be more centralized for residents and there will be more space for visitors during city council meetings.
“There are residents who don’t realize I am here to accept payments for bills, to answer questions and for visitors to town,” she said. Her office is open to the public Monday – Thursday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Mische said that it’s cool that the first church services were held in the Upsala Town Hall back in 1935, and that the church will now be transformed back to the center of city government.
Ruth has been a member of Mt. Olive Lutheran all her life. She was baptized there and she married John there. John, who grew up in the Elmdale area, became a member after marrying Ruth.
It was on Dec. 4, 1935, when a number of Missouri Synod Lutherans met and 10 charter members signed a constitution to start the Mt. Olive Evangelical English Lutheran Church in Upsala. The word ‘English’ was later omitted.
The Rev. Louis Nauss served as the church’s first pastor, receiving an annual salary of $200.
In 1938, two lots in town were donated to build a church building. In December of the same year, the church was dedicated.
In 1954, the congregation formed a dual parish with St. John’s Lutheran Church of Grey Eagle. The contract was dissolved in 1997.
The first baptism at Mt. Olive, Carol Koehn, was held April 26, 1936 and the first confirmation class was held May 24, 1936. Robert Burmeistere and Louise Nauss were the first couple married in the church May 30, 1940, and the first burial recorded was for Pete Mortenson May 16, 1941.
In the church’s 79-year history there have been 110 baptisms, 135 people confirmed, 24 marriages and 58 burials.