'For the Lord is good': St. Paul's Lutheran in Fulda marks 125 yearsFULDA — When it came time to set the date for St. Paul Lutheran Church’s 125th anniversary celebration, organizers decided to tie it in with one of the congregation’s most popular events — the Cow Pie Open, an annual golf outing that takes place on the farm of members Glen and Kay Gunderman.
By: Beth Rickers, Worthington Daily Globe
FULDA — When it came time to set the date for St. Paul Lutheran Church’s 125th anniversary celebration, organizers decided to tie it in with one of the congregation’s most popular events — the Cow Pie Open, an annual golf outing that takes place on the farm of members Glen and Kay Gunderman.
“We’ve been doing the Cow Pie Open for a number of years,” explained anniversary committee chairman Randy Hein. “We originally started doing it at the golf course, then we ended up out in their pasture, and it worked out even better. It’s just a good social event, where you can sit back and relax for a few hours. So we picked that same weekend, a way to make (the anniversary) a whole weekend thing.”
The golf tournament will start the festivities off bright and early Saturday morning. Other events this weekend will include a confirmation reunion, family music service, worship service featuring former pastors and banquet with program.
As the theme for the celebration, the congregation chose Psalm 100:5: “For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.”
It’s a fitting verse, as St. Paul Lutheran has been the faith home for many generations of southwest Minnesota families. According to church historian Loretta Gehl, who compiled a history book for the congregation’s 100th celebration and updated it for the 125th, the church’s beginnings are tied into the settlement of southwest Minnesota.
“It was chartered in 1886,” she explained. “The first train came into Fulda in 1879. Keep in mind that the Civil War ended in 1865, and this part of Minnesota was filled with Native Americans, and folks who were moving in before that were traveling only by foot or wagon train. As a history buff, I think that like people gathered together. First they came to Ellis Island, and then they came as far west as they could. … The people who came here, many of them had fought in the Civil War. They were not all coming from Europe. They were looking for farm land.”
Fulda became a settling spot for a group of German Lutherans.
“They all gathered in like religions,” Gehl continued. “The first pastors who could serve any kind of congregation had to ride in by horseback. Rost Township, Brewster and St. Peter Delafield, north of Lakefield — all those farm families were served by the same circuit riders, pastors who would try to meet with a few families in their homes once a month.”
The Fulda church began with six families, who first met in the community’s small wooden public school building or in one of the storefronts.
“That was their beginning. But they grew. By 1888, they had decided to build a church building and bought a lot that was 100- by 135 feet. The lot was sold to us by Bishop Ireland, who was busy planting the Fulda church. He sold it to us for $100,” detailed Gehl.
The first church was a small wooden structure that the congregation quickly outgrew. In 1900, a new church was built on the west side of the same block.
“Their goal was to build that for $2,400, and it ended up costing them $2,900. They had to add a bell, which was $265,” Gehl noted. “We still have that very bell. We moved that bell when we built the building we have today.”
The current church building was dedicated in July 1956. While it was under construction, a foresighted church member filmed the progress, and the video will be shown during the anniversary meal on Sunday.
“Della — Mrs. Harold Dierks — was something of a film buff, and she had to bring her son into kindergarten, so she’d walk over and get a little snippet of the building going up,” Gehl said. “Her children put it all together onto a DVD, and it’s very nicely done.”
The church also maintains a parochial school, started in 1893, that has a significant role in the congregation’s history.
“The school also met in the first wooden building in 1888,” Gehl said. “When the congregation outgrew that and moved into the 1900 building, they kept the 1888 building as just the school. The students met in that building until 1926, when they built the brick building they have today. They added an addition again the size in 1950.”
Gehl became a member of the congregation and community when she came to Fulda in 1950 to teach at the school.
“We really have a lot of workers who went into full-time church work,” she added. “I did a little research on that and was quite amazed. … We’ve had 15 folks from the congregation who became pastors, and 38 became full-time teachers — we have two preparing for the teaching profession right now — and two deaconesses and two parish workers.”
The anniversary committee has invited all former pastors, teachers and members to be part of the celebration and anticipates that some of them will be on hand. Advance reservations are not needed, and all interested people are welcome to attend, noted Hein.
The full schedule for St. Paul’s 125th celebration is as follows:
9 a.m. — Cow Pie Open (four-person best-ball and other games, guests welcome) at Glen and Kay Gunderman farm, 36183 110th St., Fulda
11 a.m. — Pork burger and sweet corn meal (free-will offering), Gunderman farm
4:30 p.m. — confirmation reunion, church
5:30 p.m. — sandwich supper (free-will offering), church basement
7 p.m. — family music service with Pastor Dave Horn, church
9 a.m. — worship service with Pastor Bernie Lutz and Pastor Gary Clayton
10:15 a.m. — Bible study with Pastor Bernie Lutz
11:45 a.m. — anniversary meal, also showing of church construction video
1 p.m. — program and recognition of former pastors, teachers and members.