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Round Lake Church to celebrate 125 years

Lori Morrison (from left), the Rev. Robert Bartlett, Joyce Tordsen and Mary Ann Sather are among those who have helped to plan First Presbyterian Church's quasquicentennial celebration Sunday. (Julie Buntjer / Daily Globe)1 / 8
The First Presbyterian Church Bell was purchased by the Ladies Aid for $70 in 1896. The bell continues to be rung every Sunday morning prior to services. (Julie Buntjer / Daily Globe)2 / 8
The sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church in Round Lake is still decorated for Easter. The altar and pulpit came from Worthington's Westminster Presbyterian Church after its second church was built. (Julie Buntjer / Daily Globe)3 / 8
A 1963 clipping from the Daily Globe shows members of the Ladies Aid laying the tile floor in their new First Presbyterian Church in Round Lake. (Julie Buntjer / Daily Globe)4 / 8
The first altar Bible for First Presbyterian Church is now displayed in a cabinet the congregation had built following the church centennial. (Julie Buntjer / Daily Globe)5 / 8
The baptismal bowl in the church's display case is still used on occasion. (Julie Buntjer / Daily Globe)6 / 8
The communion tray, now in the display case, was used by the congregation as early as 1903. (Julie Buntjer / Daily Globe)7 / 8
The First Communion wine pitcher on display in the church was first used in 1903. (Julie Buntjer / Daily Globe)8 / 8

ROUND LAKE — A bagpipe processional, recognition of long-standing parishioners and a celebration of prairie-grown faith will be part of First Presbyterian Church’s quasquicentennial observance Sunday in Round Lake.

The church, which boasts a communicant membership of 135, was established a few days after Easter in 1892, a full decade after Round Lake was founded with the construction of a section house and railroad depot. The earliest church services in the community were conducted in the depot, and eventually a Swedish-speaking church (Indian Lake Baptist) formed to the east of Round Lake and a Norwegian-speaking Lutheran church opened west of town.

“Everyone here wanted an English-speaking church,” said Mary Ann Sather of the formation of First Presbyterian Church. Sather serves as co-chairperson of the church’s quasquicentennial celebration with Lori Morrison, and was chairperson of the centennial celebration in 1992.

“We did a lot more for the centennial celebration — we were all younger and had a lot more members, too,” added Sather, noting that this year’s celebration will be more low-key.

In addition to the special service Sunday, the church will host a burger and brat potluck dinner. Special guest for the day will be Deb Hess, moderator of the Presbytery. Members and guests will also have a chance to peruse the church’s history books, which have been compiled by Morrison.

A second celebration is planned July 30, when Round Lake native Paul Soulek will perform for the congregation and guests. That event will include fellowship and dinner at the Round Lake Community Center.

The Rev. Robert Bartlett — or Pastor Bob, as congregants call him — has served the church since November 1999. He’s been the longest serving pastor in the congregation’s 125-year history, surpassing the Rev. Ernest Nielsen, who served from 1976 to 1990.

Raised on prayers, church dinners

In March 1892, special meetings were conducted over two weeks by the Rev. N.H. Bell and the Rev. H.P. Cory from the Worthington Presbyterian Church, and a petition was presented to the Mankato Presbytery shortly thereafter. On April 24, 1892, the Rev. R.M. Adams, Cory and two ruling elders from Worthington — H.M. Palm and George Dayton — organized First Presbyterian Church in Round Lake with 21 members. Dayton’s children contributed $200 to start a building fund for a church, and the Ladies Aid, formed in March 1894, helped raise money by hosting numerous lunches and dinners.

A $400 contribution from the Synod of Minnesota and the Mankato Presbytery on July 25, 1895, allowed for the construction of a 26- by 48-foot church on the corner of Rohrer Street and Third Avenue. The Ladies Aid purchased a 500-pound church bell from the Cincinnati Bell Foundry Co. — a bell that continues to be used today — and also bought lamps, window shades, song books, carpet, a table and paint to beautify the church.

“We bought the altar from Worthington’s first (Westminster Presbyterian) church, along with the pulpit,” Sather said, noting that Westminster had just constructed its second church and had the pieces available. The Round Lake church also purchased some pews from Westminster’s first church.

Growth and change

The First Presbyterian Church served its members well for more than 45 years, but growth in membership required more space. An addition was constructed on the back of the church in 1941, and when the space was outgrown again, the congregation decided to build a new church on the same lot.

The original church was sold and moved to a rural Round Lake farm on June 11, 1962, and the congregation hosted a groundbreaking for its new building on July 9.

While the new church building was constructed, the congregation attended services in the Round Lake city park, said Morrison, adding that it also shared space with the Lutheran church in town during the winter months. Sunday school was conducted in 14 different locations in the community during construction.

The first service in the new church was celebrated on June 2, 1963, and a dedication ceremony was conducted that August.

“(The church) was constructed by a lot of local people — members, especially,” Sather said, adding that the Ladies Aid women installed the tile flooring.

Adjacent to the church is the parish house, which now contains Sunday school classrooms and serves as a meeting space for the church, as well as local organizations. It’s also used occasionally as a guest house for people who aren’t able to stay with family in town during a visit.

Ready for the future

Among those to be recognized Sunday are a trio of parishioners now in their 90s. They include Betty Beal Anderson, the granddaughter of a charter member of the congregation and the Ladies Aid, as well as with Dolly Turner and Bob Paulson. Fifty-year members of the church will also be recognized.

The church’s membership reached its height in the late 1950s and early 1960s, though Sather is optimistic about the First Presbyterian’s future growth.

“We are ready for the future,” she said. “We have a new steel roof, we have a new kitchen downstairs, we are putting in a new furnace, and we are getting young people in the community and young people coming to church.

“We just envision that this church will be here for the next 100 years,” she added. “We envision that Round Lake will always need a church — we are positive, and we are ready for it.”

First Presbyterian Church in Round Lake has strong ties with the First Presbyterian Church in Brewster. Not only do they share Rev. Bartlett; both churches will celebrate their 125th anniversary in 2017. The Brewster church will celebrate in September.

Currently, Bartlett leads the 9:30 a.m. service in Round Lake and the 11 a.m. service in Brewster — and only once has he been caught speeding by law enforcement while travelling from one service to the next, he shared.

“We do combine services with Brewster on occasion,” Bartlett said, noting the recent Holy Week services as one such example.

“We also do community missions with Bethany Lutheran Church (in Round Lake) — we do community events and breakfasts with them,” he said. This summer, members of the two congregations will join together in serving a meal at The Banquet in Sioux Falls, S.D.

First Presbyterian in Round Lake also has a Thanksgiving service with Indian Lake Baptist Church.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington and graduate of Worthington High School, then-Worthington Community College and South Dakota State University, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. At The Globe, Julie covers the agricultural beat, as well as Nobles County government, watersheds, community news and feature stories. In her spare time, she enjoys needlework (cross-stitch and hardanger embroidery), reading, travel, fishing and spending time with family. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at farmbleat.areavoices.com.

(507) 376-7330
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