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Trinity Lutheran Church will celebrate its 75th anniversary throughout 2012

The original Trinity Lutheran Church building, built more than 70 years ago, currently serves as a library at Dakota City Heritage Village.

Back at the beginning, Farmington's Trinity Lutheran Church didn't look much like it does today. There was no big stone building. There was no building at all, actually. Early on, there wasn't even a name. There was just a pastor, six families and a few locations around town where church members could meet.

A lot can change in three quarters of a century. The church will celebrate its 75th anniversary throughout 2012, starting May 20 with a hymnfest service and an indoor picnic.

"It's quite a milestone to hit," said Verlyn Johnson, a member of the church since 1970 and one of the people planning the anniversary events. "Surprisingly, some of the youth groups are even excited. It's nice to see the young ones get excited."

The members of Trinity Lutheran Church held their first service in May of 1937. Led by Rev. William Haak, who had received the call to begin missionary work in Farmington, they met at the homes of Ernest Sprute Sr. and Fred Steege or at city hall. Eventually, church members rented a deserted Tabernacle at the corner of Third and Walnut streets for $5 per Sunday.

The church was officially named Trinity Lutheran in a Nov. 14 meeting.

The church grew quickly early on. The first service at the Tabernacle had about 30 in attendance, according to a history of the church compiled for its 50th anniversary. Attendance increased to around 60 within a few months.

Church members started work on their first building in 1939, motivated in part by a decision by the Tabernacle's owner's decision to raise rent to $20 per week unless he was allowed to preach. That building still stands, though not in its original location. It currently serves as the library at Dakota City Heritage Village.

That original church building served the congregation until 1956, when the congregation started making plans for a new church. The new building was dedicated two years later. It has been expanded twice since then, in 1982 and 1998. Much of the work was done by church members.

That feeling of community, of church members coming together to get things done, is part of what appeals to Johnson about Trinity. He came to Farmington because of a job, and he said the members of Trinity became a second family when his own family was far away.

Jerry Prueser said much the same. He joined Trinity in 1977 after moving to Farmington from Wisconsin.

"I like to do stuff, and it does get me involved in a lot of things," he said.

Much has changed in the years since Trinity was founded. In those days, there was only one Catholic church and one Lutheran church in Farmington. Now, there are several small churches that find themselves in the position Trinity Lutheran was 75 years ago, meeting in schools and in homes.

Johnson believes that has hurt attendance somewhat. When the church celebrated its first half-century in 1987, it had 529 members. Today, it has 373. At a time when younger people are looking for different ways to express their faith, a traditional church can have trouble attracting members.

"It seems like established churches aren't necessarily the big draw anymore," Johnson said.

That seems to be changing somewhat, though. Johnson said the church has started to attract some younger families. The church has a puppet ministry that helps reach out to young people, and its food building at the Dakota County Fair helps draw attention.

It will be particularly important for the church to draw younger members as some of its more active members continue to age.

"That's why we're trying to get some younger people involved in the anniversary committee, so they'll be around for 100 years," Johnson said.

For now, though, the focus is on celebrating the first 75 years. The church has planned outdoor services June 13 and 17 at the Dakota County Fairgrounds. The big celebration, what Johnson calls the big whoop-de-do, will take place in October. Several former pastors or the children of former pastors have been invited to attend.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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