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Farmington Lutheran Church will celebrates its 80th year this weekend

Farmington Lutheran Church has occupied this building on Akin Road since 2006, but its roots in the community go back to the combination of two congregations 80 years ago this weekend.

There is cause for celebration within the Farmington Lutheran Church community this weekend. The congregation will observe its 80th anniversary as a church family.

The weekend's observance will be low key, but it includes a special video interview with the congregation's two longest-tenured members, Dorothy Pettis and Marion Pelach. Those two women have a different perspective - they were around back in 1932, when Farmington Lutheran Church was first formed.

Going back 90 years or so ago, Farmington had two Lutheran congregations. There was St. John's (Johannes) Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church, which was organized in 1902, and there was St. Luke's English Lutheran Church, which was formed in 1914. Growing up, Pettis attended St. John's and Pelach attended St. Luke's. They are the only two members of the current Farmington Lutheran Church congregation who were around when the two congregations became one.

The St. John's history goes back to 1898, when a Lutheran service was conducted, in Danish, at the District 96 schoolhouse in Eureka Township. From that initial service, St. John's (Johannes) Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized. It was Nov. 29, 1903, when the first St. John's Church building was dedicated in Eureka Township. Pettis's parents, Harry and Hannah Hansen, were married at that church, she said, and her oldest sister was confirmed there.

Ten years later, in 1913, St. John's moved from its country location to the former Catholic church building on Elm Street. Pettis and most of her other siblings attended church with their parents at the St. John's church in Farmington.

A year later, in August of 1914, St. Luke's formed in Farmington. For the first 10 years, St. Luke's used the St. John's church site. They continued until 1924, when St. Luke's moved to rented space at the Episcopal church, Church of the Advent, on Oak Street.

Pelach remembers her family moving into Farmington and attending church at Church of the Advent.

"I was maybe only 6 or 7 years old when we joined (St. Luke's). I don't remember it too much. It was very small, and there were very few of us," Pelach said. "I remember going to Sunday school, but ... when you're 7 years old, you don't remember too much."

According to a history booklet from Farmington Lutheran, the two congregations voted to merge into one congregation in 1932.

"Church leaders believed their work in the community would be more effective if they joined together," according to the booklet.

Pelach thinks she was about 11 years old, and Pettis says she was 9 or 10, when the two congregations became one. Nothing really changed for Pettis's family, other than that there were more families at church, because the new Farmington Evangelical Lutheran Church congregation still met at the Elm Street church for a number of years.

The congregation continued to meet there until 1948, when a new parish hall was completed on the corner of Walnut and Fifth streets. In 1950, the congregation decided to build a new church on the same site. They completed the church in 1951. Farmington Lutheran remained at that location until the current building on Akin Road was completed in 2004.

Looking back over the years, both women have more memories than they can think of offhand. Both were married in the Elm Street church. Their children were raised in Farmington Lutheran, and many of their grandchildren have been raised as part of the congregation.

Looking back to the time when the Farmington Lutheran building was constructed on Walnut Street, Pelach said it was built with "blood money" because members would drive to Rochester to give blood at a blood bank, in exchange for money. The church was mostly built by members of the congregation - the roof was constructed after two "building bees" - and it was funded, in part, by the money collected through blood donations.

"And we had lots of faith in God," Pettis said. "He took us a long ways."

All along, Pettis added, the congregation has relied on faith to get through the changes presented over the years.

"I can remember the day we moved into our new church. It was kind of sad for some of us, because we had to leave the church we had spent so much time with. But God pointed the way, because He gave us a lot of gifts from people and a lot of things we could do," she said.

Farmington Lutheran will observe its 80th anniversary with special liturgy and a viewing of the video interview of Pelach and Pettis.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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