“I Know That My Redeemer Lives,” Job 19:25, is the Bible verse chosen to celebrate 100 years of existence for Redeemer Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod.
Former pastors and members, and the general community are invited to the 10:30 a.m. service of celebration at 508 W 1st Ave., Flandreau on Sunday, August 1.
They will also celebrate the 60th anniversary of worshipping in their current home. The congregation was formed in 1921 in Egan and moved to Flandreau in 1961.
Reverend Douglas Chinberg, who served the church from 1989-1992, will be in the pulpit for the service. Following worship, attendees are invited to a meal served in the Flandreau Elementary Commons. There will be displays and a video showing the history of the church and its people.
Baptized members at Redeemer range in age from 1 to 96 years old.
In the beginning…
Parishioners date back to June 1917 when the Rev. Martin Keller came to Moody County as a missionary sent by the Minnesota District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. He sowed the seeds that would become Redeemer preaching in people’s homes in the Egan, Flandreau and Trent areas. Six local men promised him a salary of $150 a year. He received much more he said, in a letter written to the church during its 60th Anniversary, receiving about $700 and gifts of food.
Keller left in 1919 and the members called Rev. Joseph Steinmeyer. On February 8, 1921, 10 men met with Steinmeyer in the home of H. Scharnhorst in Egan to form the congregation now known as Redeemer Lutheran. Since Egan was a central location, it was decided to put the congregation there.
The church was born.
They needed a place to worship and a church was purchased from the Methodists in the City of Egan. The 1875 building was bought for $500. (The building still stands in Egan and is currently privately owned.) The congregation received a loan of $300 from the Church Extension Fund, which was repaid in 1934.
Rev. Steinmeyer left the congregation in 1923 and they called Rev. John Jungemann of Wolsey. He accepted and served them faithfully for nearly 40 years, the longest served to date.
During the 1930s, the major problem confronting the congregation was finances. The pastor was promised a salary of $900, but through many of the Depression years, he worked for almost half that. Even monetary help from the Ladies Aid, was not quite enough.
Jungemann also sold insurance, took over a filling station and was even the mayor of Egan from 1934-36.
Despite these economic problems and trying times, Redeemer had much to be thankful for.
The Beyer girls
Ninety-five year old member Evelyn (Beyer) Biteler of Flandreau remembers attending Sunday School in Egan.
“We didn’t have any place to hold it except for in the church pews,” she said since there was no basement.
“Mrs. Jungemann was my teacher,” she recalled. “She was a kind soul.”
Many may remember Ruth Jungemann as she was the English teacher at Egan High School. Biteler tells that Mrs. Jungemann was a typical preacher’s wife of the day – she hosted events, was in charge of the youth, sang and played the organ.
“She had a beautiful voice as I remember.”
Biteler’s sister, Phyllis (Beyer) Ailts, age 93, also remembers sitting in the pews at Egan.
“Pastor Jungemann never wrote out his sermons,” she recalled. “He would just start talking and sometimes stand there for a bit staring and thinking until he remembered what he was going to say.”
“Once I sat in the first row with a friend and we started to talk during the sermon until we noticed Pastor giving us ‘The Look’,” she remembered.
His wife would play the pump organ which required a large amount of energy.
“That organ was quite an effort to play, and if Mrs. Jungemann didn’t feel well, you could tell.”
Biteler said she took her three years of confirmation classes at an early age, being confirmed one day before she turned 12 in 1937.
“My older siblings, Art and Delores, and I all were confirmed at the same time,” she said. “Art could drive to classes on Saturdays; that’s why we were all together.”
In 1932, church members were gifted the Egan Opera House (later named Jungemann Hall) to be used as a parish hall. It was a wonderful addition as the church building was small and gave the members some added space for social events and meals. They even had two bowling lanes in there which were open to the public in an attempt to gain additional income. (The lanes were sold in 1940 and from the profits, Rev. Jungemann was paid his missing salary from years ago.)
Ailts said Jungemann was a generous man and would often invite church members to his home for dinner after services even if his wife didn’t have enough food ready for a group. Biteler said she remembers lots of potlucks and one time, the men decided to make potato pancakes.
“They eventually needed the women’s help.”
Another Beyer sister, Verla Mae, was born in 1932, baptized in 1935 and has the distinction of being the longest standing member of Redeemer Lutheran, attending services at both locations.
She remembers Jungemann’s funeral in 1965. He had stepped down from serving Redeemer but was preaching at Oslo Lutheran, a southeastern Moody County church, until his death.
“My brother Art was a pallbearer,” she said. “They held the funeral in Jungemann Hall.” She remembers Art had to remove the door jams in order to fit the coffin through.
Move to Flandreau
In the 1950s it was apparent that the church building was in need of many repairs and Pastor Jungemann saw the need for more room. Some wanted to convert the hall into the church, but that idea was not approved. Many of the members lived in Flandreau at the time and transporting youth to Egan was a problem.
A vote took place in February of 1960, and in a close contest (6-5) the decision was made to move to Flandreau. They bought and remodeled a body shop building owned by Jerry Ahlers. Purchase price and remodeling costs totaled $9,000.
Beyer remembers all the work needed to get the building ready for church services.
“There had been a fire in there with mostly smoke damage,” she said.
“It was lots and lots of scraping and then painting the ceiling and walls.”
Besides the task of transforming a body shop into a church, they built an extension on the east side that included an entryway with a tower above it, Sunday School rooms, a small kitchen and dining area. They held the first service in Flandreau on Easter Sunday, April 2, 1961. The work was all completed by volunteer labor including individuals outside the church membership.
As an example, the Kosota stone, which still graces the front of the building and its sign, was laid by George Rae who was a retired building crafts instructor at the Flandreau Indian School.
Jungemann stepped down as pastor in 1963 and the church would have vacancy or fill-in pastors for the next 30 years.
A mortgage burning ceremony was held July 12, 1970, and the congregation became financially self-supporting. In 1981, the building underwent another remodeling, but it wouldn’t be the last time the members would work to improve their church building.
The green fiberglass that once hung above the Kosota stone and allowed light into the building, was removed. The area was enclosed and a window in the shape of a cross flanked by two smaller windows were installed. Cedar walls were placed at the front of the church and the back. Total cost was $6000.
More Sunday School area was also needed. After the church’s first Ice Cream Social in 1982, construction commenced and a fellowship hall and Sunday School rooms were dedicated in June, 1983.
The 1961 east addition was turned solely into a kitchen and restrooms and completed in 1986. In 1987, a pitched roof was put on the tower and a metal cross was placed on the top.
In 1996 in honor of its 75th Anniversary, the members hired the services of artist Susan Parsley to turn the cross and two windows above the Kosota stone into stained glass; a beautiful addition when the sun shines through them.
Up until 1993, the pulpit was filled using a series of vacancy pastors. Members called Rev. Charles Boeder of Pipestone, a semi-retired minister, who served the church until 1999. He was the church’s first resident pastor since Jungemann, 30 years prior.
When Boeder fully retired, the Rev. Timothy Rynearson was called in 2000. He had been serving a church in Wolsey and was called to start Peace Lutheran Church in Brookings. Redeemer needed a minister and the young, small church there needed aid in providing a salary for their minister. Redeemer and Peace entered a dual parish and earlier this year, Zion Lutheran of White joined them to form a tri-parish.
As the churches began to grow, Pastor Samuel Thole was called to join the parishes in 2017. Thole also spends time with the preschool here.
Redeemer has active groups within the church.
The Ladies Aid, which also formed in 1921, joined the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League in January of 1943. They are an active group, always giving to missions and others.
Sunday School was discontinued about 10 years ago, but the membership has seen a growth over the past few years and was reinstated this year.
Redeemer Lutheran Preschool was started in 2003 for 3-, 4- and 5-year-old children. This service will be provided again this year.
Pastors through the years have been, Missionary Rev. Martin Keller 1917-19; Rev. Joseph Steinmeyer, 1919-23; Rev. John Jungemann, 1923-63; Rev. Frederick Kuegele, 1963-74; Rev. John Schleicher, 1975-79; Rev. J.K. Raether, 1979-83; Robert Seible, 1983-86; Rev. Douglas Chinberg, 1989-92; Rev. Charles Boeder 1993-99; Rev. Timothy Rynearson 2000-present and Rev. Samuel Thole, 2017-present.
Through the grace of our Redeemer, the congregational members and pastors have remained strong and faithful and are ready to celebrate the milestone of 100 years.
Join them Sunday morning at 10:30 to help them celebrate.