On November 21, 1880, twenty-five pioneer Norwegian and Swedish immigrants formed the congregation of Kongsvinger Lutheran Church to serve the farm families of the rapidly growing Scandinavian-American community. The first pastor was the Rev. Bersvend Anderson, a ‘circuit-riding’ pastor who helped form numerous Lutheran churches comprised of Scandinavian immigrants in the Red River Valley of Minnesota.
The congregation met in homes until 1887 when land was donated by one of the charter members to site a church and cemetery. The first church building was erected in 1887, just south of the current building.
On August 27, 1931, lightning struck the church and the original building burned to the ground. The congregation immediately began to rebuild and a new structure was dedicated on June 12, 1932.
In May, 2002, an expansion and remodeling project was begun that added almost 5,000 square feet (450 m2) to the building providing a new, accessible fellowship hall, kitchen, office and restroom facilities. In addition, the 1932 sanctuary was fully remodeled creating a totally new interior to the church building. The new facility was dedicated on August 3, 2003.
The church was founded as a member of the Hauge Synod in the Red River Valley. In 1918, the church became part of the Norwegian Lutheran Church in America and in 1941 was affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELC). Later, the church was affiliated with the American Lutheran Church (ALC), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and in 1990 became part of The American Association of Lutheran Churches (The AALC).
Until the mid-1930’s, church services, hymnals and Christian education materials were all in the Norwegian language. At that time, English-speaking services alternated with Norwegian. The first English songbooks were purchased in 1939 and English became the language of the church.
Through the years, Kongsvinger has been aligned with several other Lutheran churches in the area through parish arrangements. Kongsvinger partnered with Trinity Lutheran church of Grand Forks, ND, in the early years until 1918. Later, the church shared a pastor with several other rural Grand Forks Lutheran churches. From 1941-1955, Kongsvinger joined with four other Lutheran churches from the Oslo, MN, area to form a five-point parish. In 1959, the church formed a parish arrangement with Bethlehem Lutheran church of Alvarado, MN; this arrangement continued until the mid-1980’s.
In 1989, due to declining membership and lack of a pastor, the Kongsvinger church closed its doors for over three months in order to re-evaluate its purpose and mission. To almost everyone’s amazement, God provided the desire, resources, and pastoral arrangement leading to a re-activation of the congregation and a full slate of church activities. In 1990, for the first time in over one hundred years, the Kongsvinger church had a full-time pastor and stood as a ‘Beacon on the Prairie’ as a witness to God’s grace.
Since 1990, the congregation has experienced God’s love and perseverance in maintaining and growing a body of believers in spite of a declining rural population. The congregation has experienced the reality that God’s Word is more powerful than a two-edged sword and that a clear presentation of that Word draws seeking individuals to a relationship with Him.
From closed doors in 1989 to a project that more than doubled the size of the church is a miracle in the eyes of the long-time members of the church. That miracle was realized as members and contractors began to donate time and materials to reduce the overall costs. The church today reflects its rural heritage but with all-modern construction, mechanical systems, and handicapped-accessible features. The church is also equipped to utilize the latest in audio-visual equipment.
The congregation of the Kongsvinger church has seen God’s rich provision of resources for this project. Most of all, the congregation has seen spiritual growth as they have watched God working in the lives of individuals and the congregation.