St. Peter's Lutheran Church celebrates centennial year

"The St. Peter's Lutheran Church congregation gathered Sunday for its Centennial Anniversary Service.The church was organized in 1901, and construction of the church was begun in 1904.Jim Larsen / staff photoIt's not often that a bishop gives the sermon at a small country church, but it happened Sunday at St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Clinton.The church was marking its 100th anniversary, and Lutheran Bishop Don Maier gave the sermon. He spoke about the importance of baptism, and by the time the sermon ended it was raining cats and dogs outside. But that didn't stop those present from gathering for a 100th anniversary photograph before retiring to the dining room for a celebratory dinner.The long tradition of the church was evident in the kitchen, where head cook Gust Skarberg directed a crew of family members and friends. I'm the boss, said Skarberg afterwards. Nobody would argue with that, because Skarberg has been cooking for decades. Sunday he served up ham, au gratin potatoes and all the trimmings. Each December, he helps with the traditional lutefisk dinner.Skarberg has been a member of the church since birth. He was confirmed in 1926 at the age of 12. That's quite a while, he laughed. Rev. O.L. Berge presided at Skarberg's confirmation, and he still remembers the reverend well. He'd give sermons in Norwegian and then in English, he recalled. Us kids got pretty fidgety.The church's Norwegian roots live today in its annual lutefisk dinners and the surnames of some of its members, but the Norwegian sermons are long gone. The church was officially organized in 1901by Pastor Erick Arneson Erickson and it was originally called St. Petri Norsk Evangeliske Lutherske Menighed. It didn't become St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church until 1947. Charter members in 1901 were the families of Andrew Olson, Gilbert Olson, John Jensen, Rasmus Anderson, Chris Berg, Jacob Simmons, Tom Orr and Ole Joyce.Skarberg and his wife Ruth have never considered attending any other church. He likes the simplicity and history of St. Peter's. I'm an old fashioned fella, he said. I like a church to look like a church -- no fancy stuff.The church's kitchen and entry area were added in later years, but the basic sanctuary remains the same. Electric lights have replaced oil lamps, but if anyone who attended in 1915 were to come back today, they'd feel right at home. The altar features a larger-than-life painting of Jesus and the doubting Thomas done by Pastor O.J. Edwards in 1912. One change they would notice is that men no longer sit on one side of the aisle and women on the other. That was a change even tradition-loving Gust Skarberg supported.Another long-time member who attended Sunday's service was Ruth Heggenes, who said she was confirmed in 1925 with one of the Swan girls. She remembers Sunday School and Luther League, in which the youth of the church held dinners to raise money. Her parents were Peter and Colleen Anderson, early Clinton pioneers for whom Anderson Road is named. A big annual event was an auction of church ladies' embroidery held at the Progressive Hall every year, with Gus Erikson serving as auctioneer. It was fun, Heggenes said. Erikson was the area's mailman for many years.Ruth and her husband Leif raised five boys, Roy, Lloyd, Alfred, Mick and Norman, all of whom were baptized at the St. Peter's baptismal font. Ruth, however, was baptized at a young age at home. I was sick and there was a lay minister next door, she said.Heggenes too has never considered going to another church. St. Peter's has met all her spiritual needs through the years. I was raised here, it was close and we were happy here, she said.Skarberg said the church needs some work but is structurally sound, and the building should last well into its second century of serving the Clinton community.There is a display of church history in the meeting room, and a memory jar that will be out all year that people can drop notes into. Those memories will become another part of the church's long history.Leadership changesSt. Peter's church officers, 1907: Deacon, Rasmus Anderson; trustees, Chris Berg, Ole Joyce, Jacob Simmons; secretary, A.J. Jensen; treasurer, Gilbert Olson.Officers 2001: Doug Holt, president; Seth Mackie, vice-president; Bob McGinty, secretary; Bob Warnock, treasurer; Irma Arhontas, Bob Alexander, Donald Heggenes, Jack Kniseley, Ralph Leidholm, Susan Sanders, Gust Skarberg, Dan Traylor.St. Peter's through timeHere are some of the historical highlights of the 100 years of St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Clinton.1901: Congregation organized by Pastor Erick Arneson Erickson and community members.1904: Chris and Martha Berg deed the property on which the church stands. It also includes the adjoining cemetery property.1907: A constitution is adopted under the leadership of Rev. I.J. Skrondal. No one is allowed to hold services at the church unless they hold to the Augsburg Confession.1908: Church site is cleared, pastor's salary set at $75 per year. An organ purchased and a concert held to raise money for the project. It is also decided to use English with occasional Norwegian services. Grave plot cost set at $1 per grave. The congregation calls Rev. E.J. Sandvig, who also serves the Lone Lake Lutheran Church. He serves until 1911.1911: The altar painting by Rev. O.J. Edwards is placed in the church at the cost of $55. The painting is of Jesus and the doubting Thomas.1912. Pastor Peter Skartvedt called at $200 a year with the congregation paying $110 and the Home Mission Board $90. He serves until 1917.1914: The church bell tower is moved to the center of the church.1920: Rev. O.L. Berge called as pastor, and also at Central Lutheran in Everett. He serves until 1934. During his time a 500-pound bell is purchased and installed, water is piped into the church, and T.R. Holland builds a box to be placed at the back of the church to hold the offering envelopes.1938: The church kitchen and a woodshed are built.1947: The Rev. Leon Holm, the first full-time resident pastor, is called, and a parsonage is purchased for $7,100.1949: Church choir organized with Mrs. Estelle Simmons directing, and choir gowns are purchased.1949: The Rev. A.L.S. Mathre is called as pastor, and he stays until 1956.1950: St. Peter's Ladies' Aid celebrates its 50th anniversary with a banquet. They'd begun meeting even before the church was formed in 1900. Charter members were Mrs. Gilbert Olson, president, Mrs. Andrew Olson, Mrs. Oly Joyce, Mrs. Jacob Simmons, Mrs. Rasmus Anderson, Mrs. John Jensen, Mrs. Inga Melling, Mrs. Chris Bert, Mrs. Tom Orr and Mrs Tom Berg.1954: Newly formed Trinity Lutheran Church in Freeland becomes part of the parish.1957: Old parsonage is sold and new parsonage built on two lots on Humphrey Road purchased from Otto Forde for $1,200. A 34-foot extension is added to the kitchen and dining room at a cost of $4,174, providing a primary Sunday school room, pastor's study, lavatories, and a spacious dining area. Prior to this, all big dinners were held at the Progressive Hall.1960s: The congregation is served by two ministers during this time, Rev. Richard A. Knutzen from 1959-1962, and Rev. Kenneth Olson from 1962-1972.1976: Proposed budget of St. Peter's is $13,679, Trinity $4,836, totaling $28,515. Trinity begins feasibility study of building its own church in Freeland. Pastor Wayne Bohling, who started in 1972, resigns.1978: Rev. Marvin Knutzen accepts the call and stays until 1992 when he moves to Bellingham.1981: Music and Worship Committee decides not to increase the tempo of the music during the worship services.1982: Roy Heggenes is instructed to make four classrooms in the basement with sheet rock walls. A donation of $844 covers the cost.1992: Rev. Paul Benz is called to be pastor.1993: Ester Moe, longtime church organist, retires and is replaced by Lucy Carlson.1999: Seth and Connie Mackie agree to co-chair the centennial committee.2000: Pastor Benz resigns to accept a call with Lutheran Social Services in Seattle. The process of finding a new pastor begins. "

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