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Cow Belle: 125th Anniversary

Our Savior’s Lutheran Church has been my “Church Home” for the past 65 years, ever since Husband and I and (then) one-year-old Sandy became members. It has been and still is one of the most important facets of our lives.

This year, on June 22, Our Savior’s will celebrate 125 years of ministry to its members and the community. It will be a special day, looking back on what is “Our Foundation” of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church.

We don’t want to dwell only on the past; then, it would be “only history.” We want to look forward to the future missions of Our Savior’s, near and far, generating renewed interest in proclaiming the Good News, being the hands and feet of Jesus wherever and however we can.           

The day will be a time of inspiration, reunions, catered noon meal and afternoon program.

The schedule is: 10 a.m. service with Pastor John Sutherland preaching. 11:15 Dedication of the new landscaped garden in memory of Matt Seibel. 11:30 Dinner (by ticket reservations only). 1:30 125th Anniversary celebration program.

Special guests will be members of previous pastors’ families, who have served at Our Saviors: Grace Jothen Olson, Paul Ulvilden and Ruth Ulvilden Klaas, Pastor Sue Odegard, Pastor John Sutherland and family.

A history booklet about Our Savior’s will be available that day in addition to the print of a drawing of the church, in three sizes. Our thanks to Dan Olson for his work on the history.

The cemetery association is working on having the gravesites listed on the website ( to assist people trying to locate the graves of relatives.

The present Our Savior’s was originally known as “South Rush River Lutheran Church” after a split with the first Our Savior’s, located less than a mile north. Then this newly formed congregation was joined with Salem Lutheran and Martell Lutheran as a parish under the United Synod. That was later dissolved.

The first pastor called was Torgeir Haugen. Then the women got to work, forming two groups: Eastern Ladies’ Aid and Western Ladies’ Aid, working to raise funds for charities, missions and church needs.

When Pastor Haugen accepted a call to a church in Menomonie, our next pastor was Erick Johnson, who helped form the Young People’s Society (later became Luther League). He left after three years to teach at Luther Seminary.

Pastor Haugen was again called and remained here until 1907.

In 1908, Pastor Aaberg was called to our parish from South Dakota. He moved his family of five to the parsonage, and also filled the barn with four cows, chickens and a team of horses. He also bought 40 acres next to the parsonage to farm. Pastor Aaberg stayed for 20 years in our parish and, during that time, he began to use English in his sermons instead of Norwegian.

Our next pastor was Pastor Rudolph Jothen in 1929, who served here for 28 years.

When the old Our Savior’s Church (known as the North Church) was discontinued, South Rush River changed its name to Our Savior’s Lutheran Church.

In 1950, women of the church were granted the right to vote at church meetings and, somewhere along the line, women and men no longer sat at opposite sides of the church. Families could all sit together wherever they chose. 

For many years, South Rush River church and Rush River were a parish, sharing the same pastor.

When Pastor Jothen resigned, Rev. Richard Ulvilden was called and, after 40 years of service, retired on Aug. 28, 1994. Pastor Dean Simpson served as Interim Pastor for about 18 months until John Sutherland accepted our call and was installed as pastor of the Rush River Lutheran parish at Our Savior’s.

Grace Swenson and Karna Baseman Stark both served as interns at Our Savior’s and two of Our Savior’s members became pastors: David Place and Sue Odegard. Sue first served as Youth and Volunteer Coordinator; and later became Pastor Sue Odegard, who now serves in a Shell Lake Lutheran Church. Both were ordained here at Our Savior’s.

In 2001, Rush River and Our Savior’s separated to become individual churches.

When Pastor John Sutherland was asked to join the synod Bishop’s office, the next step was to find a new pastor. Pastor Arte Sharot was hired as interim pastor and began his ministry with us on Nov. 16, 2013.

So much history! Too much to relate here, but for those interested, a booklet with the complete history of Our Savior’s will be available on June 22 at the 125th Anniversary Celebration. 

Hope to see you there!

--Ina Murray