Sheldahl’s United Methodist Church is getting ready to blow out 150 candles.
OK, realistically, the church will not have a cake with 150 candles on it, but this Sunday, Oct. 7, the church will celebrate its 150th birthday.
On Sunday, at its 11 a.m. worship service, special guest, the Rev. Carol Kress, superintendent for the North Central District of Iowa for the Methodist Church, will be present. The service will be followed by a special noon meal and a 2 p.m. program that will highlight former pastors and memories, while featuring special music.
Looking back, the history of Sheldahl United Methodist Church shows that there was an interest in the church as early as 1854. It was then that a Methodist class was organized by M.G. Smith in “Swedes Point,” which is now Madrid. For quite a few years, Methodist meetings were held in homes, schoolhouses and for a short time, in the Christian Church at Madrid. The early work, however, eventually dried up.
In 1868, the Rev. John Linn came back to the area to revive the earlier group, and it is from this revival that the Sheldahl Methodist Church began. The work at the time was called, “Webster Mission with Rev. John Linn, the presiding elder.” Linn eventually settled in Sheldahl.
The Rev. P.M. Lindquist came to Sheldahl in 1873 and became the church’s first resident pastor. A church building was erected in 1875, during the time that P.J. Peterson was the minister of the congregation.
There was a discussion in the early years of the church as to whether it should be built in Swedes Point or Sheldahl. Church history records say that due to “transportation difficulties for the Swedes Point” location, it was decided to build at Sheldahl, which at the time had good railroad service.
The church building’s construction came to $1,100, which was paid for through donations.
The church was rebuilt in 1903, while Otto Rabe was the minister. Part of the old building was used in that rebuilding project. That part is now the back room of the church’s sanctuary.
During a severe storm in August of 1924, lightning struck the church steeple and set it afire. Neighbors noticed the blaze and came to the rescue. A bucket brigade was formed and the fire was put out. The Sheldahl Lutheran Church was used for services while the Methodist Church was being remodeled. When the remodeling was done, the steeple was replaced by a tower, which now houses the church bell.
The church building has been updated over the years, but as the church history states, “a church … is more than a building. It is a body of believers, a testimony to God of men and women who believe in Him, and endeavor to carry forth the message of His Son, Jesus The Christ.”
Current Sheldahl Methodist Pastor Emily Peasley can attest to the fact that the Sheldahl church is much more than a building. She said it is amazing to her how strong the members of this church are in their faith.
Peasley said it doesn’t surprise her that the church has lasted 150 years, because the church is very mission-oriented. The members give both in their community and beyond (the local community). Through IN-Gathering, a Methodist mission, the members of the Sheldahl Methodist congregation have made and given over 100 kits a year for those in need. This is a project that involves the whole congregation and allows them to “live out their faith.”
Since celebrating their 140th church birthday, back in 2008, the church has been involved in some new programs: Helping Hands, Grief Share, Clothing Pantry, Stephen Ministry and ecumenical Bible studies. The church has also participated in the Healthy Church Initiative. Peasley said, “Keeping up relationships in the church and in the community” are important to the church.
Peasley said the average church attendance each Sunday is around 20 people, although the membership role is higher. Like many small congregations today, the Sheldahl United Methodist Church has a need for new active members and financial support, and is faced with the challenge of an aging congregation.
This weekend’s celebration will be a great milestone for those who have remained committed to this little church and helped bring it to its 150th year. “It’s a chance to look back and remember all the good things that have happened and to celebrate all that God has done in their midst,” Peasley said. “God has been faithful thus far, and this is a chance to take a look into the future to see what God has planned for us.”
Current church leaders include: Bruce Drzycimski, lay leader; Connie Peterson, church board chair; Deb Drzycimski, church board secretary; Lori Obernolte, treasurer; Greg Peterson, trustees chair; Margaret McKinney, SPRC chair; and Deanna Jones and JoAnn Barnes, UMW co-chairs.
As the church looks to the future, Peasley and other church leaders are determined to continue. “We are a mission-giving and community-minded church, offering activities and God’s Word to the community,” Peasley said. “We will continue serving the Sheldahl community.”