This is from Peter behlen, presented during trinity's 90th anniversary celebration...

                KNOW ALL MEN BY THESE PRESENTS, That we, P.H. Schreck and W.A. Heintzen, do hereby certify, that we are the presiding officer and secretary, respectively, of the meeting of the stated worshippers of the German Lutheran religious society of Appleton, Minnesota, duly called according to the laws of the State of Minnesota, and held at Appleton, Minnesota.  That such meeting was held on the 7th day of May, 1918, at 8 o’clock, P.M., pursuant to said call, for the purpose of forming a religious corporation under the laws of the State of Minnesota.  That 20 stated worshippers of said society were present at said meeting.  That said meeting was organized by the election of Mr. P.H. Schreck as presiding officer, and W.A. Heintzen as secretary thereof.  That by unanimous vote of those present, it was voted:

 

1st.; That we organize and form a religious corporation, organized and associated for religious, educational and charitable purposes only.

2nd,; That the name of this organization, and the name by which it shall hereafter be know is TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH OF APPLETON, MINNESOTA.

…and it goes on from there…

 

                On behalf of the members of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Appleton, Minnesota, I welcome you to our afternoon celebration service.  Thank you for being a part of our giving thanks to God for the many blessings he has given us.  Thank you for helping us to look forward with anticipation to the many things God will do through us as “he recalls his promises and leads his people forth in joy with shouts of thanksgiving.”[1]

                It is this legalese that we heard a minute ago that starts the Certificate of Incorporation, filed in the Register of Deeds in the county of Swift that gives a “legal” start to Trinity. 

                But it’s not nearly so neat and clean as the words would indicate.  After all, we’re not dealing with perfect people here.  We’re dealing with sinful people, saved by God’s grace in Jesus Christ.  And we—or rather, I should say—our forefathers who started this church, forgiven in the blood of Christ as they were, struggled to live the forgiven life they were saved to live.  Pastor Waechter worked with this group of families from Appleton for 14 years as a preaching station before they were established as their own congregation.  It was then, in 1918, when an “excess” church building—left over from the merger of the Norwegian synods—that Trinity began. 

                April 1918—for a year the United States had been fighting in the Great War in Europe.  In the Spring the war was not going well for the Allies, by the Fall the war was over—to be replaced by the flu epidemic that hit in the fall, killing 675,000 Americans by the next Spring .  This was the same year that Trinity extended its first call to a pastor, a young man, W.C. Gesch from our seminary in St. Louis.  Part of a letter which Pastor Waechter wrote to him reads as follows:

May 10, 1918

Dear Mr. Candidate,

                Am writing you the following letter to clarify the call to Appleton Minnesota.  I served this place for fourteen years as a preaching station every fourteen days.  However it has now grown to the point where they need a pastor of their own.  Furthermore, so far the Norwegian Lutheran in Appleton had two congregations which were both served from out of town pastors.  Both of these congregations united into one congregation of 120 families and after the 1st of July will call their own pastor, who will also work in the English Language.  So if we don’t have our own Pastor in Appleton, we will lose all our English Mission Material by the Norwegians and may even lose some of our own people who would prefer the English language…

(later in the letter he writes)

                The congregation at his time has twenty eight voting members, eighty seven communicant members and 133 souls, besides this there is a lot of mission material which can be won by either the German or English language.  In the congregation we have a Ladies Aid with twenty three members…

                As yet we have no living quarters in Appleton, and therefore our wishes for the Pastor at Appleton are to remain single for a while.  As far as parochial school is concerned, we have no need for one as yet.  The congregation consists mostly of retired families and therefore very few children, although there are always some to instruct for confirmation.  Saturday and Sunday School should be started at once…(now he spends some time talking about the possibility of mission work in Correll, and then…)

                As we have the Pomme de Terre river right in Appleton, we have a lot of fishing and hunting, and in winter a lot of skating can be done, so there are wonderful opportunities for a young pastor in Appleton.  He will have to be careful so the old German saying “Fishing and bird catching spoils many a young life of a bachelor” will not come true.

                Now you see how important this call to Appleton is.  May the Lord give you true happiness to accept this call, and may the Lord bless you in your work.

                                                                                                                With brotherly love,

                                                                                                                M. Waechter[2]

 

                Great hopes.  Great expectations.  A young man, asked to—called to—mission work.  Services to be held in German in the Sunday forenoon, in the town of Danvers in the afternoon, and in English in the evening—according to Mrs. Sophie Haase, daughter of Rev. Waechter in a 1979 interview. [3]  And, it was hoped, that he would remain single!  Wouldn’t you have loved to be at the voters’ meeting where that one was ironed out!

                And yet the congregation did start—as God had planned it would.  It was no great idea of man that Trinity would start in 1918.  It was part of God’s great plan of salvation that he would get some German Lutherans together to proclaim the message of salvation in German and English in 1918.  Thanks be to God that he did!

                Oh, by the way, maybe we should go back to the salary package offered Pastor Gesch?  “We as members will gladly and willingly hear the Word of God which you will preach to us.  We will accept you as our Pastor and Shepherd.  We will love and honor you.  And for your bodily need we will give you a yearly salary of $400, and the mission board promised to add $150 to this.”

 

[1] Lutheran Worship. © 1982 Concordia Publishing House. P.173

[2] Handwritten translation of the German letter. Translator unknown. Letter at Trinity Lutheran Church.

[3] “The History of Trinity Lutheran Church Appleton, Minnesota” by Cheryl M. Schwarz, Augustana College, November 29, 1979.

Pastor and Mrs. Gesch after he left the Appleton congregation.
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