An Oasis Of Christianity in Ogden
By October 10 of that year, these few were joined by Pastor Frans August Linder and his family who was dispatched by the Scandinavian Lutheran Augustana Synod in North America. Before the year was out, the fledgling congregation had received the deed to a lot on the corner on 23rd and Jefferson where the present church is still located. Title to the property was held in the name of "the Board of Directors of the Church Extension Society of the Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Augustana Synod of Rock Island, Illinois." It wasn't until 1942 that Elim held the property in its own name when it was incorporated in accordance with Utah law.
The congregation was formally organized on December 8, 1889, when the names of the charter members were entered in the church register. This group consisted of Pastor and Mrs. Linder and three children, Mr. & Mrs. S.W. Linder, Lars Johnson, John Bergstrom, Emelia Nilson, Mrs. Johanna Hallander & four children, and Emma & Maria Bengston.
Construction of a white frame chapel began in 1889 and was completed in 1890. It seated 150 and cost some $15,000. While construction was underway, the congregation met at the First Presbyterian Church about a block away. The congregation received financial assistance for many years from various national church sources. It didn't become fully independent until 1952 when it severed the last ties with the Board of American Missions of the Augustana Lutheran Church.
Pastor Linder encountered other problems in addition to those usually associated with starting a new congregation. According to the Rev. Carl A. Glad writing on "Our Mission Work in Utah" in the Augustana Synod's Missionary Calendar, Rev. Linder found the native population so hostile that it was difficult to find a residence where he could live unmolested. At one time, while riding home from a funeral, two shots were fired at his rig, and, on another occasion, rocks were hurled into his bedroom.
In the fall of
Linder was called to serve Zion Lutheran Church in Salt Lake City.
the next two years, Elim was without a regular pastor.
First Confirmation Class
of nearly eight years, the pastor of Zion Lutheran in Salt Lake City
in charge of the work at Elim. Some assistance was given by seminary
during the summers, but the real glue holding the congregation together
during this time was a deaconess, Sister Huldah Hultquist, who spent
time in Ogden. In addition to her church work, Sister Hultquist was a
and the money she earned from nursing was turned over to the church.
helped to organize Elim's Ladies' Aid society and Sunday School.
interim periods were to be a common problem throughout the
first 55 years. During that time, the congregation was without a
pastor for 22 years.
Gathering the Sheep...Again
A Luther League group of 18 young adults was organized in 1906. This group, unlike the older members of the congregation, used the English language exclusively in their activities and later became strong proponents of English-language-only worship services. As the Rev. Elmquist noted in his 1907 pastoral report, attendance at the Swedish language services had dropped off sharply.
During this time at Elim, Pastor Elmquist also worked with congregations in Park City, Bingham Canyon and Rock Springs, Wyoming. Other pastors who would follow him also served these areas up until the early 1940s.
three classes of young people--in 1904, 1906, and 1907. In November of
1907, the Elmquists accepted a call to a congregation in Chariton,
and Elim once again became an appendage of the Zion Lutheran Church in
Salt Lake City. Over the next 10 years, seminarians served between
terms, and classes were confirmed in 1909 and 1912.
English Language Services Adopted
Probably the greatest change was a decision by the congregation in January of 1919 to adopt the English language for all church services. The Dorcas Society and Lutheran Brotherhood were established during these years, also the Sunday School made substantial gains in attendance and activity. Three classes of young people were confirmed in 1917, 1920 and 1921. In the summer of 1922, Pastor Olson and his family left Ogden for a church in Wausa, Nebraska.
During a one-year interim, a seminary student, Bernhard Brynell, served as an intern. While at Elim, he meet his wife to be, Melvina Swanson. Their connections with this congregation would bring them back to Ogden after their retirement when the Rev. Brynell would help Elim through another interim period and serve as an assistant pastor.
The Rev. Paul R.O.
arrived at Elim in August, 1923, to serve two short term ministries. He
left in October, 1926, and for the ensuing two years, the congregation
was again under the pastoral care of the Salt Lake City parish.
Holding It Together
In spite of the hardships, Pastor Carlson remained at Elim for about 12 years, thereby providing the longest period of continuous pastoral care in the church's history up to 1940. During his ministry, the "Mr. and Mrs. Club", for younger married couples, was started, and the congregation's 50th "Golden Jubilee" was celebrated in 1938. In 1940, the Carlson family moved to Marshalltown, Iowa. Pastor Carlson died October 18, 1975, in Salt Lake City.
During the next
the congregation was served by two capable seminary students--Neale
and Carl Bergquist. Mr. Nelson later married Ruth Landvatter, a member
of the Elim family. In the 1960's the Rev. Nelson served as pastor of
Lutheran Church in Salt Lake City.
The Wartime Boom
A New (Recycled) Church Building
The Church Council and the new pastor moved quickly to set new goals for the congregation. A three-point plan of action was approved and included: (1) an intensified program of evangelism to increase membership and improve stewardship, (2) an all out effort to increase the building fund to $25,000 and hire an architect to prepare preliminary sketches and a prospectus, and (3) a plan for actual construction.
On November 9, 1947, ground breaking ceremonies for the new church were held, and the Larson Construction Co. began work almost immediately. An agreement was made whereby volunteer labor and salvage materials could be used. Over 10,000 hours of labor were donated by the men of the congregation. Three government buildings at the Utah General Depot (now Defense Depot Ogden) were purchased, dismantled and the material salvaged. In addition, members of the congregation cleaned 50-60,000 used bricks. An agreement with a local brickyard allowed them to keep one brick for every two they cleaned. The Dorcas Society, Ladies' Aid and Ailota Girls served, baked, bought and sold meals to help out the workers and raise funds for the new church. At the height of construction, the building loan was canceled because the government ordered lending agencies to allocate a certain percentage of their resources to home loans. The empty shell stood vacant for several months until new loans could be negotiated.
On March 7, 1948, the cornerstone for the new church was laid. Almost exactly one year later on March 6, 1949, the first worship service with communion was held in the new sanctuary. On May 8, the formal dedication of the building took place. In 1949, average Sunday worship attendance was reported to be 101 with average Sunday School attendance at 79. Those number dropped to 39 as Elim became an older congregation.
call to Fontana, California, and left Elim in June of 1950. He died
29, 1973, in California. During Pastor Lewis' tenure, church membership
increased 120 percent to nearly 300 members, Sunday School enrollment
175 percent, and the church's income tripled. A new organization for
women, the Ailota Girls, was established and Lutheran Brotherhood
An Unfortunate Interlude
Rev. Julius E. Lorimer served as interim pastor for several months, and
Robert Janes, a student at the University of Utah, conducted services
of the time. Mr. Janes later attended seminary and became a Lutheran
He also married a daughter of the congregation, Doris Hess. During this
interim period, the congregation began collecting donations for the
of a pipe organ. In 1955, the goal was reached.
During this time, Elim helped start a new congregation in Roy, Utah. Originally, the plan was for Elim to start a branch Sunday School in Roy, but response was so favorable that worship services were begun in March of 1955. Laymen from Elim conducted services until June when Robert Janes from Elim became lay pastor. The Roy congregation became a mission of the Augustana Lutheran Church in May, 1955. Land was purchased for future construction by late 1955, and the congregation, Our Savior's Lutheran Church, was formally organized on March 25, 1956. It remains a close sister congregation to this day.
In 1959, Pastor Bernhard Brynell, Elim's first "son-in-law", retired from the full time ministry and returned to Ogden. He began assisting Pastor Erickson in calling, visitation of the sick and at Holy Communion. He also served as interim pastor between November, 1960 and January, 1961.
call to Glendale, California, in the fall of 1960 and left Elim on
1. By this time, the congregation had grown to 485 baptized members
confirmed) despite the fact that more than 50 members transferred to
Lutheran Church (a newly formed congregation of the American Lutheran
that was organized in the fall of 1960.
Remodeling and Expanding
Ground for the expansion was broken on February 24, 1963. The rear wall of the church was removed and overflow space added with a balcony above to house the organ and choir. The entire chancel was rebuilt, and a new classroom and office wing was added. The "renewed" Elim was dedicated on October 13, 1963, just 75 years and three days after the congregation's first pastor began his work in Ogden.
Pastor Brynell continued to share in the work and growth of Elim during this time. He was officially installed as assistant pastor in 1962 and served until September, 1965. Pastor Brynell died February 6, 1974, in Southern California.
The year 1963 was a high-water mark for Elim in several ways. It celebrated its "Diamond Jubilee" anniversary, completed a major remodeling and expansion program, and reached a new high with 800 baptized and 450 confirmed members. For the first time in history Elim's income exceeded $50,000. It also started its first year as part of the new "Lutheran Church in America" which grew out of the merger of four large Lutheran synods.
Dalberg accepted a call to Church of the Good Shepherd in Concord,
He has recently retired and lives in Buelton, California.
Social Ministry Emphasis
Social Ministry programs became a very important part of the church's activities. Elim provided housing, support and volunteers for a community hotline telephone service, that continued through the early 1980's. The Family Counseling Service, Alcoholics Anonymous and the Head Start Program were also supported in various ways by the congregation. Pastor Paulsen frequently spent his days off cooking meals at a nearby alcohol treatment center.
In 1973, Pastor
left Utah and moved to Tucson, Arizona. Eventually, he left the
ministry and became a member of the Unitarian Church.
Transitions in Church and Community
In the late 1970s, Elim's congregational president, Rollin Boe, was elected to the Synod Council of the Pacific Southwest Synod of the Lutheran Church in America.
Pastor Reenstjerna and the congregation continued to support many of the social ministry initiatives begun during the Paulsen years and added others like SHARE, a community food program for the needy, and the Battered Women's Shelter. In 1984, Elim opened its doors for a neighborhood after school program for latchkey children, fittingly called the Oasis Program and called Deaconess Karen McClendon to lead this ministry.
There was also the development and cementing of ecumenical relationships with other congregations, particularly Good Shepherd Episcopal and St. Joseph's Catholic Churches. Together, these churches support needed community services like St. Anne's Center that provides meals, clothing, shelter, education and job placement for the homeless. They have also joined together for Lutheran/Roman Catholic dialogs, Lenten classes and services as well as Vacation Bible Schools.
In January, 1988, Utah Lutherans gathered at St. Joseph's Catholic Church to celebrate the national merger that united the American Lutheran Church, Lutheran Church in America and Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches to become the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Elim became a part of the Rocky Mountain Synod of the ELCA.
Elim member Shirley Ash was appointed to the Outdoor Ministry Commission and the Minority Affairs Commission of the Synod, and Elim member David Thomas was appointed to the Inclusiveness Commission.
Pastor Reenstjerna instituted several adult courses including one that was particularly helpful to members who felt they needed to know more about comparisons between the Lutheran and Mormon faiths. He developed a curriculum called "Apologetics" that proved helpful in greatly lessening the minority complex that plagues so many non-Mormons in the land of "Zion".
In the summer of
Reenstjerna was called to lead a congregation in the retirement
of Sun City, California. They left Elim that August after serving for
years and nine months, the longest ministry in Elim's history at that
Leaving No One Out
Bridging the 20th and 21st Centuries
In the fall of 1989, as a way of celebrating Elim's 100 years of ministry in Utah, the congregation decided not to buy itself a memento that would sit on a shelf, but instead gave a $5,000 cash gift to Grace Lutheran Church; a new ELCA mission congregation in Centerville, Utah. In 1995 Grace Lutheran Church moved into a church building of their own, just down the street in Bountiful, Utah. The people of Elim felt that it was fitting, that as we celebrated God's blessings on our 100 years of ministry that we would, at the same time, make a significant contribution to assist a new congregation get started in their own.
Significant emphasis was placed on the congregation as not being seen as an "older" or "younger" congregation, but one that is truly multi-generational. The congregation became ethnically diverse. No longer was Elim a "Swedish" congregation. People who called the Elim community of faith "home" had ethnic backgrounds which included African American, Native American, Hispanic, Mediterranean, and Northern European. A great many people within the Elim community of faith were not life-long Lutherans, but came from a vast array of denominational backgrounds. There were also a significant number of current members who were converts from Mormonism.
A new day can also be seen in the worship life of the congregation. As radical as that move to "All-English" services must have seemed in 1919, so also was there some initial concern in 1990 when the congregation made a full time commitment to offering two different formats of worship every Sunday; a "traditional" and a "contemporary" style. This commitment is for the rest of the life of the congregation and is drawn from a Biblical directive of hospitality. The worship experience at Elim was very sensitive to the unchurched nature of our current society, and sought to provide a meaningful opportunity for all people to participate in worshiping God. Whether one attended a service which is very formal and "traditional" or was part of a service which was held outdoors and was very "contemporary," that person would experience a very meaningful and "user-friendly" worship service.
Elim continued its direct connection with many community agencies. Pastor Kruse served as the Vice President of the St. Anne's Center for the homeless. He was also requested by Bishop Alan Bjornberg to serve on the newly formed Rocky Mountain Synod Worship Committee, and did so for eight years. In 1995, Pastor Kruse was invited by the ELCA to lead "Alternative Worship" workshops at the ELCA Global Mission Event held in Fort Collins, Colorado. Working very closely with Elim's Worship and Music staff, he was also asked by congregations throughout the state and elsewhere to help teach how to effectively implement new styles of worship into congregational life.
Pastor Kruse also served on the Rocky Mountain Synod Candidacy Committee. In the fall of 2000, Pastor Kruse extended Elim's ministry by becoming involved internationally in the leading and teaching of prayer and prayer ministries. In 2002, Mrs. Joyce Toone was commissioned as Elim's first Minister of Prayer.
In 2002, at
Mountain Synod Assembly in Salt Lake City, Pastor Kruse's wife Nancy
elected to serve on the Synod's Congregational Ministries Board. She
served as the Executive Director of Community of Churches in Utah.
In 2003, Ginny
Roberts was commissioned as Elim's second Minister of Prayer.
Kruse's ministry, the membership of Elim and attendance at worship
services continued to decline. By 2005, baptized membership stood at
260, and confrimed membership at 207. An average of 64 people attended
worship services, and Sunday School attendance, including both children
and adults, was an average of 24, the lowest figures since 1944. Giving
per confrimed member, however, stood at an all-time high.
In October 2005,
Pastor Kruse accepted a call as Associate Pastor of Christ the King
Lutheran Church in Hutchinson, Minnesota. Again without a pastor, the
lay members of Elim stepped up to keep the church going, especially
Congregation President Rick Givens. Several supply pastors took turns
in the pulpit, notably Pastor Robert Tyce. Other pastors who led Sunday
worship during the hiatus were Pastor Duane Adams, Pastor Bill
Heersink, and Pastor Steve Ingram. Lay members who preached included
Rick Givens, Mary Givens, Ginny Roberts, Louise Cole, and Dave Thomas.
In May 2006, the
congregation voted unanimously to extend a term call to Pastors David
and Renee Kiel. The Pastors Kiel had been serving as joint pastors at
Ascension Lutheran in Ogden, and recently, Pastor Renee had been on
active duty as a U.S. Army Chaplain in Afghanistan. The Kiels were
called to a nine month "term" call at one quarter time each, continuing
to serve Ascension for three-quarters of their time. The call began on
September 2, 2006, after Pastor Renee returned from Afghanistan. In
October, 2006, Pastor David resigned his calls to both Elim and
Ascension for personal reasons. Pastor Renee continued to serve as a
quarter-time pastor, alternating Sunday worhip leadership with Pastor
In May 2006,
the congregation was saddened to receive news that former Pastor Henry
Reenstjerna had passed to glory on Friday, May 27, 2006, in Sun City,
California, where he had been living in retirement.
In January, 2007,
the Lord provided a new opportunity for Elim's need for a pastor.
Pastor DanaLee Ommen was moving to Utah to marry Dr. Kirk Simon of Salt
Lake City. Pastor Ommen was interested in Elim's part-time call, and
after interviewing with the call committee headed by Joyce Toone,
leading a worship service, and meeting with the congregation, accepted
a call voted by the congregation. Pastor Ommen's first Sunday at Elim
was March 25, 2007. Pastor Ommen brought a new emphasis on involving
lay members in leading the worship service.
On May 27, 2007,
Pastor Ommen became Pastor DanaLee Simon when she and Kirk were united
in marriage in Salt Lake City.
There are many other people, events and programs that have made and continue to make Elim an oasis of refreshment in this desert. Several Elim families have been members of the congregation for generations. Others come, give of their time, talents and treasure for a few years, and then have to move onto other places where jobs or other commitments beckon, but their presence among us continues to add new enthusiasm and growth.
Elim Lutheran Church has been, currently is, and by the Grace of God will continue to be a Great Commission congregation, committed to carrying out Jesus' words: "Go and make disciples of all people, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."
As the Danish hymn writer Nicolai Grundtvig wrote in 1817:
"God's Word is our great heritage and shall be ours forever; to spread it's light from age to age shall be our chief endeavor."