Who we are
and what we believe.
During the first years of the 1900’s people found their way to Rainy Lake and Rainy River attracted by gold, free homestead land, timber, open spaces and jobs. Soon a power dam was built followed by a paper mill. The cities of International Falls and Fort Frances began to grow & prosper.
A missionary pastor by the name of Henry O. Hemming worked from his base in Roseau traveling by horse, foot, train, snowshoe and boat to International Falls on both sides of the Rainy River on a regular schedule tending to the needs of the people and encouraging their efforts to organize congregations.
His work paid off and one of his preaching stations in International Falls organized as a congregation on February 3, 1909. It was called Bethel and would later change its name to First Lutheran. There were 34 Charter Members.
Bethel (First) called its 1st pastor, Edward A. Lindgren, on May 12, 1909 and he began work in February of 1910. His salary was $50 a year. Worship was held in the Chapel which would later become the parsonage. The new church building was completed in 1914 on the corner of 6th Street and 7th Avenue. It cost $4,000 to build. It exists as an apartment building today.
On January 3, 1917, women were given the right to vote in the congregation, three years before the national vote. They formed a Ladies Aid to do service projects and raise money for special projects. It is now First Lutheran Women and they are still movers and shakers.
A basement was constructed under the building in June of 1925.
On March 15, 1927, Bethel changed its name to First Lutheran Church. The reason for this change was that the townspeople had come to think of Bethel as the Swedish Lutheran church. Our congregation wished to diminish the ethnic identity of the congregation for it was using English in most of its services and to establish the fact that we were the first Lutheran church to be founded in the community.
Our first pipe organ was purchased in March of 1941. Music is an integral part of our personality.
We began raising money for a new building in 1956 and construction on the existing church building began in 1962. The first service was Easter of 1963. This building cost $135,000. Prior to that, the congregation built a new parsonage with 5,100 hours of volunteer labor and 169 hours of purchased labor. 135 men and teenagers donated their efforts to build and finish the structure. An educational wing was added in 1972.