Hartland church to celebrate 150th; Sept. 10 celebration planned for 10:30 a.m.

Published 8:17 am Monday, August 21, 2017

HARTLAND — West Freeborn Lutheran Church is celebrating 150 years this year, with the mission of fulfilling the calling of Jesus Christ.

The church will celebrate its anniversary Sept. 10. A church service is slated to start at 10:30 a.m. A catered meal will be after the service, and donations will be accepted. A program celebrating the church’s anniversary is scheduled to start at 1 p.m.

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According to an article in the Tribune commemorating the church’s 125th anniversary in 1992, West Freeborn Lutheran Church was organized in 1867. A church that cost approximately $5,700 was built in 1876 and destroyed in a fire caused by lightning on July 4, 1930.

Excavation on a new church began the following year, and the Sunday school program was established in 1932. The article stated the West Freeborn and Hartland parish completed one of the most modern parsonages in the area in 1952, and a new altar was erected and dedicated in 1957. A narthex and education wing was completed in 1973. A renovation to the addition was completed within the last few years, with a majority of work done by church volunteers. The addition has become more handicap-accessible.

A sign Friday at West Freeborn Lutheran Church reads “the friendliest church in the county.” Colleen Harrison/newsroom@austindailyherald.com

Lorraine Dillavou began attending the church after her father purchased a farm in Manchester Township in 1940.

“I thought it was a nice church,” she said.

Dillavou, now 87, attended Sunday school, was a member of the Luther League and led altar guild and ladies aide groups. She was married twice in the church, and all six of her children were confirmed at West Freeborn Lutheran Church. Dillavou now lives in Albert Lea.

“It was a really nice church to go to,” she said. “I enjoyed it.”

West Freeborn Lutheran Church member Viola Krosgaard of Freeborn was neighbors with Dillavou. They would take turns driving to church.

Krosgaard still remembers the feeling she got when she joined West Freeborn Lutheran Church.

“It was, I would say, the most welcoming congregation I’ve ever walked into,” she said.

Past president Dale Christopherson said the church gave up to $5,000 per year through different agencies during his tenure. He recalled the tornadoes that ripped through the region in June 2010 that left extensive local damage.

“Every day for a full week … 50 to 70 people that were working, helping neighbors clean up after the tornado,” he said.

Christopherson spoke of his faith, which he said guides him through tough times.

“If I have a problem in my life, I’ve got a higher power that is going to help me, guide me through it,” he said. “I can sleep better at night knowing that I’ve got a higher power looking over me.”


LaVaun Ausen, who lives west of Hartland with her son, Steve, married her now-deceased husband, Oscar Ausen, in the church in 1948. Five of her children were baptized and confirmed there. She still attends mass with her son each week.

“The more I was here, the more it got to be home, because I didn’t have a church before I came here,” LaVaun Ausen said.

Ausen, who is also a member of the altar guild, formed connections with other church members while attending ladies circle.

“The ladies in the circle are my best friends,” she said. “I lean on them a lot, especially when I was young. They taught me everything I know about the Christian faith.”

West Freeborn Lutheran Church lists more than 90 families as members. Weekly services are at 9 a.m. Sundays. The Rev. Steven Schwartz is pastor at the church.

Church President Dave Ausen said the church’s goal is to keep families and extended families in the church.

“We know we need people,” he said. “And the small communities, rural communities are dwindling. We would like to see this (church) continue. And that’s kind of our goal right now, is to make sure we have people coming. Family is important, too.”

Ausen’s wife, church secretary Becky Ausen, also said faith has guided her through difficult times in her life.

“We’ve had situations throughout our time, and when you are going through it, sometimes you’re like, ‘why me,’” she said. “But then when you go through it, it’s like, you look back, and it’s like, ‘now I get it.’ God’s right there with you. I think that’s what the church is about. It’s family.”

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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