On April 16th, there was a celebration at Trinity Lutheran Church, located at 612 North Water Street, in Sparta. It just so happened that the celebration, commemorating 70 years’ worth of worship in the sacred structure, coincided with the dedication of a piano to the church, from the family of a previous pastor. The swirling kind energies of gratitude, celebration and fellowship were palpable, and were cohesively braided together through song and prayer. The celebratory event forged into an even flow of gratefulness, and when the fire of the Holy Spirit cooled the kiln, the molded memory stood strong in the minds, hearts and souls of the Trinity Lutheran faithful.
The piano and the pastor
Reverend Luther Larson had served Trinity Lutheran for 19 years, and in an uncommon move, he and his wife Jan stayed in Sparta, after he retired, in July of 1995. The two met, while singing in their college choir, at Augsburg College, in Minneapolis. They were married in June of 1955. While serving in parishes in Larslan and Malta, Montana, Luther sang in a barbershop quartet, called the Chordials. He and his wife Jan brought their love for music with them, to Trinity Lutheran, in Sparta, in1976.
Al Ask, longtime member of Trinity Lutheran, former treasurer and current council member, informed the Herald, “This piano was donated by the Larson family. Reverend Luther Larson and his wife Jan donated this grand piano. He was a very important pastor in the history of the congregation. His wife played a very important part in the congregation, taking on a strong role as a musician. She was a private teacher of music, as well, for congregational members.”
Pastor Jim Scaife, interim pastor at Trinity Lutheran, stated, “We even had our ELCA [Evangelical Lutheran Church in America] Bishop in attendance, Bishop Felix J. Malpica, Bishop of the La Crosse Area Synod, for the celebration. He is a very musical man. He joined the celebration and played music on the piano and sang the service benediction. He also recited the dedication of the piano.”
On what the piano and music in general, brings to a congregation, Pastor Jim Scaife stated, “The music that comes from a piano, in a church, is a tremendous way of lifting worship and the spirit of celebration, turning peoples’ hearts to God. It was a really good fit for the two celebrations to take place on the same day. The Holy Spirit was at work.”
Other members taking active musical roles in the celebrations included Virginia Bolen, a longtime member of the congregation, and Adell Morton, who both played the piano. Each person who participated had both a scripture and a song that they shared with the congregation. The choir also sang.
The Pastor’s Children
Pastor Luther Larson and his wife Jan had three children, who all joined in the congregational celebration. The oldest is Donna Lou, who was born the same year that her father had been ordained at Luther Seminary, in Minneapolis. Deborah and Daniel are Donna Lou’s siblings. “They came and sang together at the celebration dedication,” Pastor Scaife said.
“The piano was donated by the children, just after the passing of their father, on July 6th, of 2020,” stated Pastor Scaife. “It was a very sad day that happened to coincide with the beginning of Covid, which meant that although the children had donated the piano, there could be no dedication ceremony at that time.” Members of the children’s extended families also joined in the celebration.
Pastor Scaife stated, “In Christianity you have a living Holy Spirit, and over the years, the members of the congregation bring in the strong and monumental aspects of their lives, such as the pinnacles of baptisms and marriages, which are high points of happiness and joy, but also, the members come together in the lowest moments, consumed with grief over the passing of loved ones. Music helps facilitate this connection. When hearts want to turn to God, music can be the conduit for that amazing moment.”
Running hand in hand with the grand piano dedication, was the 70th, Anniversary of the church itself. Everyone that participated received the original dedication guide, from April 12th, 1953. Within the booklet, the history of Trinity Lutheran was written. The little white church, which stood on South Water Street, was the original meeting place for Trinity Lutheran. It was built in 1886. Actual recorded baptismal records for Trinity Lutheran, date back to 1874.
The original little white church, which held 60 people, was relocated to Norskedalen Nature & Heritage Center, N455 O Opus Road, in Coon Valley. You can reach them at (608)452-3424.
A detailed slideshow had been prepared by Christen Gasner, showing the original stained-glass windows, as well as giving a presentation on the Christian symbols that were shown during the prelude to the service.
The event committee members, who planned the entire celebrational event, include Pastor Jim Scaife, Donna Boland, Christen Gasner, Mary Herrman, Cynthia Lockington, Adell Morton and Alton Ask. There was a special luncheon, after the service, for which Marie Grewal had made cookies, created in the shapes of musical notes. The hymn “Our Church” was written to the tune of “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” for the original dedication, by Ollie Swanson, a dedicated church member, who was a former Monroe County School Superintendent. The scriptures and hymns sung during the service, were the same ones used at the original dedication, back in April of 1953.
The Herald would like to thank Al Ask and Pastor Jim Scaife for their contributions on this article.
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