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A Little History

A Brief History of
St. Ansgar Lutheran Church

Early Church:  Fifteen years or more before St. Ansgar Lutheran Church was organized, religious meetings were held in various homes. Later on, meetings were held in Bickley Hall. Reverend A.S. Hansen and Reverend Jensen Mylund, both of Nazareth Lutheran Church in Cedar Falls, conducted meetings on two Sunday afternoons a month.  A Danish Ladies Aid group was organized on May 29th, 1891. Mrs. A.O. Madsen was responsible for organizing the group which had nineteen children enrolled in classes held in her home.


The first home of St. Ansgar was in Dr. Bickley’s Hall which was on West Fourth Street near the Rock Island depot. Although basic, this was the home of the church for about three years. Meetings were held on Sunday afternoons twice a month to worship and hear the Gospel preached in Danish. Dr. Hansen served both St. Ansgar and Nazareth congregations.  


Women Delegates:  A synod convention was held in Cedar Falls in 1904. St. Ansgar sent with their delegates a proposal, which if passed, would have permitted women to be delegates. The majority opposed the resolution. One of the ministers expressed the fear that most delegates in the future would be women. St. Ansgar was futuristic in its thinking of the importance of women in the church. Years passed before this idea was accepted but eventually women were able to attend synod conventions as delegates.


First Building Purchased:  In 1913 St. Ansgar purchased the former First Brethren Church on the corner of Fifth Street and South Street for $8,000. Special efforts and sacrifices were necessary in order to finance the sale, but the dream had been realized, the St. Ansgar congregation had a home of their own. A year passed until possession was taken and with a debt of $5,000 remodeling began. The Danish Ladies Aid Society contributed several hundred dollars to the effort. The Altar carvings and a large painting were done by Jess Smidt, a farmer and Master Carver. He carved many altars and pulpits still found in some of our churches in the Midwest. The large oil painting of Christ walking on the water hanging on the wall of St. Ansgar’s present building stairway (on the Hawthorne side) was painted by Mr. Smidt.

English and Danish Services:  In 1938, at an annual meeting with Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Cedar Falls, an agreement was made that Bethlehem would postpone their services until 11:00 am so Reverend Jorgensen could conduct an English service every Sunday at 9:00 am and a Danish service at 2:30 pm. This arrangement allowed people to attend services every week. Although it placed a heavy burden on Reverend Jorgensen and inconvenienced the Bethlehem congregation, it meant a great deal to the members of St. Ansgar.

End of War Time: The year 1945 will be remembered as victory year with the end of World War II. At last service men and women were returning home. There were fifty-three names on St. Ansgar’s Service Honor Roll. One man had been killed and one was missing in action.

We Are Still Here:  A new building at 1122 West Eleventh Street in Waterloo was purchased for $56,000. It was dedicated November 26th, 1950 during the worship service. The Sanctuary was filled with members and friends.

A Ship In Church: Look up! The Danish custom of hanging the replica of a sailing vessel in the church sanctuary is widespread in Denmark and in churches of Danish origin in North America. We speak of the Christian life as a journey over the sea and we talk about a pilot that guides us.  As we enter God’s family through baptism, we sail and battle through life’s stormy seas toward home – eternal life. The ship is placed in the center of the nave and pointed toward the altar to represent our journey toward heaven.

Today: As we celebrate 130 years of opportunities to worship God and be Christ's body in the world. Some of St. Ansgar's ministries, such as our Crazy Quilters, are long-time sources of comfort to communities around the world. Others, such as supporting Retrieving Freedom Assistance Dogs with our Mission Cross, are new. We never know how God's call to love ALL of God' creation will show up! Sometimes it's in the wagging tail of a canine visitor to one of our neighborhood picnics.

Future:  We are SO excited to see how God's future will continue to call us forward. We give thanks to God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - for the blessings of being a community. Together, we are gathered in grace and scattered to share love.  

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