I have been looking at the old histories of the churches up here and I have a hard time seeing the attitude that we discussed a lot at the LWML retreat earlier this summer; that many churches don’t want to do anything in their own communities as far as mission and mercy is concerned, let alone going off and doing stuff in Africa. The reason is that the church itself is the mission. There is so much invested in staff and equipment and buildings that some believe there is no time energy or resources that can be expended anywhere else.
Zion English Lutheran dedicated their first church in Grafton in 1950. The congregation had been meeting in the Episcopal church but had purchased 4 lots in the city. The congregation had moved into the town of Grafton – some had gone to Drayton, but histories record that the first work by our church in the city of Grafton took place in 1933. The point is that they did not seem to be in a great hurry to build a church. There is almost 20 years between the “congregation” going to Grafton and the dedication of the building. I don’t know what the Episcopalians thought. In fact I am not sure where the Episcopalian church is today.
What is clear is that before they built their own church, the Pastor was doing work at what was called at that time , the “State School for the Mentally Retarded”. Times have changed. It was called worse. Today it is called the “State Developmental Center”. At any rate the Pastors that were called to Zion in Grafton all worked at the Center and in 1956 Rev. David Brammer confirmed 31 persons at the center. In 1970 through offerings gathered throughout the whole State the All Faith Chapel was built as a permanent worship facility. President Kennedy’s sister, Eunice came to the dedication.
So the folks at the center had their “own church”. But somewhere in this time frame the North Dakota District in a deliberate act of witness and mercy called a full time chaplain and a full time teacher to the center. A full time ministry has been going on there ever since. The Grafton congregation began the outreach to the center and the District picked it up and carried it forward.
My point in all of this is that there was outreach going on before there was a church, and the outreach was going on to folks who probably would not be able to attend the church once it was built. Interesting concept. The District in a churchly act of “witness” decided to fund a ministry to people who probably would never be able to contribute to the financial cost of the ministry that they were receiving. Interesting concept.