History of Renner Lutheran Church
Originally called Nidaros Church: 1858 – 2009
The Nidaros Lutheran Congregation was chartered in the sod home of Norwegian immigrants John and Kirsti Thompson on August 12, 1868. In 1866 two Union Soldier veterans, John Thompson and Jonas Nelson, had come to Minnehaha County in Dakota Territory with their families to be the first homesteaders in the county and among the first in the territory. On May 26, 1867 a daughter was born to John and Kirsti Thompson, Berthine Bereline Thompson (Mrs. Thomas H. Fersdahl) – the first white child born in Minnehaha County. When Berthine was baptized on August 11, 1868 in her parents’ home, it marked the beginning of the Nidaros Church. (Ironically, eighty-nine years later in 1957, Berthine Fersdahl passed away, and coincidentally the Nidaros Congregation separated; yet it exists today as four churches – Baltic Lutheran, East Nidaros Lutheran, Renner Lutheran, and West Nidaros Lutheran.)
Previous church histories have been written about the Nidaros Congregation – we are thankful for our predecessors’ historical legacy. The first history book was published in 1926 in the Norwegian language in preparation for the 60th anniversary of Nidaros in 1928. In 1943, a second history was published in the English language for the Diamond Jubilee – 75th Anniversary. For the Centennial of Nidaros in 1968, yet another history was published. The individual churches have also published their own various histories with anniversaries of the individual sanctuaries.
One may ask why another history needs to be published. There are many valid answers to this question. First, there is a new generation unaware of our common heritage. There are also many new members of the individual congregations who should feel just as close to the ties of this church as the families who have lived here 125 years. We have also found new stories in the old history. (We are grateful for the tireless research and translating of the minutes of the Nidaros Congregation from the Norwegian language completed by John Eide in 1982.) Finally, we want to provide the present and future generations with one consolidated resource that sketches the complete history of Nidaros from 1868 until the present time.
Our intent is not to glorify our pioneer ancestors, for they were only human. Or intent, rather, is only to illustrate how these prairie pioneers and their descendants prioritized the Church of Jesus Christ in their lives. Most of these immigrants worshiped in a frame church structure before they themselves lived in a frame house. The generations that have followed have continued to be faithful in their devotion to Jesus Christ their Lord and their commitment to the church.
To the members of the Nidaros congregations, past, present, and future, we dedicate this history, always remembering our unity in Christian Heritage that has made our four individual churches “One in Christ – Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow.”
The Nidaros Quasquicentennial History Committee:
Co-Editors: Joan Eitrheim and Dale Erickson
Nils Aspaas, Morris Oien, and Donald Prestbo
How Nidaros became Renner Lutheran
The first church sat on the prairie. But winds blew it down due to the 100 foot steeple, so it was rebuilt (with a shorter steeple!) Then, due to flooding of the Sioux River, many could not get to church some Sundays. So “West Nidaros” Lutheran Church was built. Then East Nidaros followed in building as well. The nearby town of Baltic had no church. So in 1911 the church was moved to Baltic. (Flooding was still a problem.) Finally in 1939 the building was moved to Renner, where it still stands today. The other Nidaros churches became independent and liked the Nidaros name, so the Renner folks agreed to rename the church “Renner Lutheran”.