Saturday, July 28, 2012, was a beautiful day when over 200 people enjoyed anniversary celebration activities outdoors at Vang Lutheran Church and at the church cemetery. The church grounds and the cemetery were mowed and trimmed to perfection and beautiful planted and potted flowers added vibrant color. It was a beautiful tribute to our ancestors and to the hard work of many volunteers! A highlight of Saturday’s activities were tours of Vang cemetery and special dramatic presentations at gravesides. Horses and tractors pulled wagons full of people to the cemetery to hear the stories of early settlers given by costumed members of the families buried at Vang. Adults and children alike were mesmerized by the tales, while enjoying the beauty of the cemetery and the day. Children were also able to participate in games at the church, and all enjoyed a hot dog picnic. The area northwest of the church was a great place for a bonfire, having been cleared and made ready by church members. Smores were made and the evening was capped off by a very special concert inside the church. Sam Backman, the extremely talented organist who served Vang while a student at St. Olaf, gave a tremendous concert. He included impromptu renditions of historic hymns, delighting the audience with his talent.
The anniversary weekend continued with a special church service on Sunday, July 29, 2012 at 10 AM. This service was a resounding tribute to the Norwegian settlers whose determination and dedication provided a community church 150 years ago, and to the many who continue that service today. Pastor Terje Hausken led the service with a full church, whose voices filled the church with praise and song. The sanctuary was filled with beautiful flowers of the prairie, much as it would have been a hundred years ago.
Bishop Harold Usgaard reminded the congregation in his message that just as Jesus and his disciples fed 5000, Vang continues to feed the congregation and community through its service (and he even gave some credit to lutefisk!). Former pastors participated in the service, brought warm greetings and stirred many wonderful memories for those worshipping. These pastors were Gerry Gengenbach, Curt Schneider and Steve Swanson. Pastors Dick Mork and Ray Haugland were not able to be present but sent written good wishes to the congregation. Special music blessed the service as organist Sam Backman’s playing filled the sanctuary. Intern Ann Zastrow led the singing of the liturgy and the Dennison/Vang choir sang the call to worship and shared a moving version of “Beautiful Savior”. Soloist Ben Mahlke added his melodic voice with “Dwell Thou in Me”. The procession and recession were a moving sight, with the cross, the Holy Bible and the Norwegian flag as the focal points.
The slight rain did not dampen anyone’s spirits! But it did cause the anniversary picture to be taken inside. It was no small feat to get all the people present moved to the front of the church for the picture, but it was accomplished. After the service and picture, a catered dinner was served in the downstairs of the church, with some staying dry outside while eating in the tent on the east side of the church. Salad, ham, chicken, corn, potatoes and gravy filled the people in 2012, much as they did in the 1800’s. Cake, lemonade, coffee and water rounded out the meal. There was much visiting, reminiscing, and laughter as the anniversary celebration came to an end on Sunday afternoon.
This very special event capped off more than a year of planning! Anniversary committee chairs Ken and Fern Vesledahl were assisted by dozens of volunteers who worked very hard to have the church and grounds look so beautiful, to plan and carry out such meaningful and special events, to serve a meal to hundreds, and to set up and take down all that was required. THANK YOU to all who participated in any way. The 150th anniversary of Vang is a true reflection of the faith and commitment of members today, just as it was 150 years ago.