It’s been 75 years of growth, friendships, and faith.
From the humble beginnings of holding service in a single-family home, to now thriving with over 900 members, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and School in Rapid City invites the community to help celebrate its 75th anniversary Aug. 12 and 13.
Church elder Jim Weimer, 63, has worshiped at St. Paul’s for the past 15 years. “I trust that I’m receiving the true word of God here,” he said. “You can’t beat the fellowship at our church. Living in the Black Hills and attending St. Paul’s makes life fun.”
Rev. Doug Free, 60, has served as a pastor at the church for the past 28 years. He also credits the “friendly, outgoing and considerate people” as a strength of St. Paul’s. Additionally, he said St. Paul’s is unique in that it serves as a grade school for 80 Kindergarten through 8th grade students along with 40 preschoolers.
The church opened in 1942 at the intersection of Ninth Street and Fairview. Before that, the church operated out of a house, like many early churches. The church’s current property at 835 E. Fairmont Blvd. sits on five acres and was dedicated in 1978.
Over the years, the church has expanded to accommodate its vision for a Lutheran school. “We have high standards of education,” said Free. “It’s about bringing children to know Jesus as their savior.” The church currently employs five teachers, plus a preschool director. The church is also staffed with Rev. Tim Berg and Rev. Andrew Hussman.
In 1997, St. Paul’s added four classrooms for the grade school. In 2007, four additional classrooms were designated for the grade school, preschool and daycare—which is available during the work day for children ages 3, 4 and 5. A gymnasium was also built. In March 2016, St. Paul’s acquired the gymnasium flooring from the old National American University gym.
“Church volunteers are over there helping paint lines in the floor as we speak,” said Free with a smile.
Free said the church’s 75th anniversary is special in that it coincides with the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran reformation this year.
To celebrate its anniversary, St. Paul’s plans a picnic at 11 a.m. on Aug. 12 with food, games and fellowship on church grounds.
On Aug. 13, there will be services at 8 a.m. and 10:30 p.m., followed by a catered luncheon at noon. A special evening service takes place at 4 p.m. Former pastor Peter Sulzle will travel from Redwood Falls, Minn., to discuss giving thanks for God’s grace. St. Paul’s Ladies Aid will host a light meal following the service. A free will offering will be taken for all the weekend’s meals.
St. Paul’s falls under the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, which Free says means that the church faithfully teaches and preaches the pure word of God.
“We take people to the cross of Jesus Christ. By simply believing in Jesus, they get to go to Heaven. Everything we do is to meet that purpose,” said Free.
For more information about St. Paul’s 75th anniversary celebration, visit http://www.stpaulsknights.org.