After two votes in June and August 2010 at the Milbank American
Evangelical Lutheran Church to leave the ELCA failed narrowly
to achieve the required two-thirds majority, many of those church
members were frustrated and needed a meeting to talk and
express their feelings. They could not in good conscience belong
to a denomination or congregation which did not believe, teach,
and accept the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New
Testaments as the inspired Word of God and the sole
authoritative source and norm of our proclamation, faith, and
life. Six people gathered on Monday evening, August 9, and
prayerfully decided to call a meeting for the following Sunday,
August 15, in the Milbank City Visitor Center. They really had
no idea of what to expect, hoping that perhaps 20 people would
attend but fearing that there might be far fewer. There were
95 people in attendance at that first meeting from Milbank,
Ortonville, and the surrounding area, and they decided to
form a new congregation.
The congregation joined Lutheran Congregations in Mission for
Christ (LCMC) and incorporated. The congregation voted to
name itself "Living Word Lutheran Church," joined the LCMC
Augustana District, and called Rev. N. Craig Werling as pastor.
Rev. Werling and his wife Janine Rew-Werling had been the
pastors at the American Lutheran Church. Janine now serves as
pastor for the Hosanna Lutheran Church LCMC in Watertown.
After worshiping for over three months at the Milbank Visitor Center, the congregation became known as the "Strip Mall Church" by renting empty retail space previously leased by the Dollar Store at the Whetstone Mall on Highway 12. They began worship there on November 28, 2010. Adjacent office/retail suites on both sides of the former Dollar Store were rented for Sunday School, meeting rooms, and church offices. On September 11, 2011, the congregation voted to ratify a constitution and to accept a gift of about five acres of land along Highway 15 to build a new church.
On March 27, 2013, a special congregational meeting approved the following resolution by a vote of 93-2: “The congregation approves the building design/plans for our new church building, realizing that there might be some necessary minor revisions and to authorize the Church council to negotiate and consummate the necessary financial contracts for the construction of our church building.” This vote was the culmination of a two-year process of prayer and congregational study to determine what was necessary and feasible for a new building, and
a successful pledge drive. The Building Committee selected Reeves Construction in Sioux Falls to provide the pre-manufactured walls and trusses with John Engelhardt as architect, and Rise, Inc., of Harrisburg as general contractor. A building loan was obtained from First Bank
and Trust of Milbank.
On Sunday, May 19, 2013, Pastor Craig Werling, Council President Ardell Nelson, and Building Committee Chairman Mike Campbell led the congregation in turning the first spades of dirt at the groundbreaking ceremony for the $1,400,000 project. The building was finished and the congregation moved in on the first day of spring, March 20, 2014. The first service was on Sunday, March 23, the Third Sunday in Lent, with 234 in attendance. On July 27, 210 members and friends of Living Word attended the dedication service and enjoyed a catered breakfast in the fellowship hall afterwards.
The Living Word congregation has been richly and abundantly blessed in our time together, gathered around God’s Word and Sacraments, first in the Milbank Visitor Center Community Room (and occasionally at the MHS Theater) for almost four months and then at the Whetstone Mall for almost three and a half years. Being the “Strip Mall Church” reminded us of what is most important in a church: God’s Word and each other. A guiding principle during the life of this congregation has been from Article VII of the Augsburg Confession: “The Church is the congregation
of saints in which the Gospel is purely taught and the sacraments are correctly administered.” During the months and years of planning, fund-raising, and building, we experienced the promises from Hebrews 3, that “...the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything,” and from Psalm 127, “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.”
We pray that our Lord and Savior who has led us to this place will continue to bless us, that His Word will abide among all who enter here, and that we may bring glory and honor to Him as the master of this household of faith and the defender of this congregation as He sends us out to be His faithful witnesses and instruments of His grace and peace.
As we moved into a new church building, we had several staff members that have ministered to our congregation. Jackie Olson served as our Youth Coordinator from 2011 until July of 2013. Upon her resignation, the congregation moved to hire a Youth and Family Ministry coordinator. Travis Powers was hired and installed in November of 2013. He served Living Word until June 2015.
In 2015, Living Word celebrated the 5th anniversary of its formation and the completion of the first full year in the new church building. The congregation continued to grow and focus on God’s Word.
On July 31, 2016, Pastor Craig Werling provided his last sermon as the Pastor of Living Word Lutheran Church. We are grateful for the years he spent with our congregation preaching and providing spiritual guidance. A call committee was formed to search for a new Pastor. And during the search, our congregation was blessed by messages from visiting Pastors and lay people.
On March 19, 2017 a special congregational meeting was held to vote on an issuance of call to Pastor Kent Groethe. The call was approved and on July 1 the congregation welcomed Pastor Kent Groethe and his wife Kay. Kay was hired as our new youth director at that time. Pastor Kent’s vision for our church was to Grow in Faith and Impact the World. The church is to share the Word so that men and women who do not know Jesus Christ would come to saving faith and those in faith would grow in it. It is also to be about impacting the world for our Lord. Pastor Kent taught that Jesus was deeply concerned about two things, helping hurting people and drawing people into the kingdom of God through a call to repentance and faith in Jesus. We are called to make a significant difference in the world through our love and sharing of our faith. The Great commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself” Matthew 19:19 and The Great Commission: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” Matthew 28:19 were the focus of Pastor Kent’s ministry.
In May of 2018, Roslyn Reich was commissioned by Pastor Kent as Pastoral Care Assistant. In the summer of 2018, the congregation made the last payment on the church building. On September 9, 2018 the congregation met and had a “burning of the mortgage” celebration. At that time, Pastor Kent stated that “It is great to have the church building paid for.” He then asked the question “What are we going to do now, that has an impact outside the church building? How do we as a church move forward?” In response to those questions, on November 13, 2018 the church council voted to approve an action to create the Impact the World Committee.
The Impact the World Committee was officially formed in January of 2019 for the purpose of expanding LWLC’s mission and ministry in the spirit of the Great Commission and Great Commandment. A group of people from LWLC, Craig and Carolyn Randleman and Steve and Vicki Strege made a mission trip to Vietnam along with the Kingdom Building Project. Our congregation and their representatives assisted in digging/building a well; building a church building; and adding onto an orphanage. In March of 2020 our world entered into the COVID Pandemic. This was a very challenging time as in person meetings were limited. During this challenge, our congregation responded with new ways to worship, including Parking Lot worship from our cars and viewing services online using Facebook Live. Streaming services online via Facebook has continued into 2022.
On August 14, 2022, Pastor Kent Groethe preached his last sermon at Living Word Lutheran Church, accepting a call in Arizona. A call committee has been formed to search for a new Pastor. Our congregation is blessed to have Pastor Melanie Reiners serve as our Interim Pastor during the search process.
Church service at Milbank's visitors center, 2010
Strip Mall Church, 2010
Inside Strip Mall Church
Founding Living Word Church Council. L to R: Deb Buttke (VP), Don Buth (first treasurer), Linda Wagner, Ardell Nelson (President), Jan Beck (treasurer), Gene Vostad, Jim Kiefer, Wilbur Letze. Not pictured: Jim Christenson and Dr. Ken Schulte.
Gifted ground along Highway 15, 2011
Ground breaking, May 19, 2013
Blessing before moving in, March 20, 2014
Pews installed, 2014
Dedication service, July 27, 2014
Kent and Kay Groethe
September 9, 2018 the burning of our mortgage.
September 9, 2018 the burning of our mortgage.
Mission group in Vietnam 2019.
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