FAIRMONT– The Fairmont Christian Church will celebrate its 125th anniversary this weekend. The idea for the church began in 1895 and it has stood at its current location at 625 Johnson St. since 1989.
Pastor Jacob Wurster has been with the church since November 2020. He succeeded the previous pastor of 20 years, Glenn Davis. Wurster previously served as a youth pastor at a church in the small community of Galesburg, Kansas.
Wurster shared that for the church’s 100th anniversary in 1995, a church member typed a book of its history.
“The church started in 1895 when a Christian missionary came to the area,” Würster said.
He noted that the same year, Immanuel Lutheran Church, now located at the north end of Fairmont, was also established.
While the desire to start a church began in 1895, Wurster said nothing really started until 1905 when another evangelist, CR Neel, came to town.
“He was the real proponent of making our church a thing. That’s when we found a lot of things,” Würster said.
The first official location was at the southeast corner of Elm Street and 3rd Street. Then they met at Daniel’s Hall until 1914, when they were forced to move because the Hall had to be transformed by the owner. The Haynic Theatre, later the Nicholas Theater and now the Fairmont Opera House, was in use on Sundays while the Park Street Church was being built.
The congregation left the Hall and moved to a church in Park Street, which they occupied for 23 years.
Around this time, the church actually moved into what is now the Red Rock Center for the Arts in Fairmont. The building was constructed in 1898 by a small group of Christian Science parishioners. In 1937, the church changed hands when it was purchased by the Fairmont Christian Church.
“We owned this building and used all parts of it. The top was for worship and the bottom was for Sunday school classes and things like that,” Wurster explained.
He said they eventually got out of that space and sold it in 1988 when they got an opportunity through a person named Jack Ballard and his church builders, called Mount Carmel Church Builders of Decatur, Georgia.
“Every year, their group built churches for free. They would ask us to cover all the extra costs and physical labor, but the majority of the big costs they would cover,” Würster said.
However, he said the result was usually a smaller building with a sanctuary and a few bathrooms.
“Throughout its time of construction, ours was the largest church they had ever built,” Würster said.
At the time the church was built on Johnson Street, Wurster said there was really nothing in that area except the hospital.
The inauguration took place on September 19, 1988 and the first service was held on January 29, 1989.
In the 33 years that the church has been in its present location, no significant work has been done. Wurster said the parking lot was originally gravel and is now a nice paved bitumen. Air conditioning was also added years ago as the original building did not have it. Projectors and sound systems were also added as technology advanced.
The Shrine shares the same room as the Fellowship Hall, which Wurster says proved beneficial during Covid when restrictions were in place as they were able to expand and use the entire room.
“Space has been used since 1989 for all sorts of different things,” Würster said.
About seven years ago, the Minnesota Valley Action Council began renting the youth group’s space at the church for a Head Start program. Wurster said the partnership helps both parties.
Although perhaps smaller in size, the church remained active. Wurster said the whole heart of the church reaches out to the community.
It offers a free dinner on Christmas Day year after year to the community. Last year was the first comeback after missing the last two due to Covid. Wurster said 157 people came last year.
This spring, the church held its first clothing swap. Wurster said nearly 100 people came to pick up clothes and then donated them to Twelve Baskets. They plan to do the clothing swap twice a year in the future.
“We have a great management team here. We work well together and see the big vision of what we’re trying to do and we’re ready to pitch in to make it happen.” Würster said.
The church will celebrate its 125th anniversary this Sunday. A regular worship service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Then there will be a catered meal for those who have made a reservation. At 1 p.m. there will be a celebration and worship service open to the public.
Wurster said they had a former pianist and former ministers returning for the celebration.
“It may not be as grand as our 100th was, but still just as significant,” Würster said.
He shared why he thinks it is important to mark the church’s anniversary.
“As I have returned to the book and seen all the amazing things we have been able to do, the tenacity of the church to stay relevant encourages me to move forward. Yes, 125 years, c “is a long time. My heart says another 125 years of our church’s existence. Not just being here, but reaching people and making Jesus known in our community,” Würster said.