During the early days of World War I, the Montana Legislature passed a law making it illegal to speak German during public meetings.
That was bad news for St. Johns Lutheran Church in Laurel, which had just been formed by German Lutherans from Russia.
It was the church's pastor, Henry Vomhof, who bravely helped fight the law, said the church's current pastor, Arlo Pullman.
Here's what else Pullman had to say about his church's proud history and the work the church is doing today:
Name of the church:
St. Johns Lutheran Church is located at 417 W. Ninth Street in Laurel and is affiliated with the Montana District of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
We worship on Sunday mornings at 9 a.m. There are several opportunities each week for people of all ages to participate in Bible study and Christian training. For more information call 628-4775.
A brief history of the church:
On Feb. 10, 1913, German Lutherans from Russia founded the congregation. At that time it was on the south side of Laurel.. In 1959, the congregation built a new church at the present location. From the late 1960's to the early 1970's Missouri Synod congregations in Park Synod and Columbus joined St. John's in forming one parish. In 1998, St. Johns added office and narthex space as well as ground floor bathrooms and access to the split-level education wing from a mechanical lift. Over the course of its 90 years, St. Johns has had eight pastors.
The church's mission:
At the front of our church, near the pulpit, is a symbol of our mission. The symbol is a crucifix, that is, a cross with the body of the crucified Jesus Christ hanging on it. Along with St. Paul, our mission is to preach that Christ was crucified to save those who believe (1 Corinthians 1-2). We teach and proclaim both our need for the Savior and that the Savior has completed his work (John 19). His actual, physical, bodily resurrection from the dead is the historical fact that makes certain the promises of forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation (1 Corinthians 15). Such promises are received by faith. And faith comes from hearing the message of Jesus the Savior (Romans 10). Since God also promises to give his gift of salvation through baptism (Titus 3), and communion (Matthew 26), they also have a prominent place as we carry out our mission.
Programs of the church:
St. Johns has a preschool for children who are 3 or 4 years old. It is not restricted to members of our congregation. For the past two years we have also extended a helping hand to two smaller congregations south of us in Bridger and Belfry who do not currently have their own pastor. A student pastor (vicar) helps take care of the pastoral needs of the three congregations, sharing some of the duties of preaching, teaching, visitation, etc.
How is your church funded?
Our church is funded by the offerings of our members. We support the proclamation of God's Word in our own congregation. We help support missionaries in dozens of countries around the world. We help support the training of pastors. Some of our offerings are used to help support other congregations in Montana.
Biggest success your congregation has had in the past year?
With joy we celebrated our 90th anniversary earlier this year. On a wall in our church are pictures of most of the confirmation classes from those 90 years. That history is a constant reminder of God's grace to us.
Biggest challenge your congregation faces?
As our multi-cultural world constantly changes around us it is difficult to remain faithful to Jesus who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13). It seems that the devil is still wandering around asking his age-old question, "Did God really say…?"(Genesis 3). And so never far away is the temptation, in the name of relevance, to tamper with the unchanging truth of the word of God (2 Timothy 4). God grant us the strength and the courage to remain faithful.
A helpful bit of advice:
The Christian life is a life of repentance (Romans 6-7). For the pastor to lead the way into that life he should be the first one to repent, to seek forgiveness from the members of his congregation. Since it is true that no one is perfect, the need to repent is usually not far away. I'm sorry that I'm not better at doing it.
It is very easy for teachers of God's word to let their own opinions slip in as if they are God's word. It isn't always intentional but it happens. Class members should always be willing to ask, "Dear pastor, where is that written in the word of God?" And pastors should always be willing to give a gentle answer.
A favorite recent sermon:
I suppose it sounds odd to say that funeral sermons are my favorite ones. But it was for the sake of our dying world that Jesus came to us. Just as God created his own reality by the power of his almighty word at creation (Genesis 1-2), so he creates his own reality, one that we haven't yet seen, when he says that those who live and believe in him will never die (John 11). A funeral sermon gives an opportunity to clearly proclaim God's answer to sin and death in order to give hope and comfort to those who are in grief and sorrow.
Asking for a favorite hymn is like asking, "Out of that bowl of ice cream which spoonful did you like best?" One that I frequently use in my personal devotion is a lenten hymn, "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded." The original text is attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux from the 12th century. The versions we now use are the result of modifications made by Paul Gerhardt in the 17th century. One stanza takes me back to our mission and that crucifix. It is a prayer that has been translated this way, "What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest Friend, For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end? Oh, make me Thine forever! And should I fainting be, Lord, let me never, never, outlive my love for Thee."
This is another bowl of ice cream. John's Gospel and two of Paul's letters, Romans and Galatians, are my favorite books of the Bible. Romans 8 gives such comfort and assurance for those who are suffering, doubting, or grieving. It is all about what God has promised to freely give to us for the sake of Jesus. "Christ Jesus, who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us."(Romans 8 NIV) That's good news.