Messiah Lutheran Church Mountain Iron Minnesota
“On the sixteenth day of November, 1890, workmen under the direction of Capt. J. A. Nichols, of Duluth Minnesota, encountered soft hematite in a test-pit on the northwest quarter of section three, township 58, range 18, west of the fourth principal meridian. This mine, now called Mountain Iron, was the first body of soft ore discovered on the Mesabi iron range.” (1) Less than two years later the first shipment of iron ore left Mountain Iron in October of 1892. Less than two years after that, 31 men and women of Finnish descent met on February 25, 1894 to organize the church that was to become Messiah Lutheran Church.
As usual for churches of the time, services and Sunday church school were held in the parent language, Finnish. An English service was added and eventually all services and Sunday Church School were held in English.
“I had Sunday School in Finn. I had it all in the Finnish language. I remember Sunday school teachers would talk to us in Finn and everything else…They had it in Finn and English but then they did away with the Finn in about 1950. Some time I like to go to a Finnish service to see what it sounds like…” Ed Ranta, Interview: August 11, 2000
“We came here we inquired about the church here in Mt. Iron. No, that was a Finnish Lutheran. Well we were Swedish Lutheran Church that we belonged to so we went to Virginia to Gethsemane, the first Sunday. Then the boys were in school and they got talking to the other friends of theirs and they said that there was an English service in Messiah. So then we started to go to Messiah…” Art Peterson, Interview: May 1, 2000
At first the congregation met in various homes and in 1896 began meeting in the Temperance Hall. In 1907, the congregation purchased that building and worshipped there until a new church was built in 1917.
“The first Sunday School was in the Temperance Hall. That was above a hardware store on 9th street, up the hill there. Of course, that has been taken down. The mines took over that part of town. There is nothing there now but it is where the Temperance Hall used to be. Our Sunday School was there and there was a stage there… I don’t remember what year the church was built. I think it was a basement first. Eventually we transferred to the church. Maybe we didn’t even have a basement. I don’t quite remember that. All the Sunday classes were held upstairs in the pews, some in the balcony. The confirmation students and the rest of us were just in the pews. Maybe you had a few pews for one class and then two pews in between, and so on. Then years later the addition was built in the back.” Irene Dubevick, interview: January 13, 2002
On July 14, 1998, lightening hit the steeple of that church building and the building was a total loss. A new site was found and a new building was built at its current site.
“It was the end of the day shift at MinnTac and my partner come running in and he says, ‘Jer, your church is on,’ there’s a storm going on outside, he says, ‘Jer, your church is burning!’ And I go, ‘What?’ ‘Ya, lightening hit it.’ Well, it had been hit before by lightening and it was just a little fire. It did some damage, but nothing that a couple of carpenters couldn’t fix. So I thought, oh ya. So I was all changed, I jumped in my truck and I drove out of MinnTac and, as I was coming down to the gate at MinnTac, I could see the big plume of smoke coming up and I thought, ‘Whoa, this is serious.’ And when I got here, in that short of time, the Pastor was standing out on the lawn, the fire trucks were here and it was already blazing through the roof. I mean, I looked at that and I said this is major. And then when the firefighters backed away and he said, ‘We can’t do much more.’ All the congregation was there by that time.” Jerry Hill, Interview: August 11, 2000
So we started looking for another site… And we had a member of the congregation suggest that we look into the site where we are now. And I did. And I got authorization to negotiate and made an offer which was accepted. And we ended up with the property which was pretty much non-controversial… (T)he idea popped up that maybe we don’t need 11 acres we could exchange part of it with the city, because they were looking to build a new city hall. We can say you can have this part of the site if you build a road past where we’re going to put the church and build a parking lot and run the utilities there so we could both use them. And that exchange ended up happening. Jerry Kujala, Interview: August 14, 2000
The ministry provided to members and the community has changed over the years depending on the congregation, pastors and the expressed needs of the community. Come and join the body of Christ as we seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit for our ministry in this place and time.
“I hope for the future of Messiah that we will bring in more people committed to being the living Christ in this community and really living out Christ’s ministry in this community. I just hope lots of the real Doubting Thomas’s or people who have fallen away from the faith or people who have never had a faith will say, ‘There’s something there that I want. I want to be a part of that. I can really see that those people are different than other people. It’s not one more social service entity, but it’s a group of people who are providing a service and ministry to this community that is unique and I want to know more about that. I want to know what their driving force is. I want to know what the impetus is for that.’” Cindy Jindra, Interview: August 12, 2000
1: de Kruif, Paul; Seven Iron Men: The Merritts and the Discovery of the Mesabi Range; Harcourt Brace and Company; 1929; Republished by University of Minnesota Press; 2007; p. 106