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Faith Lutheran Church in Inkster to mark official closing with final worship service

138-year-old church succumbs to stresses of declining membership, ongoing pandemic

Members of Faith Lutheran Church in Inkster, N.D., (from left) Betty Grabanski, Chance Grabanski, Joann Moreland and Marlene Olmstead are hoping that a GoFundMe page will raise the $25,000 needed to make repairs to the 134-year-old church. (Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald)
In this Herald file photo, members of Faith Lutheran Church in Inkster, N.D., (from left) Betty Grabanski, Chance Grabanski, Joann Moreland and Marlene Olmstead posed for a photo at the church. At the time, they and other members hoped that a GoFundMe page would raise the $25,000 needed to make repairs to the then-134-year-old church. (Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald)
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INKSTER, North Dakota – Members of Faith Lutheran Church will worship together as a congregation for the last time Sunday morning, Oct. 2.

Led by Pastor Mari Nyberg, the worship service, which will be conducted at the Inkster Town Hall, will mark the official closing of Faith Lutheran, which dates back 138 years.

The service will be “personal” and reflective of the way it used to be conducted in the past, said Denise Karley, church president and longtime member of the congregation.

“We are going back to some of the old service we did at Faith Lutheran years ago,” Karley said. "Pastor Mari started with Faith Lutheran, before she became ordained, so it is very special to her.”

The last service will include some input from the Eastern North Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Karley said, and someone from the Synod office will be part of the proceedings.

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Faith Lutheran Church in Inkster, N.D.
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Struggling with decreasing membership and the cost of maintaining an aging building, the Faith Lutheran congregation discontinued church services in the fall of 2019 and combined its ministry with two other churches: St. Paul’s Lutheran in Honeyford and Ascension Lutheran in Emerado, under the Turtle River Ministry.

In 2018, a GoFundMe account was established to make necessary plumbing and accessibility improvements to the church building. The funds were used to make furnace repairs.

The ongoing COVID pandemic prevented the reopening of Faith Lutheran Church.

Faith Lutheran members held services on alternating weeks at those church buildings, said Karley, who lives in rural Inkster. Turtle River Ministry continues on with those two churches, led by Pastor Nyberg, Karley said.

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A photo of the sanctuary of Faith Lutheran Church will stir memories for former members.
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Too few members

Faith Lutheran has “only a small handful of members left,” and only about three are active members, Karley said.

Remaining members are making the choice to move their membership to one of the two churches in the Turtle River Ministry or another church, she said.

“We have sold the building, all of the contents,” Karley said. “The pews were sold to individuals and the altar, railing, baptismal font, pulpit and lectern were sold to a company that buys and sells to other churches.”

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The church sale, held last fall, also included hymnals and the organ.

The church building has been sold by sealed bids. The sale of the building and property will close on Oct. 18, she said. She doesn’t know what the buyer intends to do with the property.

Nyberg has remained the church’s pastor right up to its end. She came to the church in 2002 as a lay pastor and stayed with the church through her years in seminary and ordination.

“It’s where my heart belongs, to where I’m called,” Nyberg told the Herald in an interview in October 2021.

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Faith Lutheran Church of Inkster, N.D., dates back 138 years.
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Karley said it’s sad that the church she has attended for more than 50 years is closing, but “with the decline in the attendance and everything, and inability to modernize the church with water and a bathroom and things like that, it’s time, it’s been time for a few years.

“Of course, it’s sad but, yet, it’s been a long time coming,” she said. “It’s not like the good old days when you had a bunch of people that would get together and have your fall dinners. There just wasn’t enough people to do that.”

Sunday will mark a significant turning point for her and other church members.

“I guess it’ll be a good day,” she said, “just (in the sense) that we’re not holding on to something that’s not workable anymore.”

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Dwindling membership and the pressures of the pandemic are among the factors that led to the closing of Faith Lutheran Church in Inkster, N.D.
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Pamela Knudson is a features and arts/entertainment writer for the Grand Forks Herald.

She has worked for the Herald since 2011 and has covered a wide variety of topics, including the latest performances in the region and health topics.

Pamela can be reached at pknudson@gfherald.com or (701) 780-1107.
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