After 132 years, Sunday, September 6, 2020, was the final worship service held in the church building of the Erwin Congregational United Church of Christ.
The congregation, first organized in 1885, is named for one of the founding fathers of the church, James Erwin Hollister, and is older than the town of Erwin. The 28 charter members first worshiped in the railroad depot, then in local homes, schools and stores before the church building was constructed and dedicated in 1888.
At that time there were a number of rural ethnic churches, but it was the only church in the area holding services in the English language. The only church ever built in the town of Erwin, the door has never known the feel of a lock or key. It has always been open to everyone every day and has stood as a witness to God’s love and faithfulness throughout the years.
As the congregation grew and thrived, it required the building be enlarged, remodeled and rededicated in November 1913. During the fifties the church building took on many changes, and a local carpenter of renowned skill, Clarence Trenary, was responsible for building a new altar, pulpit, choir loft and flower stands. Later he built a display case in observance of the centennial of the church in 1985. Men and women of the congregation painted the sanctuary and the exterior of the church four years ago.
Stained-glass windows that were installed in the sanctuary in the sixties have been removed and will be given to descendants of the ancestors to whom they were dedicated. This includes two windows given in memory of Carl Stevens that will go to his great-great grandson, Father Shane Stevens of Dell Rapids. Other stained-glass windows are being re-configured for sale as suncatchers at a later date.
Members and local residents will remember many past events welcoming in the wider community to the fellowship hall downstairs: women’s fellowship programs, chicken suppers, mother-daughter teas, high school graduation parties, bridal and baby showers and shared meals after funerals and weddings.
As part of the 100th anniversary celebration in July of 1985, the church hosted a community worship service and a fashion show of past attire by women. That year a centennial Wall Hanging was also commissioned for construction by local artist Terri (Lundquist) Fink.
The present members give thanks to God for their faith ancestors who constructed a sanctuary where the Word has been proclaimed to the generations—words which have challenged and inspired us as well as words of comfort and encouragement. The congregation plans to continue to meet for worship monthly at the Erwin Legion Hall or in local homes.
The building has been sold, and the new owners plan to make it their home.