"faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see"
Why the flame?
United Lutheran Church of Prairie Farm, Wisconsin has a rich cultural and spiritual history. When the early settlers arrived in the area, often from Scandinavian countries, they worked hard and long to establish a new life. They had been lured to America by the promise of cheap land, a better life, and freedom to worship God. Parting was never easy as many family and friends remained behind. The hills, flowing streams, and natural beauty of the region reminded them of the old country. Life was difficult as the stumps left by the massive white pine trees previously harvested by the Knapp Stout Lumber Company had to be grubbed out to begin farming. The men and older boys worked winters in the logging camps to earn scarce cash to buy tools, implements, and livestock for the farm. The women and children were left on the homestead to keep things going until spring. Life was not only physically trying but there was a strong need felt for Christian fellowship.
The first Lutheran pastors who visited Barron County were probably Rev. A Johnson of Eau Claire and Rev. C.G. Helsem of Running Valley. In the fall of 1869, they made a trip through Barron County preaching to what few settlers they could find in settlements and logging camps in Chetek, Sumner, Dobie, Lakeland, and Prairie Farm. Services were held, children baptized and the sick ministered to. Some settlers traveled 10 to 15 miles to attend services.
Feeling a need for regular worship and ministry, in August 1872, the Solum Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church was established with 37 members. In November 1872, the Akers Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church was formed with a membership of 73. Both congregations met in homes until they could build their houses of worship, with Akers completing theirs in 1887 and Solum in 1894.
In September 1890, a Christian group met in Sheridan Township, Dunn County, at the Washburn Farm Schoolhouse for the purpose of organizing a Norwegian Lutheran congregation. In 1891, they purchased land from John Knapp for a church and cemetery. In 1893, Zion Lutheran Church, a building 26x36 feet, was completed enough to be used for worship.
These three Lutheran congregations, Solum, Akers, and Zion, continued to flourish as more and more settlers moved into the Prairie Farm area. They, along with the community, continued to grow.
Transition from Norwegian to the English language was slow in coming. Older members felt they could not comprehend an English sermon, but little by little it was accomplished.
In 1936, Solum Lutheran Church changed its name to First Lutheran Church. In 1947 First Lutheran and Akers Lutheran consolidated and became United Lutheran Church of Prairie Farm. As the Akers church building was larger, it was chosen to be used by the new congregation. In 1948, the First Lutheran Church building was sold and moved to Ridgeland where it still is used by Ridgeland Lutheran Church.
In 1959, the Zion Lutheran Church dissolved and many members joined United Lutheran.
On Easter Sunday, March 29, 1964, the church building burned. Spirits of the congregation were only temporarily dampened as by mid April they had voted to build a new church. Services were held in Austin Murra's shed until completion of the new building which was dedicated on October 31, 1965. On that sunny, warm October day, a procession of joyful believers, carrying the worship furnishings marched up River Avenue to the beautiful new church building for its dedication, placing the worship articles in their proper places. Trusting in the Lord and working together in faith, the congregation rejoiced. Since the original construction, there have been additional enhancements including a new heating system, stained and etched glass windows, a new organ, kitchen updates, as well as the addition of central air conditioning and the construction of a new Pastor's office.
Based on the same values and conviction shared by the pioneers moving to the area many years ago, United Lutheran Church, with of membership of more than 700, continues to serve the Lord.