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Salem Lutheran to celebrate 100 years Sunday

MOUNT VERNON -- One-hundred years of services calls for celebration. Mount Vernon's Salem Lutheran Church expects to nearly triple its average service size during a special Sunday service to celebrate reaching the centennial mark. The service wil...

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MOUNT VERNON - One-hundred years of services calls for celebration.

Mount Vernon's Salem Lutheran Church expects to nearly triple its average service size during a special Sunday service to celebrate reaching the centennial mark. The service will begin at 10 a.m. with lunch, live music and fellowship to follow.

Courtney Deinert, wife of church's president Mike Deinert, said the church averages approximately 60 people at weekly services, but is preparing for more than 175 attendees Sunday.

"With homecoming week, we have some of the older members who moved away coming back for alumni banquets and such," Deinert said, adding attendees will come from all over the Midwest and as far away as Boise, Idaho.

Bishop David Zellmer will serve as a guest speaker, and lunch and time to visit will be immediately followed by a performance from a local musician. Deinert anticipates the celebration will last until mid-afternoon.

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Salem Lutheran was established in the early 1900s, after attendees of Victor Church, in rural Mount Vernon, decided a second location should be built for the congregation. At the time, people felt a 10-mile ride from Mount Vernon into the country was too far of a trip for Sunday services, according to church leaders. In 1916, Salem Lutheran became a separate congregation.

Over the years, Salem Lutheran has undergone several renovation projects, including a complete remodel in the 1940s, the removal and reconstruction of the bell tower in 1989, an interior remodel project in 1991.

In 1980, the building was moved 75 feet where a basement was dug and front steps, a ramp and sidewalks were installed.

Through it all, though, the church's mission has remained the same: "To proclaim and propagate the Christian faith through the means of grace, God's word and to cooperate in the work of the church."

The longevity of the church can be attributed to its commitment to the community, Deinert said. But not only to the community members who attend services at Salem Lutheran, but all people and events in the approximately 500-person town.

Everywhere a person turns in town, the church's presence can be felt, Deinert said.

Salem Lutheran provides youth group after football games, donates Christmas gift baskets, hosts a vacation bible school in the summer and sponsors children who want to attend church gatherings in and around Mount Vernon, Deinert said. The church also hosts a community Sunday school, held in a neutral location outside of the church to appeal to individuals who may be intimidated by a traditional church setting.

"Salem Lutheran has a very rich history of being a very giving congregation," Deinert said. "We've just always been a major part of serviceship in the area and I think that's been an attractive thing for lots of people, whether they're in the church or not."

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And accomplishing all of these feats has been possible through the support of the congregation's members. Deinert said whenever a task needs completed - like cooking or carpentry work - members don't hesitate to step in when they can.

"It feels very small-town, meaning everybody chips in to get things done, whether it's some of the older members working with the kids, or the younger working with the older," Deinert said. "It's a good variety of people, which has probably contributed to the longevity of the congregation, because people want to see the church remain in the community."

Church member Dave Anderson echoed Deinert, saying he's proud of the work the church has accomplished in its 100-year tenure, and hopes to see the trend continue.

And, as far as Anderson is concerned, no one person or one facet of the church is responsible for the church's ability to be successful.

"The people are committed to the church, and in a small church everybody does a lot of work to keep it going," Anderson said. "That's why it's been around as long as it has."

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