PALMYRA — The 175th anniversary of St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Palmyra was celebrated on Sunday, Nov. 3. Parishioners and guests gathered for a special worship service to honor All Saints Day, and to remember their Norwegian heritage dating back to 1844 when the people of the Skoponong settlement built their first church in the Bald Bluff area south of Palmyra.
After fire from a lightning strike destroyed the Skoponong church in 1936, the congregation purchased the vacant Congregational Church building on Main Street in Palmyra. They were joined by the German Lutheran congregation that sometimes had used the building.
After extensive remodeling, the new Skoponong church was dedicated in 1937. Church members voted in 1959 to change the church’s name to St. Matthew, and a large addition to the building was dedicated in 1993.
With the worship area filled to capacity, the anniversary worship service began with Pastor Steven M.D. Blyth welcoming all in attendance. Music played a big part in the service, as violinist Christine Mason played prelude selections accompanied by pianist Bill Webb. Other special music enhanced the service as Christopher Blyth and Curt Curtiss used their guitar and vocal talents to praise the Lord.
St. Matthew’s choir, under the direction of Karen Nordby, presented several songs, one of which was “Hvilken Venn,” in Norwegian, which is “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” During the distribution of communion, Bill Webb played a medley of hymns written by Martin Luther. The service ended with a rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
Honored guests taking part in the worship service were Bishop Paul Erickson of the Greater Milwaukee Synod, former St. Matthew pastor T. Brady Eggleston, and Methodist pastor Rev. Karen Klatt. Former pastor Rev. Gary Hein also was in attendance.
Following the service, other area clergy joined the more than 110 attendees in the Fellowship Hall, where a brief program was held and a catered dinner was served. Members of the local Palmyra United Methodist Church helped serve the meal.
A new church pictorial directory was available along with other memorabilia representing this historic year for St. Matthew.
The Norwegian and German ancestors likely would be in awe of the many changes that occurred over 175 years.
As the Holy Spirit guided the members of Skoponong-St. Matthew throughout all those years, the congregation now looks forward with faith as the spirit guides them into the future.