Trinity Lutheran Church

In this place...


Teach, Live, and Share Christ's Love

Trinity Lutheran Church of Hovland was formed in September 1909 when two small congregations that had been meeting in area homes joined together and called Rev. Carl Eidnes of Bethlehem Lutheran in Grand Marais as its first pastor. A church was built in 1913 on what is now County Road 69 (the “North Road”), with the first regular services beginning December 28 of that year. The traditional white clapboard building with a simple steeple served until the early 1940s, when the recently completed Highway 61, closer to Lake Superior, presented opportunities for great access by the community. The congregation met during the war years in the Chicago Bay School and soon obtained a parcel of land along the highway in 1946, using rummage sales, bazaars, suppers, and pie socials to raise funds.

A fruitful collaboration among Pr. Aubrey Edmonds, Dr. Howard Hong of St. Olaf College (who summered in Hovland), and St. Olaf students led to a new “work-camp effort” structure, with Harald Schuppel of the congregation chairing the building committee. They worked closely with Prof. Arnold Flaten, chair of the St. Olaf art department, leading to an adventure in God’s aesthetic creativity—a beautiful and unique building designed by Flaten with the architectural assistance of Edward Sövik. Notably this early effort launched two noteworthy vocations in sacred art: Flaten as teacher, sculptor, and visual artist; and Sövik as a leading church architect of sacred spaces.

Trinity’s new church was designed to make use of local materials in harmony with its rugged setting on the North Shore. Rock for the foundation, bell tower, and chimney reflected Lake Superior’s geologic history, as did locally obtained lumber from its nearby forest, often cut and milled by church members. Portions of the original church building were salvaged and incorporated, including the maple sanctuary floor, church bell, chairs, and exterior doors. Construction was done by congregational members and community residents, with critical help from the visiting students over three summers (1947-1949). While in Hovland, students stayed in groups with member hosts, led Vacation Bible School, and prepared meals and fundraisers.

Dedication Day occurred on 16 July 1950, when approximately 200 people gathered in worship. It is worth remembering the work of the Ladies Aid Society during the years of church building and for many years following. This meant fundraising efforts to retire indebtedness, purchasing a piano and organ, and continuing the benevolent mission of the church locally and around the world. In addition, the men of the church put on a ham and trout supper every year in May to help retire the mortgage.

For 98 years Trinity had been in a congregational partnership that included Bethlehem Lutheran in Grand Marais, but the congregation was sensing a call to become a single congregation parish, and through their efforts and the efforts of the Northeastern Minnesota Synod of the ELCA were able to do so.  Our relationship with Bethlehem Lutheran in Grand Marais remains strong.

The Restore & Renew Work Group was formed and began meeting in January 2015 to address and plan for a host of identified needs, as the congregation after more than a half-century embraced the physical challenges and mission opportunities of the present and future. Thoughtful discussion over any months and many meetings evolved into a comprehensive plan divided into manageable phases. First to be accomplished, a new cedar-shake roof, added insulation, and wiring upgrades were completed in 2016. With the benefit of a generous memorial gift, this completed without debt. Still utilizing an outhouse and lacking running water, a well was drilled successfully (not always possible in Hovland!) in late spring 2017, generously funded by an anonymous gift, which then allowed for proceeding with the next phase of the project. Ideas and designs for a church addition thoughtfully coalesced, which would include an expanded narthex, a welcoming and versatile gathering space, handicapped accessibility, driveway extension, two bathrooms, a pastor’s study, a work area with ample space for archives and supplies, a new sacristy, and improvements to the existing kitchen (which now would have running water, as well).

Work began in earnest with excavating, an extended class at North House Folk School (about twenty church-folk over thirteen days) fashioning beautiful carved white pine trusses and benches, plumbing and electrical work enabling in-floor heat and enhanced lighting throughout. Over the duration of two years the building was completed, thanks to skilled professionals, countless volunteer hours and material contributions, and the financial generosity of many members and friends of Trinity. The second phase required no outside borrowing, thanks to a Mission Challenge capital campaign, with well more than 150 households from Hovland and beyond gifting and making pledges, along with the resources of the congregation’s Flaten Fund—a college scholarship initiative—to be repaid with interest, further increasing its principal value. The total cost of the Restore & Renew project was approximately $280,000; at the end of 2019, less than $15,000 remained to pay off the Flaten Fund. The capital campaign concludes at the end of 2020, and it is fully anticipated that it will successfully be completed, fully funded without debt.

The addition looks seamlessly like it has always been there, and the historic sanctuary has been transformed in its original design—enlarged, more open, brighter—a testimony to the coordinated planning and crafting of many heads, hands, and hearts. The improvements and new addition were dedicated on Sunday, 12 August 2018, with a festive worship service attended by close to 200 people filling every available space, followed by food and tours throughout the afternoon. A deck has since been added, funded separately by interested donors, and landscaping—led by gifted and experienced members—is proceeding, together creating beautiful and sacred spaces to be used and enjoyed in fellowship, mission, and service into Trinity’s open future.

Trinity Lutheran Church continues as a place of worship and hospitality, with joyful proclamation of the Good News of God in Jesus Christ and the movement of the Holy Spirit. The artistry of stained glass windows (the altar window designed at the beginning by Arnold Flaten, and the newly commissioned rose window at the rear of the sanctuary by Steve and Sharon Frykman), carved beams and doors, the figure of Christ, artwork, and the building’s overall handcrafted beauty draws the minds of worshippers, visitors, and those driving by toward praise of God. The sanctuary is always open.

If you'd like to explore more of our history, we have many documents from the early days!  Click on any of the links below to learn more:
Trinity Lutheran Church, Old Church Teardown (1946)
St. Olaf Lutheran Student Camp Photo Album (1947)
Howard Hong letter to Student Camp (1947)
St. Olaf Lutheran Student Camp Journals (1948-1949)
Trinity Lutheran Church, Dedication (1950)
Trinity Lutheran Church, 75th Anniversary Program
Trinity Lutheran Church, 100th Anniversary Program
Trinity Lutheran Church Cemetery Booklet, part 1
Trinity Lutheran Church Cemetery Booklet, part 2