The History of Trinity Lutheran Church
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Watertown originated as Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Götaholm Congregation in 1858 with 23 charter members. They purchased three acres of land on the shore of Swede Lake, just south of town, for $10 per acre. Not long after, the congregation moved to Watertown to a site in the middle of our current cemetery, and then moved to its present location in 1890.
In 1948, funds for a new organ were raised as the church celebrated its 90th Anniversary. But on Monday, June 7, tragic news flashed over the wires... "Götaholm destroyed by fire". Smoke and fire poured out of the bell tower like a chimney, and eventually the tower collapsed. When the fire was finally extinguished, what remained of the altar and the bell itself were found in the smoldering rubble in the church basement.
The Parish Hall that sat across the street served as a meeting place for all activities, including services, and ground breaking was held on August 1, 1948. A general contractor was hired for the project and construction workers who had been hired were housed in the homes of church members during construction. Volunteers also spent many hours a day working to rebuild the church building.
The name change to Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church was ratified at the annual meeting of 1949. The last Swedish service was held on January 1, 1949, marking the end of an era. This was no longer a Swedish church, but the Church of the Lord, extending the call and invitation to worship to all nationalities. The cornerstone of the new church was laid on May 8, 1949 and by Christmas of that year, the congregation was worshiping in the new sanctuary, only 19 months after the disastrous fire. And on February 5, 1950, the new organ was finally dedicated.
Of course, the old church building and the devotion of the people who rebuilt it will not be forgotten. A special reminder of the former building can be found in the cross, candelabras, vases and book rest that we still use on our altar today. These items were made from the metal bell that was in the church at the time of the fire.
Over the years, additions have been added to the building, including an Education Wing and Chapel in the 1970s. The chapel was dedicated in 1984 as Nylunda Chapel, in honor of another Swedish settlement church on nearby Lake Mary. When Nylunda Evangelical Lutheran Church closed, its congregation donated their church furnishings to Trinity, where they were used faithfully in our chapel for many years. Most recently, in 2014, our congregation completed an expansion of our current facility which included an elevator, new office space, air conditioning, and a new gathering hall, in order to enable the congregation to move forward In the light of Christ.
Our Past Mission
When Götaholm/Trinity first began, they helped start new churches in the area, such as congregations at Moores Prairie, Buffalo, Waverly, Maple Plain, Lyndale, and Nylunda. More recently, in May of 1969, the congregation helped start Faith Lutheran Church in Waconia. Through its history, Trinity has not only served to start mission churches but has had several pastors who have served as missionaries throughout the world. Pastors have arrived at Trinity after serving in Nepal, Tanzania, and Japan. In addition, fifteen sons or daughters of the congregation have gone on to become Lutheran pastors. And the mission of the church is not relegated only to previous pastors. Most notable is Ethel Akins from Trinity who served in China and Taiwan from 1921 until her death in 1980.
In the mid to late 1990s, youth trips to Queen Louise Home for Children in St. Croix were organized for the purpose of doing service projects, mostly painting and light maintenance, although they also did arts and crafts and played games with the children at the orphanage as well. In the years to follow, Trinity also organized several medical mission trips to Jamaica. To this day, Trinity supports both local and global outreach efforts through the work of the Evangelical Church in America.
Our Current Mission
As Trinity moves forward, we continue to explore new ways that we can reach out with the good news of new life in Jesus Christ, both locally and globally.