By Irma Fritz, for the Kent Reporter
Kent Lutheran Church welcomes everyone to its 130th anniversary party on Saturday, Nov. 2.
Festivities begin at 7 p.m. in the church fellowship hall, at 336 Second Ave. S., with appetizers and dessert. A program to commemorate Kent Lutheran’s 130 years in the community will follow.
Kent Lutheran Church was founded in 1889 by eight immigrant Scandinavian families of farmers, shopkeepers and transport servers who named it Den Skandinaviske Evangeliske Luterske Menighet.
“Their mission was to serve the people of Kent Valley,” said Kent Lutheran Pastor Jane Prestbye, “and 130 years later, it’s still our mission.”
Prestbye spoke of the 1960s when warehouses overtook the farmlands and Kent families moved out of the valley.
“Other churches followed the people as they moved up into the hills,” she said, “but after much discussion and prayerful consideration, our congregation decided to stay in the heart of the city of Kent.”
As the world changed around it during the past 130 years, the church adapted. In the 1920s, English replaced the Norwegian language at worship. Nearly a century later, with South Sudanese refugees arriving in the Kent Valley, Kent Lutheran read the Gospel in English and the Nuer language.
While the economic downturn of the late-’70s prompted the creation of the Kent Community Supper program to feed unemployed Boeing workers, half a century later Kent Lutheran still opens its doors every Monday night, serving hot meals to a growing population of unsheltered and marginalized neighbors.
Lately, the church had turned its focus to a fundraising campaign led by the Kent Grand Organ committee to complete installation of the Hutchings/Plaisted & Co. Opus 78 Pipe Organ at the church. The historic organ, built at First Baptist Church in 1878 in Salem, Mass., will be the centerpiece for creating a destination for world-class performing arts in downtown Kent.
In a recent letter to the Kent Grand Organ board of directors, Kent Mayor Dana Ralph wrote: “I commend their efforts and wholeheartedly support their determination to raise enough money to ensure the Kent Grand Organ finds its forever home.”
“Our 130-year journey has been ever changing,” Prestbye said. “From eight original families, we’ve grown into a vibrant faith community in the midst of the larger community of Kent. Being in the downtown core has allowed us to become a place where people can converge, communicate, and contribute. And so, we welcome all to our 130th birthday party.”
Kent Lutheran Church is an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and a Reconciled in Christ (RIC) congregation. The church campus is used by several ethnic churches and numerous nonprofit groups, such as Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP); Kent Youth and Family Services (KYFS); Alcoholics Anonymous (AA); Narcotics Anonymous (NA);, Amchang Faupo Church; Champion Impact Ministries International; South Sudanese Church; Unified in Faith Ministries; Monday Night Community Dinner; Willow’s Place Dinner; M-Power Music for Youth; HOME; and Lutheran Counseling Network.