Nora Lutheran Church was officially organized on
September 1, 1870, under the guidance of pioneer pastor Rev. Peter S. Reque. In
the mid-1860's, settlers from Norway began arriving in northwestern Pope County
in what would become Nora township. Government surveyor reports from 1866
indicate several settlers were already living in the yet unnamed township. As
early as 1867, written accounts indicate these first pioneers were meeting for
worship services conducted by laymen or traveling pastors.
By 1869, Rev. Reque began visiting this and many other
settlements to conduct services, instruct confirmants, perform weddings,
officiate at funerals, administer the sacraments, and organize congregations.
The Norwegian language was used at Nora Lutheran for at least 65 years until
the mid 1930's when English was gradually phased in. The last full Norwegian
service was conducted in 1972 for a special occasion.
1870 was a key year when Nora township, Nora Lutheran
Church, and the first school district were all officially organized. As new
immigrants continued to arrive, their numbers became so large and the area so
widespread that in 1875 the Nora congregation divided into two separate
churches, with Nora retaining its name to the north and St. John's organized to
In spite of many efforts to raise money for a church
building, due to grasshopper plagues and financial hardships, worship services
continued in homes until 1886 when the first church was finally built. A large
steeple was added in 1896, and in 1903 the building was completely remodeled
and enlarged into a cruciform style. Finally, the congregation had the house of
worship they had been working for. Then just two years later in 1905 it was
struck by lightning and burned to the ground with all its contents.
Undaunted, the members immediately began the task of
rebuilding with the second church located across the road from the cemetery. It
was built in similar style to the first church but larger with 72 foot steeple,
balcony, and seating for 300. In 1954 a large fellowship hall and other rooms
were added. Once again the congregation had the facilities they had worked so
long for. Then in 1968 that entire structure was also destroyed by a fire, this
time caused by electrical fault.
Again, the congregation voted overwhelmingly to rebuild.
The third and present Nora Lutheran Church dedicated in 1969 is a modern
structure, all on one level, and handicap accessible. Its primary function is
as a house of worship, but the church also serves as a community center for
other activities. The convenient facilities were expanded somewhat this spring
with an enlarged narthex and added separate room.
During all of its history, an active ladies organization
has played a key role in the congregation. Today that continues along with a
Sunday School, Youth Group, Bible study, and quilters. Throughout the years,
many anniversaries have been celebrated on special milestones, the most recent
being the 135th last year.
Five sons of the congregation have gone into the
ministry, and members have faithfully supported mission work financially,
through clothing drives, with countless quilts, and locally by contributing to
food shelves and holding benefits for those with special needs.
135 YEARS . . .AND MOVING FORWARD IN
by James Belgum