By Crystal Thompson
Kremlin, like many Hi-Line towns has roots in religion. At the turn of the century, many Christian families began making their homes along the Hi-Line.
Many of the first families homesteading in the Kremlin area were of Scandinavian descent. After homes were established and a community was formed, the need arose for a meeting place of Christian fellowship. On July 2, 1911, a small group met in the Kremlin schoolhouse for the purpose of establishing a Lutheran congregation.
According to information published during the church's 75th anniversary celebration, Pastor T.O. Kjos was present at the meeting, where he was voted in as Pastor of the new church, and promised pay based on the new church's ability. Future dates of service were irregular, and early church attendance was somewhat limited to those understanding the Norwegian language. Services took place in families' homes at this time. Pastor H.E. Houghland succeeded Pastor Kjos, arriving in 1912. Houghland drove from Chester to hold services. In July of 1913, Pastor O.J. Norby conducted services, followed by O.T. Brandrud in 1914. Branrud lived in Havre. At this time, services in Kremlin were being held about once a month.
In 1917 three church groups joined to form the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America. From May of 1918 to October of 1919 Pastor H.J. Madland served the congregation. During this time, confirmation classes were being held in homes and in the schoolhouse. Church services were also being held at the schoolhouse during this time.
The church was without a pastor on and off during the early twenties. Finally, in the fall of 1925, Pastor O.L. Olsrud arrived. Services were being held in the upstairs of the Nannie Rogers Memorial Methodist Church at that time.
During Olsrud's term as pastor, the first Christmas program was presented by the children of the church. Although there was no Sunday School at the time, Olga (Johnson) Knutson and Curtis Johnson worked together to create a program that incorporated all the students. With no electricity at the time, gas lamps were used for lighting.
In 1931, the cost of upkeep in the Methodist Church facilities became too great and the congregation once again found themselves looking for a place to worship. Pastor Elling Ramsey was now conducting services, which were moved to the Ladies Aid Rooms downtown. In 1934, the congregation moved back into the Methodist Church, but this time services were held in the basement.
In 1946, the name of the church was changed to the Evangelical Lutheran Church. A building fund began in 1947; the fund was but a small beginning of the hopes of the congregation to create a place of worship to call their own. On January 14, 1952 a meeting was held to discuss the possibility of purchasing the St. Paul Lutheran Church building in Havre. It was decided that the building was to be purchased. The congregation then faced the dilemma of finding a building location. Much to the gratefulness of the congregation, Mrs. Anton Knutson donated the lots where her husband and sons had operated a garage until it burned down.
The church building arrived in Kremlin on October 22, and through the donation of time and money it was ready for services on February 8, 1953. Dedication services were held on July 19, 1953. In 1954, the South Gildford church closed, transferring its members to Kremlin Lutheran.
The uniting of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, American Lutheran Church and United Evangelical Lutheran Church was completed in 1960. In 1961 the church became an American Lutheran Church.
In the years to follow the church saw many improvements including the addition of Sunday school and youth group, as well as the continuation of confirmation classes. The church was remodeled and updated to keep up with modern technology.
Today, Kremlin's Lutheran Church enjoys an active congregation under the leadership of Pastor Tim Hauge. Pastor Hauge lives in Hingham, where he conducts services at the Hingham Lutheran Church as well. The Kremlin Lutheran Church is made up of a congregation of young and old who, not unlike their ancestors of the past, find fulfillment in their Christian fellowship.
The United Methodist Church has been a mainstay of Kremlin's Christian community since the early 1900s.
During this time, Wesley Van Orsdel was well-known throughout what is now the Hi-Line for his Methodist ministry. Around 1911, Van Orsdel helped fund the building of Methodist Church in Kremlin. According to long time member Donna Haugen, the church was originally called the Nannie Rogers Memorial Methodist Church, after the wife of one of Van Orsdel's good friends. Several homesteading families helped in the building of the church.
In the early years of the church's operation, the congregation continued to grow. The Kremlin Lutheran Church used the facilities on and off during the twenties. Later, however, as homesteading families ventured away from the Kremlin area in search of more profitable farmland, the congregation began to dwindle.
In more recent years, as attendance dropped considerably, the Methodist Church saw the need to pair with another church for a minister. In the late nineties, former Kremlin teacher Earl Keinz came out of his teaching retirement to be a pastor at the Kremlin United Methodist. After Keinz retired from the ministry, Big Sandy Methodist Minister Connie Cranston took over services at the Kremlin Methodist.
As of right now, the Kremlin Methodist and the Big Sandy Methodist remain "sister churches". Cranston currently ministers to an average group of eight people in Kremlin during Sunday Services.
"We wouldn't be able to do it without Big Sandy," said Methodist Church member Sharon Gomke.
From a large congregation of homesteaders, to less than a dozen regular worshippers, the Kremlin United Methodist Church has struggled to keep going. They have yet to close their doors during their 90 years of service, however, and don't plan to any time soon. Anyone interested in attending services at the Kremlin United Methodist is welcome to join the small and friendly group at 9 a.m. Sunday mornings.