“A place to gather; a place to worship; a place to grow; a place to serve”
Mount Vernon, Wash.
A daffodil festival and open house took place at Freeborn on March 21 and 28. The church and surrounding grounds captured the eyes of all. To view the thousand of yellow daffodils that covered the grounds was but the beginning of a wonderful experience.
The Stanwood, Wash., area was settled by Norwegians (with some Finns and Danes) in the 1870-1910 period. In 1894, Pator Isberg arrived at Freeborn and held a meeting for the new settlers who lived in the Freeborn community. Times were different than those of today. He walked in from Stanwood in high-top rubber boots to serve a handful of people. They met in a schoolhouse that had been donated by Peder Pedersen.
The year was 1900 when Pastor G. Gulbrandson met with seven families that became the first members of this church named Freeborn Evangelical Lutheran Church and, later, Freeborn Lutheran Church. Peder Pedersen also donated the land where the church and cemetery now stand. In 1904, the church was built. At that time, they used a grocery box as a pulpit and seats were wood planks with no back rests. On the old altar one reads the words, “Pray and you shall receive” in Dano-Norwegian. This altar was first used in Milltown’s temporary church building/grange hall. When it was no longer needed, it was given to Freeborn Lutheran. The Brandstrom family donated a stained-glass window from the Milltown church. The financial support of David Thomsen has made possible the restoration of the church.
Many pastors have served this congregation through the years. Not until 1945 did Freeborn have its first resident pastor, John Maakestad. Pastor Donald Brekhus, Freeborn’s pastor since 2009, has been instrumental in the growth of the congregation these past years.
The entire campus features much besides the church and cemetery. Many glass centerpieces made by the Pilchuck Glass School are on display. Across the road from the church are the 14 Stations of the Cross, two Nordic cabins, a Learning Center, Pilchuck Living History Farm, and the Bonhoeffer Botanical Gardens. Outdoor learning centers, teaching stations (kiosks), pantings, and exhibits for children of all ages are in the making. It is intended that there will be easy walks for those persons 80 years of age as well as those under the age of eight. Outdoor learning labs are being developed with Trinity Lutheran College in Everett. Words cannot express how beautiful this setting is, nor its potential for learning.
This article originally appeared in the April 17, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.