Yesterday I wrote about living in Mantua, Utah. I mentioned joining Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Brigham City. That memory sent me off to do some research. I was curious about the church’s history, and also about dates.
I found a little potted history (see below). Founded in 1959. We were there early in its history, then, but not among the first. Originally part of the Augustana Synod, the Swedes. Yes, I knew that. Merged into the Lutheran Church in America (LCA) in 1962. I’ve known that as long as I can remember, because that whole thing about LCA vs American Lutheran Church (ALC) was part and parcel of my childhood religious identity. First pastor was Donald Ranstrom. It was his first parish. I remember him, I think, or at least his name. Founded by people who worked at Thiokol Chemical Corp. My parents worked for Thiokol, so that matches my mother’s story that one of the reasons they chose Holy Cross was that they had friends there, particularly Ray and Eleanor Wall. I remember them.
Holy Cross was a beautiful mid-century building, at the mouth of Box Elder Canyon, on the eastern edge of Brigham City. I remember doing a search several years ago. Back then Holy Cross was Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the 1988 successor to the LCA, ALC, and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AELC). This time I was disappointed to see they are now Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC), a conservative synod. Not as reactionary as Missouri Synod, but still quite conservative.
I remember they did an outdoor breakfast and worship in the canyon. We did those. And sunrise services in the canyon on Easter. I can picture the turn off, but I don’t know if I could find it again. It was in a forested area right at the western edge of Mantua. If you took that turnoff from U.S. 89 it would lead back in to Mantua. Looking at a modern map, I think it had to have been S. Park Drive, down by Box Elder Creek and the Box Elder Campground. Maybe.
Looking just a bit more, I see that Pastor Ranstrom went on to serve at UC-Davis, a famous bastion of liberalism in the turbulent 1960s. I found an article where he is tolerant of same-sex marriage (2003). I like that, but his career must have had a much more liberal trajectory than Holy Cross. I’m pleased about that but also a little sad that he lived well into my adulthood, so if I had thought to do it I would have been able to meet him and talk to him.
(I had the same chance to meet again with another childhood minister, Steve Ranheim from Grand Junction. We exchanged a few emails, in 2001, I think. He lived here in Denver and was working for a social services agency. We were going to get together for coffee, but we never did and then he died.)
I was baptized at Holy Cross on June 28, 1964, along with my mother and two sisters. (St. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon — although as good Protestants we pretend we don’t know about saints days.) I have my baptism certificate. I will have to pull it out and look at it. If you had asked me, I would have been sure I was baptized by “Pastor Nilsson”. Looking at the list of former clergy, there was no Nilsson. It must have been Pastor Nielsen, who served from May 1, 1964 to April 30, 1967.
It’s a good thing my mother kept the baptismal certificates. When I converted officially to Episcopalian in, say 1982, Holy Cross had no record of my baptism. The records from those years are lost, they say, or maybe never kept. As a Good Samaritan, I got copies from my mother, and sent them to the offices at Holy Cross. Sometimes I wonder if they really kept them.
Nowadays, I live almost directly across the street from another Lutheran Church, Prince of Peace in Denver. Some days I think I ought to wander over for services. I think I was probably about 12 or 13 when I noticed most people in most Lutheran churches have German or Scandinavian surnames. No surprise there. I’d fit right in.
- Cameron Macdonald, Ecclesiastical disobedience: A Sacramento Lutheran church celebrates its 50th anniversary and continues its legacy of defying the status quo at News Review (Dec. 18, 2003), visited Oct. 23, 2019,
- Holy Cross Lutheran Church, visited Oct. 24, 2019.
- Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Brigham City (LCMC), at Utah Lutheran History, visited Oct. 23, 2019.
- The Rev. Donald T. Ranstrom (obituary), at Davis Enterprise, visited Oct. 23, 2019.