First Lutheran was founded by Norwegian immigrants in 1872. A desire to reach out and help those who are less fortunate has been a part of First Lutheran’s mission from the beginning. The congregation served mostly the immigrant community during the first decades of its existence. Its original name was The Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Congregation, then changing to First Norwegian Lutheran Church.
Over the years the church has been served by numerous pastors. It was in 1876 that the congregation began a building program and erected the first church building at the present location.
Pastor B.A. Benson was the first pastor to hold English services in 1907. The council minutes were written in English for the first time in 1927. This was also the year the name was changed to First English Lutheran Church and it was decided to have all English services … “after much discussion.” Women were given “the same rights as men in all church affairs” in 1922.
In 1907 the church was torn down and a new one built for a cost of $3,797.87, minus the pews. The congregation continued to grow over the years and expand its outreach in the community. In 1948 the church building was sold to the Mission Covenant Congregation and physically moved to 13th Avenue West and Fillmore Street in Alexandria, and a new church was built and dedicated in 1950.
Former Governor of Minnesota, State and U.S. Senator Knute Nelson and his wife, Nicolina, were members of First Norwegian Lutheran Church. Upon his death in 1923, it was learned that Senator Nelson named the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America as a beneficiary of his estate which set forth a plan to eventually have his Alexandria farm and home turned into a home for the aged. This was to become the present day Knute Nelson Home in Alexandria.
Over the years First Lutheran, through its worship, outreach and ministry in the community and beyond, has been an effective and meaningful presence. It is a congregation that has not stood still, but continues to seek ways to grow and serve those around it.