Rollag church, famously hit by bullet during deer season, to celebrate 150 years with its 5 members

A church in Rollag, Minnesota is preparing for a big celebration this weekend, put on by its five-member congregation.

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Grong Lutheran Church in Rollag, Minnesota. It's five-member congregation will be celebrating the church's founding on Sunday, Oct. 2.
Kevin Wallvand / WDAY News
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ROLLAG, Minn. — It's a Sunday morning, and just a few yards from Steamer Hill in Rollag, the congregation at Grong Free Lutheran Church has gathered for worship. All five of them, and a few visiting grandkids.

This weekend, those five members will throw a party. Grong, first settled by Norwegian pioneers, marks its 150th year on Sunday, Oct. 2.

"It really feels like home, and I don't think another church would feel like home," church member Jamin Krause said.

Like a lot of small, rural churches, membership has dwindled. But the five members at Grong have contributed enough work and dollars to keep a pastor preaching and the lights on.

"There must be a reason we are still open. Everything happens for a reason, and there are other churches younger and bigger than us that have closed. Here we are with our five members, and we are still plugging along. We must be here for a reason," Krause said.


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"It is rural, like the country church I grew up in. I really believe the small, rural churches is what kept the small communities going," said the church's pastor Gary Simons.

But Grong Lutheran is known for more than its small congregation. They made headlines several years ago on deer hunting weekend.

"It was a boom. We thought the lights exploded or something," Gudrun Knutson said in a 1987 interview.

It was the deer opener in 1987 when a bullet missed the deer, but came through the wall during Sunday service at Grong. The shot on Sunday made headlines.

"The Grong Lutheran Church here in Rollag at its 11 o'clock service yesterday morning, worshipers were startled when a bullet came through the north wall of the church," former WDAY Reporter Steve Bergeson said in the 1987 broadcast story.

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A stray bullet from a deer hunter that came into Grog Lutheran Church during services in 1987.
Kevin Wallevand / WDAY News

Here's the bullet. It whizzed by organist Inez Softing.

Knutson was in the pew and gave a first-hand account.

"Nobody got hurt, that is the main thing. It could have just as well hit the pastor as hitting the other wall," Knutson said.


The pastor picked up the shell and continued with the benediction. One of many stories from 150 years to be retold this weekend in Rollag.

Just over a dozen people live in Rollag. The other Lutheran church in town is about 100 yards away.

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia, Juarez,Mexico and the Middle East. He is an multiple Emmy and national Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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