Church History

This congregation was established in 1896. Originally named The Kingston Finnish Apostolic Lutheran Church, in 1987 the name was changed to The Apostolic Lutheran Church of Kingston.

Early Beginnings

In Jerusalem, Israel, in the year 33, the Apostles Church was established upon the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the authority of God, our creator. This was the beginning of our present church.

In Germany, in 1517, Martin Luther fathered the reformation, hence we use Lutheran in our church name.

Within the Lutheran Church of Sweden, in the 1700's and 1800's, the quickening and awakening work of God began to stir the hearts of men. The first impulse came with the Moravian (Herrnhut) missionaries just after 1727. Than as the 1800's progressed, powerful spiritual awakenings appeared in the north, expecially in Norrland; most often among the Pietists, also called "Readers". Among those was Pehr Brandell of NOra. Numbered with those who found the way of salvation through the preaching of Brandell was a lowly and unknown young woman, who in the Laestadian awakening is called the "Lap Mary". Through the witness of Mary, Lars L. Laestadius (1800-1861) was led to a saving knowledge of the Lamb of God and Justification in His blood. In the winter of 1844 Laestadius met the "Readers" and "Lap Mary" on a trip to Asele district of Lapland. When Laestadius returned from Asele he was a new man, born of the Spirit. The power of God was now found in his preaching. By 1845, in the Northern parts of Finland, Sweden and Norway, the Apostle Church experienced a revival by Lars Levi Laestadius.


These are the roots of the Apostolic Lutheran Church of Kingston. Christians from Finland, Sweden and Norway came to America in the late 1800's. Some went to work in the copper mines of northern Michigan. Some went to work in the iron mines of northern Minnesota, while others became farmers and merchants. The majority of those who settled in the Kingston area came from northern Finland.

Estabilishment of the Kingston church

In 1896, Finnish Christians met in Kingston to establish a church that would follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. The minutes of the meeting are as follows:

We met on February 10, 1896, at 10:00 a.m. to organize a church to the laws of God. The meeting was opened by Peter Pelto of Kingston, Minnesota. The ten members present resolved that the name of their church should be the Finnish Sunday School Society of Kingston until otherwise decided by its members. John E. Mattson was elected chairman. Peter Pelto was elected secretary and Andrew Kurtti was elected treasurer. Each for one year. The following members were elected as trustees: Hendrick (Henry) Nurmi, Henry Martin, John Heikel and Andrew Kurtti.

The following constitution was adopted: The Finnish Sunday School Society of Kingston, Minnesota, acknowledges the Bible, the Old and New Testaments, as the only true and sufficient and infallible doctrine and standard for Christian faith, teachings, life conduct, and activity. No person shall be received into the church who does not believe in being born again and the remission of sins. The Finnish Sunday School Society of Kingston, Minnesota, shall for a time remain independent and shall not unite with any other sect or denomination, but remain free according to Galatians 5:1  The property of the Finnish Sunday School Society of Kingston shall be managed by its trustees and shall be common property for all its members who have been formally received into the church and are acknowledged as voters. The meeting house of the church shall be opened for such purpose as the trustees shall direct. The meeting was adjourned at 11:00 a.m., February 10, 1896.

Galatians 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

Two years after the church was organized, its name was changed to the The Kingston Finnish Apostolic Lutheran Congregation. In 1987 it was changed to The Apostolic Lutheran Church of Kingston.

Finnish Sermons

Finnish was the official language spoken in those early years. Later services were held in both Finnish and English, with Finnish services in the morning and English in the evening. The Finnish service started at 10:00 a.m. and lasted until 12:00 noon, or longer. Later the Finnish services were held during Sunday School with the English service following right after. Now, only English services are held unless there is a visiting speaker from Finland; then the Finnish language is translated into English.

Pastors and Ministers

God has provided many pastors for our flock here in Kingston. We are grateful for His mercy and blessings.

The first minister was Henry Nurmi, until the late 1900's; then he shared the pulpit with Peter Pelto until the 1930's. Nurmi and Pelto spoke only Finnish. When an English speaking minister was needed the Rev. Martin Olon of the Kingston Mission Church helped out.

Other ministers have been Alexander Johnson, 1920 to late 1920's; Arvid Hurula, 1932 to 1944; John Paana, once a month beginning in 1938; Arnold B. Anderson, once a month beginning in 1943; and Oscar Wilson, 1948-1984; Andrew Olson 1986-1989, Arvi Aho 1993-2000, and Orval Wirkkala 2001 to present.

Some pastors who have come part-time or as guest speakers over the years include Rodney Johnson, second and fourth Sunday in 1971; Don Salo, once a month in 1973; Ralph Davidson fifth Sunday in 1973; and Norman Kangas who started coming in 1974 on the 4th Sunday and since his move to Ironwood, Michigan, continued to come on each fifth Sunday through the 90's. From 1984-1986 and again from 1989-1993 we had services primarily with guest pastors including Wayne Juntunen, Peter Bergstedt, Lorin Hilman, Edwin Tapio, Kenneth Hendrickson, Arvi Aho, and others.

Assistant pastors have included Karl Mansicka in 1934, in 1946 Oscar Wilson was assistant to John Paana, in 1947 both Oscar and George Wilson were assistant pastors; Oscar became the full time pastor in 1948. In 1950 George Wilson accepted the call to go to New York Mills as their pastor. Walfred Stein served as assistant pastor from 1951 to 1984 and George Saukkola served as assistant during the 90's also.

Items of Interest

In the early days it was not uncommon for people to be moved by the Holy Spirit to start praising God during a sermon. Many were thankful that they had been called out of the sin of this world. Many felt a poorness and weakness in their faith and begged for God's forgiveness and mercy. They were so thankful for the peace of God and how he had provided for their needs that the Holy Spirit caused them to rejoice and thank God.

The Apostle's greeting of "God's Peace" was spoken in Finnish as Jumalan terve (peace to you) as they greeted and Jumalan rauha (peace be with you) when they departed.

Holy Communion was only in Finnish at first; then English communion was added twice a year in May and October; then changed to six times a year then to every month which it remains now. (third Sunday)

In the early church, hymns were led by 'luukaris' or song leaders. In 1934 these singers were John Wayrynen and Peter Salmela; in 1941, Erick Kellokumpu (Kelly), August Koski, The Wilson brothers and Harold Isaacson; in 1943 Bill and John Besonen were added to the singers. In 1949 it was approved to get a pump organ. Stella Wilson was the first organist with Grace Lekander assisting. A piano was purchased for the church in 1987. Other pianists and organists have included Doris Saukkola, Estelle Rokala, Joyce Pick, Alvar Helmes, Dave Schauer, Joanne Aho, Verna Hendrickson (Wally), Kim Rokala, Emily Aho and Beth Wirkkala.

The first recorded baptisms were Laura Pelto, Mary Huhta, Anna Matson, Edward Kangas, Hjalmer Hokkala, Lempi Wiita and Efina Matson (George Saukkola's mother).

The first recording of First Communion (confirmation) was in 1899 for the following students: Walfred Sillanpaa, Juhan Latvala, Anni Leppa, Hendrek Leppa, Juhan Kamara, Arviti Mehtajarvi, Augusti Humari, Luja Humari, Saima Franjari, Maria Nurmi, Selma Nurmi, Joseffina Kamara, Lija Hemmi and Emma Hemmi (mother of Myllykangas'). The last Finnish confirmation class (in 1940) was Kenneth Hendrickson, Elaine Waataja, Signe Lytikainen, Ethel Mary Lytikainen, Donna Anderson and George Saukkola. John Paana conducted the first English confirmation (15 students) in 1941.

The first wedding in the new church was that of Victoria (Mansicka) Johnson (sister of Evelyn Myllykangas) to Rev. John Nelson. Reverend Nelson also did some mission preaching in our midst.

The first funerals were for August Tapio on April 1, 1914, and on September 5, 1914 for Anna Mansicka. Anna was killed when lightning startled her horse and she was tossed down an embankment. She left a large family. Daughter, Evelyn Myylykangas, at age three, was her youngest. Her oldest daughter, Mary, was married to August Isaacson, who is the forefather of many in our present congregation.

At first Sunday School for the children was held in the homes. The younger children learned from a book called The Aapinen. Children ages 14 to 17 attended confirmation school. They memorized the entire catechism. English Sunday Schoolwas started around 1931. The first teachers were Mabel Huro, Mabel Marks and Evelyn Myllykangas. Through the years Sunday School attendance has been as high as 50 and as small as 23. Some of the Sunday School Superintendents over the years have been Helmi Isaacson, Doris Saukkola, Stella Wilson, Alvar Helmes, David Schauer, Doug Saukkola, and currently Josh Salo.

In the early years church was mostly attended by the older people. Travel in those days was difficult; especially if Ma and Pa had a large family and only one buggy. At church the men sat on the right side of the church and the women on the left. The middle section was mostly for mothers and children. Collections were taken by men using a cane pole which had a black velvet bag attached. Congregation members would put their coins in the bag as it passed in front of them.

The first meeting house was the old Swedish Church; which had been moved from it's downtown location next to the river to the present church location.

Approximately 200 families are recorded between 1896 and into the 1920's. The records show people had large families and many baptisms and infant deaths were recorded. Many of the families moved to larger cities or further out west, settling in the Dakotas and the state of Washington. In the 1900's new families moved into the community. The names are more familiar, such as: Maikkula, Merila, Luoma, Isaacson, Anderson, Wiisanen, Rokala, Jacobsen, Stein, and Besonen to name a few.

New Church in 1913

By 1913 the congregation had outgrown its meeting house. The members decided to build a larger church which is the one we still use today. The old meeting house was sold to John Marks for $250; it was moved to his property across the road. He used it as a dairy barn for many years.

Monies for the new church were collected from persons in the community. Monetary donations ranged from $1 to $50. Fifty four people donated money plus those who donated time and talents. The contract was for $2,158. Mr. Salo was selected as the congractor. The cost of the pews was $395; the table which the singers sat behind was $10. The floor, which is #1birdseye maple, cost $66. When building the church, they propped the roof up before leaving on Saturday. Over the weekend the props bowed. The contractor told the board that he would charge $25 less if they would leave it. The bow is still in the roof.

The pulpit in the new church was about one foot higher than it is today. The pastor always preached sitting down behind the pulpit. There were gas lights which had to be pulled down to be lit with an alcohol torch. It was Charlie Ruopsa's job to light them for many years. Charlie died one morning during services sitting in the same pew he always in during church.

Later changes and additions to the 'meeting house:'

  • In 1942 it was approved to have W.G.Stein install electric lights on the back wall. Later electric lights would be installed throughout the church.
  • In 1943 it was decided to purchase an English pulpit bible because more and more people spoke that language instead of Finnish.
  • In 1947 the maple floors were sanded and refinished by some of the young men of the congregation, pledges were taken to purchase a new furnace and finish the basement.
  • In 1955 new gold colored glass window was installed to replace the old clear glass, a new electric organ fund was started and the green, Songs of Zion, hymnals were purchased.
  • In 1958 a motion was made to get indoor restrooms. The old ones were left standing for many years to accommodate those who were more comfortable using the old ways.
  • In 1963 Rev. Janne Maartinni of Finland was in Kingston on a preaching trip and donated $2 toward the building of a sacristy; as he said every church should have one. The kitchen was enlarged at that time and the floor was tiled in the dining room.
  • In 1972 the walnut cross was put up in the front of the church. It was made by Enard and Ray Johnson.
  • In 1979 the interior of the church was repainted its present color by members of the congregation.
  • In 1981 the pews were refinished by Eric Wilson and Todd Schaaf, young members of the congregation.
  • In 1982 ceiling tiles were installed.
  • In 1984 the lighted church sign in front of the church was given in memory of Pastor Oscar Wilson, and the steel doors were installed, a memorial in memory of Walfred Stein.
  • In 1985 the storage safe was purchased and two new furnaces were installed.
  • In 1986 the outside of the church was painted by the congregation and the sacristy was redecorated with memorials from several families.
  • In 1987 a piano was purchased for upstairs use to be used for Sunday School and worship services, donated by Esther Hendrickson and Selma Jacobsen.
  • In 1988 a baptismal fount was given to the church in memory of Rachel Howk, whose death stunned our congregation when she was killed in an auto accident in 1987 at age 16.
  • In 1988-89 a stained glass window was designed and donated to the church in memory of Wayne and Elizabeth Erickson and was installed between the narthex and sancturary.
  • In 1990 the wood floors were refinished by Vermont Isaacson and pew cushions were purchased.
  • In 1995 new wiring was installed, new insulation blown into the attic area, and a handicap ramp built. Much of the ramp was paid for by memorials in memory of David Myllykangas.
  • In 1996 a wood rail was put in along the cemetary on the side by the street.

Special Services

In the early 1920's Kingston hosted the 'Big Meetings'; a dedication of the new building. At that time the meals were served in Murphy's Store, later known as Carlson's garage.

In 1952 The Fall Services were in Kingston. Meals were served in the church parlors. Finnish services were held in the old town hall and English in the church and a big tan tent that was set up on the East side of the church. The visitors were housed in homes of families in the community. The 'outhouses' were all spruced up for the occasion and more were hauled in to acccommodate the visitors. People came from Massachusetts, Michigan, North and South Dakota, Washington and other congregations in Minnesota.

In 1978, Kingston again hosted the Fall Services, which were held in the Kimball High School. Many of the people who came in 1978 chose to stay in motels in St. Cloud. Meals were prepared and served at the Kimball High School with approximately 700 people being served for Sunday dinner.

Special services have been held on a more local basis at various times also.

Over the years the ladies of the church have taken care of serving meals, finding lodging and meals for visiting pastors and taking care of kitchen supplies and decorating the church. Doris Saukkola was instrumental in organizing this group and served as chairman for many years.

Annual Meetings

Items of interest from minutes of annual congregational meetings.

(from the by-laws adopted February 10, 1896)

VI The State laws were accepted in regard to Society membership, and it was decided that each member shall pay to the treasury 25 cents and up per month as dues.


Karl Mansicka (Sophie Rokala's father) was the chairman. Income for that year was $137.45 and expenses $97.00. Boar members voted in that year were John Wayrynen, Jacob Jacobson, and August Isaacson. Karl was also assistant pastor and John Wayrynen and Peter Salmela were luukaris (song leaders)


Harold Isaacson was elected to the board. Harold was a member of the board until 1944.


Walfred Stein was elected to the church board. He faithfully served as Chairman of the board from 1949 until 1976,


Services were changed from 10 a.m. Finnish, 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. English. It had been Finnish at 10 a.m. and English at 8 p.m.

In the late 1960's Vacation Bible School was started by Helmi Isaacson. It has continued throughout the years.


Our local grave digger, Bill Hardy, received a raise to $35 for a summer grave and $45 for a winter grave. George Huro and Harold Isaacson were voted as car parking attendants, a position they held for many, many years.


Alvar Helmes was elected to the church board and he also held the position of organist.


Wyman Ailie was elected Chairman of the Board and Bible study scheduled to be held in the church basement for everyone.


The by-laws were revised. Discussion had begun in 1981 and was finalized in 1987.


It was decided to change from a nine man board to a seven man board.

Other Noteworthy Items

Approximately 50 young men answered the call to serve our country in the military during World War I and World War II. Other young men also served in Korea and Viet Nam.

The church was broken into in 1983. The old silver common communion wine chalice, wafer tray and baptismal bowl as well as the public address system were stolen.

Many memorials have been given to the church over the years. They have been enabled the church to obtain such things as new hymnals, pew Bibles, church improvements, and for the Word of God to be preached.

Our cemetary which is next to the church has approximately 500 or so graves with the first burial being in 1891. The first recorded burial was in 1906. The original cemetery property has been added on to four times. Some of the added property has been memorials.

Board members in 1996 were George Saukkola, Chairman; Dave Schauer; Harley Hendrickson; Joe Inselman; Doug Saukkola; Bradley Rokala and Bob Fischer.  Current board members are Dan Salo, Chairman, Doug Saukkola, Ben Aho, Bradley Rokala, Joe Inselman and Brian Peterson.

The pastor of the congregation at the time of the 100th anniversary celebration was Arvi Aho, who came from Wolf Lake, MN to serve our congregation. Arvi, his wife Joanne and family have been a blessing to the our congregation. They have had thirteen children, one of which has passed away and Arvi and his wife have moved to South Carolina along with most of their children and grandchildren.

The congregation is currently served by Orval and Beth Wirkkala, who moved from the state of Washington in 2001 to serve the congregation at first on a part-time basis, but now on a full-time basis. They have seven children who live in various parts of the United States.

In the summer of 2008 the congregation began to build a new church building on 20 acres of land which had been purchased a few years earlier.  The new location is located approximately one-third mile west of the current church and located on CSAH 27.

Special Memories

Pastor Henry Nurmi (our first pastor) came from Finland. He was a man of small stature with a long beard. He is remembered as a powerful speaker and a very humble man. His wife was Ida (Kangas) and they had a large family. He passed away in 1932.

Pastor Peter Pelto, (one of the first pastor) came from Finland. He farmed just northwest of Kingston. When Pastor Nurmi moved to Belden, ND, Peter Pelto answered God's call to be servant as the pastor of the Kingston Finnish Apostolic Lutheran Congregation. He sold his farm to Arvid Root in 1925 and he moved into the village of Kingston and where he build a new home. He lived there until his passing in 1930.

Juhan Kamara (one of the first confirmands), later changed his name to John Hendrickson. He was the father of the late Pastor Kenneth Hendrickson, past congregation members Martha Roupsa and Wally Hendrickson, and former Kingston resident Elsie Maikkula.

John (J.P.) Korhonen was the grave digger from the early years until the 1950's. His stipend at that time was $10 per grave, winter or summer.

Pastor Arvid Hurula (our pastor from 1932 until 1944) was also of small stature. His wife, Hilda, passed away while they were in Kingston. People remember his as a widower who walked around Kingston and asked all he met if they were in faith. During this time his overcoat was very thin so two young ladies of the congregation, Evelyn Myllykangas and Mabel Huro, decided to get him a new one by going out and getting donations. In a tiny coin purse they carefully kept track of all the money collected. When they got home they counted the money and they had $5 too much, which was a lot during that time. They recounted many times and coult not come up with a theological way that the $5 bill could have gotten in there since they had recorded no one giving $5. They came to the conclusion that it had come from the hand of God.

Nathan Anderson, Matt Leppa, John Heikel and Peter Merila and many others were early pioneers in the church.

Pastor John Paana is remembered as a portly man and being a powerful speaker. He did a lot of mission work traveling to different parts of the United States. John Paana came to Kingston once a month beginning in 1938 and held the first English confirmation in 1941. His wife was Gladys (Wittenberg) and they had two children, Eva and Paul.

Andrew and Jean Waataja were church janitors for many years; until they moved to Minneapolis in 1954.

Pastor Oscar Wilson was our regular pastor from 1948 until his death in 1984. We have many memories of Oscar because most knew him. He baptized, confirmed many of us, and officiated at several our as well as our children's weddings. He grew up in the Kingston area, the eldest son of Kasper and Lydia Wilson. He served in the military during World War II. In 1947 on a preaching trip to Detroit, Michigan he met Stella (Sirvio) whom he married in 1949. They were married in Kingston by A.B. Anderson. Oscar was ordained by Rev. Andrew Mickelson on May 28, 1948. From his records it show he had 349 baptisms some of these from Cokato New York Mills and Minneapolis. He held 25 confirmations, four of which were outside of Kingston. His first class was in 1948 and the students were Joyce Anderson, James Besonen, Paul Besonen, Dale Hastings, Jane Hastings, Mary Jane Hokkala, Peter Merila, Cathryn Peterson, Melvin Stein, Bonnie Violet and Louis Violet. His last class was in 1983 and those students were Kelly Helmes, Michael Olinger, Mariann Larson, Kathleen Myllykanga, and Jody Renner. He conducted 270 funerals and he officiated at 77 weddings. Besides being our pastor he was also a farmer. Oscar and Stella had four children, Carmelle, Phillip, Rita and Erick. Oscar was a loving and dedicated pastor who never wavered in his beliefs and upheld the foundation our faith is build upon. We sincerely thank God that He gave us Oscar how helped preserve our Christian heritage. Oscar never lost his love for our congregation. He was a long-suffering servant and patient man who always endeavered to do the will of God. Many of us remember his loving arms embracing us in Christian love as he assured us the our sins were forgiven in the Name and shed blood of Jesus Christ.

Pastor Andrew Olson (our pastor from 1986-1989) came to our area from Redding, California. He was a native of Chassel, Michigan. Andy, his wife Lavonne and sons Luke and Gabriel lived in Rockford and then Cokato while serving the Kingston congregation. They moved back to Michigan in 1989 where Andy passed away in 1995.

Very few Sundays have gone by over the years without a worship service, for which we give thanks to God. When we did not have a pastor, there were those who were willing to to come to lead us in worship and thanksgiving. We pray that God will continue to guide us and bless us with his grace and mercy as we continue on our journey to that blessed home above. As the song writer says, "He is the potter and we are the clay. Mold us and make us after Thy will."

Pastors Raised in the Kingston Area

The following four pastors grew up in the Kingston area:

Pastor Oscar Wilson

He was born in September of 1909, the eldest son of Kasper and Lydia Wilson.He grew up and attended school in the Kingston area. Oscar served in the military during World War II. In 1949 he was united in marriage to Stella Sirvio. Oscar was one of the "luukaris" and then assistant pastor at Kingston before beginning as pastor of the Kingston Apostolic Lutheran Church. He served in that position from 1948 until March of 1984, when he passed from this life. Oscar and Stella resided on a farm northwest of Kingston. They have four children and several grandchildren.

Pastor George Wilson

He was born April 28, 1912, the son of Kasper and Lydia Wilson. He grew up and attended school in the Kingston area; graduating from Dassel High School in 1929. George and Luva (Brown) were united in marriage on June 19, 1937. In 1943 George was one of the "luukaris" for the Kingston Apostolic Lutheran Church; and, in 1947 he became assistant pastor. In 1950, George accepted the call to go to New York Mills, MN, as their pastor; where he served for 36 years. While at New York Mills he also held services in Spruce Grove and Menagha, MN; Rolla, ND and Frederick, SD. George and Luva had six children and many grandchildren as well as great-grandchildren. George passed away from this life on January 11, 1988.

Pastor Kenneth B. Hendrickson

Kenneth Berhhardt Hendrickson was born on September 11, 1926, the son of John and Lydia (Koski) Hendrickson, in Kingston, MN> He attended rural school and later Kimball High School. Kenneth served in the military from 1945-1946. Following his discharge from the armed forces he attended Suomi College, Suomi Theological Seminary, Detroit Universities and the University of Minnesota. In 1951 he was united in marriage to Verna M. Sunnarborg. Ken and Verna had four children. Pastor Hendrickson served as pastor of the Apostolic Lutheran churches at Virginia, MN; Detroit, MI, and for 31 years at Plymouth, MN. Pastor "Ken" retired in 1989 and passed from this life on November 12, 1992.

Pastor Rodney A. Johnson

He was born in Kingston, MN, on May 28, 1940, the son of Enard and Ellen Johnson and live his young life here, except for the World War II years when they lived in Minneapolis. In 1960 Rodney married Dolly Barney and they resided in St. Cloud until 1962 when Rodney graduated from St. Cloud State College and they moved to Esko where Rodney taught math at the Hermantown High School. They later lived in Minneapolis and Rodney came to Kingston to speak once or twice a month from 1968-1972. In 1972 Rodney and his family moved to Michigan where has has since served as pastor at the Laurium Apostolic Lutheran Church. Rodney and Dolly have been blessed with five children.