Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Son of Salem’s former pastor remembers more prosperous times for parish in transition

Second in a series focusing on a south Minneapolis congregation’s pilgrimage

Editor’s note: Metro Lutheran is following the progress of Salem Lutheran Church in south Minneapolis, as this congregation in transition struggles with missional and property issues. The congregation closed its building at 28th and Lyndale on Reformation Sunday and is now sharing space with Lyndale United Church of Christ a few blocks away.

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One of those in the large crowd on Reformation Sunday, as Salem Lutheran Church was closing its large worship center, was the son of a former pastor, Robert Wetzler. He’d read Metro Lutheran’s extensive report on Salem’s current challenges. That story triggered an e-mail, and a later visit by Wetzler to the Minnesota Church Center for a sharing of memorabilia.

The editor thought some of Wetzler’s e-mail was interesting enough to share with readers. Here are portions:

“My father, Paul Luther Wetzler, was pastor of Salem from 1928-1969. He used to joke that he thinks he was originally called there to give the place a formal burial. But that was not what he had in mind. He got to work, and the congregation grew to more than 2,000 members by 1960.

“My siblings and I grew up in the parsonage that sat on the front lawn of the church. The Dutch style residence was designed by the previous pastor’s wife, Mrs. Marker, but they left as it was completed, and my folks moved in when it was brand new. (I was born in 1932, after they’d lived there four years.) In the late 1930s, the parish wing (domestic Gothic style) was added. In the early 1950s, to make room for more additions to the building, the parsonage was moved four blocks to 2741 Pleasant Avenue where it still stands.

“I was in college at the time, and was heading back for the fall term (at Thiel, now an ELCA school in Greenville, Pennsylvania). I had to get my trunk out of the house. The house was sitting out in the street on wheels, ready to roll (see photo). It was like being in a carnival crazy house to get up under there, and go up the stairs to get my stuff.
The house was leaning a bit, and it was weird to go up the stairs with gravity pulling me over to the right wall.

“Dad retired in 1969. The church gave him the parsonage, though he insisted on taking over the mortgage on it. Dad and Mom and I lived there together in that fine house on Pleasant Avenue. I bought the house from Dad and stayed there until 1991. Finally, that old house (four bedrooms) was too much for me to rattle around in.”

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In a future installment, Metro Lutheran will report on Salem’s progress in its “new temporary” home.