2544 Highway 100 South, St. Louis Park, Minnesota

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Wat Promwachirayan Thai Minnesota

Wat Thai
Address: 2544 Highway 100 Highway S
St. Louis Park, Minnesota
Hennepin County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Country: United States
Year built: 1959
Primary Style: Modern
Historic Function: Religious/Place of worship
Current Function: Religious/Place of worship
Architect or source of design: Hammel and Green
Builder: Ridgeway Construction
First Owner: Lutheran Church of the Reformation

St. Louis Park Hennepin



LUTHERAN CHURCH OF THE REFORMATION and Wat Thai Buddhist Churcu 2544 Highway 100 So.

The Lutheran Church of the Reformation began on November 14, 1954, when a group of people interested in establishing an Augustana Lutheran church in the Park met with the Regional Director of the Board of American Missions for the Minnesota Conference. The denomination was formed in 1924 as the Augustana Congregation under Dr. P.A. Mattson.

On May 22, 1956, the Minnesota Lutheran Regional Home Mission Committee, representing the eight participating Bodies of the National Lutheran Council, assigned a field in the northeast area of St. Louis Park and the southeast area of Golden Valley to the Augustan Lutheran Church, approving the use of a proposed church site at approximately 26th and Highway 100.

On June 12, 1956, the Board of American Missions, through its Church Extension Fund, purchased 3.85 acres of land at 2544 Highway 100 So. on behalf of the proposed congregation. On October 12, 1956, The Steering Committee, selected for the purpose of advising with the Board of American Missions in the development of the program, had its first meeting.

On March 10, 1957, the first service was held at the St. Louis Park Theater, with interim pastor Rev. Dr. P.O. Bersell, president emeritus of the Augustana church, presiding. 197 were in attendance. The first Sunday School was held on March 31, 1957, with 68 in attendance. Pastor Herman E. Soderberg, of Rock Island, Illinois, came to serve as a Board Missionary in the establishing of the church on May 7, 1957.

101 parishioners attended the First Family Fellowship meeting at Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Hopkins, including Pastor Soderberg.

On June 2, 1957, a Service of Godspeed was held at Gethesemane for 82 persons who were transferring their membership to the new Reformation church.

The congregation was formally organized on June 16, 1957, with a Charter membership of 204. Although there were a few members from Golden Valley, the vast majority of the members were from St. Louis Park. An Organization Sunday service took place at 10:30 am at the St. Louis Park Theater, with Dr. Bersell presiding. At 3:00 that same day, an Organization Sunday congregational meeting was held at Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Hopkins; 82 people from that church transferred to the new church. Regular services continued to be held at the Park Theater.

Pastor Herman E. Soderberg became the congregation’s first permanent pastor on August 1, 1957. The parsonage was purchased at 2614 Xenwood Ave.

A building fund was started in May 1958, with a goal to raise at least $30,000 of the $82,000 needed to building the “first unit.” The first unit measured 50 ft. wide by 80 ft. long and would accommodate 200 to 250 chair s and seat 170 for dinner. The building was described in the Dispatch (May 1, 1958) as: a concrete structural frame, enhanced with a thin shelled concrete vaulted roof. The upper floor of the two-floor structure will serve as a sanctuary and fellowship hall with facilities for administration, choir robing and nursery.

The chancel and choir facilities will be at the north end. Folding chairs will be used for seating to maintain flexibility. Wood is used as wall panels to compliment the concrete structure and windows on the east and west walls enhance the feeling of openness and space. The lower floor is one large area that can be divided into areas for Sunday school and opened to accommodate social and recreational functions. The southern portion of the lower level contains the furnace room, rest rooms, storage space and kitchen.

The $70,000 first unit building, designed by architects Hammel and Green and built by the Ridgeway Construction Co., was dedicated on January 4, 1959. In 1961 membership topped 500, with 170 in Sunday School and 30 in the cradle roll. There were three choirs: Senior, Girls’, and Chapel. Organizations within the church included the Reformation Lutheran Church Women and Men’s groups, Neighborhood Units, Churchmen, Luther League, Junior Luther League, King’s Ambassadors, and Marri-Mates (Couples Club).

In 1962 the Augustana Lutheran Church merged with three other Lutheran bodies. Pastor Arnold E. Lack was installed on April 21, 1963.

A new church site was dedicated on May 4, 1969, and the new church was dedicated on February 15, 1970. The building is 11,700 square feet with 80 parking stalls to the east and a community garden on the southwest corner of the property along Vernon Ave. The main level has a small office and conference room, gathering space with commercial kitchen, and restrooms. The lower level has a sanctuary (300 person seating capacity), private office, wheelchair lift, children’s wing with five classrooms and storage. Pastor Robert T. Baugh was installed on December 12, 1971. [1]

Wat Thai of Minnesota was founded in 2003, the first of three Thai Buddhist sects in and around the metro area. Its first temple was a house in Becker; the congregation moved to Elk River in 2006. It has 20 to 30 primary members, although hundreds more attend its cultural offerings, many from the metro area’s Hmong population.

The Elk River center had a secluded setting for the monks to chant and meditate. But it was at least 45 minutes from Minneapolis, too far for many to drive, and not nearly big enough for the events leaders wished to hold.

Dee Noree, who owns the Amazing Thailand restaurant in Minneapolis, was elected president of Wat Thai in 2016. In January, he bought the former Lutheran Church of the Reformation, left vacant more than two years ago.

Within a couple of months, Wat Thai converted the old church into a temple. Monks and volunteers repaired the electricity and plumbing, replaced broken windows and painted over graffiti on the walls. A large golden Buddha and other smaller Buddhas are arranged in the temple’s meditation space.

Much of the renovation was done by the monks themselves, three of whom are assigned to Wat Thai. Dressed in orange beanies and hunting jackets, they cleaned the surrounding property between their morning and evening chanting. [1]

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