Immanuel Baptist Church traces its origin to the grasshopper plagues of the 1870s. The Danish Baptist Church of Clarks Grove, a few miles north of Albert Lea, gathered provisions for people in Cottonwood County who were struggling with the grasshopper disaster.
The Danish Baptist Church commissioned two men to deliver the supplies to settler-colonists living in the future Storden area. On July 12, 1879, a group of local Baptists organized First Scandinavian Baptist Church and called J.M. Nelson, one of the men who had come from Clarks Grove, to be their pastor.
The arrival of the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis, & Omaha Railway motivated the congregation to dismantle their place of worship around 1899 and rebuild closer to the Currie Line Railroad. Settler-colonists living closer to the newly incorporated village of Westbrook, five miles west of Storden, preferred to worship in Westbrook.
In 1901 the village of Westbrook donated a plot of land and erected a church building. Mr. Hubbell, a farmer living south of the village, donated $500 to build the structure. A group of Baptists used the money to build Calvary Baptist Church at the corner of Sixth Street and Ash Avenue. About five years later the congregation disbanded when several families moved from the area.
The Baptists east of Westbrook held services in homes until September 6, 1908, when they called a meeting to organize a congregation. Two months later the group met at the former Calvary Baptist Church with the intent of purchasing the building. On November 17, 1908, twenty-two charter members (eighteen from the Storden church and four from Calvary) celebrated the founding of Immanuel Baptist Church.
Settling on a meaningful name for the new Baptist church posed a major challenge to the small group of worshipers. They chose Immanuel because the word means “God with us.” Rev. N.H. Byers answered the unanimous call to be the church’s first pastor. He served in that capacity until 1915, when he moved to a new ministry. Ten men served as pastors of Immanuel Baptist from 1908 until 2004, when Rev. Robert Adams began his ministry.
Many changes implemented over the years enhanced the 1901 building. In 1913 the first addition involved digging a basement, adding a bell tower, and installing a furnace and a baptistry. A thirty-two-by-twenty-six-foot addition, including a new kitchen, was added in 1948. The building grew with the addition of an educational wing in 1969.
In 2001 a major building project added facilities for Westbrook Christian Day school, which had opened its doors to ten students on September 5, 1978. The large classroom on the first floor and activity center in the basement of the new addition met the needs of the growing school. Enrollment reached a peak of forty students, but the school closed in 2006 because of falling enrollment.
Immanuel Baptist Church continues to minister in the Westbrook area while supporting ministries around the world. People whose lives have been impacted by the church’s ministry are scattered from coast to coast in the United States as well as on the continents of South America and Asia.
— Carolyn Van Loh
Edited from a January 2018 copy written by C. Van Loh andposted on the MN Historical Society site at mnopedia.org