St. Olaf – a Brief History
When members of the congregation of the Lutheran Church in Norse decided in February 1886 to create a new church west of their present one, the first step was to give them names. The one in Norse would be called “Vor Frelsers Kirke” (Our Savior’s Church) and the one closer to Cranfills Gap would be called “St. Olafs Kirke” (Saint Olaf’s Church). Construction at Saint Olaf’s started that same year. Services were held in the building while it was still a shell, with planks and stumps for pews, and dirt for floor. Before long, the church had real floors, pews, a wood stove and gas lights, stained glass windows, a bell and a pump organ. In 1891, St. Olaf’s Church joined the Norwegian Synod, and in 1895, it held its formal Dedication Ceremony. The rustic simplicity of its early years has undergone little change. A major restoration project, completed in 2010, upheld the historic features, while ensuring this old church will stand another 125 years.
As the population grew westward, the township of Cranfills Gap was chosen as the site for building another “new church.” The image on the right, from George Burnett Co. Architects in Waco, Texas, is an artist’s vision of the church before it was built. The tall photograph on the left panel shows the Dedication Ceremony for Saint Olaf’s Church on August 19, 1917.
Both the 1886 building and the 1917 building are used by the one congregation of Saint Olaf Lutheran Church. The old church building (commonly called the “Rock Church”) is packed for Easter Sunrise service and also for Christmas Eve Candlelight service. The Tenebrae (darkness) service on Good Friday evening is an unforgettable experience. On the 3rd Saturday of each month, the Community and Biker Service is held at 3:30 pm, and all are welcome. Open daily for visitors, and frequently the site of such happy occasions as Baptism or Marriage, and the quiet repose of those laid to rest in the St. Olaf Cemetery, the Rock Church fulfills a vital role in this rural setting. If you are interested in using these facilities, please visit www.rockchurch-gap.com.