Written by Dennis Meyer
Contributed by Karen Klennert

The work of Sky Pilots, Frank Higgins, John Sornberger, and Elwyn (Al or E.L.) Channer in the northern Minnesota logging camps preaching the Gospel, spanned a time beginning in the 1880's and ending in the 1950's. During that time they spent countless hours covering the thousands of square miles that stretched from Barnum and Duluth to Bemidji, Grand Rapids, Big Fork, Aitkin and all points in between.

One such work began on May 26, 1925, when the Mississippi Presbyterian Church, at Mississippi Landing, was organized with 23 members and E.L. Channer as its first pastor. Today we know that church as the Jacobson Community Church. According to church records and present member, Bill Anderson, the church actually had begun in 1918, when Bill's grandpa Clyde and others began to meet on a weekly basis in Jacobson.

In the early years the sky pilots' primary focus was to the thousands of men in the logging camps. In fact, Jacobson, like much of the rest of the area, was just entering into a time of settlement. Much of the business of the towns centered around the days when the men would come out of the woods, their pockets loaded with cash. Many businesses that thrived did so because they were particularly adept at emptying those pockets.

Eventually others moved into the area. People with a need to worship. Loggers, with a new found faith, would come out of the woods looking for a place to share that faith. Except for the larger towns, this place of fellowship was usually in someone's home or in the school if there was one. Pioneers were not of the same ethnic or religious background. As a result, there might be several of these in a particular area.

When a traveling preacher or an evangelist would come through the groups might gather together. In many cases this itinerant preacher was John Sornberger or Al Channer. Often these groups would decide to organize, and in most cases they sought the help of these two.

The Jacobson Community Church has been the official name since September 23, 1984. Prior to that the church was a part of the United Presbyterian Church (UPCUSA). In 1980, the Session (church board of directors) had voted to withdraw from the UPC. At the time, they felt they best served the needs of the area as a non-denomination community church, and so has it been to this day.

Soon after its organization in 1925, action started toward the construction of a church building. Two acres of land were acquired and on October 30, 1926 a Harvest Home Supper was held for the purpose of receiving pledges toward the construction of the church building. Work on the building began as soon as the bridge across the Mississippi was completed. The process was definitely a community project. Notices were posted asking for donations of lumber, labor, or cash. Logs were to be delivered at the local sawmill.

Records show that donations came from a large area. Contributors included businesses and individuals from Grand Rapids, Hill City, Libby, Palisade, Warba and the area around Jacobson. Pledges included two individuals who promised 1/10 of the monies received from their potato crop. Other donations included 10,000 feet if basswood logs, which were delivered to the mill. Cash donations totaled $250 for that year and $1,230.60 by August 18, 1929 when the first service in the new church was held. Almost all of the labor was contributed by the community, both members and non-members alike.

In the early years, it was possible to take your pick when going to the church building. The Presbyterian Church met in the sanctuary and the local Finnish population, which was large at the time, met in the basement. They probably would have all met together except for the fact the one worshipped in English, while the other worshipped in Finnish. Through the years the church has joined with other areas to be served by the same pastor. In 1935 those areas included churches in Tamarack, Round Lake, Swan River and Boot Lake. In 1942 Round Lake and Tamarack became one parish as did Warba and Jacobson.

Since last fall, Bill and Su Fox have been filling pulpit. What started as an interim position has recently been made a more permanent position. The church had been looking for a pastor since last May. As Bill tells it: "We have friends from Texas, John and Jane Wilson, who many in the area are familiar with. They often stay with us when they come up. They have a mission church in Orange Grove, Texas. When they are here they visit the many supporters they have in the area. Some of them are at the Jacobson Community Church. Last summer they were there and offered my name as someone who would fill the pulpit on an interim basis. I have done that before at the Hibbing Full Gospel Church and at the Round Lake Presbyterian. Layne Norling called and invited me to preach. After that I was invited to pastor on a more permanent basis. I initially said six months, and recently I committed on a year by year basis, as the Lord leads." Sue described the fellowship as being "alive and well, with lots of love and unity. We have fun loving Jesus."

For the Foxes it can be a long drive to go to church. They live in Aitkin and some Sundays there are two services. They have lessened some of the miles by parking their camper by the church to use as a home away from home. They stated that a main desire was to "build relationships with those that are there", and to show that "being a born-again, spirit-filled believer is the most exciting life imaginable!"

Recently, my wife and I attended an 11:00 Sunday morning service. Unfortunately, Bill was not there that day, but a familiar face filled the pulpit. Chuck Carlson, long time pastor from Palisade, preached. Like Bill and Sue had said, the service was not super-structured, but rather a "blue-jeans-and-flannel-shirt service". Dick and Linda Horsman helped to lead worship. Dolores Hughes played the piano, and Rachel Anderson accompanied on the flute. The congregation shared prayer concerns and praise reports and Bill Anderson led all in prayer. It was obvious that they prayed with confidence to a God who had answered their prayers. In the past and who they knew would continue to do so.

Prior to the service most of the members attended an adult "Sunday School" class taught by Dick Horsman.

In addition to the Sunday morning service there is a Sunday evening service the second and fourth Sunday of the month. A Bible study is held every Wednesday evening.

Some obvious traits emerged during a fellowship time after the service. The current members are proud of their history. They feel a strong connection to Al Channer and John Sornberger who both preached there and were instrumental in starting the church. This, quite possibly, might be the reason they place such a strong emphasis on missions. Though not large in numbers, they give almost $600/month to a variety of missions. Also, fellowship and community are important to all of them. If we were strangers to them when we walked in they made sure we were not before we walked out.