The Rev. T. W. Howard and his wife Susan Collier came to the Rainy River Country under the sponsorship of Minnesota Conference of the Congregational Church in the first decade of the Twentieth Century, to proclaim the Gospel message and start Sunday schools and churches. Before there were roads, using the Canadian Rail system, the river and forest trails, the Howards were responsible for starting several Congregational Churches from International Falls to Warroad. Their home and their base was at Birchdale. United Congregational UCC is a combination of three of the churches they started at Indus, Boarder, and Birchdale. The main part of the current building is over 100 years old and has been added on to.
While the town of Birchdale has very few residents, it serves as the center of a community that stretches along the Rainy River from Lohman to Clemetson in Koochaching County. United Congregational operates a Sunday school where all children are welcome and where children from other congregations in the area attend. The pastor of the church serves as the Chaplain to the area and all people are ministered to. The Congregation maintains a fund to be used for local people who are in need. Recently it purchased an emergency response system for an elderly woman (who was not a member) so that she could remain in her home. The congregation is known for its church dinners and breakfasts, all done on a free will offering system, where no one is turned away. The congregation looks for ways to minister to people and is totally accessible.
Worship is informal in style, often with special music provided by the members of the local bluegrass family band, Sloughgrass. School children of all ages often get practice playing in front of an audience by providing music for church on the piano, bells, or other instruments like the banjo.
Located on Hwy. 11, halfway between International Falls and Baudette, United Congregational is a church that still leaves its door unlocked as a potential place of refuge for those traveling through far northern Minnesota. It’s members provide leadership for Community Festivals such as “The All American Fourth of July, with the World’s Greatest Potluck, Pioneer Days with its bluegrass and Gospel music and outdoor worship service, and The North American Sturgeon Fishing Tournament. Checkout the Deer Hunter’s dinner on the opening day of deer hunting for beef or port roasts, various home grown vegetables, home made bread and desserts – especially pies. In Spring it is s homemade soup supper. Or come to church the following day when we normally have the left overs. Remember worship is always “come as you are” and you will know who the minister is because he’s the one wearing a tie.