History of the First English Lutheran Church (FELC) from 1929 - 1979

The First English Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized in January, 1929, according to accounts from old church records. Prior to that time, St. John's Lutheran Church was holding German Services and was connected with the Iowa Synod, a forerunner of the old ALC. There was a move within the Kimball community for English language Lutheran services. Some of the members of St. John's, as well as other Lutherans from the community, together with Pastor H. Stennfeld petitioned the Iowa Synod to support such a new mission venture, which resulted in the formation of a new congregation.

In 1930, the Buffalo Synod, the Iowa Synod, and the Ohio Synod merged to form the old American Lutheran Church. By 1953 it had become the fourth largest general Lutheran body in this country. In 1960 a major merger took place as the American Lutheran Church (German background), the E.L.C. (Norwegian background), and the U.E.L.C. (Danish background) joined to form a much larger body also called The American Lutheran Church.

Rev. H. Stennfeld served the new congregation until Pastor Otto F. Meyer accepted a call in July, 1929. The church board at the time of incorporation was President, John Stull; Vice-President, Gus Forsling; Secretary, James Hansen; Treasurer, John C. Leu;Elders,. Martin A. Zabel and Gust Johnson. The first Confirmation Class included Alice Danielson, Paul Knoedler and John Stull. They were confirmed on June 16, 1929, by Pastor Stennfeld at the Fraternal Hall.

On October 22, 1930, the congregation purchased the lots on which the church stands from Dr. M. Markley for $750. Pastor Meyer resigned in September, 1931 to attend school. Rev. F. Hefner, serving out of Wellington, Colorado, was pastor from Nov., 1931 to June, 1933. Rev. E. F. Wendt, from Ft. Morgan, sewed until May, 1936. Rev. Arnold _E. Sommer arrived in May, 19.36 and served until June, 1937.

Following this time, Dr. E. G. Fritschel, then of Greeley, Colorado, was most active in keeping the field alive during the severe depression years. He served as pastor until 1942 when Rev. M. Stricker entered the work in December.

Our first church building was a remodeled barn. Phil Stahla and P. A. Pedersen looked over the barn to see whether it should be torn down or remodeled. A sacristy and chancel area was built onto the east end of the building, which was originally 16' by 32'. A narthex was added to the west end of the building. The cost of remodeling was about $800 to $900. This first church building was dedicated to the Glory of God on February 2, 1941.

The first marriage held in the little church was that of LeRoy and Beverly Halstead on Sunday evening, September 7, 1941, conducted by Pastor E. G. Fritschel.

Pastor M. Stricker was the first resident pastor, serving from Dec., 1942 until May, 1944. Pastors of neighboring congregations supplied the pulpit during the vacancy from May to November, 1944, when Pastor E. Rummel from Rushville came. Under his leadership, a building fund was set aside for building a new church.

Pastor W. Gies was installed as pastor on September 16, 1945, by District President E. G. Fritschel.

Beginning January 1, 1946, First English Lutheran Church became self-supporting.

In 1946, a Building Committee was organized composed of five members. Later it was enlarged and included the following: Mr. and Mrs. Paul Hagstrom, C. E. Nelson, Ollic Johnson, Kenneth Gehrke, H. M. Vowers, Wm. Mackie, P. A. Pedersen, Phil Stahla Jr., and the pastor.

In 1947, Lowell Green was here to assist Pastor Gies in the mission field.

In mid-July, 1949, it was decided by the congregation to begin work on the new church. The building was not built sooner because building materials were not readily available. Building drives had been conducted for at least 3 years before the building started. Wm. Coleman and Ollic Johnson contacted Wm. Nelson and Sons of Bayard on July 4, 1949. On August 14, 1949, Pastor Gies conducted an official ground-breaking service. Work began the following day. In September the corner stone was laid at a regular Sunday service. With members of the congregation helping, the work progressed rapidly. On March 12, 1950, approximately 1,000 people attended the two dedication services. Speakers at the dedication were District Pres. E. G. Fritschel and Pastor Emil F. Wendt of Ft. Collins. The approximate cost of the church, including the pews, was $32,000.

The first Smorgasbord was held in December, 1950, to raise money to help pay for the new church building.

Pastor Gies served the congregation until the fall of 1951. Pastor Edward Keller was installed on March 23, 1952. Prior to Pastor Keller's arrival, a parsonage had been purchased from the S. P. Dowd's at a cost of $15,000.

Many improvements and additions were made in the Church after Pastor Keller's arrival. The upstairs Sunday School rooms were finished, the small study at the front of the church was built, the Baldwin Organ was received as a memorial. On Good Friday, April 8, 1955, the individual Holy Communion set was first used and dedicated. This was paid for by the Memorial Fund of the Women's Missionary Society. The women's organization, now the ALCW, has been and continues to be a vital arm of the church.

The Sunday School is also an important educational emphasis of the Church, as well as the Luther League. The Sr. Choir and the Jr. Choir add much to the worship service, too. The organ chimes were received and dedicated in December, 1955 as a gift of several members, including memorials. Also in December it was decided to go ahead with the church basement project under the direction of the Nelson Contractors, Bayard. Additional room was needed for the increasing Sunday School enrollment and a larger kitchen was added to have better facilities. The cost of this project was about $15,000 plus much donated labor and some donated materials. The mortgage held by Lutheran Mutual Life Insurance Co., Waverly, Iowa, was paid off in January, 1956, and a mortgage burning was held February 5, 1956.

On April 29, 1956, the entire church plant was rededicated with Dr. E. G. Fritschel, District President, as speaker.

In December, 1957, new chancel furnishings arrived and were installed and dedication ceremonies were held on January 19, 1958, with the Rev. W. Gies as guest speaker. These were a gift to the congregation.

The parsonage debt was paid off in full in January, 1959, the final payment being $4,202.03.

Another memorable occasion for the congregation was the ordination of Alvin L. Danielson into the ministry on June 24, 1962. He is the only son of the congregation to be ordained. Pastor W. Gies preached the ordination sermon and Pastor E. Keller ordained Alvin.

During 1962, the ALC Service Book and Hymnal was purchased and introduced for the congregation's use. These were purchased by the Sunday School and various memorials. Official dedication of the hymnals was December 2, 1962.

In January, 1963, the congregation decided to have two services to accommodate the increased membership. Oil field and missile site activity in the area brought in a number of people. Pastor Keller served the congregation until June 30, 1963.

Pastor A. C. Zeilinger served during the vacancy. During this time, the parsonage was extensively redecorated and the kitchen was improved before the arrival of Pastor Ludwig Scholl in August, 1963.

Two services continued and several Family Nights were held.

The new constitution was adopted on January 12, 1964. An Altar Guild was formed in 1964.

The present office which was formerly a kitchen was built in 1966.

Our first association with Sky Ranch was during this year also. Four committees were established: Stewardship, Property and Management, Evangelism, and Parish Education.

Confirmation classes were extended to include the ninth grade in 1967.

The Luther League began celebrating the Passover Supper during these years, as a special educational service.

Pastor Scholl served until January, 1969.

We then went to one service, with Pastor Arthur Wachholz serving during this vacancy. Pastor Donald Schmidt, Scottsbluff, conducted the Lenten Services for us.

Pastor Donald Bentz came in June, 1969, and served until April, 1975.

Fifth grade communion was instituted and also the contemporary liturgy was first used. The church library became a reality in 1972. Additional books have been purchased through memorial funds or donations. The new piano was also bought. On Christmas Eve, 1970, the first Candlelight Communion Service was held, in addition to the traditional Christmas Eve Children's Program. The Every-Home Plan of the Lutheran Standard was begun. Pastor C. H. Hinkhouse served us during this vacancy. Some renovation of the parsonage was done before our present pastor, Fred Harms, arrived and was installed on August 17, 1975.

Under Pastor Harms' leadership, the Shepherding Program was initiated. The Bethel Bible Series, an adult Bible study program, was begun. Folding pew chairs were purchased with the help of special donations: A Missions Committee and Family Life Committee were added. The congregation helps to sponsor a missionary family in New Guinea, through the Northern Colorado Conference. We are also working with the Episcopal Church in Vacation Bible School.

On Easter Sunday, we have two worship services and the Luther League serves breakfast between the two services. The Luther Leaguers usually serve a Soup Supper in early December. The offerings from these activities are used for the educational trips they have taken. We have participated in the CROP Hunger Walk and the Christian Unity Service. In the fall, we have Blanket Sunday in conjunction with our Mission Festival. The Lutheran Book of Worship has been introduced and was dedicated April 22, 1979.

Clara Hansen is the only living charter member (as of 1979).

God and Country Scouting Awards (Pro Deo et Patrial over the years have been given to Alan Strauch in May, 1950, Stephen Knutsen on July 5, 1964, and to Brent Barrett on April 3, 1977.

Through the last fifty years (1929 - 1979), God has blessed this congregation in many ways. Let us give all our praise and thanks to Him through Jesus Christ our Lord. May we ask that God Clive us His loving grace as we enter the future as His children.

"And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18)

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