Footprints Of Faith
Prepared by the Interim Ministry Task Force
August 2009 - Updated July 2011
INTERIM MINISTRY TASK FORCE –
HISTORICAL ACCOUNT OF FAITH LUTHERAN CHURCH, OTTAWA, KANSAS
Footprints Leading to Faith
“In the 1870’s Prussia, now known as Germany, was involved in a war with France. Serfs were compelled to serve in the Prussia Army. Albert Dehn served in the Prussia-Franco war. He quickly lost interest in fighting for a rich land owner and made his way to America along with his family.
In 1881, Albert Dehn brought his family to Franklin County and purchased a 220-acre farm located 5 miles north and 2 miles west of Williamsburg, Kansas. Three of his children were born in Kansas. The family traveled back to Wisconsin for the baptism of these three children when they were old enough to travel. The trip was made because of the staunch belief that they must be baptized Lutheran.
Henry Dehn, one of Albert’s sons, married Alvina Hinz after a short courtship by mail. At Alvina’s insistence they joined Faith and were Charter members. Henry and Alvina had two sons, Alvin and Henry, Jr. Alvin married Charlotte in 1953. They were the first couple married at the 12th and Cedar facility. (This information was shared with Don Miller by Charlotte and Alvin Dehn. For more details see the historical records and the 45th anniversary booklet.)
Roots of Faith
Franklin County has been home to five Lutheran churches. The early Lutheran churches are recorded here to show the diverse strains of Lutheranism which served as the root of Faith.
St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church
Little is known about St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church. In 1870, a listing of churches shows that St. Matthew’s was in Pomona. It is believed that it was not in existence long because no further record is found.
First Swedish Lutheran Church
First Swedish American Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ottawa was organized on April 5th, 1879. Pastor C. A. Berggren of Bucklin, Missouri, assisted in the organization. Little is known about the First Swedish Church. It built its church building in the spring of 1879 on the southeast corner of 3rd & Cedar streets inOttawa. The building is still standing and is used as a residence. In 1933 the church was sharing its facility with the Church of Christ. First Swedish Lutheran Churchcontinued to be listed in the Ottawa city directories until 1938 when it last appeared.
First Evangelical Lutheran Church
The Second Swedish Lutheran Society was also organized in 1879. They erected the stone church at 5th and Cedar streets that same year. At some point in time it adopted the name First Evangelical Lutheran Church. First Evangelical
Lutheran Church continued in existence until the late 1930’s when one by one its charter members began to pass away. The church appeared in the 1938 Ottawa city directory for the last time. In 1939 the church building was secured for use by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Regular Services began there in 1941.
St. Paul’s German American Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. S. Henry began work in the Ottawa mission field in October 1884, with the St. Paul’s English and German Lutheran Church. It was organized on December 7, 1884, under the auspices of the Board of Home Missions of the General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the U. S. Prior to erecting their own facility in 1885 the group used the 1st Swedish Lutheran Church as its place of worship. The church had 32 members at the time of organization.
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church would continue to be listed in the Ottawa City Directory into the early 1930’s when the congregation was dissolved and their church records turned over to the First Lutheran Church of Lawrence, Kansas. (Additional historical detail is available in earlier accounts of Faith’s history.)
Faith Lutheran grew out of the 1930’s depression and post-war upheaval in America. Pastors and lay leaders played key roles in the growth of the church. During World War II, young men went to war. Women left behind suffered through rationing and short supplies. Upon their return, the soldiers, many of whom were teenagers when they left for war, were anxious to make up for lost time. After years of sacrifice, these post-war years were filled with exuberance. Domestic consumption was on the rise, new homes were built and soon they were filled with young children. (See page 4 in 45th anniversary booklet.)
After two floods that tested the survival of the congregation, the people were challenged in 1951 to rebuild or relocate to higher ground. It was in this crisis that Faith Lutheran moved from the small church on 5th and Cedar to the new facility at 12th and Cedar in 1953. Faith was entering the Baby Boom.
Footprints in Faith through Bible Study
Lewis Buck appears to have been a major force in leading the church by example and power of personality. His gifts ranged from being an outstanding lay evangelist, a gifted teacher and leader. As the church grew and moved to 12th and Cedar, other leaders and teachers who joined the church, used their gifts to further strengthen and enhance the success of the men who served as pastors and leaders of the church. People like Paul Bowersox and Frank Brown were often mentioned among these teachers and lay leaders.
Faith has always emphasized Adult Bible Study and God has blessed the congregation with many adult class teachers. Lay-led adult classes received a boost in 1968 when Pastor Zimmerman began preaching at the Garnett Mission, while still conducting services at Faith. At that time Frank Brown began teaching the adult Sunday morning class. In 1989 Pastor Zimmerman and wife Marilyn were chosen by the Kansas District to begin a new adult bible study called “life/Light.” Now, Faith has several Bible classes during the week as well as Sunday morning. In 2006 a Men’s Bible study breakfast began and continues to today.
In an interview with Pastor Duran for the writing of this paper, John shared this story. “One year I got an inspiration for what I thought would make a terrific Bible class. I shared the idea with Bill Eales who was in charge of adult classes at the time. Bill remarked, “Sorry Pastor, we’re full up for classes and teachers for this term. We might be able to work you in during the spring or summer term.”
Footprints of Faith through Evangelism
Pastor Earl Zimmerman and Pastor John Duran continued this strong support for evangelism. When Pastor Zimmerman began his ministry in 1965, he had a heart for all Lutherans, as well as a desire to reach the unchurched. What developed was a congregation made up of members from the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS), Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Church (WELS), as well as the old American Lutheran Church (ALC), United Lutheran Church (ULC), and the Lutheran Church in America (LCA), synods now in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), as well as Christians from other backgrounds seeking a church home in which they were comfortable. Amazingly, they all learned to coexist and function in unity.
Pastor Zimmerman embraced the diversity when he arrived on the scene here in Ottawa. He was blessed with a Christ centered layman named Lewis Buck. As mentioned earlier, Lewis provided a list of 26 families he thought would be open to the Gospel. Pastor Zimmerman began working though all 26 names, many of which had large families. Another major contributor to the early evangelism efforts of the church was the Vacation Bible School, held each summer led by Patty Buck, Clara Conner and Pastor. Pastor Zimmerman said attendance reached as high as 90, an amazing number for such a small congregation. During the 1970’s,Faith Lutheran Church was growing at a rate of 10% a year.
In 1972, Pastor Zimmerman began a radio ministry at KOFO Radio now known as “Life with God.” The radio manager at the time suggested something different than the full church service radio programs already being broadcast by two other churches. The manager listened regularly to the Lutheran Hour. He suggested to Pastor Zimmerman to model his program after the Lutheran Hour. Tapes or records provided the music for the program which was played by an employee of the station. Pastor Zimmerman would preach the message and do the prayers. The radio program originally was broadcast live. This program was continued by Pastor Duran and Pastor Wiese and is currently presented by Pastor Adams.
In an attempt to better equip the congregation for evangelism, Pastor Zimmerman wanted to have some members trained in the Kennedy Evangelism approach. Learning that Faith was considering this, two ladies from First Baptist contacted Pastor Zimmerman about going with the Faith group for training. After receiving permission from the Pastor at First Baptist, it was decided that the two ladies from First Baptist plus Frank Brown, Lewis Buck, Elizabeth Cole, and Pastor would be trained. When a member of 1st Baptist Church, George Wingert, heard about the project, he said the training needed to be done by the best, Kennedy himself. Arrangements were made for the group to be trained in California at Kennedy’s church. George Wingert paid for the entire project, including the two ladies from First Baptist.
The Pastors and leaders of Faith Lutheran did not put up road blocks to outreach. The more open policy towards communion is an example. While still Biblically based, the less restrictive policy on communion, in contrast to the sometimes very restrictive “closed” communion policy maintained by some LCMS churches, opened the opportunity for Faith Lutheran to have greater outreach.
The church also grew because of its commitment to COF clients with developmental disabilities who were made a part of the church’s life. The education of these clients became a symbol of how the congregation was reaching out to the community and putting into practice the teaching that Jesus came to save all people.
God blesses congregations in many ways, but these two blessings of evangelical outreach-minded pastors and gifted adult Bible class teachers have certainly been major blessings for Faith Lutheran Church, Ottawa.
Congregation life at 12th and Cedar Ottawa
The addition of the fellowship hall to the church at 12th and Cedar in the 1970s was a concern to some who were more conservative with their money. Some members felt it was important to pay all the bills and have money in the bank in the event of hard times. Some felt there was a great need to put money in missions and look for ways to expand. Others felt the original plans for the church should be followed. These plans would have added offices to the south of the building rather than the fellowship space that could double as additional worship seating space.
Footprints in Outreach
Faith Lutheran Church is the only Lutheran church in Franklin County. It serves members from six surrounding communities. In an effort to reach out to those in other counties, Faith Ottawa established two mission congregations—one in Garnett, which is in Anderson County, and one in Baldwin City, which is in Douglas County. These efforts were not without some risk.
With encouragement from Faith, a meeting was held in March, 1981, in the basement of the Baker University library for those interested in establishing a Lutheran church in Baldwin City. Lutherans from Ottawa, Lawrence, Olathe, Wellsville, Baldwin City, and Shawnee Mission were present. Several Kansas District officials, Pastor Earl Zimmerman, and elders of Faith also attended. Services were held on the Baker University campus from 1981 until 1984. On May 6, 1984, members of Holy Cross Lutheran Church dedicated their building which was provided by the Kansas District. Vicars and retired pastors served the church until August 1987, when Rev. Gary Harroun became the first called and ordained minister. In November 1987, Holy Cross held its charger membership day with twenty-four communicant members.
With such a small congregation, all members were very active, but, as members moved it became increasingly difficult for the congregation. Unfortunately, it finally became necessary to dissolve Holy Cross Lutheran Church. The final service was held on January 1, 1989. Members returned to their previous congregations or joined other congregations.
An early record of Missouri Synod Lutheran activity in Garnett is the confirmation of Clara (Krueger) Conner and three of her sisters in 1928 by the pastor from Block, KS. He preached and served Lutherans in Garnett but it is not known for how long.
In the 1940s, when Garnett Lutherans became aware that a Lutheran congregation was beginning in Ottawa, they were prepared to participate in this church (which became Faith Lutheran). By 1954, members of Faith living in Garnett asked for help in starting a new congregation. From 1954-1956, pastors from Ottawa and Iola held services in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Everett Burns. However, from 1959-1966, activity in Garnett slowed down and Garnett members became active at Faith Lutheran. In 1966, Pastor Zimmerman from Faith began weekly Bible study in several Garnett homes and in 1976, began leading regular Sunday morning worship services. These services were held in the Garnett United Presbyterian Church.
The Garnett church increased in membership, and in 1982, Garnett held its first service in its new church building. In 1983, the Garnett church became TrinityLutheran Church and could no longer be called a mission church. Forty-eight communicant members from Faith Lutheran transferred their membership to Trinity Lutheran. From 1984-1997, Pastor Claude Constable served Trinity. David Shrum served as a lay-minister (part-time) from 1998-July 2008. Pastor Earl Zimmerman began serving as the vacancy pastor in August 2008. The congregation celebrated its 25th anniversary in October, 2009. Pastor Ervin Daugherty was called and began serving in January 2010 and until this time he remains their pastor.
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Conrad E. Soderstrom July 26, 1942-Feb 28,1943
Howard E. Mueller May 23, 1943-Jan 23, 1949
Fred Wegener June 12, 1949-Sept 25, 1955
Lee W. Lennon Jr Jan 28, 1956-Jan 15, 1958
(died in office)
Kurt J. Juengel Aug 3, 1958-Nov 8, 1964
Earl J. Zimmerman March 7, 1965-June 1992 (retired)
John Duran June 1992-Jan 31, 2008 (retired)
James L. Wiese June 15, 2008-Sept 19, 2010
Charles W. Adams October 3, 2010- July 31, (retired) 2020