A SLICE OF LIFE IN THE CLC (First in a Series)
Snapshots of Congregations from Around the Church of the Lutheran Confession
Like many CLC congregations, Messiah Lutheran Church was born when the Lord moved a number of His people to leave their former fellowships in order to be faithful to His inspired Word. The first service was held in the basement of a member’s home on December 11, 1960, with seventy-one in attendance. The first shepherds to serve this flock were Pastor Arvid Gullerud and Pastor Keith Olmanson. Messiah became a confessional member of the Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC) in August of 1961. The congregation worshiped in a rented sanctuary for about fifteen months. During this time they purchased the current property and constructed the first church, which was dedicated on Easter Sunday of 1962. The members immediately recognized the need for Christian education for their children, and opened Messiah Lutheran School in September of 1963. It was a one-room blessing from God, held in the back of the sanctuary. Miss Shirley Wendland was the first called teacher, and was assisted by a number of Messiah members.
In the fall of 1963, Immanuel Lutheran College began its first school year in Eau Claire. Throughout the years, Messiah and Immanuel have had a very close relationship. Messiah has had the privilege of serving as a “home away from home” church for the students. In addition, dozens of student practice teachers and seminary vicars have come to Messiah Lutheran Church and School for observation of and practice in the public ministry. Messiah’s members have been grateful for the opportunity of continuing Christian education at ILC for their children, and have been active supporters of Immanuel.
The Lord has blessed Messiah with steady growth throughout its history. Our church membership has recently exceeded 800 souls. Our school enrollment in Pre-K through 8th grade is 133 students. As the needs arose, the Lord blessed us with the means to accommodate the work at hand. The list of building projects from past years includes classroom expansions, two parsonages and one teacherage, and a fellowship hall. A major project in recent history was the building of a new sanctuary, which was dedicated in April of 2007. Along with the needed property expansion, the Lord has provided called servants to serve the church and school. Messiah Lutheran School currently has five full-time teachers, and five who serve part time. Our ministerial staff has recently been increased to three full-time pastors. Beyond the work of our called servants, there are countless tasks and responsibilities that are faithfully performed, on a volunteer basis, by our members. We owe it all, of course, to the work of our gracious God. He has not only provided eternal life through the death of His Son in our place, and called us to faith through His inspired Word, but has also moved the hearts of our members to serve Him for the growth of His kingdom.
The Lord is blessing Messiah with many opportunities for inner growth, including Saturday and Sunday worship services and Bible classes, midweek fellowship and study meetings for young and old, confirmation instruction for more than thirty students, and an active youth group. We also have many open doors for reaching out with God’s Word for others, including the following activities:
• Seven weekly worship services at senior care facilities, conducted by volunteer lay-preachers and musicians.
• A dozen adult instruction classes at any given time.
• An active Outreach Committee which organizes flier handouts, promotion of church events, a fair booth display for a number of local venues, an annual evangelism workshop, and public seminars on biblical topics of interest.
• Video broadcast of our services on public access TV, on the Internet (www.eauclairemessiah.com and www.facebook.com/EauClaireMessiah), and through an extensive DVD mailing program.
The members of Messiah face many of the same challenges that confront smaller CLC congregations. How will we continue to proclaim all of the truths of God’s Word in a world that is becoming more and more hostile to what God says? How will we best serve those who have strayed from the faith, or who seem to place little value on using the Means of Grace? How will we bear up under the continuing need for the funds to support our work for the Lord’s kingdom? In all of these challenges, we continue to look to our gracious God, who has promised “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:9). It is a matter of faith to be confident that, when we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, all these things will be added to us as well.
Bruce Naumann is Associate Pastor
of Messiah Lutheran Church in
Eau Claire, Wisconsin