Our Redeemer’s Lutheran Church of Red Wing, Minnesota, began as an independent Lutheran congregation, existing for two years before the formation of the Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC) in 1960. On July 24, 1958, a Lutheran congregation in Red Wing, Minnesota, voted to continue in fellowship with a false-teaching church body despite thorough instruction from its pastor that Romans 16:17 teaches that the heterodox should be avoided. A minority of the congregation was convinced that to continue fellowship with this synod was disobedience to God’s Word and toleration of false doctrine.
Their pastor and the three Christian day school teachers terminated their membership in that synod, and approximately eighty members, including their pastor and teachers, withdrew from the congregation. On July 25, 1958, an organizational meeting was held at the Elmer Fitschen home. This meeting resulted in the formation of a new congregation: Our Redeemer’s Lutheran Church of Red Wing, Minnesota. Temporary officers were chosen and a call was issued to Pastor George Barthels, who accepted the call of the new congregation and began to serve them as their God-given spiritual shepherd.
The new congregation gratefully accepted an invitation from the Arnold Raasch, Sr. family to use their home temporarily as a place of worship until a permanent location could be provided. The first service was held on Sunday, July 27, 1958. Veva Stehr and Teacher Alvin Sieg were church organists. In August of 1958 permanent officers were elected. They were Elmer Fitschen, president; Charles Sandeen, vice president; Erwin Hinrichs, secretary; and Milton Lynner, treasurer. During the month of August, 1958, the congregation purchased the current site at 1534 West Avenue in Red Wing. It was formerly a dairy farm, and the farmhouse later became the church parsonage. No other buildings were on the property. On Friday, October 17, 1958, ground was broken for the church building. The congregation set as a goal to have the Christmas Eve Service in the new church building. By the grace of God, this goal was achieved. The building was subsequently finished and was dedicated in June of 1959.
The altar, pulpit, and baptismal font were built by Herman Ferber, a gifted member of the congregation. At first, folding chairs were used for seating. The second year the congregation was fortunate enough to get theater seats to replace the folding chairs. After a few years, Our Redeemer’s purchased wooden pews from another congregation in town which had replaced its pews.
The Christian education of the young was a high priority of Our Redeemer’s. Since the three Christian day school teachers from the former congregation had left with Pastor Barthels at the formation of Our Redeemer’s, the congregation had the personnel to open a Christian day school. Wally Voigt and Alvin Sieg were both called to teach, while the third teacher, Lorna Schweim, moved back to her home town of Mankato, Minnesota, and became a member at Immanuel, another CLC congregation. The Christian day school was opened in September, 1958, with 13 students. Classes were held in a large room in the parsonage. It soon became evident that there were not enough students for two teachers, so Wally Voigt found secular employment and Alvin Sieg continued as teacher at the new school. Over the years, more students were added to the school. At times there were up to twenty children attending the Our Redeemer’s Christian Day School. Pastor Barthels also found secular employment. He worked full time at the Red Wing Boat Factory (Midwest Marine).
In August of 1959 Our Redeemer’s hosted a meeting of the “Interim Conference,” the precursor to the CLC. In 1960 delegates from Our Redeemer`s attended a meeting of the “Interim Conference,” held in Watertown, South Dakota, at which the Church of the Lutheran Confession was formally organized and Our Redeemer`s became a charter member.
In 1967 Pastor Barthels accepted a call to Grace, Sleepy Eye, Minnesota. Later that same year Pastor Robert Mackensen accepted the call to Our Redeemer’s and was installed as the new pastor of the congregation. In the summer of 1968 teacher Alvin Sieg accepted a call to teach in Golden, Colorado. When no teacher accepted the call to teach, the school was closed for one year until a teacher could be found. An Immanuel Lutheran College graduate, Miss Karla Kroeger, was assigned to Our Redeemer’s Christian Day School and began teaching in September, 1969. The doors of the Christian day school closed in 1984. However, the congregation has not lost its zeal for Christian education: it maintains an active Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and regular confirmation instruction for the young.
In the year 2000 an entryway was added to the church, which included wheel chair accessibility to the sanctuary. At the same time, the church basement was remodeled, adding another Sunday School room.
The following are sons and daughters of the congregation who later entered the preaching or teaching ministry: Pastor Emeritus James Sandeen, Pastor Theodore Barthels, Pastor Emeritus Jerome Barthels, Teacher Emeritus Marion Fitschen, and Teacher Dan Barthels.
Since its formation, the regularly-called pastors of Our Redeemer’s include George Barthels, Robert Mackensen, David Lau, Norman Greve, Wayne Mielke, John Hein, Rick Grams and David Baker (current). Teachers who served at Our Redeemer’s Christian Day School include Alvin Sieg, Wally Voigt, Karla Kroeger, Miriam Duehlmeier, Ruth Gurgel, Barbara Drews and Walter Priebe.
Many of the original members of Our Redeemer’s have relocated to other places, and many have since received their eternal reward. Yet some of the original members still remain and continue faithfully to support the church. Our Redeemer’s continues to preach and teach the true and pure Word of God, and to administer the sacraments according to the institution of Christ. The one who thirsts after salvation may come to the waters and freely drink, so that “. . . out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38), and he will gain eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.
David Baker is pastor of Our Redeemer’s Lutheran Church in Red Wing, Minnesota.