What do the Vietnam antiwar movement and a salesman have to do with Peace Thru Christ, Middleton, Wisconsin? Keep reading!
In the fall of 1966, a CLC member, who was a salesman, saw an opportunity to serve some of the retired people at Lake Shore Manor on Lake Mendota in Madison. Soon thereafter, Pastor Egbert Albrecht from Markesan began to hold services at the Manor.
In 1968, retired Pastor Paul Albrecht, who had moved into the area, continued the work at the Manor while also serving two area CLC families. Pastor Paul Albrecht subsequently moved to Florida. In 1971, the CLC Board of Missions called Pastor John Johannes of Faith Lutheran, Cambridge, to serve the residents of the Manor, CLC students attending the University of Wisconsin, and area CLC families. He was also to explore the potential for a congregation in the area.
In 1972, regular Sunday morning worship services began, with thirty-four in attendance at the first service. On August 26, 1973, Peace Thru Christ was incorporated. The name was chosen carefully. Those were the days of the antiwar “peace” movement, and there were frequent riots and demonstrations in Madison—the University dominating a community with a very liberal outlook on social matters. The only real “peace” is Peace Thru Christ!
Services were first held at the University YMCA, and later at the M & I Bank in Middleton. In 1974 the congregation numbered eighteen souls.
In 1975-76 a 3.5-acre property was purchased and a church was built by members in Middleton. In 1978 Pastor John Ude accepted the call to Faith, Cambridge, and Peace Thru Christ, Middleton. In 1985 the Ude family moved from Cambridge into the newly-remodeled church basement, which served as the first parsonage of Peace Thru Christ.
In 1988 a new, separate church building was built by members of Peace, assisted by members of other area CLC congregations, and the old church was turned into a parsonage.
In 1991 Pastor David Koenig became the pastor of Peace Thru Christ, followed by Pastors Rob McDonald (1998-99) and Kevin McKenney (1999-2002).
In 1994 the congregation went off CLC subsidy and became independent. The members began prayerfully to consider a Christian Day School. That dream became a reality in the fall of 2001, with the calling of Mrs. Gail Schaefer, (top photo) a member of the congregation, as the first teacher.
In 2002 Pastor McKenney resigned his pastorate and was called by Faith, Cambridge, and the joint parish was dissolved.
In the summer of 2002 Pastor Mark Bernthal accepted the call.
In 2004-2005 a new classroom/fellowship hall/kitchen and bathrooms addition was built and the parking lot was expanded. In 2009 Miss Jennifer Ohlmann (middle photo) accepted the call to be the teacher. In 2013, Miss Claire Abbas (bottom photo) took over teaching duties.
In 2011 the church building was remodeled, the parsonage received new steel siding, new windows and a new attached garage.
All of this is the historical background to our congregation. But the Lord has blessed this little group with so much more. The amazing Gospel message of God’s grace in Christ has been proclaimed from the pulpit every Sunday for forty-two years, and for the last fourteen years every day in the classroom.
The congregation has responded to our Lord’s Great Commission by being heavily involved in various mission endeavors. For some time there were opportunities to work in the county jail and state correctional institutions, offering the inmates the Good News of forgiveness through Christ. Exploratory services were held at Dodgeville, a city about forty miles west of Middleton. Summer Vacation Bible School was held, and at times Easter and Christmas Bible school as well.
An active evangelism group meets monthly. The group has held an annual “Salt & Light” evangelism seminar for the past couple of years. The congregation builds a float for the annual late summer “Middleton Good Neighbor Parade.” We have tried to match the parade’s theme to our float theme in ways that emphasize the Gospel message of Christ crucified and risen again.
Recently our Christian Day School had the privilege of teaching thirteen Korean students who came to our country for a couple of months to learn English. For that time we had the opportunity to bring the saving message of Christ’s great sacrificial love to these students. They were able to return home not only knowing English better, but also, through the Spirit’s work, being filled with the peace of Christ.
Many members have come and gone from the congregation, as Madison has been a “stopping off” place for quite a few in their life’s journey to our permanent home. But those who have been members here have been filled with that “Peace Thru Christ” that passes all understanding and fills our hearts and minds.
We pray that the Lord may continue to shower His grace and mercy upon His children as they work in God’s kingdom on the shores of Lake Mendota, casting the net of the Gospel out to the rest of the world.
Mark Bernthal is pastor of Peace Thru Christ Lutheran Church in Middleton, Wisconsin.