A SLICE OF LIFE IN THE CLC
SNAPSHOTS OF CONGREGATIONS FROM AROUND THE CHURCH OF THE LUTHERAN CONFESSION
“Then He said, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.’” (Luke 13:18-19)
A mustard seed is not much to look at. Its diameter measures between one and two millimeters (that’s about the same as the thickness of a quarter). Yet from this small seed springs a bushy tree so large and sturdy that birds can actually build a nest in the branches.
In Luke 13, Jesus compares the kingdom of God to that small mustard seed. As we look at Bible history and Church history, we find God using that seemingly small voice of the Gospel to demonstrate His great power and great grace. God promised that through one man, Abraham, all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Through that one little Baby lying in a manger, God promised to overcome death and hell. And by one Man’s death on the cross, God was reconciling the whole world of sinners unto Himself.
From the small mustard-seed message of that one Man, Jesus Christ, sprouted the New Testament Church. Millions of souls from all over the world have nested securely in the sturdy branches of the Gospel. All this has been accomplished by the Holy Spirit through the seemingly small voice of the Gospel.
The history of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Spokane, Washington is a history of the Lord of the Church accomplishing great things from small beginnings. A thorough canvassing of the north Spokane area in 1942 offered promising results. An abandoned store was purchased and cleaned up for the first service, held on September 20, 1942. Though there were encouraging responses from Lutherans in north Spokane who were interested in attending, only eight souls were present for that first service.
Though attendance was small, that mustard seed of the Gospel had sprouted. After playing a game of touch football with some high school boys, Pastor M.J. Witt started the first instruction class with two of the boys and another man. This group chose the name Trinity Lutheran Church. On June 6, 1943, four souls were received into membership—the first on Trinity’s roster. The mustard seed was beginning to grow.
Trinity was incorporated in 1944, and it purchased property on the northeast corner of Wall and Wellesley in North Spokane, where the current church and parsonage are located. The new church was dedicated on November 16, 1947, with the choir of St. John’s Lutheran Church of Clarkston singing for the service. By 1950, 184 souls were nesting safely at Trinity, as the Word of God and the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ were being proclaimed. On July 1, 1957, Trinity was taken off mission subsidy and became a self-supporting congregation.
Also in 1957, out of love for the truth of the Word, Pastor Witt (who at the time was a district president for the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod) and Trinity withdrew from membership in the WELS. Trinity would become a charter member of the Church of the Lutheran Confession in 1960, and host CLC conventions in 1961 and 1966.
Over the years, Trinity has expanded its building size with a larger entryway and two basement classrooms. At one time, when a large number of children were in the congregation, Trinity explored the idea of establishing a Christian day school. While that never happened, Trinity has been thankful to have a sister congregation with a school—Gethsemane, only eleven miles away in Spokane Valley.
As Trinity approaches her seventy-fifth anniversary as a congregation, the names and faces have changed both in the pulpit and in the pews, but praise be to God that the mustard seed has not. The seemingly small voice of the Gospel continues to be proclaimed in north Spokane and beyond. Each summer, our vacation Bible school is thrilled to share the Word of God with over twenty children from the congregation and surrounding neighborhood. Like many of our smaller CLC congregations, Trinity is thankful to be able to share the Word with a larger audience through our YouTube and Facebook pages. Once a month, Trinity serves a preaching station in Withrow/Mansfield, a small farming community in central Washington. Trinity prays that this planting of the small seed of the Gospel in Mansfield will result in more souls finding a safe nesting place on the broad, strong branches of the Gospel.
Throughout the year, members and friends of Trinity enjoy gathering together for family time and fellowship. Notable among these occasions is our Ladies’ Appreciation Luncheon, served by the men of the congregation in February. In December, our Women’s Circle does a great job putting on a Christmas party and “white elephant” gift exchange.
Servants of the Lord at Trinity have included M.J. Witt (1942-1981), Kurt Luebkemann (1981-1989), Paul Schaller (1990-1996), Terrell Kesterson (1996-2011), and Nathan Pfeiffer (2011-present).
Should you find yourself passing through the Inland Northwest of eastern Washington on Interstate 90, stop by for services at Trinity, meet your extended church family, and join us as we nest in the branches of our Savior’s love.
Nathan Pfeiffer is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Spokane, Washington.