A SLICE OF LIFE IN THE CLC
SNAPSHOTS OF CONGREGATIONS FROM AROUND THE CHURCH OF THE LUTHERAN CONFESSION
The beginnings of Luther Memorial Church go back to events that took place even before its formal establishment in 1960. Its organization in February of that year had not been planned or undertaken in the customary process that a group of Christians follow when they get together to form a congregation. It came into being rather suddenly and spontaneously. Yet it was the work of God’s Holy Spirit. For by the Spirit, faithful Christians were led to contend for the truth of God’s Word at a time when it was being compromised and challenged.
In the Fond du Lac area, the pastors of St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church conducted many meetings to instruct the congregation on what the Word of God directed them to do. Finally, at a meeting on February 7, 1960, the matter came before the members to determine whether they were going to continue with the Wisconsin Synod and endorse its actions, or abide by Romans 16:17, as their pastors had instructed them. The majority decided to remain with the synod. This made it clear that the two pastors, Gerhard Pieper and Waldemar Schuetze, could no longer serve the congregation.
On that February afternoon, Luther Memorial congregation was conceived. A spontaneous meeting of those who considered the two pastors their called servants of the Word met in the dining room of the St. Peter’s School. That gathering included the two pastors, a teacher, and a number of voting members of St. Peter’s congregation. A small operating council was appointed, plans were made to have worship services, and organization of a separate congregation was considered. The group resolved not to pursue any legal claims over against St. Peter’s church property. On the very next Sunday, February 14th, 469 worshipers attended the first services, which were held in the auditorium of the Roosevelt Junior High School. Four days later, on February 18th, a voters’ meeting attended by eighty-nine men was held in the Civic Room of the Retlaw Hotel. At that meeting an interim council was elected, and the group went on record as favoring the establishment of a Christian day school. They asked the two pastors and the two teachers to continue to serve the new congregation. “There was a general awareness of the common joy of true Christian fellowship uniting us all, together with the purposeful determination to go ahead under God’s guidance and with His help, and do what was necessary for the orderly and successful establishment of a congregation dedicated to the full truth of God’s Word.”
On February 28th the name of the congregation was chosen—Luther Memorial Church. Formal organization was completed on March 20, 1960, when eighty-five voting members adopted a constitution and elected a permanent church council, together with other necessary committees. Formal calls of vocation were extended to Pastors Waldemar Schuetze and Gerhard Pieper, and to the two teachers, Gerhardt Mueller, and Miss Dorothy Schmolesky. On April 3rd, Pastor Egbert Schaller of Nicollet, Minnesota, conducted the service in which the workers of the church were installed.
Two pieces of property were offered to the congregation as a gift: the Fred Martin property on the west edge of town and the Frank Wollerman property on the south edge of Fond du Lac. On April 12th the voters accepted the offer of five acres from the Wollerman family. An additional strip of land along 21st Street was purchased to provide sufficient access, bringing the size of the property to seven acres. On May 1st, a building fund offering was initiated. $33,000 in cash was received, and more was promised by the members. The residence at 395 East Division Street was purchased as a parsonage for Pastor Waldemar Schuetze and his family. Pastor and Mrs. Pieper were housed in a home made available by the Wollermans at 302 East Pioneer Road. The cornerstone of the new building was laid on December 11th. A mild winter hastened the project so that on May 28th dedication services could be held for the church and the school.
Since that time, the Lord has made use of the church and school. At its height, the school had an enrollment of almost 120 students. Luther Memorial has been blessed by the leadership of its six pastors: Gerhard Pieper, Waldemar Schuetze, John Johannes, David Naumann, Neal Radichel, and its current pastor, Robert Sauers. Four principals have led the school: Gerhardt Mueller, Ross Roehl, Mark Kranz, and its current principal, David Bernthal.
On September 16, 2017, after four years of planning and nine months of construction, a dedication service was held praising the Lord following the completion of a full remodeling of the church and school facility.
The congregation continues following the Gospel of Christ as they eagerly look forward to what the Lord has planned for them in Fond du Lac. As we review the events of the past years, we are moved to sincere and humble thanks for the many evidences of His goodness. He has provided, first of all, the Gospel in the Word and Sacraments for young and old, in life and death. He has also provided pastors, teachers, lay workers, property, buildings, and material support. May His blessings continue to rest upon Luther Memorial, and also with you!
Neal Radichel is a former pastor of Luther Memorial Church of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. He currently serves Immanuel Lutheran Church of Mankato, Minnesota.