"For where two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them."
— MATTHEW 18:20
IN THE BEGINNING
The Holy Spirit was at work with a handful of people in the La Porte City community who knew they wanted a church of their heritage in the early 40’s. A minister of the Missouri Lutheran Synod in Vinton was contacted to preach the Gospel. Services were held in the home of Sam and Mary Fleisher (Eleanor Appleton’s parents, now deceased) but the people were not satisfied with what they were hearing.
The people began to look to the Jubilee Lutheran Church, northeast of town. Many of the Lutherans from town were attending church there. President Herman Siefkes of the Iowa District was contacted, advising him of a need to start a Mission Church in La Porte City. The pastor at Jubilee, Pastor Sig Sandrock, went before the Jubilee congregation with the idea to explore starting a mission church. Pastor Sandrock would preach at both congregations. After much discussion, an arrangement was made, and it was decided that we have our service at 8:00 a.m.
Mrs. Ralph Waller, who lived in town but was a member of Jubilee, was contacted by Pastor Sandrock to compile a list and to contact all the Lutherans living in the area to see if there was an interest in establishing a church here. The desire and need was felt and plans were made to find a building suitable for a place of worship.
MAIN STREET BUILDING
A building on Main Street, owned by Nels Obsorne, was to be vacated by the Liquor Store (now the Cut on Main Street building) and this became our first place of worship. Under the guidance of Alfred Pierce Sr., the Manual Training teacher in high school, (now deceased) work began with the help of members of Jubilee, American Lutheran Church of Jesup, and many business people of La Porte City to make this a place of worship. An altar was built with red tapestry hangings and an old pulpit was loaned by the Jubilee congregation. Old seats out of the theater were purchased. These required much sanding so the ladies would not snag their hose and a lot of gum was taken from under the seats. A piano was donated for our use. After these preparations, we were ready with God’s help to have a first worship.
On October 8, 1944, the seeds of the future American Lutheran Church of La Porte City were sown with very few present. Mrs. Alfred Pierce Sr. was the pianist, Leonard Grote and Wayne Weisert (both deceased) were the ushers. Each Sunday found one or two more souls interested in coming. In the beginning of 1945 a Charter was signed with the following: Elmer and Elizabeth Rasche, Charles and Anna Garling, Sam and Mary Fleisher, Henry and Marie Bauer, Alice and Leonard Grote, Ted and Minnie Huck, Loreen Driscoll, Clara and Alfred Pierce, Sr., Ralph and Maxine Waller, Metha Jurgens, Helene Johannsen and Cecil and Irma Feller (all deceased).
It was realized that in order to get Mission Support, we would have to have more members, so Pastor Sandrock started visiting more people. The Charter was opened up again to let Clair DeNeut, Richard and Sophie DeNeut, Mathilda Frahm, Edwin and Selma Hoppe, Oren and Gwendolyn Hoyt, Wendell and Florence Taylor, Elsie Taylor, Elizabeth Wagmer, Wayne and Mildred Weisert and George Bradehoft (all deceased) be charter members.
As a Mission Church sponsored by Jubilee, we were able to obtain a Mission Loan from Columbus, Ohio to further the word of God’s Kingdom which had begun.
After worshipping for two years in the Chapel, the congregation was faced with a new problem. The lease was to expire. We then found a place to worship in the old theater building (now part of B & P Bar). It was so dark inside, that it wasn’t long before a new place for worship was sought. The people of American Lutheran accepted the loss of the building as a challenge to seek the will of God. After careful consideration, the members decided to find their own church home.
ON THE MOVE
A deal was worked out with the United Brethern (now Church of Christ at the corner of Third and Walnut Streets) for the Lutherans to have their worship at 8:00 a.m. The Sunday School was then held in the basement of the Legion Hall (now the site of The Real Deal, located at 301 Commercial Street) after church. The rent for the church and hall was $130.00, Pastor’s salary was $600.00 and the pianist was $35.00 … all per year!
It soon seemed appropriate to look into the possibility of constructing our own church building. After studying the idea of moving a church in from south of La Porte City (the Fairview Church), five council members, consisting of Elmer Rasche, Ted Huck, Cecil Feller, Alfred Pierce Sr. and Charles Garling, Maxine Waller, Secretary, along with the building committee, Cecil Feller, Chairman; Edwin Hoppe, Ted Huck, Jacob Loeb and Alfred Pierce Sr., decided to build on the Bishop Avenue lots, given to the church by the local banker, Elmer Rasche (who owned the home and lots now occupied by Jo Niemeyer). The committee developed a plan for a dignified church building within the financial reach of the congregation. The Iowa District Mission Committee endorsed the plan and a $7,500 loan was received.
The estimated cost of a new building was $13,000, of which the Mission Committee felt the congregation could raise $5,500 right away. The balance of the $7,500 loan from the Mission Committee was to be paid in annual payments of one-tenth of the principal with interest at 1% per year. The congregation approved a solicitation of contributions to a building fund with the pledges to be paid over six months.
On July 26, 1946, we were duly incorporated, the affairs being managed by three trustees; Elmer Rasche, Clair DeNeut and Alfred Pierce, Sr. and two deacons; Edwin Hoppe and Ralph Waller. This was called legally the church council. The Pastor, by virtue of his office, was president. Ground breaking took place on September 29, 1946 with Pastor Sandrock officiating. The church was built with members doing all the inside work. It was also decided about this time that we should put out a call for our own minister. A parsonage was purchased from Elmer Rasche at 301 Walnut Street at the cost of $6,938.81. The church wasn’t quite finished, but we moved into the basement in January, 1948. The furnishings for the church were moved from our building uptown.
Pastor Sandrock gave his last sermon in May, 1948 and shortly thereafter, our newly called minister, Rev. Howard Hahn, became our pastor. Pastor Hahn, his wife, Vera and their two children became our first resident pastor. Pastor Hahn started with a salary of $3,200 per year. Under his leadership, the congregation grew to a membership of 194 members with 123 of those being confirmed members. It was then that the Ladies Aid and Jr. Choir were formed. On September 19, 1948, the church was completed and the dedication service was held. In April, 1951, Pastor Hahn asked to be released from his duties to accept a call elsewhere.
GROWING THROUGH THE 1950s and 60s
Rev. Theodore Schroedor was then called. Under his leadership, an organ was purchased, along with church pews. An altar from a church in Tama was donated to us. He, his wife, Alice and son, Rodney, occupied the parsonage until January, 1954 when Rev. Schroedor answered a call to another church.
Pastor Kenneth Pohlmann accepted our call and was installed in March, 1955. His family included wife, Kathryn and three children. Under his leadership, the church really started to grow. The Luther League was formed for our youth. A Men’s Brotherhood was formed and groups from area Lutheran churches met to bowl or play darts. A Senior Choir was also formed. Mother-daughter and Father-son banquets were held yearly. There was a Couple’s Club and Fireside Chat meetings.
In May of 1956, two church services were started. The first service being at 8:00 a.m. followed by Sunday School then followed by a 2nd service at 10:00 a.m.
Since we were badly outgrowing our church building, a new building committee was formed in May of 1956 consisting of Ray Niemeyer, Aaron Benorden, Donald Taylor, Jerry Bunz, Merlin Fehl, Loren Smith, Fred Stalhut, Leonard Grote and Robert Huppert.
In September, 1958, we celebrated our 10th Anniversary in the first church building with all debts for our church being paid and a note burning was held.
In July, 1959, the first phase of the building program was started with the purchase of the Merchant Estate. The price was $15,000 for a total of six lots. The house, which stood on the corner of Pine and Iowa Streets, was remodeled into a parish hall for Sunday School and the pastor’s study. In June, 1960, Pastor Pohlmann answered another call. At his time of leaving, our membership stood at 437. This included 272 confirmed and 147 in Sunday School. Pastor Chris Ottmar answered our call and came to serve our congregation in November, 1960. In 1962, the main floor and upstairs of the Parish Hall were made into living quarters and the Sunday School was moved to the basement at a cost of $3,604. In June, 1963, Pastor Ottmar, his wife Shirley and three children moved into the newly renovated parsonage at 800 Pine Street, also known as the Merchant Property. In 1964, the old parsonage was sold to Leonard and Alice Grote for $7,000.
In June, 1965, the congregation gave a strong yes vote to enter into a full scale building program for the building of a church on our property. The price of $101,365 was to include the church building, furniture, curb and gutter, insurance and floor covering.
June of 1966, Phil and Norma Kaiser purchased the old church building and renovated it into apartments, which still stands today. July of 1966, Pastor Ottmar resigned and on July 31, 1966 the first service was held in our present building. Dedication was held on August 28, 1966.
Pastor Robert Thoms accepted the call and was installed Nov. 29, 1966. He served from 1966-1969. His family included wife, Audrey and two children. In 1967, for the first time in several years, a special Stewardship Program was undertaken. Men’s Brotherhood met monthly for Bible Study, a fame or two of darts. Two women’s circles were also active with 40-50 women attending. The American Lutheran Church Women (ALCW) continued to sponsor Mother-daughter banquets, sewing projects and saving of Gold Bond stamps which enabled the ALCW to get several items for the church kitchen.
Following the resignation of Pastor Thoms in June, 1969, a call was extended to Pastor John Jacklin, who was installed as pastor in August, 1969. His parsonage family included his mother, Emma and a sister, Doris. In December of that year, the 25th Anniversary of American Lutheran Church was celebrated. We began continuous communion. A new organ was purchased with memorials and dedicated in 1972. The cost of the organ was $2,275. During this time, the Easter breakfast started with the Men’s Fellowship group and choir serving. Since 1980, the Easter breakfast has been a project of the Senior Luther League.
Pastor Jacklin served our congregation from August 1969 until his death in May, 1983. Rev. Rolland Brandt of Denver, performed all worship services until a Pastor could be found. During this time the ALCW continued their projects which included the monthly newsletter, coffee fellowship hour, the Annual Christmas Community Tea, bake sale and craft bazaar, sewing quilts and layettes for Lutheran World Relief, the Mother-daughter and Father-son banquets. At this time, a church secretary was also hired.
MOVING FORWARD IN THE 1980s
On August 3, 1983 Pastor Laura Schwerin was called and installed. She had just completed seminary and on September 3, 1983 she was ordained in her home church and began serving our congregation on September 12, 1983. At the close of 1983 after a revision of our membership roll, we had 311 active confirmed members, Sunday School roll of 66. Pastor Schwerin worked with council to establish committees within the church. Those committees being Stewardship, Fellowship, Evangelism, Christian Education, Property, Worship and Memorial Committee which still continues today. She also started involving a good number of people into the worship service to serve as lay assistants, lectors, acolytes, greeters and ushers.
In 1984, the congregation voted to demolish the old parsonage located on the corner of Iowa and Monroe Street.
In March 1985, all new stained-glass windows were installed in the sanctuary.
By late July, 1986, a new roof was completed on the church.
In September, 1987, Pastor Laura announced that she had accepted a call to a church in Mason City.
In 1988, new carpet (which is still there) was laid in the sanctuary and the church office was remodeled, all by donations being done in less than three months. Much painting and fix-up occurred in the basement Sunday School rooms by willing volunteers. We also became involved as a Mission Partner with a church in Bloomfield, IA.
With a search for a new pastor and wife coming to serve our congregation and no parsonage in which to live, the council spent much time in early 1988 discussing what should be done. The congregation gave their approval to purchase a parsonage, located at 609 Locust Street at a cost of $57,000. On August 1, Pastor Otto Reitz and his wife, LaVerne were met in Greene, IA by a large group of volunteers from our congregation who were there to help with the move to La Porte City.
FLOURISHING THROUGH FIFTY YEARS
On December 21, 1992 a very special ordination service took place at American Lutheran. While a member here, Blair A’Hearn had felt a call to enter the ministry and so in 1987 he resigned his position as the Vocal Music Instructor at the High School and he and his family moved to Dubuque to enter Wartburg Seminary. His ordination was the first to take place at American Lutheran in its history.
WINGS (Witness in God’s Service), a mid-week program, was started in the late 80’s for children in grades 3-6 meeting on Thursday evenings from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
With the upcoming 50th anniversary of our congregation approaching in 1994, the idea was established to have a congregational gift to ourselves and a gift to an outside recipient. After much discussion and thought, a vote was taken and it was decided to start a “Parking Lot Fund” for paving as our gift. Bremwood was to be our outside recipient. On Pledge Sunday, $21,393 was pledged toward our Parking Lot; $14,777 (to be paid over three years) was pledged to Bremwood. This was all above and beyond the $72,350 contributed in regular offerings that year.
n 1994, it was decided to hold a Pork Chop Dinner as part of our 50th anniversary observance. This has continued to grow through the years. Most of the food is donated with proceeds going to the Christian Education Fund. It was also at this time that the pew cushions were purchased, again, with memorial money.
Pastor Reitz announced his retirement, effective January 1995. Another group of members were elected to once again, serve on the Call Committee. The synod recommended the use of a part-time interim pastor. Pastor Laurel Nordin served in that capacity until a call was extended to Pastor Doug Rokke.
With a pastor and a family of school age children coming to live in the parsonage, it was going to be necessary to remodel the parsonage. This, again, was accomplished by the work of many volunteers. A group of hardy members drove to Williston, ND in April, 1995, to move the Rokke’s to La Porte City. On their day of arrival another group was at hand to help unload and feed the hungry crew.
Our congregation embarked on an exciting time. Pastor Doug, wife Randi and his three children moved into the newly remodeled parsonage. This had been the first time since Pastor Thoms, that we had a family with school-aged children blessed with the musical talents as their parents.
In 1996, carpeting was completed in the balcony and the narthex to match the sanctuary.
In 1997, stained glass windows were installed in the Narthex.
In 1998 a new sound system was installed. A new computer system was set up for use in the church in 1999. A new furnace and new air conditioning unit was also installed at the parsonage. New lighting was added at the front of the church in 2000. After a hail storm, it was necessary that the entire church and garage (no longer there) be re-shingled, which was completed in 2001.
A NEW MISSION STATEMENT
Following a congregational survey a new mission statement was established in 2001. It reads “We are people who worship Jesus Christ, reaching out to teach and share his love for all people.” During this time, Soup and Sandwich suppers continue to precede our Lenten Vespers. During Lent in 2002, 2003 and 2004 lay members of the congregation have shared their own personal “Faith Stories”. In September, a fellowship event takes place at the La Porte City Country Club where parishioners can golf, play cards and enjoy a meal.
In January 2007, a discussion was held on putting together a committee to conduct a feasibility study for expansion to the church. In July of 2007 during the semi-annual meeting, it was approved to move forward with the building project and authorize Point Builders to develop initial drawings of the new expansion and authorize payment of $6,150 to Kairos & Assoc to identify fundraising potential and financial capabilities toward this project. Authorization was made to retain Vantage Point, LLC Architectural Services and Point Builders, LLC as general contractor, to design and build the expansion of the church.
2008 proved to be an exciting year for us at American Lutheran Church, as we broke ground for enlarging and streamlining the narthex. Relocating and rebuilding the kitchen. Building a larger fellowship area adjacent to the kitchen. Adding a multi-purpose room along with Sunday School rooms. Building a covered, drive-up entrance at the west end of the church. Adding new offices and work space for the pastor and the church staff. It is our hope and prayer of this project and church leadership that the “Building Today for God’s Tomorrow” will allow us to continue to expand our ministries and continue to grow our congregation. The project materials and costs came to an estimate of $750,000. Total pledges for 2008 was $279,265.50 with actual contributions totaling $278,776.60 leaving us $488.90 short. In 2009, there is $135,000 pledged and $13,700 had been received. 2010 there is $130,000 pledged with $8,700 already received and in 2011 there is $14,700 pledged. Dedication to the new addition was April 19, 2009.
In 2010 the new Johannes organ was purchased for the amount of $17,066.50.
In 2011 the Baby Grand piano was purchased along with new speakers for the organ. The organ being purchased through West Music at a price of $7869.85. Teresa Baird, youth director, was hired May, 2011 to start her position in working with the youth. She, unfortunately, gave her resignation in 2012. This position was reviewed with the current volunteer leaders, deciding not to replace the youth leader at that time.
In 2012 all new landscaping was completed, again with the help of memorials. A new Stewardship program started entitled “Growing for Tomorrow”.
2014, another major improvement, as the basement was completely revamped with all new carpet, painting, bathroom vanities and lights. Again, all being done with contributions from parishioners. This year was an exciting year for Pastor Doug, as he celebrated his 35th Ordination Anniversary in September.
In 2015, the local churches comprised of ALC, Sacred Heart and Heartland combined together for Vacation Bible School during the summer. Meals are provided for the children prior to classes, with each church taking a turn providing the meal.
“Make a joyful noise” summons it up when bells were purchased to enhance our services in 2016. In July of 2016, Pastor Doug semi-retired giving his last sermon on July 24. At his time of leaving, our membership stood at 946 (active and inactive members). He was our longest serving pastor serving 21 plus years. Another group of members have been elected to serve, once again, on the Call Committee. During this time Pastor Rick Biederman has been serving this congregation as our interim pastor.
Through the past 73 years, American Lutheran Church has been richly blessed and we continue to be the “People who worship Jesus Christ, reaching out to teach and share His love for all people.”