125 Years Dedication
(Written as preface to the 125 years update)
On this anniversary of 125 years, let us glorify God for what He has made of us, and what He is still doing through us. It is an appropriate time to also record for future generations the history of the church and its organizations. The early Christians whose efforts made Our Savior’s Lutheran Church possible, were part of God’s creation and through Him accomplished much. This history is dedicated to these people. It is a great heritage to remember and a great challenge to move forward to accomplish more for Christ.
“Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His Holy Name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.”
This Psalm, 103, reminds us that when Christians accept God’s grace and the blessings He bestows with willing hearts, prosperity and progress will abide. After reviewing the advancement of our congregation, it appears that in spite of human weakness, sinfulness, and shortcomings; in spite of indifference in many instances, God has remained gracious and merciful to our congregation. Follow in thought, if you will, from the year 1866, our very first beginning, through the years to see how God’s will made our present congregation.
Baptism of Andrew Eppmeyer
It was on the occasion of Andrew Eppmeyer, a two-year-old boy, being carried to the Bell Church for baptism, that Reverend Carl Sprengler, then pastor, found out that the Cleveland Lutheran people were without a pastor. It was this occasion, which prompted Rev. Sprengler and his son, Henry F. Sprengler, then a seminarian, to serve the Cleveland Lutheran people for some time in individual homes, where services were held.
The First Lutheran Church of Lake Jefferson
“The First Lutheran Church of Lake Jefferson,” as our church was first called, organized and built a log church in two years, after their spiritual needs grew beyond the intermittent care they were getting from Rev. Sprengler.
The First Record of the Congregation
On May 25, 1868, Frederick Zimmerman, who donated two acres of land for the church site, made the first record of our congregation with the registrar of deeds office in LeSueur Center. The deed reads as follows:
Kind of Instrument—Warranty deed
Date—May 25, 1868
Filed—11:00 a.m.—November 27, 1868
Frederick Zimmerman and Frederica, his wife, to Andrew Wilfert, Chris Koppelman, and Joachim (Joseph) Ponwith, trustees of the First Lutheran Church, Cleveland, Minnesota, and their successors in office.
Beginning at a point on section line between Section 27 and 18-147 rods north of sections 33, 34, 27 and 28 north of said section line 32 rods, then East 10 rods, then south 32 rods, then west 10 rods to place of beginning. Two acres of land in township 110, range 25.
The Founding Fathers
Knowing how important founders of our country were, let us briefly list some early ten men, who organized our congregation and church, gave land for its beginning, and diligently hewed logs for its construction: Messrs. H. Eppmeyer, Theobald Kluntz, Chris Koppelman, Carl Leath, Joachim Ponwith, George Rinkel, Andrew Wilfert, Jacob Wilfert, Frederick Zimmerman, and Adam Wright (though not a Lutheran, he helped to build). Since the men were all farmers, it took longer for them to complete the church. Rudolph Jaeger, a cabinetmaker of Cleveland, made the pulpit, chair, and communion table. The beautiful, ornate pulpit was donated to the Cleveland Historical Society when the congregation moved into the new church building in 2004. The communion table and matching chair are still in use by the congregation.
The Sprenglers, as pastors, guided the congregation thus far.
The Theological Controversy
In 1868, because of a difference in principles, the already small congregation was split in two, both holding church at the same place at slightly different times, but being served by two different pastors. The Missouri Synod backers were served by Rev. Louis Emmel from St. Peter’s Evangelical Church of St. Peter; Rev. George Martin Eyrich served the non-synodical congregation from April to November of 1873.
The Early Pastors
Rev. G. M. Eyrich, twenty-three years old, was born October 17, 1850 at Tuttlingen, Wuerttemberg, Germany. Rev. C. A. Hauck of LeSueur, served as an interim pastor from November, 1873 until June, 1879, after which Rev. Eyrich again took charge, driving by slow coach from LeSueur in all kinds of weather, to serve the small congregation or Kirchlein (as Rev. Eyrich frequently called it).
A New Church Building
Because of needed repairs to the log church and especially the roof, the people decided on December 2, 1891, to erect a new church building. After much deliberation, it was decided to build the church that served the congregation until 2004 on the same site as the old one (now the cemetery) instead of in town as had been discussed.
This was in the winter of 1891-1892. Rev. Eyrich laid the foundation stone for the new church in a solemn service on Pentecost, June 6, 1892. The pastor’s fitting text for this occasion was 1 Corinthians 3:11: “Other foundation can no man lay, than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” The register of members of this church consisted of the following:
Henry Laue, Moderator
Andrew Wilfert, Secretary
Charles Block, Treasurer
Charles Koppelman, Fred Koppelman, Christian Koppelman, Jacob Wilfert, Louis Wilfert, Johann Pufpaff, Friedrich Block, John Forbeck, George Rinkel, Friedrich Leath, Zoree Mart, Fred Siebert, Frederick W. Wendelschafer, Fred Pufpaff, George Bauer, John C. Wilfert, Henry Korn, Herman Ponwith, Herman Zimmerman, John C. Weiss, Ida Stotz, Joseph Ponwith.
The Construction Years
During the construction of the new church, services were held at the largest house available, namely Andrew Wilfert’s, where the carpenters for the church boarded. At a yearly council meeting, January 1, 1895, Henry Laue, who lived close to the church, was voted as treasurer, janitor, and bell ringer. His successor was Herman Zimmerman, Jr., who also lived near the church, and served as caretaker for many years.
Through these reconstruction years, Rev. Eyrich continued to serve, except from the fall of 1896 to early fall of 1901, when Rev. Sturm, also from LeSueur, served as pastor. The first confirmation occurred June 19, 1904. Rev. Eyrich again served until his death April 26, 1916, at LeSueur at the age of 65. It was voted on March 1915, to have English services also, which were preached by Rev. Luther Malmberg of St. Peter. In 1916, Rev. Franz Tiede of LeCenter and pastor there, was called to preach the German services while Rev. Malmberg, the English services, until he was called as a chaplain in WWI, leaving Rev. Tiede to preach both in German and English. January 2, 1924, it was decided to have services changed from two in English and one in German to three in English and one in German.
Rev. Franz Tiede’s Pastorate
During Rev. Tiede’s pastorate of eighteen years, the Ladies Aid had its beginning in 1922, when its first endeavor, a church supper, was held in the old town hall. The church supper, which was always well attended, was continued for many years, usually held in the Methodist Church basement. Ladies Aid was held in private homes with a few meetings being held at the church.
Our present altar was installed on January 1925, and dedicated on February 8, 1925 with a good attendance and a collection of $25.80 was taken. The altar arrived by train at the Cleveland Depot and was carefully transported to the church by horse-drawn sleigh. The oak pastor’s chair was purchased near the same time and was paid for by the Ladies Aid from proceeds of their yearly chicken dinners.
Confirmands received instruction at St. Paul’s Lutheran in LeCenter, where a unified confirmation would take place.
Church was held once every two weeks and of the three holidays, Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving, depending on the year, church was held on every other holiday.
Rev. Tiede and Rev. Harms of German Lake Church ordained Rev. Carl Zimmerman, son of Herman Zimmerman, Sr., on June 10, 1928. There were four generations of Zimmermans present and the congregation consisted of neighbors and friends of the family. Carl began his pastorate in Bellingham, Washington, later serving in Pine City, Minnesota, and as chaplain in WWII. After the war, he served at MacArthur Park Lutheran church in San Antonio, Texas.
Rev. Tiede completed eighteen successful years with our congregation, delivering his last sermon on March 4, 1934. A month later, on April 17, at Abbott Hospital, he was called to his final reward.
Rev. R. C. Ackerman’s Pastorate
Rev. Ackerman was installed September 16, 1934. In October the envelope system for giving was begun. New cement steps were built and in 1935 the church was painted.
In July 1939, the church was struck by lightning, while the people were attending the funeral for Nick Rosner, and miraculously no one was injured, but most people experienced a great shock. When the lightning passed through the building, it followed the old gas lighting system, which helped to prevent serious damage. The fire was confined to a single board in the steeple, which was ripped off. After a short time the people calmed down, and the burial service was held in the adjacent church cemetery. Necessary repairs and lightning rods were installed.
Electricity became available, so the church board decided to wire the church in August of 1939. The congregation voted to purchase an individual cup communion service, changing from a common cup, in 1940. Also during this year our church, together with St. Paul’s Lutheran of LeCenter, gave a fitting farewell for pastor’s son, Rev. Martin Ackerman, who was leaving for overseas missionary work. To honor Rev. Ackerman on his fortieth anniversary of his ordination, our Ladies Aid, in cooperation with the LeCenter Aid, served a dinner at St. Paul’s in LeCenter for the Ackerman family. August 30, 1953, our congregation observed our pastor’s fiftieth year of ordination and also their wedding anniversary.
The 75th Anniversary
On May 16, 1943, the church observed its 75th anniversary with a special Sunday service and with Pastor Ermisch as guest pastor. For this special occasion members, former members and pastors were extended a cordial invitation to attend.
The Church Moves to Town
For several years the advantage of moving the church to Cleveland was discussed; finally the sentiment for this materialized in a vote on January 10, 1946. Land was purchased for $450 from Mrs. Anna Pufpaff for a location of the church in Cleveland. The building committee for this project was composed of Harry Kluntz, Walter Kruger, Martin Ponwith, Arthur Wendelschafer and Carl Wendelschafer. Olrich Lunak of LeSueur was contracted to move the church for $1,100. Due to various circumstances, the church was not moved until March 19, 1949, but was not placed on the basement wall, which had already been erected the fall before, until July 13, 1949. Services in the meantime were conducted in the Cleveland Community Hall, where infrequently the town siren interrupted worship; pitter pats of rain through a leaky roof; and by slightly reverberant sounds from here and there due to an expansive building for a small congregation. By God’s grace our services continued in a church, now on its permanent location, beginning on October 28, 1949, followed by a fellowship dinner in the church basement. Officers of our rededicated church were:
Secretary—Herman A. Zimmerman
With our church rededicated, new pride began to show evidence by many progressive improvements. The Ladies Aid, which began functioning regularly each month under a new constitution, completely furnished and outfitted our kitchen and dining room, and carpeted the church proper. The Church Council likewise saw that the following big improvements, together with smaller ones, were made: painting and refinishing of the church inside and out, new windows installed, plumbing and carpentry work in the basement, and roofing the church. These improvements, together with many wonderful memorial gifts for our church, made us feel the great benefits that God has given us.
The Growth of the Sunday school
Last, but not least, let us see how the youth organizations have progressed. The youth of today is the church of tomorrow. Since 1949, during the regular school term, Rev. Ackerman conducted church school or release time classes for all of the Lutherans from our local high school for one hour each week at our church. The average attendance was between 20 and 35 students. Our Sunday school and Vacation Bible School have been conducted each year, showing increased interest. Miss Sadie Ponwith, a longtime member and missionary, started the first Vacation Bible School, and worked at Lutheran Bible Institute. Luther League was started when Rev. Polesky was pastor. The choir, which was organized earlier, has sung for many regular services since 1949.
Affiliation with German Lake Congregation
Following 50 years of being a pastor, Rev. Ackerman retired in 1953. Because of the enlargement of the congregation of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in LeCenter, Cleveland began its affiliation with St. Paul’s of German Lake, and beginning in November, Rev. Bernard Polesky served both congregations. During the two years of Rev. Polesky’s service, our church membership increased by the baptism of 13 infants and confirmation of eight adults and ten young people.
With God’s help we continued with regular Sunday services, introduced the help of ushers, and decided, by vote, to become a part of the American Lutheran Church. The ladies, who were interested, also joined the Women’s Missionary Federation. The Women’s Mission Aid not only did Christian deeds for our congregation, such as supporting cemetery upkeep, helping to send boys and girls to Bible Camp at Onamia, sponsoring Guest Days, and honoring senior members of the society, but also participating in the different departments of the Women’s Missionary Federation. Other activities included sewing for New Guinea Christmas packages, visiting the sending gifts to the nursing homes, sending gifts to the orphaned and crippled children, sponsoring a Mother-Daughter banquet for the benefit of India Missions, Purchasing life membership pins, which helped Mexican Missions, Contributing to Thank offering boxes, rolling bandages, and sewing cancer pads.
Also during Rev. Polesky’s pastorate, an outside bulletin board was installed, also hymnal racks and kneeling benches, painting of the chancel, and the redecorating of the altar. In September 1955, Rev. Polesky received a call to serve from Meriden, Minnesota, and left our congregation on October first. Under the guidance of a student pastor, Raymond A. Swanson, who drove from St. Paul every weekend, services were conducted at German Lake and Cleveland.
Our First Resident Pastor—Henry A. Mayer, 1956-1959
Rev. H. A. Mayer was installed as our minister on February 12, 1956. Since then progressive steps undertaken include the following: formation of the Adult Bible Class, church library organized, Sunday School teacher’s instruction courses, Altar Guild formed, and a Junior League for children prior in age to that of the Luther League. Camp Onamia was a summer retreat for young and old.
Christmas Eve services and Easter sunrise services were held each year, as well as joint Ascension Day services with St. Paul’s Lutheran Church of German Lake. On Sunday, August 17, 1957, Dr. Tillila and wife from Finland were guests at our services, at which Dr. Tillila delivered the sermon. They were attending the Lutheran World Federation in Minneapolis.
Improvements on the church proper include painting the outside in early summer of 1957, installing new stair covering for the inside basement steps, and getting new paraments for the altar and pulpit. Many memorial gifts serve to enhance the appearance of the church.
The Construction of the Parsonage
In 1957, three lots were purchased from Mrs. Anna Pufpaff, and in November of 1957, the new, modern parsonage was dedicated. There were services in the morning, a fellowship dinner at noon, and the special dedication services in the afternoon at which Pastor A. H. Braun, president of the Minnesota District of the ALC presided. Members of the church council at this time were Adrian Biehn, Leo Koppelman, Sr., Walter Kruger, Lee Voss, and Carl Wendelschafer.
1958 dawned with a new spiritual light for our congregation when our church conducted a Preaching-Teaching-Reaching Mission together with St. Paul’s of German Lake. Services were conducted five evenings, alternating at the two churches, with the inspiring Pastor Hageman from Muscatine, Iowa as guest missioner. Our hope that the evangelistic effort started in our church during this mission may continue, was augmented by the acceptance, on Sunday, May 11 of eleven members into our congregation, which at the beginning of 1958 numbered 123 confirmed members.
The New Hymnals
Our new hymnals, so long looked for, arrived, and were first used on April 6, 1958, at Easter Sunrise Services. Our church was host to a pastor’s conference for two days, April 29-30, 1958. Annual church suppers were still being held.
A Change of Church Name-The 90th Anniversary
On Sunday, May 18, 1958 the church voted to change its name to Our Savior’s Lutheran Church. On Sunday, May 25, 1958, the church received its new name in a special service together with the 90th anniversary. Pastor Carl Zimmerman, our guest pastor for this day, is a native son of the church.
Pastorate of Rev. Paul Bredow
Rev. Paul Bredow (1959-1966) was installed in September, 1959. During these years the parsonage mortgage was paid off and mortgage papers burned in 1961, four years after its construction. Other improvements and additions include new stoles, church school Bibles, new Sunday School hymnals, new pulpit Bible, safe, and painting of the basement and parsonage. The choir was recognized and once again added special music to our services. The Altar Guild grew. New guidelines and rules were adopted for the Cemetery Association.
Pastor Bredow preached his farewell sermon on Easter Sunday 1966 and became associated with St. John’s Lutheran of Shakopee, Minnesota.
Pastorate of Rev. Raymond A. Swanson
Pastor Raymond Swanson, who had previously served us as a student pastor, was installed in June 1966. Between 1966-1969, under Pastor Swanson’s guidance, the congregation began to have communion on a monthly basis, usually on the second Sunday of each month, and also monthly church council meetings. During these years a complete set of costumes for Sunday School Christmas programs was made and given by the Mission Aid, first father-son Banquet, and in 1968 a unique Passover Meal was served especially for the new confirmands. Two new stoves were purchased. Usher badges were put to use and communion card holders were installed in the pews.
In July, 1966, the members began to consider an addition to the front of the church and in July, 1970, (the same day man landed on the moon) it was decided to add new Sunday School rooms, church library, and a church office. On June 14, 1970 at the rededication of the renovated sanctuary, Pastor Carl Zimmerman was the guest speaker. The building committee was composed of Eldon Block, Paul Heitner, Harry Kluntz, Leo Koppelman Jr., Leo Koppelman Sr., Donald Ponwith, Russell Rapp, and William Zimmerman.
The church’s centennial was observed with a special church service Sunday, May 25, 1968, with men seated on one side and women seated on the other, as history recorded done in the past. Pastor Swanson issued an “ecclesiastical edict” serving notice to the boys, that those who have reached the age where they are now wearing long pants will be allowed to sit with their sires and those boys wearing knee pants or knickers must sit with their mothers and other children. The original altar table and the present pulpit, which were both hand carved by Rudolph Jaeger, were used. An altar cloth, handmade by Catherine Hermel, original candlesticks, crucifix, and communion vessels were on the altar. Antique vases were filled with lilacs from bushes planted several generations before at the original church site 1½ mile south of Cleveland. Other services during the year had former pastors speak. The Centennial banquet in June was at Gustavus Adolphus College with Dr. Kenneth Priebe, of the American Lutheran Church Department of Stewardship speaking. At the morning service our own native son of the congregation, Rev. Carl Zimmerman served as pastor. Guest speakers during the year included Rev. Henry Mayer, Mrs. S. Oeljen, who represented her father, Rev. Franz Tiede, Rev. Martin Ackerman, son of Rev. R.C. Ackerman, Dr. Knutson of the A.L.C., Rev. Bernard Polesky, and Rev. Paul Bredow. The Centennial observance was climaxed by a Centennial Communion Service on August 18, and the opening and relaying of the cornerstone on November 22, 1970. It was noted that in twenty years the church was moved, a new parsonage constructed and the sanctuary was renovated with new educational facilities being added.
Pastor Swanson closed his pastorate December 31, 1973. During the call process Pastor Paul Hesterberg of St. Paul’s in Le Center was interim pastor.
John W. Sime Pastorate
Pastor John W. Sime began as pastor on May 12, 1975 and served until March 3, 1979 when he received a call to Fountain, Minnesota. During these years the baptized membership grew to 255 in 1978, while the confirmed membership was 187. The church conducted services at the Le Center Nursing Home once a month, participated in a radio devotional program, gave to World Hunger and United Appeal. The building fund debt was paid off. Lydia Circle held bazaars and contributed greatly to the Sunday school, refurbished the basement and kitchen with new oak cupboards and appliances. Mrs. Sime guided the ladies in quilting for Lutheran World Relief. During the call process, Pastor Alice Horton, a former intern in LeCenter, served our congregation.
Roland J. Wells Pastorate
On June 5, 1979, Pastor Wells began as pastor. Two very dedicated singing groups were formed by the pastor and his wife Brenda; namely, the SONshine Singers and the Senior Choir. In one month funding came in for a new piano. The sound equipment and office were upgraded. New events for youth included softball, volleyball, hayrides, bowling, and rollerskating. Ninth graders attended Lutheran Youth in Minneapolis. Bible camps and canoe trips were exciting. Entire families were invited to the Lord’s Table, the younger ones to receive a blessing. Sunday morning greeters were organized as was a couples club and men’s breakfast Bible study. In our worship we sought newness in old forms. Preaching-Teaching-Reaching Mission and Time-Talents-Treasures Survey plus Dobson series “Focus on the Family” were progressive ideas tried. A pictorial directory was published. The women had Bible study and made quilts. The Altar Guild took charge of altar duties. Several new church committees were formed to assist in supervising church activities; namely youth, worship and music, evangelism and social ministry, education, accounting membership, and building and grounds.
The first building and grounds committee consisted of David Voss, Myron Wolf, Greg Davis, Shirley Ponwith, Laura Reid, Leo Koppelman Sr. and Bruce McCormack. They completed or assisted with the following projects: shingling and painting the parsonage, land filling around church and parsonage, replacing the furnace, assisting Lydia Circle with kitchen project, fixing pews, installation of ceiling fans, insulating the church, and waterproofing the basement.
From 1978-1982 Our Savior’s increased in baptized membership by 44.3% and weekly attendance increased by 57%. Bills were paid and the basement project completed. In 1984 there were 417 baptized and 282 confirmed members. November 21, 1982 the 90th anniversary of being in the same church building and 115 years since the church’s first beginning was celebrated.
In 1984, we had a full time pastor for the first time and on July 8, 1984, Roland Wells was reinstated as pastor only of our church.
Our Savior’s had come through the year unified and strongly committed to be individualized by God’s Grace. Progress after this decision included more ventures together such as the tree-trimming Advent get together, and the confirmation project became a three year effort. The church rented space in Cleveland School for Sunday morning Sunday School overflow. Pastor Wells initiated the Lenten season idea “Pull the Plug on T.V.” Pastor hoped this experience would bring more control of T.V. in the home.
By 1984, more than half our members had joined our church in the previous six years.
Gary Johnson Pastorate
In 1985 Pastor Wells left, followed by Pastor Gary Johnson, who was installed in July 1985. Major improvements were made in the parsonage, including a new furnace. The church interior was painted and cement parking markers were purchased for the parking lot. Chicago Folk Service was the liturgy used on the last Sunday of each month. Tape ministry was made available, and Thanksgiving ecumenical services for all area churches were first held in the town hall and later at the school.
Timothy P. Anderson Pastorate
Our next pastor in 1987 was Pastor Timothy P. Anderson, who began his pastorate September 1. Many of the church projects continued on as in previous years. Improvements include a memorial cross placed on the front of the church and sand-blasting the cornerstone, a deck for the parsonage and church roof repair. A pictorial directory was published and the revised constitution was finalized. Pastor Tim Anderson prepared a new handbook for the acolytes to be used in confirmation class.
In 1988, after the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America merger, a Task Force of women from the congregation formulated a new constitution for the women’s groups.
Soup and sandwich project was served before each Lenten service.
Pastor Ray Haugland was interim pastor after Tim Anderson received a call to Hayward, WI. Church activities during this interim proceeded well.
Joseph Crippen Pastorate
Pastor Joseph Crippen accepted the pastorate in July 1991. Advent services on Wednesday evening were a new form of worship for us. Repairing and winterizing of stained glass windows was completed, each given in living memory of faithful members of by-gone years. The church proper was air-conditioned. A new communion service was purchased. The antique altar was once more being used as a communion table. Sonshine Singers continued to present special yearly programs. A combined Vacation Bible School and church picnic was held either at Camp Patterson or Lake Washington on Connor’s Point. Building and grounds projects completed in 1992 were: shingling of north side of the church, basement carpet replaced, replacement of the sidewalks at the parsonage, landscaping around the church, insulation of rain gutter on church’s east end.
Total membership in 1993 is 469, and this is our 125th anniversary in which we heard from former pastors, had a huge celebration with a dinner catered and held in the dining hall of The Church of Nativity. Worship attendance increased, as did the giving. Projects included a new sound system in December 1992, a new computer for the office, carpeting in the whole church, re-staining the siding and re-shingling the newer addition. A cookbook and a church directory were both compiled for the anniversary.
A congregational meeting was held March 13, 1994, concerning the age at which children are welcome to the communion table. Previous to 1988, communion was first received after completing confirmation instruction at the age of 13 or 14. This idea was amended in 1988 to allow communion to be received after instruction at the fifth grade level, which in 1994 was the congregation’s policy. Pastor Crippen’s interpretation was that there is no specific discussion in the Bible and the Book of Concord on the age of first communion. A motion carried regarding the age of first communion, which let parents decide. Parents who feel that their child is ready for communion at an earlier age than fifth grade should consult with the pastor and have them prepared. ELCA and synod leave it to each congregation to decide the age.
In June 1995, two copies of the History of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church were presented to the church council. These copies would be available to any interested person for reading or for looking over historical documents. Another copy was sent to the ELCA Regional Archives in Saint Paul, and yet another was sent to the National Archives in Chicago. A copy was also given to the Cleveland Historical Society.
Our Savior’s Sunday school continues support for a six-year-old Mexican orphan. Young people who attend Green Lake Bible Camp and the Shores of Saint Andrew receive financial help from the hot dish and salad luncheon held annually.
In 1996, remodeling of the parsonage basement was completed, including two egress windows, walls sheet-rocked, basement divided into five rooms, and a new false ceiling. Walls were painted, carpet installed, and a new commode and shower stall were put in the bathroom. 280 hours of work completed the basement remodeling at a cost of $6,177.
A new Baldwin organ was given in memory of Scott Leonard by his wife Nancy. It was installed and dedicated in May 1996.
Pastor Crippen resigned as pastor at Our Savior’s on Sunday, August 4, 1996. On this Sunday, August 4th there was also a special congregational meeting to discuss church expansion by purchase of the Haase property adjacent to the church on the north. The purchase price was $35,000.00 cash plus the lot the church owns across the street from the church, which was valued at $10,000.00. A vote by ballot was completed and the motion passed by 59 to 4. Paying for this property was to be done before any more expansion was planned.
Pastor Harry Peterson, the interim pastor from September 1996—February 1997, welcomed five new families into membership on reformation Sunday, October 30, 1996. Twenty-five hymnals (both the Lutheran Book of Worship and With One Voice) were given as memorials. A thank-you farewell fellowship for Pastor Peterson was held February 23, 1997.
The church was broken into twice in 1997, once through the sacristy door and the second time through the basement door.
Mark Boorsma Pastorate
A call committee composed of Steve Biehn, Tami Christensen, Dean Koppelman, Marleen Newbrough, Peter Richter, Jean Seely, Kelli Voss, and Emily Christensen (two who served as non-voting youth members) extended a call to Pastor Mark Boorsma and his wife Mary. Pastor Boorsma was an associate pastor in Illinois. He was born in Minneapolis, graduated from high school in Chaska, and attended Saint Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. He graduated from Luther Northwestern Seminary in Saint Paul, having served his pastoral internship in Tokyo, Japan. Installation services were Sunday, March 16, 1997. Pastor Marilyn Hanson, Assistant to the Bishop, presided at the rite of installation.
1997, a year many activities continue as before: gifts received annually from Lutheran Brotherhood and Aid Association for Lutherans branch in matching funds, congregational delegates and alternates sent each year to attend Synod Assembly, Valentines’ dinner, Lenten soup and sandwich supper, Lenten midweek service, hunger boxes, Easter services and breakfast, SONshine Singers musical, Graduates’ brunch, summer coffee and rolls after 9:00 a.m. service, progressive dinner, Vacation Bible School and church picnic at Lake Washington, ecumenical Thanksgiving service at Cleveland school, Bibles given to third graders on Reformation Sunday, and Advent midweek services. New hymnbook holders were installed to make more room to hold both hymnals and pew Bibles. Barb Miller, parish secretary, resigned in May. The group home residents were invited to worship at church.
It had been five years since the last pictorial directory, so the spring of 1998, a new directory was ready. To help the Saint Peter community after the tragic March 28 tornado, people from the church did contribute help in many ways. The church office supplied address labels to the tornado disaster office. A Youth Encounter group (Spoke Folk) presented a musical program. By the fall of 1998, improvements included repainting the garage, re-staining lower front of the church exterior, re-shingling the parsonage, and new vinyl windows for the parsonage.
In 1999 the church continued to have another progressive year of looking ahead, doing God’s will among our numbers and the community. The Gary Wendelschafer estate auction was June 1999 and the closing was in August and September of the same year.
Parsonage improvements included new kitchen flooring, hallway carpet, basement and bathroom carpet, new stove and refrigerator, new vinyl trim for parsonage windows and soffits. The separate garage was improved, with the plans of using it as room for the Sunday school. Two church furnaces were replaced in 1999.
Activities for 2000 included many of the previous years’ activities, plus a garden surplus table. Gardeners were invited to share their surplus, and any money contributed was designated for World Hunger.
Our Savior’s joined the Green Lake Lutheran Ministries corporation, and also decided to “Adopt a Highway,” namely county roads 104 and 105. The church facility was made available as an emergency evacuation site for the public school.
A new computer was purchased for the office, and a donated computer was given for the pastor’s office.
Early in 2001 the final account of the Gary Wendelschafer estate was transferred to Our Savior’s Lutheran Church. On July 14, 2002 at a congregational meeting, it was approved by a vote of 48 to 17 to sell the remaining three tracts of land (from the Gary Wendelschafer estate). It was moved and approved to have the Cleveland Lutheran Cemetery Board maintain and care for the Wendelschafer cemetery. Also in 2001 a bookkeeper was hired, who would report directly to the treasurer. New hardanger altar paraments, made by Mary Ann Jensen, were dedicated on Christmas Eve 2001. New green paraments (purchased) were dedicated on October 6, 2002.
In August of 2006 a tornado destroyed homes and outbuildings of several members who lived south of Cleveland. Most of the cemetery trees were destroyed and all but three of the tombstones were overturned by the high winds. Pastor Boorsma, along with Tom Miller (local stone carver) worked to reset the stones to an upright position. Ryan Ponwith took on replanting of trees in the cemetery as his Eagle Scout project in 2007. A bituminous road was added in 2008 and a seal coat was added in 2015.
Michelle (Shelly) Olson Pastorate
Pastor Shelly Olson served Our Savior’s in the interim providing pulpit supply after Pastor Mark Boorsma was called to Ascension Lutheran in Albert Lea. After a period of time, she was called to serve as full-time pastor and was installed August of 2007.
Pastor Shelly was the first woman pastor to serve Our Savior’s. Since her family owned a home in North Mankato, she did not require use of the Parsonage. During her service, the church home was rented to Don and Lois Lloyd.
Due to declining attendance at Sunday School for various reasons, Pastor Shelly, along with the council decided to try a new format and “A New Thing” which began on Wednesday afternoons after school. The program consisted of a time of study, worship, recreation, singing, and a meal was served to all in attendance. Mike & Julie Bluhm served many meals, but eventually individual families were called on to provide and serve a meal to the children and adults involved. All children from the community were invited to experience “A New Thing”. High School youth, along with volunteer adults, worked with the children to make this program successful. During Advent and Lent participants also attended congregational worship services—sometimes Holden Evening Prayer, sometimes a round-robin with area pastors. In 2015 SONshine Singers disbanded and a time of music became part of “A New Thing”. This group also took on the planning and presentation of the children’s Christmas Program.
During Pastor Shelly’s time of service, music continued to be an important part of worship as we used a variety of worship settings in With One Voice, Evangelical Lutheran Worship, the latest ELCA hymnal, which were purchased during Mark Boorsma’s pastorate, Worship & Praise Hymnals were purchased during Pastor Shelly’s pastorate. Holden Evening Prayer worship was a favorite of many during the seasons of Advent and Lent. Vicki Walechka, our organist/pianist and general leader of music further developed the Worship Band, which led worship, generally on the last Sunday of the month. Musicians in the group were: Vicki Walechka (piano), Randy Biehn (drums and vocalist), Kay Wendelschafer (guitar and vocalist), Linda Zabel Zuelsdorf (vocalist & small percussion), and Eric Kehoe (guitar, vocalist, and harmonica). The band enjoyed wide appeal as more contemporary Christian music was played and sung..
Jayne Martin organized and prepared a Seder Meal, while Pastor Shelly presided at the meal. Several Women’s “Teas” were organized and Betty Consoer led several entertaining events involving the women and daughters of the church.
It was also during this time that Mike Enter and Janice Fischer presented the congregation with a new opportunity to minister to children. During winters spent in AZ, they became involved with a daycare in Los Algodones, Mexico called Toma Mi Mano. When the Canadian founders of the daycare could no longer serve, Mike and Janice took over its administration. Many in the congregation offered financial support, as well as supplying items needed at Toma Mi Mano, which Mike and Jan delivered to the daycare. This daycare filled a great void for parents in the village because it gave them reliable child care so that they could go to work, knowing their children were well cared for.
Pastor Shelly resigned her call to Our Savior’s by a letter dated January 28, 2016, with her last day of leadership being April 20, 2016. Pastor Gerry Giese was assigned as our interim pastor and served until July of 2017. He supervised the call process and continued the administration of the congregation during that time.
Elizabeth (Liz) Rossing Pastorate
Pastor Liz Rossing accepted the call to serve Our Savior’s during the summer of 2017. She came to Cleveland in July and was installed as our pastor on September 10, 2017.
The Wednesday evening program for children adopted a new name, “The God Squad” to replace the former name, “A New Thing”. The young people voted on the new name from a number of suggested possibilities. Lenten worship services, led by a round robin system with area pastors, continued as an extension of God Squad activities.
The Congregation Builds
2003 was our 135th anniversary of beginning as a rural, one-story log church (20’ x 30’) in 1868. After 24 years, a new church was built in 1892 in the rural setting by the cemetery, about 1½ mile south of Cleveland. After being moved to Cleveland in 1949 and serving as a place of worship for 112 years, a new church was built in 2003-2004. Many proposed plans for a new church became evident in the 1990’s; land was surveyed, property lines marked, and different plans of enlarging became evident. Finally in 2003 a leadership team was selected for the new building appeal, including the following as general chairpersons: Cindy McCabe, Joe Oliver, Gary Dunn, and Pastor Mark Boorsma. Church council members included Colette Biehn, Pastor Mark Boorsma, Kim Gerlach, Judy Hahn, Nancy Hensel, Bruce Johnson, Jean Seely, Chris Thomas, and Brian Block as bookkeeper.
Our Savior’s Stained Glass Windows—In 1991 the congregation decided to air condition its ninety-nine-year sanctuary, which required modification of the stained glass windows previously engineered to permit opening and closing for natural ventilation. Since they were in need of repair also, a number of members donated funds for this purpose. In 2003, Richard Rice architect was secured to design a new sanctuary incorporating the existing stained glass windows. In addition to the eleven windows that had been in continuous use, the Saint John and Saint Matthew windows (which had been boxed and stored away for decades) were restored as well. The restoration of all thirteen windows was completed by Cathedral Craft of Winona, Minnesota. This work was funded by the many gracious contributors to Our Savior’s building project.
On August 10, 2003, following worship, a groundbreaking service was held. By this date, a bank loan was also secured and excavation began. The 1892 cornerstone was recycled and the year 2003 was incised, after which the cornerstone was set in the new bell tower structure.
Worship in the new church for the first time was Sunday, March 14, 2004. Demolition of the 1892 structure was on May 8, 2004. Dedication Sunday for Our Savior’s new sanctuary was held on Reformation Sunday, October 31, 2004, with regular services at 8:00 and 10:15 a.m. An afternoon dedication service was planned for 2:00 p.m., with Dr. David Tiede, president of Luther Seminary, presiding. Dr. Tiede is a grandson of Pastor Franz Tiede, Our Savior’s pastor from 1916 to 1934.
Singing in the early log church was from a hymn book with words only and at first was unaccompanied by musical instruments, as this was quite common in the early churches.
A few years later after the turn of the century hymn books with words and music became available as did a pump organ. In 1988 the old church pump organ was donated to the Cleveland Historical Society. Early church organists were Mrs. Herman (Pauline) Zimmerman, Sr., Alice Wendelshafer, Mrs. Harry (Ruth) Kluntz, and Mrs. Carl (Ina) Wendelshafer. In the 1920’s pay to the organist was $20.00.
In the 1950’s an electronic organ was donated to the church and in 1979 a piano was funded by the congregation in one month’s time. Organists from the 1950’s-2018 have been Mary Alice Wendelschafer Koppelman, and Kathleen Zimmerman Voss, Laurie Wolf, Carol Metz, Rose Mary Wade, Virginia Grabow, and Vicki Walechka. Other church organists and pianists were Jean Wendelschafer Seely, who was accompanist for the choir, Chicago Folk Service and the SONshine Singers, Kay Wendelshafer, who together with Jean Seely directed the SONshine Singers.
The first choir was organized in 1916, but sang only temporarily. For years there was no choir except for special occasions, when a quartet from St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in
Le Center would sing. In the late 1950’s a choir was organized for which robes and anthem books were purchased. Choir directors through the years were: Pastor Paul Bredow, Pastor Roland and Brenda Wells, Dorothy Baker, Bethel Perkins, Pastor Joseph Crippen, Kay Wendelschafer, and Jean Seely. Adult choir continues to enhance worship.
The SONshine Singers were organized and directed by Pastor Roland Wells and wife Brenda, for children of elementary age. They presented musicals and added beauty to many church services with their singing.
During pastor Gary Johnson’s pastorate the Chicago Folk Service was used on the last Sunday of the month. It added variety in music and songs. Chicago Folk Service accompanists on piano, flute, guitar and synthesizer were Virginia Grabow, Jean Seely, and Kay Wendelschafer. Pastor Tim Anderson’s wife played the flute at times.
A Worship Band was formed during Pastor Shelly’s pastorate. This group offered a wider range of contemporary Christian music for our congregation. After several years of bulletin inserts with printed songs, we acquired Worship and Praise, published by Augsburg Publishing. Instrumentation of the band included piano, drums, guitar, percussion, harmonica, and vocals. As of 2017, we used several worship settings from Evangelical Lutheran Worship & With One Voice. (See the section titled “Pastor Shelly Olson’s Pastorate” for more details on the Worship Band.)
It can be said that Our Savior’s Lutheran Church through its music has made, and is making, a joyful noise unto the Lord
In 1868, as was the custom at rural churches, a cemetery was soon established near the first log church, on the land donated by the Zimmerman family. In these early years, different families took care of the graves of their loved ones. The church council, in these beginning years, assumed business responsibility for both the church and the cemetery. In 1928 more land was transferred to the cemetery from the Herman Zimmerman Jr. family. This total acreage was surveyed to mark the original cemetery, and the boundaries of the old and new addition, and to sub-divide the new parts and two lots and walks. The cemetery now contains 2.89 acres in section 27, Township 110, Range 25. On January 22, 1929 the cemetery plot was filed and recorded at the Register of Deeds office in Le Center, MN for the purpose of laying out and establishing a cemetery with the name of Cleveland Lutheran Cemetery Association. This instrument was duly signed by the president, Herman Block, and secretary H. A. Pufpaff of the Cleveland Lutheran Cemetery.
Lots were 12×16 ft. and sold at $10.00 to members and $25.00 to non-members. For $50.00 the lot would also be kept clean. Until 1929, this money was placed in the regular church treasury. However on January 2, 1929, it was decided at the annual church meeting that money from the lots was to be kept in a separate fund, but be taken charge of by the church treasurer. Directors were to have the responsibilities of cleaning the cemetery.
In 1939, and for many years afterward, the Ladies Aid, as the women of the church were called, hired and paid for cemetery upkeep.
Mrs. Carl Wendelschafer landscaped the cemetery with beautiful maples and evergreens in 1961, as a memorial to her husband, Carl Wendelschafer, who had been the caretaker for a number of years.
New cemetery rules and regulations were written in 1966. In 1967 old unstable markers were reset, and on September 10, 1969 the price of a cemetery lot was raised to $100.00 and $150.00 for non-members to provide a fund large enough to produce income to pay for maintenance.
Adrian Biehn handled the sale of lots and the finance of the cemetery very faithfully for many years. The operation of the cemetery is handled by a committee of men composed of Steve Biehn, Clayton Block, Bruce Ponwith, Leo Koppelman, Jr. and Lee Voss.
In Autust of 2006, the cemetery was hit by a tornado and most of the trees were destroyed and all but three of the tombstones were overturned by the high winds. Pastor Boorsma, along with Tom Miller (local stone carver), worked to reset the stones. Ryan Ponwith planted young trees in the cemetery as his Eagle Scout project in 2007. A bituminous road was added in 2008 and a seal coat was added in 2015.
-Historical Account compiled by Kathleen Zimmerman Voss
History of how God has used women in the mission of our congregation
Mathew 28:19-20 Go! Make disciples! Baptize! Teach!
Luke 4:18-19 Preach! Proclaim release! Set Free!
Recover sight! Liberate! Proclaim the Lord’s year!
Mark 12:30-31 Love God! Love your neighbor!
John 17:18,21 Send! Be one!
Matthew 25:30-46 Feed the hungry! Give water to the thirsty!
Clothe the naked! Visit the sick!
Welcome the stranger! Visit the imprisoned!
Mark 16:6-7 Go and tell!
Luke 15:6,9,32 Find the lost!
Ephesians 2:8-22 Break down walls! Create anew! Reconcile!
Matthew 10:5-10 Go! Preach! Heal!
Luke 24:45-49 Preach forgiveness!
Romans 8:19-21 Liberate Creation!
These Bible verse imperatives have been an inspiration through the years to the women of our church, which was founded in 1868. The Christian women’s group of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, formerly called Cleveland Lutheran Church, has functioned under different titles with somewhat different purposes, but all aiming their endeavors to carry out God’s mission for His church. The women began to function under the earliest title of Ladies Aid in 1922, the title of which was changed to Mission Aid later on in the 50’s and 60’s. The Altar Guild, which formed in 1956, under Pastor Henry Mayer, functioned along with the Mission Aid, with each group covering different areas of mission in the church. The purposes of the Altar Guild were to care for the altar, the paraments, and the communion preparation. Later in the early 1970’s interest grew in arts and crafts and so the Lydia Circle came into formation. In the 1980’s the Altar Guild still functions as do the Quilters, and four serving groups plus a serving group for funerals. There has been participation of women in congregational activities other than through the above groups such as Sunday School and V.B.S. teachers, church council and committee participation, SONshine Singer and Senior Choir, librarian, secretary, organist, and special accompanist for the Chicago Folk Service, participation as a lay reader, greeter or usher, Newsletter assembly, as well as women who help out with sending cards for those hospitalized, sympathy, welcome to visitors, cradle role, thank you’s, also someone who takes care of the floral arrangements on Sunday morning, Holy Communion Worship server for first Sunday of the month, banner makers, helping our youth raise funds for camp during the Cherry Creek Days Celebration.
In the past when our congregation became a part of the American Lutheran Church, all of the congregational women were considered members of the American Lutheran Church Women (ALCW). Now in the new merger of 1987-1988 the women’s congregational unit shall be a member of the Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, so designated as Women of the E.LC.A. The particular name of our women’s group has yet to be selected.
The new Women of the E.L.C.A organization emphasizes God’s mission in three areas: GROWTH, which provides a variety of learning experiences which strengthen each woman as a whole person, develop her potential, and equip her for ministry. ACTION, which will enable women to act upon their faith in all arenas of life and COMMUNITY, which enables each woman to build up and celebrate relationships, which are global, diverse, and interdependent.
History helps build the church so let’s notice how the women contributed in our church. The Ladies Aid from 1922 until the 1940s met in homes, town hall, and occasionally in the church, which was located in the country on the present cemetery plot, where there was no basement or proper lighting facilities.
In the very early years our church was served by pastors, first coming out of St. Peter, then from Le Sueur, with services once a month, then every two weeks. From the turn of the century we were served by pastors from St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Le Center with services every two weeks. In 1940 the women from the joint congregations had a farewell dinner for Martin Ackerman, son of the pastor who was leaving for the missionary field. One other joint endeavor of the ladies was the dinner and program celebrating Rev. Ackerman’s 40th year of ordination. His 50th year was again celebrated in 1953.
One big yearly endeavor of the women was the fall chicken supper, which was first served in the town hall and later in the Methodist church, which was rented for this one yearly event. There was one big yearly church cleaning for the women also.
After the church was moved to Cleveland in 1949, the Ladies Aid began to function regularly with a new constitution developed in 1950-51, regular monthly meetings and contributions from each member. The church suppers were continued through many years held in our newly furnished church basement, the planning and furnishing of which was accomplished by the women’s group. Carpeting was also installed in the church.
In 1956-1957 the church library took shape with the women’s group providing money for a library cabinet and money for some books. The library progressed to its present position in 1969-1970 when memorial money helped finance the new arrangement.
Because of the enlargement in St. Paul’s congregation in Le Center, Cleveland Lutheran affiliated with St Paul’s, German Lake and beginning in November 1953 Pastor Polesky served both congregations. During this time we joined the American Lutheran Church.
In 1957 the women decided to join the Lutheran World Federation and at a dinner entertained Dr. Tillila and his wife from Finland who were attending the LWF meeting in Minneapolis. The Mission Aid did support our own congregation by such means as cemetery upkeep, financial help and encouragement to send boys and girls to Bible Camp at Onamia, sponsoring guest days and honoring Senior members of our church. They also participated in the departments of the A.L.C.W. This included sewing for New Guinea, visiting and sending gifts to nursing homes, sending gifts to orphan and crippled children’s homes, sponsoring Mother-Daughter Tea for India Missions, purchasing life- membership pins which helped Mexican Missions, Thank-Offering boxes, rolling bandages and sewing cancer pads.
In 1956 the women’s group purchased paraments for the altar and pulpit later in 1960 purchasing 5 stoles. The women also planned the dinner, program and fellowship for the parsonage dedication in November 1957. The year 1958 saw the following event in which the women of our church were greatly involved: Preaching, Teaching, Reaching (one week missions with coffee and refreshments), two day pastor’s conference with dinners and coffee hours, 90th church anniversary celebration, and church supper to help defray parsonage debt. In 1968 planning of events, food and fellowship was in order for the 100th Church Anniversary. In that same year a Passover Supper was served for the confirmands.
Quilting for the Lutheran World Relief continued in the 1970’s and 1980’s with many quilts being sent off each year. This was done in the winter months with such sewing and cutting being done at home by the ladies and many women of the congregation supplying material.
The Lydia Circle formed in the 1970’s and concentrated on arts and crafts with their sales being used to help fund the Our Savior’s building fund. They also installed new kitchen cupboards, Sunday School storage space, and published a cookbook.
After the women of the church voted to not belong to the A.L.C.W. a new plan for organizing the church women was instituted with four serving groups being formed, each taking turns through their chairwoman and group members to serve at funerals, weddings, Lenten services, reception of new members, Senior Graduate & Easter breakfasts, entertaining singing groups, ordinations and installations, and farewells.
In 1983, 13 boxes of clothing were sent to Kentucky and New Prague to help people in need. The 115th Anniversary was also celebrated. To support the camping program a craft/rummage/food sale was held and a Sweetheart Festival was held.
In 1987 a Woman’s Retreat was also part of the women’s activities.
Historical information compiled by:
Iris Biehn and Kate Seide
It was a large task to gather the information contained in this history. If any important facts, incidents, or dates have been omitted it was not done intentionally, but was merely an oversight or lack of information.
-Disclaimer published in the Centennial history of Our Savior’s