“The Long” Version
Tens of thousands of German immigrants poured into this country in the 1800s. Unionistic Lutheran and Reformed mission societies in Germany trained volunteers and sent them to serve as missionaries in the New World. Some came to Wisconsin gathering German-speaking people into congregations on the American frontier and serving them with God’s Word and Sacraments. In 1850 three congregations in Milwaukee County banded together and formed a “synod” (a group of congregations united to train pastors and teachers, to help each other, and to do mission work). One of those congregations was St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in “Town Oakwood” (presently on 27th Street and Oakwood Road in Oak Creek).
[Together with Grace Ev. Lutheran Church in downtown Milwaukee and Salem Ev. Lutheran Church in Granville (now part of Milwaukee), these three congregations formed “The German Evangelical-Lutheran Ministerium of Wisconsin” — better known as the Wisconsin Synod.]
Ten families who were members of St. John’s got tired of commuting from the town of Raymond to Oak Creek for worship. They decided to form their own congregation. The Rev. Philipp Brenner of St. John’s organized them on April 19, 1869 as Die Evangelisch Lutherische Dreieinigkeits Gemeinde (“The Evangelical Lutheran Trinity Congregation”) and served as their pastor. The original Board of Trustees consisted of George Ferber (chairman), John Hetzel (secretary), and John Fritschen (trustee). The people of Trinity met for worship in the Hunter School in Raymond Township, and continued to do so for over twenty years.
In 1870 Pastor Brenner followed the Lord’s call to serve as pastor in Oshkosh, WI. Later that year the Holy Spirit led theological candidate Gustav Denninger to accept his call to serve both St. John’s and Trinity congregations. That August the people of Trinity purchased a plot of land on 51st Street south of 3-Mile Road and dedicated it for use as a church cemetery. After ten years of faithful service, Pastor Denninger accepted a call to serve in Neenah, WI.
The Rev. Carl Gausewitz, Sr., who had been trained for the ministry in Germany, succeeded Pastor Denninger in 1880. Under his leadership Trinity congregation built a modest frame church building on the cemetery grounds at 4550 South 51st St. The people of Trinity dedicated their very own house of worship to the glory of the Triune God on September 29, 1889, with a German service in the morning and an English service in the afternoon. This building would be the home of Trinity Lutheran for the next 91 years.
[ Pastor Gausewitz’ son, the Rev. Carl Gausewitz, Jr., later became president of the Minnesota Synod and author/editor of theso-called “Gausewitz edition” of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism — the little tan book from which many of us received our pre-confirmation instruction. ]
[ In 1892 the Wisconsin Synod merged together with the Michigan Synod and the Minnesota Synod, forming “The Joint Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and Other States.” ]
Pastor Gausewitz accepted the call to serve in Woodbury, MN in 1893. The Rev. Herman H. Ebert, pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church on Smith’s Road, served us for a year as our vacancy pastor and installed theological candidate John B. Bernthal as our next pastor in 1894.
For over twenty-five years St. John’s shared their pastors with Trinity. From 1869 to 1897 Trinity’s children were confirmed in the mother church (except 1875, when confirmation was celebrated at Hunter School). This practice was discontinued in 1896 when Trinity became independent of its mother. On August 23rd Pastor Bernthal ordained and installed theological candidate William Heidtke as Trinity’s first resident pastor. That year the church built a barn and began building a parsonage, completing and dedicating it in 1897.
Pastor Heidtke was succeeded in the fall of 1899 by the Rev. Ottomar Hermstedt of Brookside, WI, who served us until 1904. During the two-year vacancy which ensued, the Rev. Friederich Koch of Trinity Ev. Lutheran Church in Caledonia served us with Word and Sacrament. The Rev. Hugo Koch accepted God’s call to serve us and was installed as our next pastor on July 15, 1906.
At the annual voters’ meeting in 1908 the congregation decided to open its own Lutheran elementary school. The people of Trinity promptly set about building a wooden school house, completed the project in short order, and opened a one-room school in the fall. At a special service in October, the Rev. Professor John Ph. Koehler of the Wisconsin Synod’s Lutheran Theological Seminary in Wauwatosa, WI, preached the dedication sermon.
[ Prof. Koehler later became president of the seminary and designed the campus which it now occupies in Mequon, WI — now known as Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. ]
Pastor Koch accepted another call and left us in 1909, and the Rev. John Reuschel accepted the call to serve as our pastor. A year and a half later he was called to minister elsewhere in the Lord’s kingdom. From April 23, 1911, to the end of the school year, Trinity was served by various students from our seminary at Wauwatosa. Seminarian Edwin F. Grunwald performed the pastoral functions during the summer of 1911 and won the hearts of the congregation. The members of Trinity were willing to wait a whole year for him to complete his senior year at the seminary, and pleaded with the Synod’s assignment committee to send Candidate Grunwald to serve them as pastor — which they did. Meanwhile the congregation was served by Pastor Martin F. Plass of St. John’s in Oak Creek, our old mother church. On July 21, 1912, theological candidate Grunwald was ordained and installed into the office of the pastoral ministry at Trinity. At this time the congregation began to use English primarily, rather than German.
In October of the same year the congregation purchased a bell and hung it in the tower of the church. Weighing over 800 pounds, this bell called the people to worship for many years. A new organ was installed and dedicated in the fall of 1913. On September 20, 1914, the members of Trinity celebrated the 45th anniversary of the founding of our congregation and the 25th anniversary of the building of our house of worship. For this festival the congregation held three special worship services, and three of our former pastors served as guest preachers. The Rev. William Heidtke conducted the morning service in German. The Rev. Hugo Koch preached in English in the afternoon service, and the Rev. John Reuschel preached in English in the evening. On this festive day our marble baptismal font and altar crucifix were dedicated to the glory of God in gratitude for his many years of blessings.
In 1916 a request came from Immanuel Ev. Lutheran Church in Paris Township, Kenosha County, to form a dual parish with them. After much deliberation it was agreed to unite with Immanuel. (Thereafter, the pastors of Trinity served both congregations until 1957, when Immanuel Lutheran was officially disbanded.) In the spring of 1917, Pastor Grunwald was called by our Lord to serve elsewhere. For the next year Trinity and Immanuel congregations were served by vacancy pastors until the Rev. Hugo Koch accepted our call to come back to us. He had served as pastor at Trinity before (1906-1909), and was installed as pastor of the dual parish in the spring of 1918. Once again his pastorate in our midst was short, lasting only one and a half years.
The man whom the Holy Spirit called to serve as our pastor longer than any other was the Rev. August Lossner of Waterford, WI. He succeeded Pastor Koch in July of 1920 and served us during some very eventful years! Pastor Lossner brought us God’s Word and Sacraments throughout the Roaring ’20s and the Great Depression. In 1928 the congregation added on a chancel to the east end of the sanctuary, installed a new altar, and erected the stained glass window, depicting Christ knocking at the door, behind the altar. Electricity was wired into the church in 1936. By the time Pastor Lossner retired from the ministry in June of 1941, our nation was about to be drawn into World War II. He had served our dual parish faithfully for 21 years.
The Rev. Gerhard Schmeling was called from Henry, SD, to serve as the next pastor of our dual parish. He was installed in September of 1941 by vacancy Pastor Arnold Koelpin of Trinity Lutheran in Caledonia. Three months later, on the Sunday before Christmas, our congregation dedicated a new electronic Orgatron organ. The Rev. Martin Albrecht of Calvary Ev. Lutheran Church, Thiensville, WI, presented an organ concert that evening to showcase the organ’s capabilities.
[ Soon thereafter Rev. Albrecht was called to be a professor and taught worship & liturgics at Dr. Martin Luther College, New Ulm, MN, and later at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, WI, where he taught an entire generation of Wisconsin Synod teachers and pastors how to plan and conduct worship services. ]
At the annual meeting in January of 1942, less than two months after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Trinity’s voters’ assembly resolved to build a new parsonage. However, because of World War II building restrictions, it was impossible to carry out this resolution.
Pastor Schmeling presided at Trinity’s 75th anniversary service on September 10, 1944. Shortly thereafter he left us when called to serve in Milwaukee. This time our pastoral vacancy was short, for the Lord of the Church quickly moved the Rev. Wilhelm Wiedenmeyer to accept the call to serve us. He was installed as pastor of this dual parish in January of 1945. During his brief tenure as our pastor the war came to an end and Trinity got a new organist. Mrs. Mildred Biehn, organist at Immanuel, took on the additional responsibility of serving as our organist in 1947. In God’s wisdom Pastor Wiedenmeyer was called to serve elsewhere, and he left us in December of 1947.
Once again the Lord blessed the Trinity/Immanuel dual parish with a new shepherd after a very short vacancy. The Rev. Howard Russow was installed on April 18, 1948. During his pastorate Trinity’s one-room country school was reopened for grades one through eight. Mr. Ferdinand Schultz, a recent graduate of Dr. Martin Luther College (DMLC), served as teacher and principal from August of 1949 until June of 1953. When he was called to teach elsewhere, he was succeeded by Mr. Gideon Becker, who arrived to teach our school children in the summer of 1953.
In July of 1955, Pastor Russow followed our Lord’s call to shepherd a congregation in Iron Ridge, WI. By this time it had become apparent that the growing school needed new facilities, for the old wooden building was no longer adequate. Even though the pastorate of Trinity was vacant, the people of Trinity began to erect a block schoolhouse as an addition to the church building in August of 1955.
Again our pastoral vacancy was short. Our gracious Lord sent the Rev. Henry Lange to us, and he was installed in October of 1955. Under his leadership the new school building was completed and dedicated on May 26, 1957. During the summer of 1957 our sister congregation, Immanuel Ev. Lutheran Church of Paris Township, Kenosha County, closed its doors for the last time, thereby ending our dual-parish relationship. A few of Immanuel’s members transferred to Trinity, but most went different directions with their church membership. This presented Trinity with a tremendous financial hardship, for Trinity and Immanuel had been sharing the pastors’ salaries and expenses for over forty years. Nevertheless, our heavenly Father blessed the people of Trinity with the necessary gifts to overcome this challenge.
When the Lord of the Church called Pastor Lange to serve at Friedens Ev. Lutheran Church in Kenosha in January of 1958, the Rev. Karl Molkentin of our old mother church, St. John’s–Oak Creek, served as our vacancy pastor. The people of Trinity once again requested the Synod’s assignment committee to send one of the seminary graduates to be our new shepherd. Theological candidate John Denninger received the divine call to serve us, and was ordained and installed as our new pastor in July of 1958.
When Mr. Becker followed the Lord’s call to teach in Newburg, WI, in 1959, he was replaced by Mr. John Falck of Morrison, WI, who served as principal until June of 1961, when he accepted the call to teach in Eagle River, WI. Pastor Denninger also left us that same month, having accepted a call to teach at Lakeside Lutheran High School in Lake Mills, WI. Once again Pastor Molkentin brought us God’s Word and Sacraments during the vacancy.
Both vacancies were very short. Our Lord brought Mr. Russell Griffin of Tomah, WI, to serve as our principal, and the Rev. Allen Capek of Rising City, NE, to serve as our pastor. Both were installed into their respective offices and began their duties here in June of ’61. Due to the growing enrollment in our school, Mrs. Rupert Rosin, wife of the principal at Trinity–Caledonia, was called to teach grades one through three in 1962. The lower level of the schoolhouse was converted into a second classroom and Mrs. Rosin began her service in our midst on August 26th.
Mr. Griffin taught grades four through eight and served as principal through June of 1965 when he resigned from the teaching ministry, largely due to poor health. After several calls to experienced teachers in the field were declined, Mr. Glenn Bode accepted our call to serve us on a one-year emergency basis. Even though Mr. Bode had not yet completed his college training at DMLC, he was assigned this “emergency call” due to the shortage of graduate teacher candidates. After teaching our upper grade children quite ably during the 1965-1966 school year, Mr. Bode returned to New Ulm to complete his training for the teaching ministry of our Synod.
[ Mr. Bode later became a science professor at two of our Synod’s colleges: Northwestern College, Watertown, WI, and Martin Luther College, New Ulm, MN.]
In June of 1966, a graduating senior from DMLC was assigned to be our next principal and upper grade teacher. Mr. Henry Meyer was installed into his office in July of that year. Also in July the members of Trinity dedicated a new parsonage which they had built on land donated by Mr. & Mrs. William Lauber on Highway 20, one mile west of Interstate 94. (The lion’s share of the construction costs were paid for by a bequest from the estate of Miss Louisa Gabel, a member of Trinity who had been called to her heavenly home in December of 1948.)
After Mrs. Rosin resigned from teaching in June of 1967, Miss Sheryl Lillge, a student at DMLC, agreed to interrupt her studies to serve as our teacher for grades one through four on a one-year emergency call. Unfortunately, the school’s enrollment dropped suddenly and sharply, from 54 students in 1966 to 23 in 1967. At the same time there was a severe shortage of teachers in the Wisconsin Synod. Therefore the voters’ assembly of Trinity released Miss Lillge from her call on September 1, 1967, after she had spent only a couple of weeks in our midst.
Since the people of Trinity did not want to go back to operating only a one-room school, an arrangement was made with Trinity Ev. Lutheran Church of Caledonia whereby the principal from our church would teach at Trinity–Caledonia, and our children could attend their Lutheran elementary school tuition-free. This was done for the 1967-1968 school year. At the end of the school year, Mr. Meyer accepted a call to teach in Westland, MI.
Upon his departure, our Voters’ Assembly desired to call a teacher and to reopen our school with all eight grades in one classroom. However, District President Buenger was not able to compile a list of candidates appropriate for such a call due to the severe shortage of teachers in the Synod. Neither was DMLC able to send an undergraduate one-year emergency teacher for such a large responsibility. So the voters decided to close our school entirely with the hopes that God might enable us to reopen the school at some future date. In the meantime, the congregation would pay the tuition for all of our children who attend Lutheran elementary schools of sister WELS congregations.
Over the years Trinity’s house of worship had begun to show signs of age. Deterioration of the church building and a desire to gain more members caused many members to talk about building a new church and parsonage in a more visible location. Our sister congregation, Immanuel at Paris, had suggested that the two congregations merge into one and build a new church on old Highway 41 half way between Raymond and Paris. There was little sympathy for this plan at Trinity, whose members preferred to remain in their own immediate neighborhood. Nevertheless, Trinity’s people became increasingly convinced that a new church building in a more visible location was needed.
In 1971 we purchased five acres next to the new parsonage on Highway 20 as a site for a new church building. The old parsonage in Raymond was sold in 1973. In 1978 God called Pastor Capek to serve in Campbellsport, WI. The Rev. Gerald Meyer of St. John’s in Oak Creek (our mother church) served us during the brief vacancy until theological candidate Gregory D. Stahlecker received our call through our Synod’s assignment committee. He was ordained and installed as our pastor in July of 1978. The next year we installed and dedicated a new Rogers electronic organ.
As the years went by it became increasingly obvious that a new church building was needed. Blueprints were drawn up for the building of a new church on Highway 20. But God had other plans for Trinity.
In the spring of 1980, a church building just north of Union Grove (on the west side of Highway 45), formerly occupied by the Bethel Baptist Church, came onto the market. Trinity’s Voters’ Assembly decided to purchase it on July 17, 1980, together with the parsonage immediately to the north. All plans to build on Highway 20 were scrapped. The members of Trinity immediately began to remodel their new church building and parsonage, and began landscaping around the whole five acres. The baptismal immersion tank was removed, walls were moved, sidewalks poured, carpeting laid, etc. With their own hands the people of Trinity did the best that they could to convert a Baptist church building into a Lutheran church building.
On November 9, 1980, the Sunday morning worship service began at the old church building in Raymond. At a predetermined point in the service, all the members of the congregation were asked to come forward and to take something with them to the new church site. Everyone carried something. Pastor Stahlecker carried the crucifix, while each of the members carried some worship item — either candelabra, missal stand, communion ware, lectern, hymnals, Bibles, etc. The baptismal font was taken to the new building in three parts! A long caravan formed as the congregation drove their cars to the new church building in Yorkville. On arrival, each member set whatever he had carried into its proper place and took a seat in the new sanctuary. Once everyone was seated, the service continued until its conclusion.
On the last three Sundays of November, 1980, the members of Trinity dedicated our new house of worship with a series of special services. The bell was removed from the old church building in Raymond in December of 1980 and stored at the Henderson Seed Farms in Yorkville with the hope that someday it might be placed in a bell tower at Trinity’s new home. The new building had no bell tower.
In the early 1980s our old church building was in such a state of disrepair that it was no longer sound. The property was sold in 1983 to Mr. & Mrs. Gerald and Edna Swantz, who tore the building down. It had served the congregation well for nearly a century. Later that year the former parsonage was sold to Mr. & Mrs. William and Carol Sawchuk, and the remainder of the land on Highway 20 was sold to Mrs. Jeanette Henderson. Proceeds from these sales were used to help pay off the mortgage on the new church building.
In the spring of 1985 Pastor Stahlecker accepted our Lord’s call to serve in Lincoln, NE. Trinity Church appealed to the Synod’s assignment committee to select a recent seminary graduate to serve us, so theological candidate A. Jeffrey Baas received the call to serve as our next pastor. He was ordained and installed in August of 1985.
In 1986 the T.C. Esser Stained Glass Studios of Milwaukee installed custom designed stained glass windows along the north and south sides of our sanctuary. In April of ’86 the congregation began to hold worship services on Sunday evenings, in addition to the morning services. Due to low attendance on Sunday evenings, the evening services were moved to Saturdays in August.
A. Jeffrey Baas resigned from the office of the holy ministry in December of 1992. During the 3½ month vacancy we were served by the Rev. Roger Knepprath of Zion Ev. Lutheran Church in Bristol. Our current pastor, the Rev. David G. Peters of Beatrice, NE, accepted our Lord’s call to serve us and was installed in March of 1993 on the fifth Sunday in Lent. Our Voters’ Assembly approved a new constitution and bylaws in November of ’93. On December 5 of that year we began our tradition of conducting one midweek Advent service each year by candlelight on the evening of the second Sunday of Advent.
1994 was a milestone in the life of Trinity. The congregation celebrated its 125th anniversary with a series of three special services during 1994. Guest preachers for those services were the Rev. Karl Gurgel (President of the Wisconsin Synod), the Rev. David Rutschow (President of the Southeastern Wisconsin District of the WELS), and one of our former pastors, the Rev. Allen Capek of Campbellsport, WI.
Trinity’s house of worship underwent major changes again in 1995-1996, a large portion of which was paid for by a bequest from the estate of Mr. Eugene Green, whose soul had been called to our Savior’s waiting arms in 1994. A much needed larger narthex was added, together with a portico (carport). A large storage room was added downstairs. The downstairs restrooms were refurbished and made accessible to the handicapped, and a new restroom was built upstairs. The sanctuary was given a fresh coat of paint, the electrical wiring was upgraded, and new exterior lighting was installed. The pastor’s study was enlarged and remodeled. Both parking lots were graded, expanded, paved, and lined, and the church grounds landscaped. Trinity Teens donated a 4′ in diameter Wisconsin Synod seal for the narthex, and the Ladies Aid donated a new cross for the front of the church. (The new cross was designed by Pastor Peters, whose blueprint was used by Mr. Bob Wollmer, a member of St. John’s Ev. Lutheran Church in Burlington, who manufactured the cross for us. It is modeled after the Synod’s logo cross.) The cupola and spire were taken off of the roof and replaced with a large steeple/bell tower, and a new roof was put on the building.
[ The spire, which was in excellent condition, was donated to Cross of Christ Ev. Lutheran Church, a Wisconsin Synod mission congregation in Liverpool, NY. ]
For sixteen years Trinity’s church bell remained silent because the new church building had no bell tower. But in early 1996 the bell was retrieved from storage at Henderson Seed Farms, refurbished, and installed in the new tower — a crowning touch for the remodeled church. On March 24th the people of Trinity rededicated the bell. Once again it calls parishioners to worship.
On Sunday morning, November 17, 1996, the congregation gathered to rededicate our church building and congregation to serving our Savior Jesus Christ. The Prep Singers from Luther Preparatory School in Watertown, WI, and their director, Prof. Randy Bode, provided special music for the dedication service. To the Holy Trinity be all the glory, praise, and honor, yesterday, today, and forever!
In 1997 God led Mrs. Julie Arndt to join our congregation. A graduate of DMLC and a former Lutheran elementary school teacher, she is a very gifted, trained and experienced organist. Mrs. Mildred Biehn, who had been our only regular organist since 1947, considered Mrs. Arndt an answer to her many prayers that God would lead another organist to our church. Shortly after joining us, Mrs. Arndt began to share the organist duties with Mrs. Biehn, who continued to play our organ until she moved into Oak Ridge Care Center in 2000. She continued to play piano for nursing home chapel services there until shortly before her death on November 17, 2001.
In August of 1999 our new church sign was erected. It was built by Michael’s Signs, Inc., from Racine — the same company which had built our old sign. Our sign committee (Henry & Jane Luedtke, Carol Steilein, Jack George and Fred Westrich) worked with the manufacturer to design the sign, which was paid for by the Ted & Judy Molkentin memorial and by gifts from other church members.
After twenty years of informally supporting the ministry of full time Christian education at Shoreland Lutheran High School, Somers, WI, our Voters’ Assembly decided on October 21, 1999, to apply for formal membership in the Shoreland Lutheran High School Federation, thereby making Shoreland part of our congregation’s ministry. The SLHS Federation’s General Board happily admitted our church into membership at their regular meeting in February of 2000.
For 131 years Trinity Church was a member of the Lakeshore Circuit of the Southern Conference of our Synod’s Southeastern Wisconsin District. On June 6, 2000, the biennial district convention changed the name of our Southern Conference to the Shoreland Conference and moved our congregation from the Lakeshore Circuit to the Western Circuit, which includes the following congregations: Zion-Bristol, St. John’s-Burlington, First-Elkhorn, Peace-Wilmot, First-Lake Geneva, St. John’s-Slades Corners, and Faith-Antioch, IL.
We dedicated our three flagpole display on Sunday, November 10, 2002, by gathering on the lawn after our Sunday morning service, raising and pledging allegiance to our flags! We display the American flag in the center, flanked by our state flag and the “Christian flag.” This display of our allegiance to our God, our state, and our country, was made possible by gifts to our congregation’s Gift/Trust Fund in memory of Mr. George Frahm and Mrs. Bette Andersen. The members of our Flagpole Committee were Henry & Jane Luedtke, Fred Westrich, Carol Steilein, and Rich Puder.
Julie Arndt served as our head organist and Senior Choir director until the spring of 2008. Julie and her husband Dick decided to transfer to a church closer to their home in Sturtevant, WI. We used guest organists and computer generated music until our Voters’ Assembly called Miss Margaret “Meg” Ungemach of Muskego, WI, to serve as our part-time Minister of Music. Upon her acceptance of our call, she was installed into the staff ministry on Saturday and Sunday, August 8 & 9, 2009. She is in charge of all matters musical in our congregation and works with our Pastor in the planning and leadership of our worship services.
It is certainly fitting that we reflect on the countless blessings which our heavenly Father has bestowed on this congregation. For generations he has come to us here at Trinity through his almighty Word and strengthened us in the true faith. In Trinity’s baptismal font the Holy Spirit has given us a new birth into the family of God and washed us clean of our many sins. At Trinity’s communion rail Jesus has fed our souls with the same body and blood which he gave and shed for us on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. In Trinity’s sanctuary he has admonished us to confess our sins and has declared us forgiven through faith in Christ alone, and has given us the privilege of worshiping him with our prayers, praise and thanksgiving. In Trinity’s narthex and fellowship hall he has given us the opportunity to encourage one another and to be encouraged by fellow believers. In Trinity’s classrooms he has taught us the most profound and timeless truths we will ever learn. Let us always give our Triune God humble and heart-felt thanks!