Our Savior Lutheran Church: A Detailed History
God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform. In February of 1976, Mr. Raymond Bartek, a Lutheran that had just moved to the Whitney area, was a patient in the Goodall-Witcher Hospital n Clifton, Texas. Mrs. Bartek contacted the hospital office to have a Lutheran Pastor call on him. The Rev. Jerome Teichmiller from Immanuel Lutheran in Clifton did make a visit. During this visit there was discussion about interest in establishing a Lutheran church in Whitney. From this point on, things began to move.
There were communications between Dr. Heckmann and Reverend O'Shoney about the possibilities. Both were Texas District Presidents of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Pastor Teichmiller received clearance from the ALC Lutherans in the area. In May of 1976, Pastor Teichmiller did a canvass of the lake area, plus the town population. Mr. Hans Kalscheuer, agent of Lutheran Brotherhood Insurance, was instrumental in supplying the names of several Lutherans in the area.
It was decided to have a meeting in the Bartek home to see what kind of response there would be. A letter was sent to everyone known to be as Lutheran. Several notices were put in the local papers to inform anyone else about this first meeting. Rev. Glen O'Shoney, Mission Director of the Texas District, and thirty people attended the first meeting. A steering Committee was elected: Mr. and Mrs. Virgil Schleif, Mr. and Mrs. Freddie Wehmeyer, and Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Bartek. It was decided to hold our first worship service on September 12, 1976, if possible.
Another group meeting was planned for August 31st. There was more publicity in the local papers, and by that date things had already started to happen. The Texas District Board of Missions presented the usual $200.00 for a starting fund, and they loaned our mission church 65 hymnals. Altar and communion ware was loaned to us from Prince of Peace Lutheran in Carrollton, Texas. A portable altar was built by Freddie Wehmeyer. Rev. Teichmiller was asked to be our first Pastor. The Lions Club building was selected for our first meeting site. Mrs. Ruby Pierson volunteered to serve as Church Historian.
Our first worship service was then held on September 12, 1976 with Rev. Jerome Teichmiller serving as our first pastor. There were 40 attending the first service. The ladies served refreshments following the service giving everyone a chance to get better acquainted and meet new people.
On October 3, 1976, our first fellowship was a pot-luck supper to coincide with a business meeting. "Our Savior" was selected to be the official name of the mission in Whitney. Mr. and Mrs. Albrecht loaned us the use of their organ. The church later purchased this organ from them in April of 1977. A Constitution Committee was elected and the first Adult Confirmation Class was begun on October 5th.
In February of 1977, the congregation decided that Charter Sunday would be on May 29, 1977. By April 1977, the congregation purchased 56 folding chairs. On May 22, 1977, the first Board of Directors was elected: Virgil Schleif, President; Roger Weigelt, Secretary; Raymond Bartek, Treasurer; Donald Cochran, Trustee; Melvin Boortz and Freddie Wehmeyer, Elders.
The Rev. Ray Schkade was the guest speaker for the Charter Sunday worship. There were 104 people in attendance; 50 of those were charter members.
In July 1977, Rev. O'Shoney met with the Board of Directors and recommended that the congregation proceed with plans to purchase property and call a retired pastor to serve part-time until the congregation gained more members. In July, the Dallas Convention of the Texas District LCMS received Our Savior, Whitney, Texas, into the membership of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod.
Due to the increased responsibilities at Immanuel, Rev. Teichmiller found it difficult to continue as the first pastor. He worked with us faithfully and followed up with the recommendations of Rev. O' Shoney. Pastor Teichmiller will be remembered for his dedication and his selfless service.
At the end of July, the congregation voted on the approval to purchase 5 acres of land for $5,000.00 from Mr. Roger Letz on Hwy 22, approximately 1 1/2 miles South of Whitney city limits.
On September 11, 1977, the congregation elected to call Dr. Roland Wiederaenders as a part-time pastor. This call was accepted and he began serving as pastor on November 6, 1977. Sunday School and Bible Class were organized. Mrs. Nancy Lehmann was the Sunday School teacher; Pastor Wiederaenders taught Bible Class. Worship serve that had been held at 8:15 AM was moved to the 10:00 AM time slot and Sunday School at 9 AM.
Final paperwork for the purchase of 5 acres of land was consummated. A full set of paraments for the altar and pulpit was completed by the women in November 1977. The organ note was retired in December, 1977.
In January 1978, the congregation received a $2,000.00 grant from the E. M. Woltman Foundation of Houston. On February 27th, Rev. O'Shoney met with us to review our history and needs for the future.
On April 23, 1978, approval for paying in full the balance of the loan from CEF for the land purchase was given. Final payment was made in May, 1978.
In September 1978, Mr. Basil O'Brien, a charter member, passed away, this being the first death in the congregation.
In the Spring of 1979, a Building committee was elected to study and make recommendations on the construction of a sanctuary. The committee planned to submit initial plans in a short time. The present Sanctuary was built, with the dedication being held on December 7, 1980.
Because of health problems, Pastor Wiederaenders requested release from his duties at Our Savior.
Charter Sunday, May 29, 1977, membership was a total of 50. Our Savior grew quickly to 74 members.
Our Savior began receiving subsidy in January of 1981-1983. From January of 1980 through September of 1982, the Rev. Jerome Teichmiller served as pastor on a part-time basis. He accepted a call to Zion Lutheran Church in Tomball, Texas. The Rev. Scott Stallings served as Vacancy Pastor for the rest of the year. In January of 1983, the Rev. Max Dommer began serving as Pastor on a part-time basis.
On May 25, 1986, a Special Voter's Meeting was held and attended by the Circuit Counselor, Pastor Albers. The result of this meeting was to request a Spring graduate from the seminary.
On the 10th of August, 1986, Pastor Dojan was installed as the first full-time pastor. The new organ was installed and the old one sold to Trinity, Fairfield. The Men's Club was begun. Use of the Worship Supplement was on a trial basis. The Ongoing Ambassadors for Christ were invited and helped canvass the area. The membership of Our Savior reached 138 souls which included 110 baptized and confirmed members and 28 baptized members.
Pastor Dojan was granted a peaceful release in order to take a call to Flint, Michigan in 1988. Pastor Alvin Walters of Hillsboro was elected to serve as Vacancy Pastor on December 11, 1988. The Church Council on September 10, 1989 interviewed and recommended to the congregation to give a call to Rev. Garland Gotoski. At a Special Voters' Meeting on October 15, 1989, Pastor Gotoski accepted the Call and said he would serve the congregation on each Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Pastor Gotoski began in November of 1989.
On December 3, 1989 the final payment was made on the church building debt. This happened just short of 9 years of indebtedness. In February 1990 Easter Sunrise service was initiated. During this year a storage building was planned and built with the help of Roger Weigelt and Freddie Wehmeyer. Paul's Hardware donated the metal siding and the poles. Herman Nagel saw to the installing of the concrete.
At a Special Voters' Meeting on December 9, 1990, it was decided to call a Seminarian from the class of 1991.
A Planning Committee met to decide the plans of the expansion of the Fellowship Hall and was to meet with the Architect in April of 1991. The flag pole was donated by the children of John and Ruth Moerls on June 6, 1991.
Rev. Michael Schotte was ordained and installed on June 16, 1991 at 4 pm.
During 1992 the expansion of the Fellowship Hall was again discussed. During the year, Pastor Schotte led the congregation in community activities such as the garage sale for the Whitney Humane Society. A planning Committee was formed for the expansion of the facilities at Our Savior and later they acted as the Building Committee. A loan from Church Extension was secured: $25,000 at 8 1/2% interest. Ground Breaking was celebrated on June 27, 1993, with the dedication of the new addition being held on October 9, 1993.
Pastor Schotte received and accepted a call to Preston, Kansas. Pastor Schotte was granted a peaceful release by the church and left on September 17, 1995. Pastor Donald G. Bahr, a member of the congregation, was accepted as the Vacancy Pastor beginning in October of 1995.
A call was made to Rev. Francis W. Mennenga and he became the next full-time pastor in March 1997. Three years later, in March 2000, the church paid off the loan for the addition to the fellowship hall and was again debt free.
Pastor Mennenga announced his plans for retirement in the Summer of 2003, with his last Sunday coinciding with the Last Sunday of the Church Year. The call process began. During the Vacancy, Our Savior was blessed to have Rev. Roger Benner and Rev. Ben Rathgeber serve as Vacancy Pastors.
A Divine Call was extended to Reverend James Haner of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Pastor Haner accepted the Call and was installed in January 2005.
In 2007 the congregation celebrated 30 years of Word and Sacrament ministry in the Lake Whitney area. This same year we added a recreational area for all to enjoy. After Divine Services each Sunday, you can find the youth enjoying the playground. Adults and Youth, in the Summertime, often enjoy a game of baseball or basketball. In 2008, the Sanctuary was remodeled. The organ was returned to the rear of the Sanctuary where it had once been, speakers were installed in the walls at the front of the Sanctuary, new carpet was installed, the communion rail was moved, and some pews were rearranged.
In 2009, a lighted stained-glass cross was hung at the front of the Sanctuary, replacing the original green cross. The cross was made by one of the members of the congregation. Statistics for this year were: 144 Baptized Members, 130 Confirmed Members, and an Average Attendance of 82.
In 2010, Our Savior continues to be an integral part of the community, proclaiming salvation in Christ Alone, through Faith Alone, by Grace Alone. At the beginning of this year, plans were made to establish a building committee to build a new Sanctuary.
Soli Deo Gloria!