Redeemer Lutheran to dedicate new churchA little more than a year after breaking ground, the congregation of 120 members at Redeemer Lutheran Church has constructed a new church. A dedication service is scheduled Jan. 15 at 9 a.m.
A little more than a year after breaking ground, the congregation of 120 members at Redeemer Lutheran Church has constructed a new church. A dedication service is scheduled Jan. 15 at 9 a.m.
Maybe the church’s new motto should be “the little church that could.” A little more than a year after breaking ground, the small congregation has done the improbable. Such an undertaking is difficult for even the largest of congregations. This small congregation with the “can-do attitude” shows what can be accomplished. The congregation has talked about a new church for years. Constructed by the Christian Burkhardt family and other German immigrants in 1904, the original church was one of the oldest wood-framed churches still in use in western Wisconsin.
Problems at the old structure included lack of parking, no handicap access, lack of space for Sunday school classes and an outdated kitchen. The pastor’s study was a tiny cubicle just a few feet away from the organ. Over the years, maintaining the church became more and more of a challenge, with roof repairs, furnace failures and other structural and mechanical issues.
In 2006, the congregation started out with a conservative plan to purchase land over a three-year period. The land was paid for in three months through member contributions and a generous donation from the Northwest Wisconsin Synod of the ELCA.
Encouraged by the enthusiastic response, the congregation organized many fundraising events to finance a new building including bake sales and burger nights, but it was the dedication of its own members and the help of neighbors and friends that made the dream become a reality. The funds needed to build the new church were entirely derived through members and benefactors.
“I never lost faith that we could get this accomplished,” said Pastor Marilyn Thurber, who has been presiding over Redeemer Lutheran since 1996.
“The need for a new church was virtually unanimous,” said Wes Edgar, chair of the building committee. “We took a vote of whether members thought a new church was needed. The overwhelming response was ‘yes.’ Then we did a survey of what the new church would look like, what was important to members in terms of its appearance, its function and its future growth.”
Several of today’s members are descendants of the original founders, and preserving the church’s history was very important. It was decided that the stained-glass windows, donated in the memory of Ernstine Burkhardt (1841-1902), be moved to the new facility. The same was true of the hand-carved baptismal font, inscribed with “Lasset die kindlein zu mir kommen,” which means “let the little children come to me.” The altar would also be relocated to the new building.
The result is a 2012 church that melds the old with new. The new building doubles the space of the old church, all on one accessible level, with dedicated rooms for Sunday school, a secretary’s office, and a state-of-the-art kitchen and large dining area to accommodate social gatherings. And, finally, the pastor will have her own private study.
“We are so proud of the new church,” said Edgar. “But we couldn’t have done it without the time, talent and hard work of members, friends and surrounding businesses.”
Dick Ostendorf, a lifelong member of the church and a retired contractor, took on the role of general contractor. Another member, who is a local building inspector, helped secure the needed permits and address technical issues. People donated their time to do everything from painting and cleanup to installing and finishing woodwork. One talented friend of the church hand-built 17 interior doors, a bank of mail slots, cabinets for the sacristy and a shelf for the secretary’s office.
The day after Christmas, a dozen members of the congregation reported for duty at 8 a.m. to ready the new church for carpet installation and to make final preparations for the inaugural service.
Redeemer Lutheran Church welcomes all every Sunday, but friends and neighbors are cordially invited to share in Dedication Sunday on Jan. 15. Bishop Duane Pederson of the ELCA Northwest Wisconsin Synod will join the special service which is followed by refreshments and a time of fellowship and celebration from 10 a.m. until noon.