150th Anniversary

On December 8, 2019, Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church celebrated our 150th Anniversary.   Over 250 people showed up over the course of the day to gather in worship, to socialize with members past and present and to learn where we came from giving us the excitement to move boldy and purposefully into the future.

150th Anniversary Archive Booklet


150th Anniversary Themes of the Month


Congregation Life



Neighborhood/ Mission/ Outreach



Women's Ministry/ Faith and Feminism






Pastor/ Staffing/ Buildings


June, July, August




Faith Formation/ Sunday School/ Confirmation









The Future (Babies!)















150th Anniversary

At the time of the last anniversary celebration (125th) we could not have known that the next 25 years would look so differently.  These past years have seen major changes in who, where, and how we function as a congregation.  And although we are still Our Saviour’s through and through – the Spirit which leads us has been ever constant – it is difficult to return to the feeling that was present as we acknowledged our place at 125 years old.

There are indeed very few left of the present membership who were here to celebrate the 125th Anniversary – although many in the congregation have deep roots to those who were marking time in an aging building back in 1994. 

That the fire changed us is clear.  That we not only survived the fire, but were refined and strengthened by the experience is also clear.  And so, we look back on how we have journeyed through this past stretch of time with wonder, awe, and deep gratefulness to the loving God that has been with us every step along the way.

During 1994, renovations to our aging 1912 building were in process, giving us a sense of commitment to a future at the corner.  Outreach efforts into the neighborhood were focused on meeting families with young children who might participate in Sunday School, Vacation Bible School and the Kaleidoscope Children’s afterschool and summer programming. Al and Ina Erickson, living at the end of the alley connected to the church, were instrumental in these efforts, holding trainings and making door to door calls through the neighborhood. In a nod to this desire, a youth director, Jen Thaney, just out of her LVC program year, was hired with the goal of finding and involving 15 youth in the life of the congregation.

As repairs moved along and new families began to find their way into the congregation, Pastor Rudrud’s term with us was nearing its end.  Recruited to join the synod’s work as an assistant to the Bishop, Pastor Rudrud’s 17 years were ending with hope that growth was on the way.  His end of November departure put Associate Pastor Janet Tidemann in the role of shepherding the congregation as we awaited announcement of an Interim pastor.  However, before the newly named Interim, Jim Almquist, could join us, the fire of December 16, 1995, on the eve of the children’s’ Christmas pageant, destroyed the worship building and severely damaged the parish building, No shelter guests were injured. The cause was never fully determined, but may have been linked to the ongoing renovations, including electrical work to install security equipment. As members gathered that Saturday morning to watch firefighters contain the fire and then met in the basement of neighboring Messiah Lutheran Church, determination to live through this experience was strong. Emotions were far ranging and while loss and grief were evident, a sense of the new life that might lay ahead of us was also expressed.  Dan Swenson-Klatt’s observation that “now that the walls are down, all we have is horizon” spoke to both the weight of carrying the aging building, and the lively spirit that had been held within it.  “This is a pretty drastic way for the Lord to provide us an elevator,“ quipped Lydia Borgendale. A single worship bulletin and a few calls to partner churches assured that the pageant would take place, albeit across the street in the Four Winds School gymnasium with borrowed costumes and equipment. 

1996 found us in the Lutheran Social Services chapel for worship and scattered amongst their open offices and gathering spaces for makeshift Sunday education and hospitality.  Without an organ in the chapel, Rick Stanton left us as Our Saviour’s final organist in a long line of talented musicians. Quickly relocation efforts for the Shelter program began, first at Augustana Church and then the newly vacated clinic building along Chicago Avenue was purchased.  The English Learning Center found temporary space with Mt Olivet farther south along Chicago Ave.

The congregation put its call process on hold as Pastor Almquist led us through a process of grieving. We then began a strategic planning year with the help of Shellby Andress and Dan Swenson-Klatt.  Saturday morning bagels, post its, stickers, and chart paper became our way of making sense of both the damage and the possibilities.  At the 1996 Christmas pageant, we returned to the Four Winds School and during the service opened a time capsule from the original 1912 building.  Pastor JW Preus’ granddaughter, Elizabeth Wilson, had the honor of reading (in Norwegian) messages from a congregation that was embarking on its own new journey.

Our second interim pastor, Tom Schultz, joined us in 1997 and brought his own special skills for building our own leadership while also prodding us to seriously consider whether rebuilding our church was appropriate.  Ted Pestel, serving as our business administrator worked tirelessly to understand and negotiate a final insurance settlement that would assure that we would have the resources to rebuild in some form if we chose.  The call process had been moving along and a call was offered to Pastor Hans Lee, but then delayed as we determined that more about our future as a congregation needed to be settled. Finally, a call was offered and accepted even as we continued a dialogue, at the request of the Synod, with our neighboring church, Messiah Lutheran about a possible merger. Our ministry efforts weren’t sitting still during this time as transitional houses were purchased for the Shelter Program and the youth ministry efforts passed their initial hopes and kept growing.  Youth basketball teams and trips connected members of all ages to the youth group energy.   We welcomed intern Jeff Nehrbass and his wife Cindy into our midst, and as dancers, their influence on bringing movement into our congregation was felt immediately.

1998 was a year of decisions.  We voted to end merger conversations.  We voted to rebuild at 24th and Chicago.  A building committee was formed under Amy Blumenshine, and we began a long process of appeals within the congregation and to the greater community. Our partner churches got to hear our story of coming through the fire and the mission and ministry that was ahead for us.  The large sign on the now vacant lot that read “The Spirit Is Alive” was our song and prayer.  Working with architect and worship consultant Richard Cammerrer, we began to imagine our congregation’s spirit within a new space and again we met and met and met with ideas flowing and solidifying along the way.

A ground-breaking in 1999 and the slow but steady progress of construction meant that we often had after worship recessionals to the 24th and Chicago corner to keep our spirit alive while we worked out the details of moving in a new church home.  As we moved into our new building in 2000, we also took on a new identity, voting to be a Reconciling in Christ congregation, in what was, for many older members, a vote of healing from the contentious vote that ended an Outreach Pastor position 20 years earlier over the same issue. 

Community and Faith Formation would also become the base for our congregation in the new millennium.  As we recognized the vital role of nurturing those who serve, we acknowledged our own needs as a congregation to be loved and cared for in order to best offer that love and care to others.  As Pastor Janet Tidemann’s challenges with Parkinsons grew, she moved into a Visitation Pastor role and we called Elaine Olson as an Associate Pastor to specifically fill a role of Community and Faith Formation.   2001 also marked our adoption of “Called, Nurtured and Sent to Celebrate, Serve and Do Justice” a mission and ministry statement that has served us to the present.  With this new framework in place we began another round of strategic planning and envisioned our life ahead in our new building.

Over the course of following couple of years these plans took shape in a variety of ways. Julie Mattson’s role of youth director saw a program that could offer the congregation leadership in many forms including worship.  We held a Sabbath Year in which all non-essential committee meetings were put on hold and we found ways to support and nurture our own faith and each other’s faith.  New ministries sprung up including Cherish All Children through the efforts of Amy Hartmann who had been leading children’s music ministry with us since her arrival after an LVC year.  The ISAIAH movement had begun and found many members of Our Saviour’s ready to lead in its prophetic and visionary call for justice at legislative levels.  We also put great energy into re-thinking and re-shaping our connections to the Our Saviour’s Shelter and English Learning Center programs.  A new, stand-alone ministry Our Saviour’s Outreach Ministry grew from these conversations and would lead it become the separate non-profit Our Saviour’s Community Services a few years later in much the same way as many of our other ministry startups over the years.

Two additions to our staffing in 2005, Kent Goodroad as youth director, and Bret Hesla joining Mary Preus with music leadership, strengthened our efforts to include music in our worship and faith formation.   The 2006 Gospel Kids Musical under the direction of Judy Halverson would prove that the music future for this congregation was well set.  It could also be noted that the grand piano in the sanctuary, a gift of piano teacher Nancy Pedersen and pastor Bruce Pedersen, was also forming this musical direction for our youth, with many young members providing preludes, accompaniment and concerts to support the work of our talented worship accompanists, Catherine Preus and Tom Witt.  As it would so happen, Bret’s arrival would mark a bit of a reunion of the Bread For the Journey musical group and continue Our Saviour’s on a path of diverse music in worship.

Godly Play also became a part of our congregation’s faith formation life during 2006 as members led by Suzanne Burke and Nathan Lind received training and carved out space for this Montessori-based method of leading children into deeper faith conversations.  That it has touched the whole congregation in many ways has been seen over the years as art work, play and conversations have found their way into many other realms.

As 2007 moved along, a congregation that was beginning to reshape and draw in new members, sensed a need for capturing voices of the elders who had memories of a building now in our past and of historical knowledge of our congregation that could help us point to who we are and why we do what we do.  Bruce Pedersen embarked on process of gathering oral histories of nearly 70 people and through transcription efforts has provided us with a unique look into the earlier years of the life of the congregation.  This collection would come to form the basis for our 140th Anniversary program and celebration in 2009.

But before that celebration we said goodbye to Pastor Hans Lee in 2008, who’s gentle, loving leadership also reflected a deep commitment to push the congregation to seek new ways of being ministers to our neighborhood.  His Adirondack Chair project one summer saw congregation members working with congregation and neighborhood youth to construct chairs that ended up across the neighborhood and the city.  Pastor Lee also followed in the long tradition of talented singers as worship leaders and alongside Nancy Lee, a talented musician and music leader as well, and their musically talented boys, lifted the bar for our worship experience.  Interim Pastor Mark Nelson would step in to lead us in a somewhat unconventional interim experience that opened us up to a new call that might be transformational.  He was followed by Pastor Paul Rogers for an interim period. Pastor Rogers stepping into the role from his place as a member of the congregation, reminding us that we have indeed been blessed with many former clergy in our congregation who bring leadership and wisdom to our faith formation and community building.

2009’s staff changes were many, with a call to Pastor Laurie Eaton offering the congregation the ability to lean into its support for women in the ministry which began nearly 40 years earlier.  Sandy Troyan stepped into a modified youth director position that became a shared position with Messiah and Bethel Lutheran churches.  We also bid goodbye to Associate Pastor Elaine Olson as sought to reshape and rethink staffing in many ways.  While ministry programming and worship remained active and spirit-filled, operational structural issues were demanding attention.  In what would be a turning point for Our Saviour’s Outreach Ministries, the congregation voted to forgive debts to OSOM of $170,000 and opened up pathways for it to become its own non-profit organization as OSCS.   The 140th Anniversary Celebration that year was a tale of the past with its own clear intent to set us looking ahead to the 150th and what we could become.

The Easter Vigil Celebration is one of those identity pieces.  Its arrival in 2010 has also ushered in a wave of art emphasis, with the talents of Sonja Batalden leading the way.  Pastor Janet’s long term of service with us ended in 2011, her gifts of language, feminist imagery, her sculpture, and her faithful guidance during our years awaiting the return to 24th and Chicago, have shaped this congregation in countless ways.  Her recent death and the celebration of her life acknowledged the great gift she gave to us in being our servant leader.

We were blessed with another woman’s arrival in 2012, as Martha Schwehn Bardwell joined us for a contextual education year.  Martha’s delightful bursts into song, spoken word, and movement, as well as her stories captured our hearts. With connections to Holden Village, Martha helped gather a large group of members to travel to the retreat center and immerse themselves in deeper faith and community connections, including with her theatrical husband Sam Bardwell.  Martha’s project, to build a brick bread oven over the course of the summer of 2013 was another inspiration that found fertile ground with members Nathan Lind, Deb Swenson-Klatt, and Rico Morales, helped us commit to a new ministry and gifts it could bring us.

We honored our music director, Mary Preus, for her 20 years of service in 2014, and it was clear that another reason we had made it through the fire and into such a lively new time of ministry was due to the leadership Mary provides.  Directing choirs, arranging worship assistants, training musicians, introducing us to new music and worship forms, cantoring, playing multiple musical instruments, and leading us in song, as well as representing us in the wider church (and indeed across the world) are all part of Mary’s contributions to who we are as a congregation at this time.

As the shared youth director position was phased out in 2014, room to call an Associate Pastor became available again.  And it was no surprise that our former contextual education student, Martha Schwehn Bardwell would agree to our hopes to fill this position.  Martha’s list of unfinished business as an intern was quickly put back into action, including the development of Living Questions, a way to welcome those new to our congregation.  The addition of nearly 40 new members at the 2015 Easter Vigil was moment that recognized the new life and abundance present in the congregation at that time.  The next couple years saw beginnings of more ministries, including the return of quilting, which was a long-time activity in the congregation while housed in the old building’s basement.  Its placement in the windowed upstairs hospitality center is only as different as the many English Language Learners from Africa who join faithful members of the congregation led by LaVonne and Paul Batalden.

Our Saviour’s continued to build its ministry efforts in the wider society as well with new energy directed into the ISAIAH movement.  Amy Blumenshine’s efforts to address the moral and spiritual effects of war led to the formation of “The Coming Home Collaborative.”  Daily Work, a program of Augustana Church to support those living on margins of our neighborhood with job skills and placement continues.  We celebrated with Cherish All Children as it moved into formal arrangements with our Synod to provide support for those exploited by sex trafficking and to help support healthy relationship building.  We reached across Chicago Avenue to support the children of the Hope Academy School with the Sheridan Story project as a way to offer food security during times away from school.  Our connections to Curran Hospital in Liberia continue, as we seek to raise funds and offer support for their ongoing work inspired by former member Dr. Willie Roberts.  Ongoing relationship with the Lutheran Volunteer Corps, efforts from the Bread Oven’s Bread Board, and new connections with our neighboring mosque, our mission statement’s call to Serve and Do Justice continue to grow.

Growth has also been evident during the past few years in a baby-boomlet happening within the congregation.  Young adults, younger families, and children have changed the look of a congregation that before the fire averaged 60+ years of age.  The demographic change has brought its own set of challenges with safety of wandering children just one.  Noise and movement, distractions and new supply needs all are finding their way into the conversations about how life at Our Saviour’s happens.  We still found energy for a Youth Group Mission Trip in 2018 to New Orleans, to support early spring openings at Wilderness Canoe Base with an intergenerational group, to organize a return to Holden Village, and to pull together congregational fundraising silent auctions celebrating our gifts, talents, and ways to build community.

The 150th Anniversary Year has found us once again on a strategic planning path. Who have we been that makes us who we are now, and where does the Spirit lead us?  As we’ve reconnected over the year with former pastors, members, and staff, as we’ve shared the contents of our archives in thematic displays, or as we’ve pulled together a new congregational cookbook, t-shirt, and outdoor banner, it’s clear that the Sprit is Alive and flowing through our congregation.