Cross of Christ, the early years.
Like many suburbs in the Twin Cities during the 50’s and 60’s, Coon Rapids was experiencing rapid expansion. This is when the history of Cross of Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church begins, in the year 1962.
The year 1962
The Lord’s blessings, our Beginnings.
- Decca records rejects the Beatles and they debut on BBC
- US active in performing nuclear test
- Jackie Robinson elected to Baseball Hall of Fame
- John Glenn is first American to orbit earth
- Race segregation on busses disallowed
- First K-Mart opens
- Wilt Chamberlain is the first to score 4000 points in an NBA season
- US national debt tops $300 billion
- US sends troops to Vietnam
- US unions campaign for 35 hour work week
- Supreme Court rules in New York school prayer is unconstitutional
- First transatlantic TV Transmission via satellite
- Minnesota Twins become the first major league club in the 20th century to hit two grand slams in one inning when Bob Allison and Harmon Killebrew connect in a team-record 11-run first inning against the Cleveland Indians
- Equal pay for equal work regardless of sex
- Earth population has hit 3 billion
- Much racial tension and the burning of many churches
- "Beverly Hillbillies" premieres on CBS
- Johnny Carson hosts his 1st Tonight Show
- Russian nuclear missile crisis in Cuba
- First test flight of the Boeing 727
The Board of Home Missions, of the Minnesota District, of the Wisconsin Synod, called Vicar Paul Siegler to work in the northern metropolitan area of Minneapolis, under the supervision Rev. Wilbur F. Dorn, whom was severing as pastor of Brooklyn Lutheran Church.
A Canvass of the area by Vicar Siegler, resulted in a decision to begin exploratory services with an objective to toward establishing a congregation in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. A vacant little old white Episcopal Church building at 6541 E River Rd in Fridley was rented to host the initial service on July 29, 1962 led by Vicar Siegler. The Edwin Anderson and Herman Heine families were present. By the end of 1962, the Lord had blessed and led four families to be in regular attendance, the Heines, Andersons, Luedtkes and Grants.
In the fall of 1962, regular services were conducted by Pastor Dorn, following Vicar Siegler’s return to the seminary to complete his final year. At this time, the congregation owned a fifteen dollar organ which did not work during thunderstorms.
Upon his graduation from the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in 1963, candidate Siegler was assigned to the Coon Rapids mission as its first resident pastor. By November 1963, the Lord blessed the growth of the congregation such that it was granted mission status by the synod’s General Board of Home Missions. In that same month, the congregation completed its organization, and after much thought adopted the name as we know ourselves today, Cross of Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church. This to be a reminder of the privileged relationship with God won by Jesus on the cross, may it never pass from our minds.
A five acre wooded lot was purchased in late 1964 for approximately twenty thousand dollars at the intersection of Highway 10 and Foley Boulevard, our current location. The parsonage, still standing at the high point of the lot, was built and dedicated on June 6,
1965. On Dec 5, 1965, ground breaking took place to begin the construction of the seventy three thousand dollar chapel. The chapel seated approximately 125 people and
the balcony accommodated an additional 90 people. The chapel was dedicated to God’s glory on June 6, 1966. This chapel later served as the fellowship hall, library, kitchen, gym and lower grade classroom following the second church expansion. The chapel no longer is present and was tore down and replaced with current school building in 2004.
Pastor Siegler followed a call to Albuquerque, New Mexico in September 1968. Pastor
Dennis Kempf began serving Cross of Christ in February, 1969. In May of 1971, the congregation became self-supporting and no longer required the subsidy of the synod.
This was a very large blessing for our congregation and we prayed that we would step up to the responsibility in serving God’s will for us as a congregation.
Pastor Kempf served Cross of Christ until May 1973 when he accepted a call to Bloomer, Wisconsin.
On July 8, 1973, Rev. John Zeitler, a graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon WI., accepted our call and was installed to serve the congregation. During that time, Mr. Tom DeWitz and several other men of the congregation built a new organ from a kit.
At a special congregational meeting on June 1, 1975, the congregation voted to begin planning the construction of a new and larger church sanctuary along with an educational facility. The decision was prompted by the rapid growth of the congregation and its concerns for Christian education. It was decided to complete the educational facility first and follow up by completing the sanctuary. In July, 1976, the Christian Education Association (CEA) was formed with the approval of the congregation. In the interim, between the building of the new facility and outgrowing our space, Mr. Don Ostrum lent a mobile home building to the congregation enabling them space to hold classes. The mobile home produced four additional classrooms and made Sunday school much more orderly. The basement of the parsonage was used for Adult bible classes each Sunday as well.
The new educational facility was dedicated to the God’s glory on January 9, 1977. The guest speaker for the dedication was Pastor Dorn, with Pastor Kempf as the guest liturgist, and Pastor Zeitler officiating the Rite of Dedication.
Cross of Christ officially opened on September 6, 1977 with a Lutheran Elementary School opening service and with thirty-two students enrolled. The school and church now had an additional forty eight hundred square feet of new space for meetings and classrooms.
In January 1978, the proposal to complete the sanctuary was approved by the voters. The one hundred seventy thousand dollar facility was designed and constructed by Country Builders of Rosemount. The cost of the construction was paid though special offerings and gifts from congregational members along with a loan from Lutheran Association for Church Extension and a local bank. Many members also donated time and talents to complete the wonderful and beautiful house of worship. The first worship service in the new sanctuary was held on March 25, 1979. The dedication of the new church and school was held on October 21, 1979 with the sermon given by Pastor Liesner and liturgist being Pastor Zeitler. The members of Cross of Christ dedicated the house of worship, all the furnishings and appointments “to Thy glory, O triune God, and also dedicate ourselves anew to Thy worship and service.”
Pastor Zeitler preached his farewell sermon on October 28, 1979 after accepting a call as an associate Pastor of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.
On February 10, 1980, Pastor Russell Schmidt was installed after accepting the congregation’s call. Between Pastor Zeitler’s farewell and Pastor Schmidt’s installation,
Cross of Christ was served by several interim Pastors.
Reflections: My Experience at Cross of Christ
Author Pastor John Zeitler
Served Cross of Christ 1973-1979
I came to Cross of Christ in the summer of 1973, having been assigned as its pastor from the seminary class of that year. I was excited and quite nervous since this was my first call and I wanted to serve well. My wife and I had one child with another on the way, so we were thankful that God had led us to our new home, and we were eager to move in and meet the members of the congregation. We were overwhelmed at how warmly the members welcomed us and helped us get settled. We soon learned that many in the congregation had moved from other parts of Minnesota to the “bedroom city” of Coon Rapids in order to commute to work in the Twin Cities. Most of the families were younger with young children. Anoka County was growing and seemed to present a ripe mission field. The Coon Rapids logo and city signs flaunted the slogan “Opportunities Unlimited.” Our congregation soon learned to take that slogan to heart for the mission God had given us.
One thing we noticed right away was the large number of children in the church building for Sunday School classes. They were everywhere – in all four corners of the sanctuary, in the balcony, even in the parsonage living room! We even had adult bible class in the basement of the parsonage. We chuckled when people would come up the stairs after class and comment on the wonderful aromas coming from my wife’s oven for dinner that
Not long after we arrived, the synod home mission office took Cross of Christ off of mission support status. We had grown to the point where we could be completely self-supporting. One of our major projects at that time was to find funding to connect our building to the city sewer system. We already had a big debt to pay off with the synod’s Church Extension Fund. Little did we know at that time the Lord had much greater challenges for us ahead.
As the congregation continued to grow, we eventually had to hold two services to fit the people in the sanctuary (still using “Billy Graham’s old pews” from his chapel, I was told). We conducted several canvasses of the area to find mission prospects. We had a lot of energetic enthusiastic volunteers for outreach, properties and other projects. Since most of the people had moved here from other places, this was more or less their family. They enjoyed coming together at church. The numbers of children continued to grow.
Various plans were proposed to address the shortage of classroom space. We brought in a mobile home to use for additional classroom space. Our heavy debt for the original property and church always seemed to curtail any ideas for building additional space.
One day we heard that the new synod architect was in the area reviewing another mission project. We offered to hire him by the hour to come in and review our situation and give us some advice about addressing our space problems. Surprisingly, he already knew of our situation. It was one of the first mission chapels built under the new synod home mission program and failed to allow for a practical expansion of the original building. This architect said he had a friend in his home congregation who might be able to help us with our planning. This individual was a businessman and financial consultant with business interests throughout the Midwest. He liked to help churches in difficult situations as part of his personal stewardship program.
That “friend” gave us a call within the week and asked us to assemble a committee of leaders in the congregation. He would discuss our needs with us and lay out a plan for us to address them. Some of us were a bit skeptical, but what did we have to lose? The committee was assembled and set the date to meet with the consultant. On that night after intense discussion, we set down our needs on paper and worked out the details of a plan to meet them. The consultant pulled out his bible and read 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 reminding us how giving is a gift of God. When God’s people see a genuine need in the kingdom, he moves them to respond to it.
Now it was time to work the plan. Soon basic drawings were ready to provide the square footage we needed, not only for education, but also for worship and fellowship. A financial plan was adopted and promoted. Cottage meetings were held. Members made personal financial statements of intent for the program. Meetings were held with the synod board of trustees to convince them we could handle this new challenge and also continue to make payments on our large debt. The great day of groundbreaking arrived and work began on our new building, a practical edifice with education space on the first floor and worship space on the second floor. The sanctuary would be finished later when the funds were available. The old church building would be used for classrooms, a gymnasium, a kitchen and a library.
The date for dedicating the new facility was set well ahead of time for January 9, 1977.
Little did we realize that would be Super Bowl Sunday, and that the Vikings would be one of the contenders! The crowds showed up, nevertheless, to praise God for his kindness in helping us do what was unthinkable not so long before. Then everyone gravitated to the new building for fellowship– with TV sets in every corner!
While this planning and building process was unfolding, another project was also in the works! Many parents were wondering if a Christian Day School for our children might be feasible in our new education space. Many studies, surveys and meetings later the vote was taken to begin the school for kindergarten and grades 1-8. I served as the principal that first year, and Pat Buenger and June Naumann were called to handle most of the teaching duties. We bought a big old green station wagon to help transport children outside our district. Eventually, one of our members who owned a bus company helped us to purchase a small bus, training the pastor and a few members to become licensed bus drivers! The school enrollment grew. Eldon Lemke was called the second year to serve as principal, and Alice Watchke was called to serve as teacher.
Meanwhile, it was hard for everyone to keep looking at that empty shell of the new sanctuary waiting to be finished. Plans were put in place to develop a funding plan and to finish the new church. With much volunteer help the new sanctuary was finished and worship services began in 1979. Our congregation celebrated another dedication. What wonders God had worked among us to overcome the great odds that once seemed against us.
It was a great joy serving Cross of Christ as a young pastor. We had our share of challenges and we made mistakes, but together we learned a lot about God’s promises to bless efforts to address the opportunities he sets before us. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we were given a lot of faith, energy and enthusiasm. He gave us the joy of working hard together in his name.
Whenever I read Ephesians 3:20-21, I think of the joy God gave me in serving that wonderful little congregation in Coon Rapids:
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.
Pastor John Zeitler
Served Cross of Christ 1973-1979
Cross of Christ, the 80 through the 90's.
The suburb of Coon Rapids had greatly matured by the 1980's and the expansion was now moving into the next ring of cities like Ham Lake, Blaine and Andover. Cross of Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church's field also expanded as the church and school served the expanding communities.
The 1980’s through the 1990's:
The 1980's and 1990's offered plenty of opportunity to serve in the Lord’s army. Satan worked to create the me, me, me generation of status seekers, while greed came in the way of hostile takeovers, leveraged buyouts, and mega-mergers spawned a new breed of billionaire. We all became aware of AIDS, while the popularity of video games began to explode. The Berlin wall came down. The Space Shuttle explodes upon take off. It was a decade for republican Presidents. Personal computer’s began to show up in homes and started to displace the mainframe computers and the 90’s are know as the electronic age. The World Wide Web is born in 1992. Apple and IBM began to become standards in the computing and business worlds and we begin to here terms like e-commerce. Cell phones are becoming a tool used by many businesses. Cassette tapes displaced 8-track tapes and vinyl records and CDs replaced cassettes. Barnes and Noble and Borders drive small book stores out of business.
The work and opportunity before us today, is as great as the previous two decades and the lost sheep in our communities are in desperate need to hear of the Lord’s Good News, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Only the Gospel can bring the peace and rest our soul’s desire.
In 1980, Russell Schmidt was called to serve Cross of Christ as our new shepherd. In 1983, the Anoka County takes some of the property for county road improvements. On April 25, 1982, we had the privilege and joy of dedicating the new pipe organ still in use today.It was built and installed by Mr. Murray Burfeind of Goodhue, Minnesota. Professor Wayne Wagner of Dr. Martin Luther College was the guest organist at the dedication service.In 1982, adding permanent walls in the educational facilities to serve the congregation and school made great improvement.
In November 1988, Cross of Christ celebrated its twenty-five year anniversary. The guest Pastor for the 25th Anniversary service was Rev. Gerhard Birkholz, president of the Minnesota district and guest organist was Charles H Luedtke form DMLC, New Ulm , Minnesota.
In the fall of 1989, scaffolding was constructed in the front of the sanctuary for Otto Pfeiffer to begin paining The Mural of Biblical Scenes. On May 20, 1990, a dedication service was held in Glory to our Lord for the wonderful mural.
During this time, 1989, the state of Minnesota takes an additional acre of land for the reconstruction of Highway 10 leaving the congregation with 3.2 acres of land remaining, basically the current land the church now sits upon. This often was a discussion of the voters meetings and litigations were spread out over many years.
The opportunities were plenty for doing the Lord’s work in Coon Rapids and often a topic of discussion for the Board and the voters, was the desire to call a second associate pastor. Cross of Christ was blessed with a second pastor on July 12, 1997. Pastor Paul Nolte was ordained and installed to serve as the Associate Pastor. On June 6, 1999 Pastor Nolte accepted a call to Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
Reflections of the early years
of Cross of Christ
Russell and Heidi Schmidt
Pastor from 1982 to 2002
Dear Members of Cross of Christ Lutheran Church, April 24, 2013
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
With thanks to God for his marvelous grace you are have the joy of celebrating the 50th Anniversary of your existence as a Christian congregation. From February, 1982 until August, 2002 it was our privilege to work with you as partners in the Gospel ministry. As Paul mentions to the Philippians, so we, too, continue to pray that the Gospel ministry may always be carried out effectively among you and through you all to the glory of God!
We would like to be with you on your anniversary day, but at this time it looks like we will still be serving at your sister congregation of Peace Lutheran, Kokomo, IN until the Lord sees fit to grant this congregation their next permanent pastor. However, we have been asked to share some of our memories of our time at Cross of Christ. This we do joyfully. Yet, it is hard to know where to start and where to end, so we will just recount some random thoughts, generally in chronological order:
Our first memory of Cross of Christ involves a visit to Coon Rapids right after accepting your call. Even though CofC had about the same number of members as the congregation we had been serving in WI, it was clear that CofC was a young, vibrant congregation with many organizations and activities. A few weeks after that visit a number of men from CofC make the trip to Stetsonville, WI to help us pack and move to Coon Rapids. And what a cold February day (high -5) it was when we arrived at CofC with four little kids in tow and found a crew waiting to unload the van and a meal waiting to be served in the old gym.
One of the first meetings we had to get used to was instructing three deaf girls and participating in a growing deaf-ministry which was quite a trend-setter at the time. What a joy to work with the volunteer signers!
What a joy, too, to serve a congregation with a Lutheran Elementary School. We are thankful for the wonderful coworkers over the years as well as the opportunity our children had to obtain a Christian education which was solid in every way. What good times we had at the many spring sings, other social events and especially the Friday night BB games! Amid many challenges the school remained a wonderful blessing!
Over the years CofC has also been blessed with an active Pioneer program. It was always a pleasure conducting the devotions for their every-other-week meetings. I also have the memory of trying to conduct an evening devotion at the spring camp-out while staring directly into the setting sun. The Pioneers were successful because of the dedicated and able lay leadership, which God provided.
Christian education, of course, didn’t end with elementary school. When we arrived at CofC West Lutheran High School was in its second year of existence and numbered about 20 students meeting in rented facilities. How that grew over the years! What a blessing when God finally made land available in Plymouth at very reasonable price and with the help of legal advice from an attorney member of CofC the land was purchased and the first phase of the present building erected. In 1980 CofC was a member of both the West LHS Association and St. Croix LHS Association. Even though we had a few students going to both schools it was apparent that West was a better fit and membership was dropped at St. Croix. This proved to be a wise decision since over the years CofC has been one of the greatest provider of students to West LHS and has enjoyed many blessings through that Association.
We were able to share many joys along with a few sorrows while at CofC. Among the joys were conducting a variety of Bible classes. CofC has always been willing to try a variety of formats and provide study opportunities for different groups, indicating a wholesome desire to be fed with God’s Word. Of course, weddings were also joyful events. We usually had 6-8 weddings a year, but the busiest such day was one Saturday when we had one wedding at 1:00 p.m. followed by another at 5:00 p.m. To make this work we had excellent understanding and cooperation from both wedding parties.
Since CofC is a younger than average congregation we often averaged about one funeral a year. Yet, when the funeral was for a younger person, there was, understandably, an extra degree of sadness.
Today CofC exists in a neighborhood that was far different in 1980. Across Foley Blvd was Pine Cone Nursery. If you headed north down 99th Ave. there were no homes on the south side. Instead there was undeveloped woodland where we would go cross-country skiing and where often you could see deer. At the end of 99th was a drive-in theater where, along with one or more of our kids, we would take morning bike rides to get exercise and to pick up aluminum cans and whatever other “treasures” we might find.
The physical location of CofC has also changed from the 5+ acres on which the church, parsonage and teacherage were located. First the widening of Foley Blvd sliced off some of our land. Then a few years later the rebuilding the Hwy 10/Foley Blvd. interchange sliced off another chunk. Since the State of Minnesota made a low-ball offer, we successfully took legal action vs. MnDot for the land they took.
Of course CofC’s physical plant has been improved greatly with the removal of the first unit and the building of the present gym/classroom/office building. Even though we had a lot of good times in the old building, we always considered it a “cave”, so uninviting with its lack of windows, dark wood and constantly leaking roof.
Besides the recent remodeling of the sanctuary, we remember the painting of the mural by artist Otto Pfeiffer, as a gift to his Lord and his church. The choosing of the scenes was a cooperative effort followed by hundreds of hours watching Mr. Pfeiffer balancing on a ladder above the altar. For the faces of the many Biblical characters he used as models many of CofC’s members. His goal was to finish it by Easter, which he did. Many may remember Easter Sunday that year when we had several TV reporters and news crews in church that morning. I think it was WCCO that give us about 2 ½ minutes of coverage that evening on both the early and late news broadcasts.
Even though much about CofC has changed over the years…its physical plant, its landscape, its neighborhood; its membership, its pastors and teachers…the one thing that hasn’t changed is the One Thing that dare not change: its purpose and its message. From the time in the early 1960s when Rev. Wilbur Dorn, then pastor of Brooklyn Lutheran, did the first exploratory work east of the Mississippi until today, the message has been the same: the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. The purpose of CofC has also remained the same: to take God at his Word and to take God’s Word to the world! May that message and that purpose always be the reason for Cross of Christ to exist!
May God Bless Now and Always!
Pastor & Mrs. Russell L. Schmidt
Reflections of the early years of Cross of Christ
Eldon and Beth Lemke
We’re moving where? Coon What? Not to stereotype MN but we were just in Forest Lake for Easter and the eggs froze within 5 minutes, people shoveled snow off their roofs for Sunday afternoon fun, and instead of May baskets on May 1st there is snow.
“Someone from church has a tractor and they are moving us with that.” In July, with no snow in sight, very willing helpers did come to Watertown with the tractor and did a great job moving us into the pink stucco and brick home located where the driveway of the church is now. There was a woods for the kids to play in up on the hill where the parsonage is, Foley Blvd was about 25 feet further away from the church property, there was no retaining wall and there was a great sliding hill -the ditch stopped the children before they got to Hwy 10.
President Toppe of Northwestern College in Watertown’s daughter, Marilyn Cole and family were members of Cross of Christ and Marilyn’s mom told us that when they visited here there were so many children in the congregation that the church just wiggled.
Pastor Zietler was the pastor and the church where we worshipped was where the gym is now. For volleyball games etc. they would move all the pews. The rafters got very dusty and at least twice a year the boys would use the library shelves to climb up on them to dust them (Kids thought it was great fun-mom not so much since there was a concrete floor under them.) In spring there would be buckets on the floor because the roof leaked. We joked that the roof leaked so they hurried to get the new church which was just a shell at that time, completed (our present worship area.) Volunteers from church did most of the work. Long hours and many talented people helped in every part. Special memories were when they put up the 500 # cross, Dick Stindt laying aside his crutches working on the curb for the parking lot, and curing the 2 by 4s for the playground. If they didn’t know how to do something they found a way to get the job done.
The school was in the area where the offices and fireside room
are located and it was one big area separated with 6-foot bulletin board room dividers that could be moved but were not very sound proof. This was the 2nd year for the school and Pat Buenger taught the kindergarteners, Alice Watchke taught 1-3 and Eldon had 4-8. Again many willing helpers volunteered to help in the school. Dennis Hatcher’s mother even drove our school bus! There were no copy or fax machines in 1978-copies were made using the mimeograph machine-that purple messy ink. I remember being in the office one morning running off papers and there were several very unhappy volunteers discussing the board’s decision that no smoking would be allowed in the building. Not even during meetings!
We have seen many changes in the physical plant here at Cross of Christ, changes in staff and many member changes, but God’s Word has not changed. We pray that God will continue to bless Cross of Christ with His pure Word for many generations to come.
Eldon and Beth Lemke
Cross of Christ, Years 2000 through Current Day
The last decade is not a distant memory and you would think easy to recall; however, the number of things that have taken place in the past thirteen years seems staggering. However, the message of Christ and our mission to share the hope has not changed. We continue to preach and teach His truth’s, planting and sowing the seed with prayer that it will take root.
In the past decade, Cross of Christ has been blessed to be able to hold over a thousand opportunities for formal worship as a congregation and equal opportunities to study together as congregation as well special studies for youth study. We have been blessed to be able to use our talents and treasures to exercise His will and spread the good news.
What was happening in the world over the past decade and why is our mission so important?
The past decade brought terrorism to the US soil. On September 11, 2001 Islamic terrorists hijack four U.S. airliners and crash them into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center in New York City causing nearly 3,000 deaths. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Anthrax attacks against news and government targets begin.
September 11, 2012, terrorist attack on a consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi kills four Americans. On April 15, 2013, two bombs explode near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring hundred.
In 2005, American cyclist Lance Armstrong wins his record seventh straight Tour de France and in Jan 2013 admits to illegal doping. He is stripped of all his medals. In 2007, the Mitchell Report on the Steroids Scandal in baseball is published naming 90 players in violation of and abuse of performance enhancement. Hurricane Katrina strikes the Gulf Coast in 2005 destroying New Orleans. In October Tropical Storm Sandy pummels the east coast with much destruction to New Jersey and New York. Just recently F5 tornados destroy the city of Moore, Oklahoma.
The Space Shuttle exploded over Texas and the BP oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. The tsunami in Japan destroys a nuclear power plant and makes the region uninhabitable.
Over the past thirteen years technology changes have affected all we do, including how we carry out our ministry. We have become captive to the term social networking through the internet on Facebook and Twitter using laptops, iPhones, iPads and smart phones. Navigation systems in cars, on phones and personal GPS receivers have displaced the need to ask directions and attempt to fold the map. In the course of a decade, CD replace DVDs, solid state drives replace DVDs, Cloud storage replace needs for solid state drives. Terabyte storage replaces Gegabyte storage which replaces Megabyte storage. Meetings no longer have to be held in person, the technology allows for virtual meetings anytime-anywhere.
Satan is as active has he always has been, seeking to destroy and devour. Our mission is as important as it ever was. The Lord’s message has the power to change hearts and heal the sick.
Reflections over the Past 13 years:
Fall 2001 - WELS Parish Assistance Program begun under the direction of Professor Lawrence Olson, MLC and in Feb 2002, proposed Organizational Realignment received. In March 2002, the proposed Organizational Realignment was accepted on a trial basis and in May rewriting of the constitution began. In 2006, rewritten Constitution was accepted by the voters and is what we are currently using to operate.
May through November 2002, the building committee was formed under the supervision of the Directors and a feasibility to expand our facility was studied. The study confirmed the Parish Assistance Program recommendation to retain the present location. During this time, new Pre-K and youth building was established by remodeling the teacherage. This building no longer exists; it was located where the current street entrance exists today.
On September 7, 2003, Cross of Christ celebrated its 40th anniversary as a congregation and 25th year as a Christian Day School. The service was conducted by Reverend Larry Cross, President of the Minnesota District.
In December 2002, the congregational voters approved to retain an architect to develop preliminary plans for expansion and to form a fiancé committee responsible for raising the necessary funds. During the winter of 2003, the initial plans for the expansion were revealed to the congregation and in January 2004, the voters approve the $2.3M expansion of the church and school with ground breaking the summer of 2004. The new church and school facility and everything it was dedicated to the work of our Lord in August 2005; all Glory to God.
In August 2002, Pastor Russell Schmidt retires after over twenty five years of faithful service in the ministry of our Lord. Pastor Steven Kurtzahn accepted the congregations call to serve Cross of Christ; he was installed in the summer of 2003. Pastor David Boettcher was installed as an associate pastor in 2005. The congregation was again blessed with two pastors to serve our ministry. The congregation had also accepted the responsibility for the LIMA pastoral needs in 2005 through 2012 which was served by both Pastor Kurtzahn and Pastor Boettcher. In 2011, Pastor Boettcher accepted a call to serve the ministry at Mighty Fortress Lutheran Church and St. John’s Lutheran Church in Red Deer, Alberta Canada and in March 2013, Pastor Steve Kurtzahn announced on Sunday, February 2013, that he has accepted the call to our WELS churches in Frontenac and West Florence, Minnesota. In April, the voters extended a call to Pastor Kaesmeyer the Lord led him to accept our call. He and his family will join our congregation in July. During the vacancy, Pastor Marcus Birkholz has accepted our call to serve our congregation.
Over the past 35 years of our Christian Day Schools’ existence, Cross of Christ has had many dedicated, caring and talented teachers true to God’s calling to “teach the little children”. They have faithfully served in our Christian day school, with the Lord’s blessings. They are Mrs. June Naumann, Mrs. Carol Hatcher, Mrs. Julie Cison, Mr. Eldon Lemke, Mr. Nathan Sebald, Mrs. Alice Watchke, Mrs. Patricia Buenger, Mrs. Valarie Hicke, Mrs. Patricia Schultz, Mrs. Rachel Schara, Mr. Gregory Johnson, Miss Jennifer Haase, Mr. Matthew
Scheibel, Mrs. Janelle Kerkow Wolff, Mr. Jason Hahn, Mrs. Kirsten Duin, Mrs. Lisa Hahn, Mrs. Amy Brand, and Mrs. Naomi Boerner.
Mrs. Alice Watchke retired as a teacher in May of 1997, Rita Phillips retired as the Church School Secretary in 2010, and Mrs. Carol Bain retired as teacher in May of 2012.
Over the past 50 years of our congregation, many have served this congregation in doing the Lord’s will by using their talents, time and treasures. How many have made calls to visitors and helped pass out pamphlets? How many prayers have gone out to those whom had request on the Prayer Chain? Who many Bible information classes have been offered and how many people have been led to know Christ? How many have served to make sure that during the summer we take time to offer Vacation Bible School? Many have prayed for the work of our church and the Lord answers each prayer. How many men of the congregation have served on the Board of Directors or committees, dealing with glorious situations as well as difficult times? How many have served in teaching our youth by serving as Sunday school teachers, in youth group leaders and Pioneer leaders? How many have served in the beatifying the worship through accompaniment of the organ or piano, through choir and soloist, through various musical instruments? How many have served by quietly helping maintain the facilities and properties, by cleaning the church and school, by mowing the grass and shoveling the snow? How many have served by making sure the church is ready for service and communion, whom have help in the distribution of communion and serving as ushers and greeter? How many have served to help with fellowship activities like the church picnic, Easter breakfast and Sunday morning coffee and donuts? And we can continue to ask “how many times…” and never truly know just how many times our Lord has blessed us. May he continue in His blessing of our mission and out reach in our community through our congregation and called workers.
Pastor Boettcher: Cross of Christ 50th Anniversary Memories 2005-2011
Cross of Christ was my first place of ministry and will always have a special place in my heart. And I am convinced that I received much more than I gave. I got to do what I trained to do: serve souls with the good news of Jesus. And during those 6 years in the history of Cross of Christ, there were quite a few souls I was privileged to come into contact with through gospel ministry.
The members of Cross of Christ are a wonderful group. There was a group of long-time members that seemed like they were always going to be there and always going to support the work of the kingdom. I always felt like I could count on them. At the same time, it seemed like Cross of Christ had a steady stream of new members, both before my time and while I served. It was so encouraging to see new energy, new ideas, and new faces. I enjoyed the chance to meet new people and welcome them to the congregation. Unfortunately, 6 years was not enough time to get to know everyone as well as I would have liked.
Another way I was blessed to serve souls was in connection with the Lutheran Elementary School. I did not have the opportunity to attend a Lutheran grade school, so I thoroughly appreciated the chance to watch the children, staff, and families at Cross of Christ. There are not many joys on earth greater than watching young ones being brought to Jesus, and witnessing those young ones expressing their faith.
During these years, I got to see the newly remodeled school building in action. It was hard to imagine how the school operated in the previous building. But the strength of the school was not the building; it was the teachers and their teaching: Matt Schiebel, Jason Hahn, Janelle Wolff, Carol Bain, and Julie Cison were such a joy to watch and to work with. During these years, I saw Matt leave, and Mike Ross stepped in. Janelle Wolff left to care for her new baby, and Jessica Ross stepped in. The teachers changed, but the teaching didn’t.
These 6 years were a unique period in the history of the congregation. There had been a second pastor previously, but not for several years. The congregation was caught in a tough situation: needing the work of two full-time pastors, but already committed financially to funding a new building. So the arrangement with LIMA was a great opportunity to bring a second pastor to serve at Cross of Christ, while receiving financial support from LIMA. But I was also a beneficiary of that arrangement, since I got to serve countless WELS members and their families in some of the most trying times and difficult moments of their lives. I remember many days of hospital visiting when I would walk out of a patient’s room, get back in the elevator, and feel completely overwhelmed. I felt the sadness and pain at this dear Christian’s trials; I felt exhausted just from sharing that trial just for a few moments; I felt blessed beyond words to be able to deliver to them the one thing that supports you when life falls apart: the gospel.
There is also a small group of Christians I was privileged to serve in a special way during my time. These Christians were preparing to depart this vale of tears and join Jesus in glory. To serve as usher and doorkeeper at the threshold of heaven is simply a gift of God’s grace. My memories of those dear brothers and sisters are poignant and powerful. I remember a houseful of people singing hymns for Jean Hatcher before she went home to her dear Savior. I remember Dave Daniels, reminding me about forgiveness when I was late for an appointment. I remember Mel Salzwedel, finally set free from pain and difficulty, to join Jesus in glory. I remember others, too, who stepped from this life to eternal life to be with their Savior.
I also got to witness countless others who began their life with Jesus in the waters of baptism. In the seminary, you prepare yourself to work long and hard, without seeing visible results, with the conviction that God is working behind the scenes in his own time and in his own way. But at Cross of Christ, God provided opportunities to bring so many dear little ones to him – it didn’t seem possible.
Finally, I was privileged to serve during those 6 years with brothers in Christ. Pastor Steve Kurtzahn and I are very different, as people and as pastors. Yet our work together was consistently described by words and phrases like: “You compliment each other”, “you both bring important gifts”, and “synergy.” Working with Pastor Kurtzahn and the other brothers in Christ who served on the Board of Directors and the Board of Education was a fulfillment of those words of Scripture: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).
I still look back at my relatively short period of gospel ministry, and marvel at how many people I was privileged to meet and to serve. In the span of 50 years, my 6 years of service are nothing at all. But for me and for my family, it was our chance to begin gospel ministry and live and serve with beloved saints. We give thanks for our 6 years and for the whole span of 50 years, and ask that God would continue to bless all the dear souls at Cross of Christ, now and into the future.
Pastor David & Sarah Boettcher
Mike Obraske, Building Committee Chairman
Cross of Christ Expansion and Renovation
When LuAnn and I transferred in as members in 1981, Cross of Christ had been operating the Christian Day School for only a few years. They had movable office partitions to separate the classrooms in the lower level beneath the Sanctuary, and there was also a classroom in the rear of the original church. These conditions were by no means a perfect learning environment but the school, with the support of the congregation, continued to prosper and give the students a quality and well-rounded Christian Education.
Shortly after joining, I was appointed to the Church Council as a Trustee and became aware of how a Church operates on a day to day basis. What an eye opener that was. In no time, we were planning the construction of sound separation walls in the lower level to divide the area into 3 classrooms. We installed steel framing, and John Caldwell and Dick Stindt did the wiring and ventilation. When that was done, the walls were insulated, wallboard installed and then finished. The congregation painted the walls and acoustical ceilings were installed. Paul Buran installed the doors and trim and then it was carpeted by Ed Tobek.
The school continued to operate in this configuration for many years. The idea and dream of a multi-purpose facility was consistently discussed either in committee meetings or at informal gatherings for almost 20 years until a building committee was appointed in 1999 to do a feasibility study to determine if the Church and school should move to another site, locate the school off site, or remain on the present site. Several parcels of land were investigated and rejected in the end because of the cost. We felt that we needed to be highly visible, and the cost for these properties was astronomical. We then went forward with funding from the Cross of Christ Athletic Association to hire an architectural firm to further pursue what could be accomplished on our site.
Pastor Curtis Holeb was our vacancy pastor. The congregation was also in the process of calling a replacement Pastor for Russell Schmitt - busy times.
After almost a year of meetings and discussion of what could be done on our site, the building committee presented the congregation with the proposed preliminary plans. It was a momentous occasion! After much discussion on how to fund the project and other concerns, the motion to go forward with drawing up final plans and getting bids for construction was approved. Robert Swedeen was appointed as the financial designee/fund raiser. What a job he did!
The blueprints were finished, approved and Olson Contractors was recommended to be our General Contractor by the building committee. Over three years had come and gone and we finally had finished blueprints to show the congregation.
Congregational approval was given to go ahead with the demolition and construction of the new facility and remodeling of the sanctuary. We now had our new pastor, Stephen Kurtzahn installed. We planned on starting at the end of the school year in May 2004.
The blueprints were brought to Coon Rapids City Hall (building Department) for approval to begin construction. This took longer than expected because of certain items that had to be approved on an individual basis. Because of these delays, the ground breaking was held off until August 29, 2004.
Demolition started of the original church, followed by sewer and water being reconfigured (remember the Satellites). The ground was prepped and then footings were installed and the walls for the new building were brought in and set in place. The ceiling trusses were put into place and the roof installed. Work continued throughout the winter and remodeling of the church was begun after the New Year. We held our 2005 Easter service in the multi-purpose room! The construction progressed nicely and work was completed the summer of 2005. We now had a newly remodeled church and a school that had 6 finished classrooms and 2 left unfinished for further expansion. There are also future plans and design for the addition of 4 classrooms and the finishing of the upper level restrooms.
Many people were involved in the planning, construction, cleanup and storage of supplies and equipment during all phases. It was very challenging to operate a school and hold church services while undertaking this project.
Thanks to all who helped make this dream come true, thanks to our Lord for seeing us through this very exciting period here at Cross of Christ Lutheran Church and School.
IN HIS NAME,
Mike and LuAnn Obraske
Becky Taylor, Reflections from the
After moving the sanctuary from the old building to the new building, the old sanctuary was now used as our fellowship hall. We had a makeshift kitchen; cabinets were donated as well as an old white metal sink & stove & fridge. We did have a certain amount of hot water.
We began having a hot Easter Breakfast which carried on for alot of years. We would come at 5:30am to start getting ready for the 7:30 hot breakfast & then had a continental breakfast after the 8:30 service.
Due to outlets & power issues, we had to have our egg cookers plugged in in various places around the fellowship hall or we would blow the circuit breaker which was down in the "pit". Coffee pots also had to be plugged in out in the area also. Very few things actually could be plugged in at the same time in the kitchen area. Our egg recipe did stay the same over the years. As the years went on, the old flat top roof sprung more & more leaks. We always hoped for a sunny Easter Sunday. If it was rain we would need buckets sitting around on the tables to catch the drips. Later we also got a "new" kitchen, more and better cabinets, a serving counter. It was quite wonderful which lasted us until this building was demolished when the new facility was put up.
The fellowship hall was also used for the Blood Mobile, exact start date unknown. We had a "step" that always caused someone to fall. As the time went, the Red Cross had more and more requirements and our walls were not able to accommodate their needs. We were there on 911 with a tremendous turnout of blood donors and continued the Blood Mobile about 2 years after, then gave it up due to logistics of the Red Cross's needs. After the new facility was put up we again resumed hosting the Blood Mobile and now sponsor it two times a year.
Becky & David Taylor
Amy & Mark Lauria, Reflections from the Church Secretary
Mark and I bought our first home in July of 1997 it was off of Foley Blvd on 98th Lane. I had driven and walked past Cross of Christ many times thinking “What a cozy place to go to church”. I grew up going to a Catholic church in St. Paul and the sharp contrast between the huge towering building with its many steeples and this small sort of cottage was very inviting.
I made many visits throughout the next 6 years and each time I was invited to this or that. Picnics, Bible Studies, Breakfasts, and so on. Everyone was really inviting without being over the top.
I met with Pastor Russell Schmidt and talked about membership and took a tour of the facility. I absolutely feel in love with the small classroom sizes and the family feel that was here. It was still sometime before I began membership classes with my husband but I always knew we would be members one day. I even brought a friend here when she was looking for a place to have her wedding and Pastor Schmidt performed the service for her. I remember us worrying about how the deep purple bridesmaid dresses were going to look with the orange carpet for pictures.
In 2004 when Kyle was old enough we enrolled him in Kindergarten here and I was the happiest mom ever. They held class in the house that was once Eldon Lemke’s home (I believe) and construction was underway for the school and church. Halfway through the year, there were plans to tear down the kindergarten house and we all pitched in to move the Kindergarten into a classroom in the church. Every morning when I would drop Kyle off he would cry and sob but would always say good morning to Mr. Matt Schieble and the 7th & 8th graders because their classroom was the entryway. This is the same year that Mr. Jason Hahn had his first full year as our principal.
Mark and I began our Bible Information Classes with Pastor Kurtzahn and by March of 2005 we were members. In September, Jordan began preschool with Mrs. Cison and in November Angel was baptized. This year, 2013, we watched as Kyle was confirmed and I remember thinking how far off it that seemed when I watched all the girls from the 2005 confirmation class receive the Rite of confirmation.
We have been involved in many aspects of our congregation and school since. CEA, Coaching, Bible Studies, VBS, Choir, etc.. I always thought if I could make a living volunteering at church that would be the life for me. Little did I know at that time, that very soon I would be working for the congregation. I started out helping Rita Phillips when she needed time off and when she decided to retire in 2010 after being here for 23+ years, I was hired to be the Administrative Assistant.
All three of our children have grown up here, going to church, school, VBS, pioneers, camps, etc.. and we have enjoyed every minute of it. We love the family feel and know that as our membership number increases, that feel will still be here. But the most important thing to me and my family is that we know that God’s word is pure here. That it is not altered or twisted to meet the needs of the world. Nothing can top that feeling of security in knowing what we are teaching our children, is the TRUTH.
Amy & Mark Lauria