Join us on a walk through the history of Reformation Lutheran Church.
On Sunday, October 31, 1948 approximately 75 worshipers gathered at the Odd Fellows Hall on North Ninth Street for the purpose of organizing a new United Lutheran Church in America congregation. A motion was made to call ourselves Lutheran Church of the Reformation, and we were born.
On January 9, 1949 it was decided to purchase property at 10th Street & Charleston Boulevard for $6,450. At the same time, an application was made for a loan of $5,000 from the Board of American Missions of the ULCA. We were on or way. Here we were less than one year old and we were already in debt!
Pastor Thomas Daly served from 1949-1951 with a starting salary of $250 per month, of which the Board of American Missions subsidized $210. Towards the end of 1951, Pastor William Arbaugh came to Reformation to serve until the later part of 1958. Looking at a monthly financial report from January of 1952 the total receipts read $202.63, the total disbursements were $187.29.
During the early years, the congregation met at the VFW Hall, the Odd Fellows Hall and on various occasions the Jewish Center. In the 1954 Annual Report, it was noted that the budget for the year was a staggering increase over the previous year with a grand total of $3,024.
In March of 1954, Bunker Realty made a proposal regarding the exchange of our property on 10th & Charleston. They offered our congregation acreage on the outskirts of town at St. Louis Avenue and Beverly Way plus $10,000 in cash! At a later date a counter offer was made and $20,000 was accepted in June of that year. Things were looking up!
In 1954 we started meeting steadily at the Seventh Day Adventist Church at 10th and Carson. With the theme “Rise & Build” a fundraising effort was undertaken and in 1955 an architect started his rendering for our new church building which would cost almost $81,000. In January of 1956 groundbreaking services were conducted and construction started. In April 1956 the cornerstone was laid and on September 23, 1956 the building was formally dedicated.
This is but a brief history of what in truth represents the communion of saints at work in His name.
In 1958 nuclear devices were being detonated at the Nevada Test Site, there was but one building on the UNLV campus, a postage stamp cost 4 cents and Gigi was the best picture of the year.
Meanwhile, here at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation, after seeing the completion of our new church building, Pastor William Arbaugh submitted his resignation as of September 1958. This coincided with his marriage to a member of the congregation, Sandra Schultz.
A call committee was formed and by February of 1959, Pastor Richard Sowers was called. He accepted and arrived in June with a starting annual salary of $7,800. At this time the average attendance on Sundays was about 90 people with around 50 in Sunday School. In the following years the attendance grew drastically. In 1961 there was a gain of 110 members!
It was soon felt that we needed to enlarge our facility and a Building Survey Committee was formed.
In 1962 we became independent of the Board of American Missions and were now able to pay our pastor’s salary on our own. Our yearly budget in 1962 had grown to $30,500.
In 1963, we officially changed our name to Reformation Lutheran Church, and a fundraising drive for $30,000 was initiated. These funds were used to pay off our original mortgage. That year we also celebrated our fifteenth anniversary. In January 1964, bids were opened for the construction of our new Education Building and Fellowship Hall. The bids ranged from $65,000-$75,000. The congregation then voted to acquire a loan for $105,000 to consolidate existing debt and pay for our new building.
The new two-story building was finished and ready for Vacation Church School in August of 1964, with 153 registered. Our congregation continued to grow, but records of this period indicate our church council was challenged to balance the budget.
Once again the search was on for a new pastor. In October 1965 a call was issued to Pastor J. Kenneth Edwins. He was installed in February 1966.
Shortly after Pastor Edwins arrived, the congregation voted to purchase a house on Arrowhead Street in the Twin Lakes area. The seller of the house gifted the church with the equity of $10,000, leaving the church to pay the balance of only $12,000. For some time the Arrowhead property was used to house a number of custodians who lived there in exchange for their services.
Through 1967 attendance at church and Sunday School increased, but as often is the case, finances continued to be a problem.
And so, the second decade of Reformation Lutheran Church had been reached and fulfilled by the Holy Spirit working through His servants, calling, gathering, enlightening and sanctifying.
Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. President Lyndon Johnson announced the ending of the bombing in Viet Nam. Postage stamps cost 6 cents. It was 1968 and the little church at 6th Street and St. Louis Avenue was beginning its period of greatest growth. Pastor J. Kenneth Edwins was in his second year of ministry at Reformation and would be with us the entire decade. Our first twenty years were a time of building our “physical” structure, our sanctuary and fellowship hall, in particular. The third decade focused on the building of programs and also had many changes in personnel.
1968 saw the birth of a Lutheran thrift shop, it was set up to be a “halfway house” for ex-convicts. Over the years it evolved into what is now Martin’s Mart Thrift Shop, on S. Main Street, which contributes its proceeds yearly to many community agencies.
In 1969 a “Shepherding” program was started. Since our embers were spread throughout the city, it was felt that neighboring groups would bring us closer together, it did just that. It should be noted that this year we designated 17% “off the top of the offerings” for benevolence!
In 1970 as our congregation was growing, we shared the services of a Youth Minister, Pastor John Martinson, with Calvary Lutheran Church. After six months, Reformation took over the entire cost of Pastor John.
The Reformation Arts, Music & Drama Group (RAMAD Group) was formed in 1971. The talents of this group added to the life of our congregation presenting music, skits, entertainments and dramas.
Pastor Martinson left us in 1972 and Pastor Ferdinand “Fritz” Meyers was called as an Associate Pastor. It may be noted here that both Pastor John and Pastor Fritz used the Arrowhead house as a parsonage.
1973 saw our largest membership count with 778 baptized and 458 confirmed. Our largest attendance was this year with an average of 238 worshiping each week. In December, Pastor Meyers left to accept another call.
For several months in 1975 , Pastor Carl Eveland was contracted from the synod to study our evangelism, to hold Cottage Meetings with members, and to make recommendations to the congregation. A highlight of this year was the opportunity for our congregation to sponsor the resettling of a Vietnamese family. The members worked hard on this outreach and we were richly rewarded.
The Arrowhead property was sold in 1976 for $22,500. Records indicate that 435 people worshipped with us Easter Sunday that year. Vicar Diana Vidlak from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary came to us in November of 1977. The $9,000 estimated cost of this internship came from the sale of the Arrowhead property.
Throughout this decade the minutes and annual reports are overflowing with programs and groups that some members may still remember. Some of these were: The Holy Notes, Young At Heart, Each One Teach One, Aids in Depth Sensitivity, Prayer Circle, Lutheran Church Women (3 circles), Luther League, Boy Scouts, LINCS, Marriage Encounter, Stephen Ministry, Mother-Daughter and Father-Son banquets, Gemuthlicheit and Octoberfest celebrations.
1978 was upon us as Reformation Lutheran began its fourth decade. Pope Paul became the first non-Italian Pope in four and a half centuries. A crazed cult prophet, Jim Jones, left 913 followers dead in the jungles of Guyana. Jimmy Carter was president. The City of Las Vegas was preparing to celebrate it’s 75th Anniversary.
July 16, 1978 concluded the internship of Vicar Diane Vidlak. Once again the search was on. Pastor Mark Winter was installed as Assistant Pastor in September.
In 1979 our church sponsored the resettlement of a second Vietnamese family.The congregation endeavored to learn the litany and hymns from the new Lutheran Book of Worship. Also, in this year two, donated stained glass windows were installed on either side of the altar cross.
1980 found our congregation taking part in Lutheran/Roman Catholic Dialogue coinciding with the 450th Anniversary of writing the Augsburg Confession. Once again, growth was welcomed with 75 new members. In October, Pastor Winter left to accept a call in Nova Scotia.
Early in 1981 a Self-Study Feasibility Committee decided that our congregation needed a Parish Worker and an extensive search began. During this time Pastor Paul Johnson served on a part-time basis leading bible studies and visiting inactive members.
Jim Wagner was added to the staff as Lay Assistant in January of 1982. His main area of responsibility was working with the youth. In the fall of that year, 55 people attended a family retreat at Zion National Park. We also saw the installation of our new Allen Organ, after having raised $37,700 for its purchase.
The Stephen Ministry Program began in 1983, and Jim Wagner resigned in the spring. In June, the congregation surprised Pastor Ken with a celebration on the 40th Anniversary of his ordination. A decline in our membership numbers reflected the starting of two new Lutheran congregations in the suburbs.
In the spring of 1984 the first “Inter-Lutheran” Crop Walk was successfully begun. In June, Pastor Edwins resigned after serving 18 years. Pastor Perry Carlson was called as an interim. He served the congregation well for almost a full year until Pastor Waldo Lindberg was called in May of 1985. In October, Pastor Lindberg started the first Annual Salmon & Rib Bake Out. Pastor Waldo commenced an extensive refurbishing of our property.
In February of 1986 a Planning Meeting was held to start a Senior Drop-In Center. By June, the first meals were served in what became known as Katherine Center. During 1986 and 1987 the pews were reupholstered, the sanctuary was painted and re-carpeted, new floor tile was laid, fans were hung, planters and palm trees decorated the exterior, the parking lot was resurfaced and on and on.
In 1987 our fellowship hall was now officially named “Edwins Hall”. Three new contemporary stained glass windows were installed on the side wall of the sanctuary depicting the Holy Trinity. We were all “spruced” up and really looking good.
1988 was the birth of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). Ronald Reagan was president. The film Rainman won the Oscar for the best picture. Reformation celebrated its 40th Anniversary with a block party and invited the entire neighborhood to join in.
In 1989 our budget had grown to $171,000 and Katherine Center was also growing, attracting 60-90 people of the community each day. At some point it was decided we needed additional storage space and an office for Katherine Center. A building permit was obtained in August of 1990 and the addition was completed a short time later.
As well as the ongoing programs of our own congregation during 1991, we had four other religious groups meeting at our church, which included Hispanic, Korean, Coptic and Anglican. During the year, NOWS (Night Out With Someone) was rekindled for those interested in enjoying varied dining experiences.
1992 led to another addition to our facility. After $60,000 was raised, our small narthex was expanded to a large, functional and beautiful “Gathering Place”. Ruth Kinney provided design sketches for the beautiful stained glass windows. The addition provided greatly improved space for before and after fellowship. It was dedicated in December.
Pastor Waldo Lindberg retired in 1993 and his last Sunday was April 25th. After a number of guest pastors, we were sent a “Pastor Charlie” as our interim. We once again formed a Call Committee and started a search. As we interviewed prospects, it became apparent that our interim was the one we really wanted to call. In January of 1994 Pastor Charles Bowker accepted the call.
During 1994 our Hospitality Outreach Program was started and in December the Church Council had its first retreat in Boulder City. 1995 brought us the expansion of the women’s group, with Women of the Word and Agape, joining the ongoing Mary Martha Circle. A spirituality class was offered to enhance our faith.
In September we were introduced to the “Blue Book”, the new contemporary worship book called “With One Voice”. Our first Heritage Dinner was held in October. In May of 1996 Las Vegas hosted the Annual Synodical Assembly and Pastor Charlie gave the welcoming address.
As our 50th Anniversary was drawing near, a planning committee was formed in July to get things underway. In October, after a number of church burnings in the south, the congregation raised and sent $2,600 to a church in Georgia that had been
destroyed by an arsonist.
Realizing that our congregation was in need of an updated Mission Statement, one was adopted in June 1997. It read, “Reformation Lutheran Church is a family of faith sharing the Good News of Christ Jesus, offering hope, help and haven to all”. At the same time we became “The Heart of Christ in the Heart of the City”.
It was fitting that in 1997 we became the facilitator and location of the FRC (Family Resource Center) serving the 89104 zip code area. Lutheran Social Services of Nevada needed more space and left our premises in December, the space then was utilized by FRC. On October 26th we celebrated the kickoff of our 50th Anniversary year.
1998 has been filled with the joyous opportunity to recognize our past as we recall each of the five decades on separate occasions. Our congregation raised in excess of $12,000 to place bells on or tower and have the sounds of carillons fill the air…a fitting tribute to celebrate the past 50 years as we look to the future as a community of faith.
1998 was a year of momentous occasions. John Glenn made his second trip into space at the age of 77. The New York Yankees won the World Series. The film The Titanic won the Oscar for best picture. The Dow Jones closed over 1,000 points for the first time. And Reformation Lutheran Church celebrated its 50th anniversary!
1999 Pastor Charles “Charlie” Bowker was in his 5th year and preparing us to enter the 21st century. Our facility was being well used by the Korean Presbyterian Church, many AA groups, the Katherine Center for Seniors as well as IHN (Interfaith Hospitality Network) which was a new outreach for our congregation, that of bedding down and feeding homeless families for one entire week, three times a year.
The 2000 Annual Report reads, “This was a year of rest, after the very busy and active year of celebrating our 50th Anniversary.” In 2001, after many years of of faithful service, our, Mary Kimmel retired and Ange Stange became our Administrative Assistant.
In 2002 Pastor Charlie took a four month sabbatical at which time Pastor Don Klepzig served us. We can all agree that Pastor Don kept us entertained with his many stories.
In 2004 we enhanced our property with the repaving of the parking lot and converting to desert landscaping. It was decided to combine the two lightly-attended morning services and offer one at 9:30 am.
Around this time Pastor Charlie asked the Church Council if he could devote his Tuesdays to working with the Las Vegas Homeless Coalition and a neighborhood panel to preserve the area that surrounds our church. The fruits of this effort now can be seen in the redesign of St. Louis Avenue.
On a Mt. Charleston Church Council retreat when Pastor Marta Goldene was our guest, the idea emerged to offer our highly Hispanic community a Spanish Ministry. It was felt that this outreach would be an appropriate ministry to reach out to the community. After conferring with the synod it was agreed that they would provide us with a Spanish speaking pastor. In December 2004 Pastor Graciela Rivera came to start our new Hispanic ministry. The new church was called “El Camino a Christo” (The Journey to Christ).
The congregation was fully supportive of this new venture and contributed office space, computer, signage and help “walking the neighborhood”. Unfortunately, after almost 2 years, the high hopes turned into disappointment and the ministry was ended.
In early 2006 Pastor Bowker announced his retirement and in the summer we sent Pastor Charlie and Peggy off with a “Happy Trails” party.
Once again we formed a Call Committee and by June we welcomed Pastor Loren Swanson as our Transitional Leader. Also this year the congregation was introduced to the new ELCA worship hymnals. 2007 saw the restoration our beautiful stained glass windows. It wasn’t long before the wishes of the congregation were being heard by the Call Committee and the church council. “Why can’t we keep Loren Swanson as our permanent pastor?” After some urging, the synod agreed and pastor Loren and his lovely wife, Hedian, accepted being installed as permanent pastor in January 2008.
Pastor Loren has enlivened our congregation, our facility, our outreach and our ministry. Our congregation has become even more involved with our community; offering Forums, Camp Hope, Health Fairs, English As A Second Language and programs to feed needy children. In September, Pastor Peter Lai volunteered to serve as a pastor for Multicultural Ministries, greatly strengthening our Outreach and Service to first generation immigrants. These past months have been “keeping us on our toes,” and that a great way to “reach up and out!”
2008 finds us taking on another memory trip as we prepare for our 60th year of serving as “The Heart of Christ in the Heart of the City”.