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A lot can happen in five decades.

And the roots of a local church stretch back even farther than the date it was formed.

St. Timothy Lutheran Church — which celebrates its 50th anniversary this month — was received as a congregation by the Nebraska Synod, Lutheran Church of America, on May 19, 1969.

Here are other facts about the church:

  • The church building is situated in an area that once was the home of the Western Theological Seminary, which started in 1893 in Atchison, Kan. The seminary came with Midland College to Fremont in 1919.
  • In 1949, the seminary became independent of Midland. The seminary then became known as Central Lutheran Theological Seminary.
  • The building that houses St. Timothy was dedicated in 1952.
  • In the 1960s, the Lutheran Church in America (which later became part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) decided to merge some seminaries and locate them in a university setting.
  • Central Lutheran Theological Seminary in Fremont entered a merger with other institutions which formed the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. As seminaries were consolidated, plans were made to plant a new congregation in Fremont.

Other information gathered by Wanda Samson, stewardship chair, includes:

  • In 1967, the board of American Missions conducted a survey of 1,050 homes in northwest Fremont. The board decided a mission church should be developed.
  • The late Elmer Sasse came up with the idea of having a Lutheran church on the west side of Fremont and became a charter member of St. Timothy Lutheran Church.
  • In June 1968, the present property — consisting of a chapel, library, offices and classrooms — was purchased from the seminary.
  • The first service took place on Sept. 6, 1968. Pastor Lorin Wolff, the first minister at the church, preached. There were 216 people at the service. Wolff would serve as pastor until 1975.

Samson noted other things about those early days.

“Imagine starting a new church with no budget. There were no crayons, scissors, children’s chairs or Bibles for Sunday school. People brought whatever they had that was needed,” Samson wrote. “For Fellowship Hour, coffee pots were loaned by members until some were donated … Also donated were church flags, radio markers, cribs, offering plates, duplicator, 35 mm projector, record players and fans. One member made all the baptismal napkins. Other churches came forward with items and even non-members contributed.”

  • In 1972, Lucille Hendrichson, Ione Norenberg and Barb Shanahan went to the Ministerial Association in Fremont asking for a religious service for special needs children. The association offered a service on Wednesdays. Pastor Wolff offered an opportunity for Sunday school classes and worship on Sundays at St. Timothy.
  • It took about three years before the Sunday school classes were called Special Classes. Working through Bethphage (now known as Mosaic) and ENCOR, the group expanded from five adults to about 40.
  • Tenth and 20th anniversary celebrations took place in 1979 and 1989, respectively.
  • In May 1990, the long-awaited mortgage burning took place. The initial building debt was paid off.
  • Several improvements would be made to the church building and grounds by its 25th anniversary. A St. Timothy member made an anonymous gift, financing the computerization of the church office.
  • The celebration for 45 years took place in May 2014. Since then, the F.A.C.E. (Faith-Action-Caring-Extraordinaire) was approved by the congregational council in 2016. F.A.C.E. expands Special Classes activities.

In her writing, Samson also paid tribute to the late Mavis Heidemann, remembered for her commitment to working with Special Classes, organizing funeral luncheons and involvement with the Women of the ELCA, among other activities.

Samson also spotlighted the late Ray Carstensen, who made delicate butterflies and crosses cut from wood with a scroll saw. The crosses went to people in the hospital and butterflies to those who’d lost a loved one.

As the first 50 years end, the church still has 14 charter members on the books. The membership includes 199 baptized members and 146 confirmed members.

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News Editor

Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She covers news, features, religion stories and writes the weekly faith-based, Spiritual Spinach column.

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