On June 26, St. Andrews Lutheran Church will celebrate 100 years since the establishment of the church in 1922. More than 70 people attended the first worship service on Sunday, Jan. 1, 1922, led by Pastor R.H. Gerberding, a field missionary sent to start a new church in the area. The congregation was formally organized on Jan. 29 with the name “St. Andrew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lincolntown” chosen by the first church council. In the century since, St. Andrew’s has continued to grow, becoming one of the largest Lutheran churches in the United States. 

Pastor Roger Eigenfeld came to St. Andrew’s in 1972, initiating an era of significant membership growth, from 1,000 to 9,000 members during his 33-year tenure. His bold vision for St. Andrew’s future became a reality when the present church campus was acquired in the early 1980s. The Great Hall building was completed in 1986, followed by the Youth and Sports Center (1991), Sanctuary (1999), and St. Andrew’s Village (2000). 

Eigenfeld describes the anniversary event as a gathering of memories. The fun part of it all, he says, is being able to see some old friends - people he has baptized, married and confirmed, and to also celebrate the work current pastor Michael Carlson has done. Although he has been retired for 17 years, Eigenfeld says seeing what has happened since he has been gone speaks volumes about what Carlson has done for the church. He can see that the congregation is growing in an era when a lot of congregations aren’t.

“One of the questions people ask about churches is ‘are they relevant to my life?’” Carlson said.  “Roger started many things under his time, but many of the strongest things he started were responses to suffering in the world.”

When a massive hurricane destroyed the island of Jamaica, St. Andrews went and served. When  

Slovakia was underneath the shadow of communism where Christianity was not taught or shared, St. Andrews built a church there. Carlson says the dedication to providing excellence in worship so that people who are experiencing the troubles of the world can have a promise is the trajectory that really started the resource center, which is a million dollar a year project to house people who are homeless. St. Andrews has two homeless shelters and a third ideation of a homeless shelter that happens in hotels which is growing every year. 

“St. Andrews continues to show up where the suffering and needs of the world intersect with the gifts and passions of the congregation and as long as there is a need in this world for humans to be comforted and cared for, St. Andrews will be relevant, because that’s the trajectory that Roger started that created a sense of growth and urgency in mission,” Carlson said. 

Carlson says he doesn’t know what the future holds for St. Andrews, but he does know that if it is  successful, it will continue to deepen the question, “How do we show up when the world needs us?”

St. Andrew’s has the opportunity for both contemporary and traditional worship experience with an online service as an option. The building was designed for a 400-member choir at the request of Eigenfeld, who takes pride in the ability to have excellence in music. They have also conducted 5,323 baptisms, 2,139 marriages and 1,659 funerals over the past 100 years. 

Carlson gives much credit of the success of the church to the “high quality of volunteers and the passionate generosity of the congregation.” In an era when many churches are suffering financially, Carlson says they are right where they need to be because they are “missionally on point.”

One of Carlson’s hopes for the future is to be able to hire a full-time mental health worker to help infuse awareness into the community for the sake of the young people who are struggling post COVID-19. “Faith in a God who finds us in our suffering will deliver us,” Carlson said.

 

Intern Ella Roberts can be reached by emailing news@presspubs.com or calling 651-407-1200. 

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.