The History of St. Luke Lutheran Church
It all started on October 24, 1943 with a small group who met at the American Legion Hall in Multnomah for the first worship service of what was to become St. Luke Lutheran Church.
1943 – 1953
Pastor Orval Schmidt of Bethlehem Lutheran led the service, and continued to lead this new mission until Pastor Norman Dversdall was installed on July 9, 1944.
At its first annual meeting on January 16, 1943 the congregation voted to assume $20 per month of the pastor’s salary. The remainder was paid by the Home Mission Board of the Lutheran Church.
In 1944 eight women formed a group, later expanded to 16 members, named The Ladies Guild. They assumed responsibility for many housekeeping and social activities of the church. Monthly meetings were developed into Circles to promote mission and Bible study.
A lot was then purchased at SW 45th and Garden Home Road, and the first chapel was built by volunteer labor. The first service in the chapel was held January 17, 1945. Mrs. Carl Fleming suggested the name “St. Luke Lutheran Church” for the new mission church. 76 charter members were accepted on January 28th 1945, the day of organization for St. Luke Lutheran Church.
Music has always played an important role in the worship life of St. Luke. The Senior Choir was organized on September 25, 1945, with seven members present. Mrs. N. O. Dversdall was the first Choir Director; Mrs. Marguerite (Stricker) Keegan was the first organist. The choir made its first appearance Sunday, October 21, 1945, at the morning worship, singing “Praise Ye the Lord.”
The first junior songsters were a “loosely organized group of youngsters,” according to their first director, Marguerite Keegan. Myron Eckhardt served as the first Junior Choir accompanist. Later, a youth choir was officially organized with Virgil Anderson as leader. Mrs. Ellen Buell was the director of the first Cherub Choir.
In 1946 the first parsonage was purchased, and an annex was added to the church to accommodate the growing Sunday School.
By 1948 the congregation had become self- supporting and was no longer in need of subsidy from the Home Mission program of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.
Pastor Milford Langehough became the new leader in 1948 and served until April of 1952. The Sunday School experienced a steady growth during this period.
In August of 1952 Allan Skindlov arrived to be the new pastor. A new parsonage was built, and in 1955 an education unit was added. This unit, along with the chapel, still serves as a church building now housing a small Roman Catholic Congregation.
1953 – 1963
Pastor Luther Watness was installed in November, 1955. A year later, a major fund-raising program was launched toward the construction of a new church.
In 1957 2.9 acres were purchased at the current location at the cost of $6,000. Construction began with ground-breaking in February, 1960. A sponsorship loan of $30,000 from Bethlehem Lutheran Church, together with a commercial loan, provided the $150,000 needed to construct the new facility. Three thousand volunteer hours helped keep costs within the meager budget.
On November 6, 1960 the new church was dedicated.
A member of St. John Fisher Roman Catholic Church purchased young cedar trees to be planted on the property line of their Church and St. Luke; Lena Cadonau of our congregation furnished Alpenrose manure to give the trees a healthy start. This marked the beginning of a beautiful relationship between the two congregations.
1963 – 1973
1963 saw the establishment of the St. Luke Play School. That same year some additional land was purchased for a new parsonage next to the church. It was dedicated in August, 1964.
The first paid secretary, Dorothy Erickson, was hired in 1965. This position has also been served by Evelyn Jewell, Marilyn Maslen, Pat Patterson, Penny Greb, Carrol Klett, Sharon Donagan, Vicki Newton and today Leslie Singrey. Additional pastoral staff was also added. Carl Anderson was St. Luke’s first intern pastor. Successive interns were Dave Nelson, Bill Coffman, Ken Carlson and Marv Skogen. Bill & Ken each served two years instead of the normal one year.
The Bethel Bible Study program was launched in 1968, producing a cadre of lay teachers who then gave instruction to a major portion of the entire congregation. 1968 also saw the 25th anniversary in which the past was joyfully remembered, and the challenge of the future was boldly addressed, particularly with a look toward the challenge of mission awareness with an accent on local social ‘ concerns. The anniversary offering was divided equally between property improvements and local social concerns.
The 14 year ministry of Pastor Watness concluded with his farewell Sunday on August 17, 1969.
Pastor Myrin Bentz was called from Anchorage, Alaska, and began his ministry on October 5, 1969.
The early 70’s saw growing support for those in need beyond St Luke’s doors, beginning in a partnership with NE Portland’s African-American community and then broadening into a large variety of programs including the needs of the elderly, work in the Hispanic community, and support of many care agencies.
Several revisions have been made to the original 1944 church constitution; one in 1960 to provide a larger board and another in 1966 which permitted election of an executive committee.
In 1967 St. Luke embarked on two major programs, contributing to LIFE, which was a nationwide fund drive to expand Lutheran educational institutions, and participation in the Bethel Bible Series, a two-year program of instruction in Bible study.
1973 – 1983
A major decision to provide mission money “off the top” of our offerings on a percentage basis provided growing support for local and worldwide mission. During this decade St. Luke sponsored over 100 SW Asian refugees beginning with the Vo family in 1975. The 1969 Social Concerns budget was over $30,000.
St. Luke’s worship life took on some variety already in the early 70’s when a folk setting was added, as well as the Children’s Liturgy. Our excellent choirs give leadership to worship, along with the inspiration of special anthems.
In 1973 it became obvious that the pastoral needs of St. Luke were greater than what a pastor and intern could supply. Steps were taken toward the calling of our first associate pastor.
On September 9, 1973 former intern Ken Carlson was installed as Associate Pastor. His ministry continued for three years, until he accepted a call to Walla Walla, Washington, and concluded his work on August 15, 1976.
The needs of the elderly became a growing concern, and in February, 1974 Pastor George Grewenow accepted the invitation to serve as part-time consultant and leader in this emphasis. The monthly fellowship gatherings were enjoyed by many, as well as numerous bus trips to places of interest. Most significantly, this has proven to be a valuable ministry of the Word and Sacrament, as well as fellowship support. Since Pastor Grewenow’s death in January of 1986 this position has been served by Pastor Ted Brueckner, Pastor Ole Larsen and Pastor Dave Wilder.
Darrel Lundby was called from Seattle to be St. Luke’s second Associate Pastor. He was installed on September 11, 1977 and served until January 1988 when called to be the Assistant to the Bishop of the Oregon Synod.
1983 – 1993
Susan Kintner was called and began her ministry as Associate Pastor on October 16, 1988. In July of 1991 Susan became the mother of her first child, Andrew, at which point she began serving as a part-time Pastor.
David Knapp was installed as St. Luke’s full-time Associate Pastor on February 16, 1992. He had begun serving St. Luke as a supply pastor in the fall of 1991.
A major property improvement effort was launched in 1977 in which over $30,000 was spent to modify the parsonage into the present Shalom Center for parish activities and for improvements in the church building.
It was becoming more apparent that a major building program was needed and on Rally Day, September 13, 1987 ground was broken for the Parish Education and Administrative wing to the north, along with the enlargement of the narthex and library. Other major remodeling was included in this project. Dedication took place on June 5, 1988.
On, October 24, 1993 St. Luke celebrated 50 years. Through a year long 50th Anniversary Appeal St. Luke gave several thousand dollars to a new Lutheran Mission church in Woodburn, Oregon. House of Zion Lutheran Church is located in a predominantly Hispanic area. Additional monies went toward the construction of the St. Luke elevator spanning the three floors of our church building.
With nearly 1100 church members and an eye to the future needs of our community, St. Luke initiated three Sunday morning worship services at the beginning of the 1993 church year.
St. Luke instituted many programs that serve the interests of a diverse congregation. Some of these activities include Wednesday Church night, Youth Confirmation, adult studies, choir practices, children’s activities, Men’s Breakfast Group, and many sharing groups including, DINKs, Singles and Young Adults.
Our combined Thanksgiving Day services with St. John Fisher Roman Catholic Church across the cedar hedge are some of our most memorable moments. Over 800 people from two congregations gather each year in prayer and praise. The special offering taken during these services goes to Lutheran World Relief and Catholic Relief. In 1991 alone over $9,000 was given.
1993 – 2003
Early in 1994 St. Luke’s Council appointed a Vision Committee to research and evaluate our strengths and our needs as we let God’s spirit lead us to our future. The first Sunday in Advent, November 27, 1994 was a highlight of our year when we dedicated our long-awaited elevator to the glory of God and the use of all.
In 1997 membership grew to 1,239 with a Sunday attendance at 415 per Sunday. Total giving also climbed to $537,000 with $115,000 given to benevolence, both local and worldwide. The faith covenant of giving a ‘percentage off the top’ mission continues to set the tone for St. Luke’s stewardship life.
On April 20, 1998 Pastor Bentz concluded his St Luke ministry after more than 28 years as Senior Pastor. In 1998 St Luke spent some intentional time to pause and reflect on ‘where we’ve been’ and ‘where we’re going’ via four Parish Gatherings.
In December of 1998 Pastor David Knapp was called by St. Luke to the position of Senior Pastor and was installed on January 24, 1999.
On September 26, 1999 Pastor Ray Blank was called to serve as St Luke’s Associate Pastor. His energy and spirit were contagious. In June of 2000 Pastor Blank married a Portland woman and moved to Alaska due to her health concerns. In the following months St. Luke called Dan Hibbett as our first full-time Minister of Music.
That same year St. Luke began a new small group ministry called ChristCare. This and other Bible based programs continue to strengthen our spirituality, fellowship, caring and outreach.
In October of 2003 St Luke celebrated its 60th Anniversary with a party at the banquet center of the Oregon Zoo. During this decade the lower parking lot was expanded and a new Rodgers Digital Electronic Organ was purchased.
2003 – 2013
In January of 2004 St. Luke passed a new Vision Statement that focused on Joyfully Worshipping, Spiritual Growth, Building Generational Bridges, Serving our Neighbor, Teaching Tolerance, Welcoming Diversity and Striving for Peace. Strong emphasis was placed on accompanying our benevolence dollars with ‘hands-on’ volunteer hours for those we serve. During these years Community Table Meal was initiated and care for the earth ministry strengthened. Children and youth ministry also grew under the coordination of Judy Willis and Debbi McCollum.
In March of 2011 Pastor Kim Hester began her work as St Luke’s Associate Pastor. Her abundant talents shaped our ‘Worship – Connect – Serve’ theme.
St. Luke also purchased two adjacent properties, the “Vermont House” and the commercial property next to it for future growth needs.
In October of 2013 St. Luke celebrated its 70th anniversary. To celebrate 70 years of “Building on Our Faith” almost 200 members gathered on Saturday, October 21st at the Emanuel Hospital Atrium in Portland to enjoy fellowship, music, singing and reflection by members and former clergy…and of course great food and drink. It was a wonderful success!
Former clergy in attendance at the 70th Anniversary event included:
Myrin Bentz (1969 – 1998)
Ken Carlson (1973 – 1976)
Susan Kintner (1988 – 1992)
Kit Neeley (2000 – 2009)
2014 and Forward
Following a congregational approved Master Plan for property/building needs, St. Luke broke ground in June of 2015 after having initiated a $2.3 million Stage One Building Expansion Program and the successful vacating of SW 46th Avenue.
Fundraising and construction (narthex, courtyard, stair tower, internal upgrades) will be completed in 2016.
Click here to learn more about St. Luke Lutheran Church Building Expansion plans.
Pastor Kim Hester accepted a local call in the fall of 2015 and left a healthy legacy of confirmation ministry, connecting us, and advancing our communication technology.
Currently among St. Luke’s 1308 members, 46 are children under the age of 3.
With numerous initiatives and goals, St. Luke is just getting started. We hope you will plan on joining us for the next 70+ years!
Pastor Norman Dversdall 1944-1948
Pastor Milford Langehough 1948-1952
Pastor Alan Skindlov 1952-1955
Pastor Luther Watness 1955-1969
Pastor Myrin Bentz, Senior Pastor 1969-1998
Pastor Ken Carlson, Associate Pastor 1973-1977
Pastor Darrel Lundby, Associate Pastor 1977-1988
Pastor Susan Kintner, Associate Pastor 1988-1992
Pastor David Knapp, Associate Pastor 1992-1999
Pastor David Knapp, Senior Pastor 1999 – current
Pastor Ray Blank, Associate Pastor 1999-2000
Pastor Kathleen Neeley, Associate Pastor 2000-2009
Pastor Kimberly (Conway) Hester, Associate Pastor 2011–2015
1944 George Arneson
1945-50 Carl J. Fleming
1951 Richard Paul
1952 Blaine Christian
1953 Lawrence Arneson
1954 Robert Gorham
1955 Leslie Benson
1956 Irvin Anderson
1957 Harold Gedrose
1958-59 Jack Duncan
1960-61 Lloyd Hirte
1962-63 Glen Holt
1964 Ralph Severson
1965 Dr. Paul Johnson
1966-67 Edward Harrison
1968 Jack Duncan
1969 John Hensel
1970 Jerry Roth
1971-72 Bill Buell
1973-74 Robin Popple
1975-76 Terry Lock
1977 Irv Westerberg
1978-79 Don Baack
1980 Arnie Bergsaker
1981-82 Pauline Barquist
1983 Ken Ross
1984 Dave Ramus
1985 Dale Benson
1986 Kristine Gebbie
1987 John Anderson
1988 Jon Erickson
1989 Dick Rohrer
1990 Gary Olson
1991 Peg Woodward
1992 Jon Erickson
1993 Dave Ramus
1994 Michelle Pugh
1995 Linda Freeman
1996 Colby Schmitt
1997 Roger Reschke
1998 Gerry Reese
1999 Maripat Hensel
2000 Steve Mileham
2001 Lisa Wenzlick
2002 John Googins
2003 Valerie Thibeau
2004 Jim Loch
2005 Dan Swan
2006 Katie Ramus Bauer
2007 Bob Steringer
2008 Elise Moentmann
2009 Jon Erickson
2010 Matt Schweitzer
2011 David Solomon
2012 Terry Kenney
2013 Barbara Roady
2014 Jon Perkins
2015 Melody Drangstveit
2016 Paul Weber