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Building generations of faith, community

West Linn Lutheran celebrates 50th anniversary


by: VERN UYETAKE - Stan and Julie Schwabauer will celebrate their 15th baptized family member at West Linn Lutheran Church on Jan. 13. It was a lucky twist of fate.

Donna King and her family moved to Lake Oswego in 1995. The family visited several Lutheran churches before they were recommended to attend West Linn Lutheran Church. Unbeknownst to the family, the new pastor, Barry Rogge, had just been called to the parish.

“We had known Barry for a number of years,” King said, mentioning Rogge was her sister’s former pastor in Tacoma. “So it was a very natural fit for us to start attending there.”

Soon, King’s family and two daughters, ages 8 and 3 at the time, were invested in church life.

“It was really important for us (King and her husband) to find an environment where the kids could develop their faith journey,” she said. “Both of us had been raised in the Lutheran church so it was a way of life for us. ... Barry Rogge had a great way of really growing the church with familes of small children. It just made for the perfect environment.”

For the King family and many others, the West Linn Lutheran Church has helped foster a faith network and sense of community within the surrounding cities of West Linn, Lake Oswego, Oregon City and more. This year, the church celebrates its families with its 50th anniversary celebration.

Knock on the door

It started with a survey and a knock on the door. In 1961, the Mission Board of the American Lutheran Church — today known as the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America — conducted a survey of the West Linn area and determined the need for a church based on population, growth and development.

The American Lutheran Church contracted architect William Yahn of Barnard & Kinney Contractors of Beaverton on June 8, 1962, to build the church for $49,089 on the corner of Jolie Point Road and Portland Avenue — renamed Willamette Drive.

“The church was built even before there was a congregation,” Pastor Donna Herzfeldt-Kamprath said.

Pastor Robert Adix arrived on Aug. 9, 1962. Adix and parish worker Evelyn Helms went door-to-door and invited families to join the church. From Aug. 18 to Oct. 31 in 1962 the duo made 2,222 phone calls to community members.

“It was such a different culture at that time,” Herzfeldt-Kamprath said. “It was assumed you were going to go to a church ... but it took a lot of knocking on doors, being willing to invite people and instruct them on what it means to be part of a congregation.”

The church acquired a parsonage at 2892 Mark Lane. In August 1962 the first church council was elected. Because the church was still under construction, the office was in a bedroom of the parsonage. The little room featured a desk, typewriter and stand, mimeograph machine and file cases. Services were sometimes held in this little room.

The first worship service was Sept. 23, 1962. The floor wasn’t completely covered with carpet, yet 180 people sat snugly in borrowed chairs from the Bolton Fire Department and listened to the sermon delivered from a metal stand. The church altar was composed of a kitchen table, a white tablecloth and a bouquet of flowers.

The following Sunday, 79 children attended Sunday school in the basement. Volunteers used boxes and shipping crates to divide the children’s classrooms. In the months to come, parishioners laid tile floors, built choir platforms, sewed curtains and collected money for the church stole, lectern and altar.

On Oct. 6, 1962, Walter James Rufer and Carole Lee Baisch were the first couple to marry in the church. On Nov. 25, 1962, Sue (Schwabauer) Harvey became the first person to be baptized in the church.

On Feb. 24, 1963, the West Linn Lutheran Church officially became a congregation. A building dedication was held May 12. Adix served as pastor from 1962 to 1967. Pastor Gary Olson was installed in 1967. He served the church and community for more than 25 years before retiring in 1993. He died in 2011. His wife, Anita, still lives in West Linn.

Pastor Rogge was installed in 1995. He served the church until 2007 before retiring. He and his wife, Carole Ann, still live in West Linn. Pastor Herzfeldt-Kamprath and her husband, Tim, were installed into the congregation in 2009.

by: SUBMITTED - The first worship service at the West Linn Lutheran Church was held Sept. 23, 1962.

Family celebrations

Over the years King has served on the church council and overseen programming for youth groups, Sunday school, family ministries and more. In that time her family has celebrated confirmations and marriages.

While her two children are grown — one is a practicing nurse, the other a senior in college — she said the family-friendly environment and fellowship in her church community remain.

“It’s interesting to sit there on Sunday mornings and just reflect back to the fact that we were one of those young families. How quickly time passes,” she said. “What’s been fun about the 50th anniversary is to really celebrate and look back on those years.”

The church kicked off its 50th anniversary celebrations with a retro carnival — complete with lime green Jell-O molds — on Sept. 23. Adix’s wife, Eleanor, spoke at the celebration. The congregation will celebrate with yearlong activities honoring the signing of its charter, baptisms, weddings and more.

“We want to celebrate and reconnect with the mission the church historically endeavored to accomplish,” Herzfeldt-Kamprath said. “We want to remember and honor the pastors and leaders and the vision they had for the congregation and be inspired for the future.”

Today, the multigenerational congregation of about 450 is composed of families. Both King and Herzfeldt-Kamprath said the congregation has changed over the years. Congregation numbers and participation aren’t quite what they used to be. The congregation is small but mighty.

“West Linn Lutheran was kind of a quiet church,” Herzfeldt-Kamprath said. “In more recent years the congregation has had significant involvement in community and mission outreach activities.”

King said change is good; yet, in her family, the West Linn Lutheran Church will always remain a vessel to practice faith and their way of life. The congregation has become King’s extended family and the wooden pews and the ornate arched ceiling of the sanctuary provide a home away from home.

“I think the church itself serves such a great purpose within the community,” she said. “It’s a great place for people to raise families. ... For people such as myself who were raised in the Lutheran church, church is just so much a part of our lives. ...West Linn Lutheran Church is a good place to make life happen.”

West Linn Lutheran Church is located at 20390 Willamette Drive, West Linn. Services are held Sundays at 8:15 and 10:45 a.m. Sunday school and adult education is from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. For more information, call 503-656-0110 or visit wllc.org.



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