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West Linn Lutheran celebrates 50th anniversary


by: SUBMITTED - The first worship service at the West Linn Lutheran Church was held Sept. 23, 1962.In their 55 years of marriage, Stan and Julie Schwabauer have witnessed countless blessings of water, the breaking of bread and delicate white baptismal gowns. On Jan. 13 they will celebrate their great-grandson’s baptism and the 15th family member to be baptized at West Linn Lutheran Church — their eldest daughter was the first person baptized in the church.

At the January baptism, the Schwabauer family will take up two entire rows. The family and congregation will celebrate the child’s welcoming into the church. So too will the family and congregation celebrate the West Linn Lutheran Church’s 50th anniversary.

“We’ve had a lot of trials in our family; we’ve had births, weddings and death,” Stan Schwabauer said. “Yet there is something that keeps drawing me back. That congregation is a family to me. It’s part of my family.”

by: VERN UYETAKE - Stan and Julie Schwabauer will celebrate their 15th baptized family member at West Linn Lutheran Church on Jan. 13.

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 Schwabauers moved to West Linn in 1960. Stan Schwabauer became a teacher and coach at West Linn High School. He retired in 1991 after 31 years of teaching and coaching. Julie Schwabauer was a homemaker to their four children. The couple attended Christ Lutheran Church in Aurora prior to receiving a knock on their door.

“We were glad they were opening a church in West Linn,” Julie Schwabauer said, mentioning their drive to church was a half-hour. “With four little kids we were not getting up and going to church like we should be.”

The couple became charter members of the church. They thumbed through hymnal books and attended meetings. 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 held 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.

The Schwabauers remember the early days fondly. The family cleaned the inside of the church and the grounds outside. Julie Schwabauer taught Sunday school.

“It was a small congregation, but everybody worked,” Stan Schwabauer said. “It was good for our family. ... Church was and is just a way of life for us.”

Julie Schwabauer remembers sewing hems and dress lines in the car on the way to Sunday school. Stan Schwabauer joked that the family sat in the back of the church during “their rough couple of years” when their 2- and 3-year-olds were crying.

On Nov. 25, 1962, Sue (Schwabauer) Harvey became the first person to be baptized in the church. Adix marked the sign of the cross on her forehead with water and her parents patted her little brow dry with a handkerchief.

“We didn’t have a special gown for our kids but some of our grandkids did,” Julie Schwabauer said. “Sue was just in little Sunday clothes.”

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 passed away in 2011. His wife, Anita, still lives in West Linn.

Pastor Barry 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.

Community celebration

The West Linn Lutheran 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 from West Linn, Lake Oswego, Oregon City, Tigard, Canby, Portland and more. Both the Schwabauers and Herzfeldt-Kamprath said the congregation has changed over the years. Congregation numbers and participation aren’t quite what they used to be. Only a handful of charter members are still alive and active in church. 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.”

Despite the changes,and through all of their years as greeters, ushers, Sunday school teachers and more, the Schwabauers said West Linn Lutheran Church is a friendly congregation. For the Schwabauers and many families, the congregation is an extended family and the wooden pews and the ornate arched ceiling of the sanctuary are a home away from home.

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.

West Linn Lutheran Church anniversary events

Monday

4 p.m. children and family service featuring “The Story of Christmas,” carols and candlelight

6 p.m. youth-led carols and candlelight

9 p.m. Celtic Christmas featuring Beccon

11 p.m. Candlelight Christmas with classical Christmas music

Tuesday

10:30 a.m. Christmas Day worship followed by brunch




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