Highlights of House of Prayer Lutheran Church History
In the decade after World War II ended, the town of Richfield, Minnesota, was rapidly being transformed from farm fields and orchards to blocks and blocks of small ramblers and CapeCod-style homes. As the population grew, many residents realized a need for another Lutheran Church to serve the neighborhood. In September of 1953, a group of individuals met to discuss the formation of a new congregation under the Augustana Synod. They held their first worship service at Elliott Elementary School with 333 people in attendance.
Here are some of the highlights in the growth and development of our church:
House of Prayer Lutheran Church was officially established in 1953 with a Charter Membership of 314 adults and 277 children. Rev. Richard Bingea was called to be the first pastor, and soon after designs and fund-raising for a building were begun.
Construction was completed in 1955 at a cost of $149,605. In 1957 Rev. John Palmquist was called to be first associate pastor. Within another year four Sunday morning services were needed each week.
With membership growing, it was soon necessary to plan an addition to the church, a new sanctuary with a large gathering space downstairs. The new sanctuary was completed and dedicated in Nov. 1962, the same year that the synods merged to become the Lutheran Church in America (LCA). Rev. Robert Chalstrom served as the associate pastor for four years, followed by Rev. Glen Sampson. In 1966 House of Prayer Nursery School was started, a ministry still going strong.
The 1970’s were years of change. Rev. John Chell was called to HoP in 1970, and was named our senior pastor in 1976, following Pastor Bingea’s resignation. Two new associate pastors joined the staff, Rev. Ralph Larson in 1977 and Stephen Haschig in 1978. Jon Kietzer began his music ministry in 1973. The church sold its property on 77th Street and partnered with the group planning The Richfield Towers, the city’s first senior citizen housing building, which opened in 1978. That year also marked the church’s 25th anniversary. Another social service project undertaken by the church during this decade was sponsoring refugee families from Vietnam and Ethiopia.
In 1981 Pastor Larson resigned and was replaced the following year by Rev. Patricia Wolander. 1984 was an especially busy year– it marked ecumenical Lenten services, the first Palm Sunday Paul Manz Hymn Festival, and the establishment of the Social Justice Commission to raise awareness of issues related to world hunger and global peace. The construction project to enclose the courtyard and remodel the office area was begun that year also. In 1985 the House of Prayer Foundation was established, and Pastors Wolander and Haschig resigned. Later that year Lyndon Nygard and Pastor Charles Carlson accepted calls to serve. Jim LaDoux (youth director) and Karen Bartz (assistant minister of music) joined the staff in 1986. During that year the LCA was reorganized into the ELCA. A highlight in November 1987 was a visit from the Rev. Jesse Jackson who preached at our Sunday morning services.
Pastor Chell announced his plans to retire, although he was willing to provide pastoral services until an interim, Warren Schultz, was appointed in December of 1992. In April 1994 Rev. Stephen McKinley was installed as the new senior pastor. For four years, HoP housed an Adult Day Care program in Fellowship Hall. During this decade, Linda Lund, Melanie Hueiser Hill and Scott Stai served their pastoral internships here. The parish nurse program was initiated by Barbara Hamilton (Zell). The installation of an elevator to improve access to Fellowship Hall was a highlight of 1998.
The start of the new millennium saw a major overhaul of the Schantz organ, sound-abatement improvements to the education wing, and air-conditioning for the sanctuary. Deb Bergstom became an intern pastor in 2001 and was installed as an associate pastor in 2003. Pastor McKinley announced his retirement in 2005. The synod appointed Interim Pastor Paul Svingen to fill his place and to lead the church through a reorganization and revitalization process called the Transition Task Force. Pastor Hueiser Hill returned to serve parttime for several months in 2006-07 until Rev. Anne Hokenstad was called later that autumn. Other new staff members, Kristin Tranby, Youth and Family Director, and Jon Oleson, Parish Administrator, began their service in 2005 and 2006. Meanwhile, all the lay ministry teams formed during the transition process have given an opportunity for many more parishioners to become involved in service and leadership in the church.