Church History

1928 – 2011

In the early part of 1927, Reverend R. Herrman of Lidderdale, Iowa, made a house-to-house canvass of Lake City and found there were enough Lutherans to warrant the starting of a congregation. Upon the recommendation of District President Reverend Ad. Schwidder of Wall Lake, the Reverend E.L. Wittkopp of Ulmer and Auburn served as pastor, and services were held in the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Lake City.

On May 27, 1928, the congregation was organized, and the Reverend Wittkopp was formally called. Charter members were Henry Sporleder, Carl Sporleder, Fred Schug, A.J. Lovett, Frank Grote, and L.W. Sievert.

Mr. A. O. Bleeke, a student at Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield, Illinois, was placed in Lake City to assist the Reverend E.L. Wittkopp in September, 1929. After serving the congregation faithfully for one year, Mr. Bleeke returned to Springfield, and Mr. Paul Voigt, also of Springfield, came to serve as student pastor for a year. In the spring of 1931, Pastor Wittkopp accepted a call to Marcus, Iowa, and the Reverend Ad. Schwidder served as vacancy pastor. On April 16, 1931, a call was extended to candidate A.O. Bleeke who served as the first resident pastor.

In August, 1931, the congregation bought the United Brethren property on North Center Street which consisted of a frame church building, furnishings, and a six-room parsonage. This church was dedicated on November 22, 1931, with the congregation singing the hymn “The Lord Hath Helped Me Hitherto” as they assembled in front of the church. As they entered the church, they sang the hymn “Come, Thou Almighty King.” Other hymns sung during the dedication services included: “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,” “Jesus, Still Lead On,” “Abide, O Dearest Jesus,” “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” and many more old favorites. The elders at this time were L.W. Sievert, A.J. Lovett, and C.E. Clark.

The Ladies Aid was organized in February, 1932.

The Reverend Bleeke received a call in January, 1937, to St. Paul’s at Carroll and was released. On April 18, 1937, the Reverend L. Loesch of St. John’s, Deloit, Iowa, was installed. Shortly thereafter, the congregation joined the Synod as a voting member. In 1940 it numbered 217 souls, 155 communicants, and 26 voting members. Walther League and Christian Fellowship Club were organized.

After six years of service, Pastor Loesch accepted a call to Trinity in Algona, Iowa, and Pastor Heddrich of Farnhamville, Iowa, served as vacancy pastor until July 4, 1943, when the Reverend A. Abel of Woolstock, Iowa, was installed.

During his pastorate, a Reuter pipe organ was purchased and the congregation became self-supporting. On May 31, 1946, the Reverend Abel accepted a call to Colorado, and the Reverend E. Fritz of Auburn served as vacancy pastor. In November, 1946, the Reverend A. Huber of Koehler, Wisconsin, was called and after serving three years accepted a call back to Wisconsin. The congregation was served by the Reverend V. Heine of Ulmer until September 24, 1950, when the Reverend A. Boehnke of Fort Dodge was installed.

During the next few years, there was a rapid growth of the congregation and an expansion program became necessary. In March, 1954, L.W. Sievert, H. Beckman, L. Kruse, P. Mack, and A. Turner were elected to a building committee. After presenting figures to the congregation for building or remodeling, it was voted to build a new church. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held November 14, 1954. The cornerstone was laid on March 28, 1955. The contents of the copper box deposited in the cornerstone embraces the following: The constitution and history of the congregation, the Bible, a Catechism, a book on the life of Dr. Martin Luther, Iowa District West edition of the Lutheran Witness, a report of the last convention of the Iowa District West, a list of names of the church officers, the Sunday School staff, the building committee, the builder, the architect, the names of the President of the United States, the Governor of the State of Iowa, the Mayor of Lake City, and a copy of the Lake City Graphic. Stanford Griffith of Fort Dodge was the architect and C.I. Hermson of Laurens was contractor. Dedication of the new church took place on September 18, 1955. The new building was completed at a cost of approximately $98,000. The building was constructed of Mankato stone and has a seating capacity of 600 (389 in the nave and 210 in the Fellowship Hall). The glass in the chancel windows was imported from Germany, England, and France, and combined to give a truly lovely work of art. It tells the following story: The birth of Christ our Redeemer is sent into the world; St. John the Baptist baptizing Christ; The Last Supper; The Crucifixion; The Resurrection; the Ascension. The chancel windows were a gift from Pastor and Mrs. Arnold Boehnke and family.

At this time the Ladies Aid members were exploring ways in which they could contribute to the building fund. The decision was made to hold a turkey dinner to which the public would be invited. The first turkey dinner was held on the first Sunday in November, 1956, and resulted in a contribution to the building fund of $593.92. The turkeys were purchased live and transported to homes where members gathered to clean them. Homegrown sweet corn was frozen during the summer. Men of the congregation spent many hours on Saturday peeling potatoes. The dinner was deemed a success and still continues today.

The Reverend Boehnke served the congregation until November, 1957, when he accepted a call to Montana. The Reverends Schwidder, Weiss, and Schaffer served during this vacancy that lasted until January, 1959, when the Reverend Heimsoth accepted Pilgrim’s call.

The Ruth Guild was organized on February 22, 1960. The purpose of the organization was to serve a group of women who were unable to attend Ladies Aid because of daytime commitments. This organization continued until 1992.

The Reverend Heimsoth was the pastor until January, 1964, when he accepted a call to Missouri. Pilgrim was served by the Reverend Ludwig from Glidden until March, 1964, when the call to the Reverend Balke was accepted. On June 14, 1964, Robert C. Jacobs was ordained into the holy ministry at Pilgrim. His first pastorate was to St. John’s Lutheran at Revillo, South Dakota.

Reverend Balke was at Pilgrim until October, 1965, when he was called to Michigan. During this six-month vacancy, Pilgrim was served by the Reverend Wedergren of Farnhamville. In April, 1966, Reverend Zastrow moved to Lake City to become the pastor.

The congregation purchased a new parsonage on Circle Drive in the fall of 1968. Also, in a special service in November, 1968, the mortgage on the church building was burned.

Starting in December, 1971, Pilgrim was served by the Reverend Kramer of Lake View, as Pastor Zastrow had accepted a call to Louisiana. After a five-month vacancy, the Reverend Belsheim accepted the call and came to Lake City in May of 1972.

In 1975, a constitution committee was formed and Pilgrim changed, on a trial basis, from a Church Council to a Board of Stewards form of governing. This same year the parking lot was paved. This debt was paid in full in December, 1977.

The Reverend Belsheim served as pastor through November of 1979. The Reverend Pannier filled the vacancy until the Reverend Erland Asmus accepted Pilgrim’s call in November of 1980. In 1984, Kids of the Kingdom Pre-School was started. Classes were held in the Fellowship Hall and adjoining Sunday School room. The Pre-School was discontinued in 1991.

The congregation voted to build an addition on to the south end of the Sunday School wing in 1988. This addition was completed in 1989 and consisted of a chapel/meeting room, one Sunday School room, and a multi-purpose room. The total cost of this addition was approximately $62,000.

A gift from Ernie and Martha Sporleder made it possible for Pilgrim to acquire the vacant lots north of the church for use as additional parking.

A Thursday evening worship service was added for those who couldn’t attend the Sunday morning service in 1983. In 1994, this service was moved to Saturday evening. The congregations of Pilgrim and Zion of Auburn voted to begin a dual parish in 2000. Thus, our Pastor serves both congregations and some special services are attended by both congregations at one church or the other.

On July 7, 2002, Mark Peterson was ordained into the holy ministry at Pilgrim. His first pastorate was to Zion Lutheran in LuVerne, Iowa, and Immanuel Lutheran in Livermore, Iowa. Also, in 2002, Pilgrim added air conditioning in the church nave, the Fellowship Hall, and the kitchen. In 2010, the church parsonage was updated with contributions and volunteer labor from our members.

It is interesting to note changes that have occurred during the last 75 years, not only at Pilgrim Lutheran Church, but also in the church as a whole. In the early years, pastors came and left with alarming frequency, sometimes staying only a year; three years seemed to be the maximum. This must have made it difficult for the church to grow and most certainly would have been stressful to the pastors and their families. Pilgrim was blessed to have Pastor Asmus and his family here for 29 years, after which he accepted a call in Minnesota. In July, 2010, we welcomed Pastor Craig Zandi and family to shepherd our dual congregations. After four years, Pastor Zandi took a call in Wisconsin. During the six month vacancy period, Pilgrim Lutheran and Zion Lutheran in Auburn dissolved their dual parish status. In 2015, Pilgrim called Pastor Paul Ferderer to serve the church as a sole parish. May God continue to bless his pastorate here at Pilgrim and in Lake City, Iowa.