Christ Lutheran Church
Coos Bay, Oregon
Summarized History of the Congregation
Our congregation has a rich history that reaches back for over 100 years. God has blessed us in many ways, and we rejoice for his guiding hand through the good times and the tough times.
The roots of Christ Lutheran Church and School, Coos Bay, extend back to worship services and a Sunday School held in the basement of a home at least as early as 1905. This resulted in the organization of Zion Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Congregation of Marshfield, Coos County, Oregon, under the leadership of Pastor L. Rasmussen on October 4, 1908. In the same year First Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church, North Bend, Oregon, was organized. The two congregations and Lutherans in the Myrtle Point-Norway area were served by the same pastor.
A church was built by Zion congregation on 7th Street in 1910. Pastor Rasmussen was pastor until 1911, followed by Pastors Andrew Lind, 1911-1912, R. O. Thorpe, 1912-1918, and P. A. Hendrickson, 1919-1920. Pastor L. P. Jensen served as pastor from 1920 until 1928. Nearly all services were conducted in the Norwegian language by pastors from the Norwegian Synod.
Since Pastor Jensen was aging and travel conditions made ministering to the three parishes difficult, contact was made in 1926 with the field secretary of the Oregon-Washington District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Rev. W. F. Georg, to try to provide more regular services in the Myrtle Point-Norway area. This led to the agreement to have a ministerial candidate from a Missouri Synod seminary come to work with Pastor Jensen.
Rev. Georg and Professor W. F. C. Sylvester assisted Pastor Jensen, beginning March 13, 1927, until Ministerial Candidate Arthur Fergin was ordained and installed on July 31, 1927; he served until May 26, 1929. During his pastorate the Sunday School had a number of children attending, and the members decided to become part of the Missouri Synod. The congregation adopted a new constitution on July 28, 1929, and changed its name to Calvary Evangelical Lutheran.
From this point, the church was to be served by Missouri Synod pastors. The North Bend congregation at about this time changed its name to Grace Lutheran Church. In August of 1929 Pastor G. W. Mathiasen was installed as pastor for Calvary and Grace congregations as well as the group in Myrtle Point; he served for 17 years until 1946. The parish in Myrtle Point became self-supporting in 1944.
Pastor Roland Langbecker served the parish from 1947 until 1950. In 1951 Pastor Herbert Koehlinger was pastor for about six months before resigning and taking a number of members to organize a congregation of the Orthodox Lutheran Synod in the Empire community.
After this division Pastor Richard Gross of Cottage Grove became the vacancy pastor and then was called as pastor, being installed in April of 1951; he served until July of 1960. During his pastorate the effort was made to amalgamate the Coos Bay and North Bend congregations; many members of Grace did become members of Calvary, but some chose to be served by a different synod. Pastor Gross baptized and confirmed many people during his time here. The Lord truly blessed our congregation during those years with great growth. Later, in 1960 the congregation changed its name to Christ Lutheran Church.
During the years Pastor Gross served, the congregation began plans to build a new church building (although already in 1947 efforts toward this had been made). In 1957 various sites were investigated until the present site at 15th and Myrtle was purchased in January of 1959. Early in 1960 the old church building was sold; services were then held in Milner Crest School until the new church was built. The Voters Assembly on November 10, 1960, formally accepted plans to build at a cost of $92,535; the church was dedicated November 19, 1961. The mortgage on this building was burned on May 6, 1984. An addition to the building to include more entry and office space was built in 1984. A larger expansion to benefit the school was completed in 2003.
Pastor R. H. Goetjen had been installed September 11, 1960, but left the congregation in early 1963. Ministerial Candidate Norman Steinke was installed later that year and served until 1965. Vicar Richard Klein assisted in 1964 and 1965, especially in the Myrtle Point area. Pastor Herbert Schutte then was pastor from June of 1966 until April of 1975 – Vicar Richard Naegley served under Pastor Schutte in 1974 and 1975. Pastor Elmer Steenbock began his pastorate in September of that year and continued until his retirement in 1991, when he pursued his life-long dream of establishing a mission in Russia. Pastor Michael Bailey served from 1991 until 1997, followed by Pastor Eric Kaelberer from 1997 until June of 2000. Pastor James Rehley with some assistance from Dr. Charles Symmank in 2000 was interim pastor until Pastor James Wilson was installed in late 2001. Pastor Wilson resigned from the congregation and from the Missouri Synod in the spring of 2005.
For nearly two years Christ congregation was ministered to by various pastors on weekends, including Pastor Arnold Steinbeck, Pastor Lawrence Rohlfing, and Pastor James Kabel with retired Pastor Steenbock also assisting. Pastor Theodore Allwardt was then asked to serve as “part-time vacancy pastor – retired” and began his pastorate on April 1, 2007. Pastor Allwardt was with us until his final retirement in 2010.
After Pastor Allwardt’s retirement, God led the congregation to revisit an older way of ministry that was familiar. In September 2010, Christ Lutheran Church entered into a dual parish arrangement with our neighbors from Reedsport, Oregon at Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church. The already serving pastor of Beautiful Savior, Pastor Wil Gehrke, then was the pastor at Christ Lutheran as well.
Following Pastor Gehrke’s retirement in June 2011, the congregations of Christ Lutheran and Beautiful Savior called Pastor Quintin Cundiff from the seminary in St. Louis to serve as pastor. Pastor Cundiff was installed in July 2011. We thank God for the faithfulness that he has shown us, and we excitedly look forward to the future and what God has planned for us as individual members of his church, and as a congregation!
Formal Christian education has long been a priority of Christ congregation. Not only was a Sunday School in operation from the earliest years, but a weekday Bible school was begun in 1966 with 22 attending; in 1972 the attendance was 35-40. A preschool used the church from 1975 to 1978. In November 1978 Pastor Steenbock recommended that a Lutheran grade school be established, but this did not take place until Christ Lutheran School was begun in 1993 under the leadership of Darlene Thauland; it gradually expanded to include preschool through 8th grade in the 2006/07 school year. Because the congregation saw the school as such an important mission, in 1997 it changed its name to Christ Lutheran Church and School. For the 2011-12 school year, God gifted us with a student body of 84! What a blessing all of those students are!
We currently have a Men’s Club that meets jointly with the Men’s Club of Beautiful Savior on the last Saturday of every month. We also have an active LWML as well as other ladies groups involved with our congregation.
The youth were first organized with the name Calvary Lutheran Society in 1930; later they took the name Walther League, after which it was called Chi Rho and at present is known informally as the Youth Group. Our youth group is an area of focus for our ministry here at Christ Lutheran, and we pray for God’s continued grace in that and all areas of ministry that he has given to us.
So has the Lord blessed and used our congregation during these One Hundred Years of His Grace.