The congregation gratefully acknowledges the work of the History Subcommittee of the Centennial Committee of 1969, and especially the extensive and loving research of Carl F. Wolf and Leonora Stoll Wolf in the compilation of their mimeographed book, "Shepherds of the Flock at Salem Evangelical. Lutheran Church", presented as a gift to the congregation in 1997. Copies of this book repose in the archives of Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church of Welcome and the archives at Texas Lutheran University, Seguin, Texas.
On April 12, 1970, a Texas Historical Marker commemorating the Centennial of the congregation and set into the front lawn of the church building was unveiled by Mrs. Louisa Thielemann, the oldest member of the congregation. The marker reads as follows: "WELCOME LUTHERAN CHURCH. Organized March 28, 1869 with 12 charter members. Two of these gave site for a house of worship. Erected in 1869, it was rebuilt here 1898, 1900 (following destruction by hurricane) and 1954. Some of original fixtures and 1878 bell are still in use." (1970)
Snapshot of our History
At Welcome Lutheran Church, we look to our past to learn from the strength and courage and faith of those who have served before us here, always aware that our joy and hope in service today becomes a part of our history of faith for those who follow.
|Pastors||Houses of Worship|
|Dates of Service||Built||Dedicated||Closed|
|1. John Moegle||1869-1876||First Church||1869||Sept. 1869||1898|
|2. Franz von Frankenstein||1876-1878||Second Church||1898||June 1898||1898|
|3. Heinrich Merz||1878-1882||Third Church||1900||Mar. 1901||1954|
|4. Ernst Huber||1882-1887||Fourth Church||1954||Mar. 1955|
|5. E. Schroeder||1887-1894|
|6. Theo. Jud||1894-1897||Parsonages|
|7. David Lebahn||1897-1900||Built||Dedicated||Closed|
|8. William A. Utesch||1900-1902||First Parsonage||1869||Sept. 1869||1916|
|9. Johann Gottlob Stricker||1902-1908||Second Parsonage||1916||Oct. 1916||1957|
|10. August Beteit||1908-1913||Third Parsonage||1957||Nov. 1957|
|11. Jacob Appel||1914-1934|
|12. Isaac M. Mansur||1935-1944||Other Buildings|
|13. Walter O. Wolf||1944-1966||Built||Dedicated||Closed|
|14. Charles R. Davis||1966-1969||Parish House||1937||Sept. 1937||1971|
|15. Frederick L. Bracher||1969-1982||Educational Bldg.||1971||Dec. 1971|
|16. Alvin J. Luedke||1983-1988||Storage Building||1985|
|17. Walter P. Schindehette||1988-2001|
|18. Boyd Q. Faust||2002-2003||Cemeteries|
|19. Jason W. Korthauer||2004-2007||Opened||First Burial||Closed|
|20. David M. Klak||2008-2011||Old Cemetery||1869||May 1873||1923|
|21. John R. Sutton||2013-present||New Cemetery||1923||Oct. 1923|
Through the years, the congregation has had the following synodical affiliations: (Note that until 1930, only pastors, and not congregations, were considered "members of synod".)
- 1869 - 1895 First German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Texas. A member synod of the General Council. Majority of pastors withdrew in 1895.
- 1895 - 1930 Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Iowa and Other States Pastors who withdrew from Texas Synod merged as the Texas District Synod of Iowa Synod.
- 1930 - 1960 American Lutheran Church Merged as part of the Iowa Synod Member of the Texas District, ALC.
- 1960 - 1988 The American Lutheran Church Merged as part of "old" American Lutheran Church Member of the Southern District, TALC .
- 1988 - 2010 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Merged as part of The American Lutheran Church Member of Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, ELCA.
- 2010 - PRESENT North American Lutheran Church Congregations and pastors withdrew from the ELCA and joined the NALC.
Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church of Welcome--known familiarly in the community and by its people as Welcome Lutheran Church for nearly 135 years--was founded on March 28, 1869 when twelve pioneers in the Welcome area met at the home of Mrs. Elizabeth Peeble with the adoption of the congregation's first constitution. At this meeting the founders resolved to build a house of worship for the new congregation on land given by August Boecker and Henry Schmidt for $1.00 per acre. The first house of worship was built at a cost of $240.00! It was located on the north side of the "Brenham Road", now FM 109, approximately where the parsonage is now located. The first parsonage was located just to the west of the church. Also in 1869, the "old" cemetery was founded on the north side of the road behind the church.
The first church building and first parsonage was dedicated in the fall of 1869 by the president of the First Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Texas--a member synod of the General Council, and the Rev. John Moegle was called as first pastor of the congregation. Pastor Moegle was one of a large number of Lutheran missionary pastors, trained at The Pilgrim Mission House of St. Chrischona in Basel, Switzerland, who came to central Texas to serve immigrant congregations. The first four pastors of the congregation were St. Chrischona graduates.
Pastor Moegle brought with him the first organ used in the congregation, made in Stuttgart, Germany. The organ remained the possession of the Moegle family and is still in the possession of some of his descendants who are members of the congregation. He also organized the first school in the Welcome Community and was its first teacher. Pastor Moegle served the congregation until 1876, when he accepted a call to Shelby, Texas.
On October 15, 1876, Pastor Franz von Frankenstein accepted the call and became the congregation's second pastor. Little is known about Pastor von Frankenstein's ministry in Welcome--except that during his pastorate the congregation purchased its first reed organ for $125. The first choir was organized sometime during 1877. In early 1878, Pastor von Frankenstein accepted a call to Richland, Texas.
Pastor Heinrich Merz became the third pastor at Welcome on March 10, 1878. Pastor Merz was another of the graduates of St. Chrischona. When he accepted the call to Welcome, Pastor Merz was Housefather (President) at the Texas Synod's first college, the Lutheran Academy in Rutersville and later in Brenham. In 1912 this academy was moved to Seguin, Texas, and became Texas Lutheran College.
During his tenure as pastor at Welcome, Pastor Merz had welcomed into his home another graduate of St. Chrischona, the Rev. Michael Haag, to assist Haag in learning English, in return for which Haag assisted the pastor with the work of the congregation. Haag was, in a sense, the congregation's first "pastoral intern."
At the time of the installation of Pastor Merz in March 1878, the congregation purchased the first church bell to be used to call the faithful to worship. This bell is still in use today, now ringing joyfully in its fourth building!--calling the faithful to Sunday worship, announcing other special services, and announcing the death of a member of the congregation (the "passing bell"--one stroke for each year of life.)
In 1882, Pastor Merz, now president of the Texas Synod, resigned to accept a call from the synod as a "traveling missionary", in which capacity he served until moving north in 1887 for health reasons.
Following the resignation of Pastor Merz, the congregation called the Rev. Ernst Huber as pastor. The exact dates of his call and installation are confusing, in the histories of the congregation he served; however it appears likely that Pastor Huber began his ministry in Welcome in early 1882. Little more in known of the congregation's history during the pastorate of Huber. He resigned as pastor in 1887 to accept a call to Zion Lutheran Church in Zionsville.
Former pastor John Moegle served the pastoral needs of the congregation following Huber's resignation, until the Rev. E. Schroeder accepted the congregation's call and began in ministry in July 1888. Pastor Schroeder served until his death in 1894, the congregation's only pastor to die while serving as pastor. Again, little in known of the congregation's history in these years.
In 1894, the Rev. Theo. Jud was called as pastor. He served the congregation until early 1897. In 1895 a majority of the pastors of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Texas, including Pastor Jud, withdrew from the Texas Synod to form the Texas District Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Iowa and Other States. These pastors questioned the confessional integrity of the General Council, to which the Texas Synod belonged, and preferred the more conservative approach of the Iowa Synod. (In those days, only pastors, not congregations themselves, were actual "members" of a synod.)
These pastors and the congregations they served, including our congregation in Welcome, eventually became a part of the American Lutheran Church in 1930, when the Iowa Synod agreed to that merger. Through the American Lutheran Church, our congregation is a member of the ELCA. Those pastors who chose not to withdraw also retained the name "Texas Synod", remained a member of the General Council, and eventually became a part of the Lutheran Church in America and then the ELCA.
On Easter Sunday1897, the congregation called as its pastor the Rev. David Lebahn. It was during the pastorate of Pastor Lebahn that the congregation unanimously decided to build a new house of worship, and the "second church" was dedicated on June 26, 1899 with an altar donated in 1898 by Herman Meier.
The "second church" was erected on the south side of the "Brenham Road" (FM 109) on the site of the present building, across the road from the "first church". After that time, the first church building was used exclusively for the Welcome Salem School. (Prior to 1899, the school was conducted in the same facilities used by the congregation for worship.)
Pastor Lebahn resigned in 1900, preaching his last sermon in the congregation on June 24. He accepted a call in the Wisconsin District Synod of the Iowa Synod and moved there. The congregation quickly called as pastor the Rev. William A.. ("Wally") Utesch, who was installed in July 1900.
Less than two months after Pastor Utesch's installation, on the evening of September 8-9, 1900, the newly constructed "second church" building was totally destroyed in the devastating "Great Galveston Hurricane". The original church building, now housing the Welcome Salem School, was miraculously undamaged!
On September 16, a service of Commemoration and Thanksgiving was celebrated in the original church, which was used again for worship until the construction of a new church building.
Fourteen days after the devastation of the "second church", the congregation appointed a building committee of 8 members of the congregation, and the cornerstone of the "third church"--on the site of the destroyed second building--was ceremoniously laid on October 28, 1900. Inscribed on the cornerstone were the words "Remember September 8!"
In December 1900, the congregation was officially incorporated under the laws of the State of Texas. The "third church" was dedicated on March 10, 1901, and the first official "Congregational Charter" was signed on March 14.
Pastor Utesch resigned on June 15, 1902 to accept a call to Cuero, Texas. After serving in Cuero for 15 years and in Wichita Falls for 4 years, Pastor Utesch returned to the area to serve as pastor of Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church of Salem (our closest neighbor!) and Eben Ezer congregation in Berlin for twenty years until his retirement in 1940.
The Rev. Gottlob Stricker of Zionsville was installed as pastor of the congregation on August 31, 1902. Shortly after the installation of Pastor Stricker, a men's choir was formally organized in the congregation. A new organ was donated to the congregation for use in the new church building in 1903 by members of the congregation; the first offering plates were donated by the 1903 confirmation class.
On March 25, 1904, Pastor Stricker was installed as pastor of St John Lutheran Church in Industry, Texas, serving there jointly with his ministry in Welcome.
On October 28, 1904, the Salem Welcome school was officially separated from the congregation and became a Texas public school. The congregation received one acre of land, in exchange for the first church building, and August Boecker became the first "public teacher" in the Welcome School.
Tragedy struck the congregation again in 1903 when typhoid fever raged through the Welcome community and the congregation for six months. The epidemic claimed the lives of many residents of the community and members of the congregation.
The 1906 confirmation class donated to the congregation a statue of Jesus Welcoming the Children. This statue still stands in the church today, in a special niche to the right of the altar.
In July 1908, Pastor Stricker accepted a call to Pflugerville, Texas, and in September 1908, the congregation called as its pastor the Rev. August Beteit. Pastor Beteit was already serving St. John, Bellville as pastor.
In August 1909 he was also called as pastor of St. John in Industry. Pastor Beteit served jointly as pastor of the Welcome, Bellville and Industry congregations until his resignation in 1913. Pastor Beteit was installed as pastor of the three congregations on August 9, 1909. He resigned in 1913 to accept a call to Waller, Texas.
In 1914, the congregation called as pastor the Rev. Jacob Appel from the Philipsburg community, just south of Welcome. Pastor Appel was the last of the congregation's pastors to have attended the St. Chrischona Mission School in Basel, Switzerland. Pastor Appel served the congregation for 19 years as pastor. Pastor Appel's son Carl J. Appel was the first member of the congregation to be ordained into the Lutheran ministry (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod). The date of his ordination is not clearly shown.
Although there is no evidence that the relationship devised by Pastor Beteit for the Bellville, Welcome and Industry congregations was officially dissolved, apparently Pastor Jacob Appel served only the Welcome congregation after his installation here in 1914.
Pastor Appel's 19-year ministry at Welcome was a time of much development and growth in the congregation. In 1916 the congregation voted to build a new parsonage (the "second parsonage") which was dedicated on Reformation Sunday, October 29, 1916 on the site of the present parsonage and across the road from the church.
The congregation's 50th Anniversary occurred on March 28, 1919. However, because of World War I, the celebration of the anniversary was delayed, and the festival Golden Anniversary was commemorated on November 2, 1919. The armistice of the war was signed just nine days later, on November 11, 1919.
During the last years of the war, there was substantial ill-feeling in the United States toward immigrants of German descent, especially after the United States entered the war in 1917. Those congregations, Welcome among them, that still used German exclusively were often suspect, unfairly and unjustly, by others. The German community in Welcome was quick to show their support for our country during the war and was spared much of the prejudice found in other places.
However, as students were all speaking English exclusively in the public schools, the congregation decided in 1921 that the rite of Confirmation would thereafter be conducted in English, so that friends of the families of confirmands could participate fully. (Confirmation instruction was continued in German). On Palm Sunday, March 28, 1921, the Confirmation Class was confirmed in English for the first time. Worship in the congregation was still conducted exclusively in German. However, possibly due to strong feelings in the congregation, the rite of Confirmation was conducted in both German and English between 1922 and 1930.
In December 1923, the congregation decided to close the original cemetery of 1869 to further burials because of considerations of space. A new cemetery was established in 1923 and located a few hundred yards east of the old cemetery.
On April 19, 1925, a windmill and cistern were erected next to the parsonage; no longer did the pastor's family have to "draw water from the well." These improvements greatly eased the life of Pastor Appel's family.
On April 19, 1927, Pastor Appel dedicated a beautiful marble Baptismal Font in the church. This font is still in use in the congregation today. In the same month, the congregation resolved to have one English worship service each month--in the evening on the second Sunday of each month. Later that year, in December, a second English service was added in the morning.
In December 1927, gasoline lamps were installed in the church building to replace old oil lamps and candles as the source of illumination. Electricity had not yet come to the Welcome community!
1930 was an eventful year in the life of the congregation. In that year the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Iowa and Other States merged with the Joint Synod of Ohio and the Buffalo Synod to form the American Lutheran Church. Until then, only pastors were considered members of synod. In 1930 congregations were allowed officially to join the American Lutheran Church, although Welcome did not take advantage of this opportunity right away.
In January 1930, the Luther League was officially re-established. An organization of Lutheran young people had existed in the congregation since 1917, but records of this organization were obscure and only a picture of the "Welcome Lutheran Youth Group" from 1917 appear to exist.
Also in 1930, the congregation decided to drop the use of German in the Confirmation Ministry of the congregation; from that year, Confirmation instruction and the rite of Confirmation have been conducted in English.
Prior to 1930, there had been no organized Sunday School in the congregation; religious instruction was still a part of the public school curriculum. However, in 1931, Otto Peters established the "Cross and Crown Pin System", a series of Sunday School classes for students in the first six grades of school. This small beginning has evolved into the present Welcome Lutheran Sunday School for pre-school through adulthood. Mr. Peters served as the first superintendent for the Sunday School.
In early 1934, Pastor Appel resigned after nearly two decades of service and accepted a call to Charlottenburg, Texas. He died in Charlottenburg after only two months there.
Following the resignation of Pastor Appel, the congregation was without a pastor for eight months. On November 18, 1934 the congregation called as pastor the Rev. Isaac M. Mansur of Priddy, Texas, and he was installed on January 10, 1935.
The Welcome Ladies Aid was organized on May 12, 1935 by twenty women of the congregation. This organization has continued its ministry in the congregation until the present, now known as Women of the ELCA. In 1967 the Bible Study circles were organized within the Ladies Aid, a practice still in use today.
The year 1935 also saw extensive renovations to the church building, now over 30 years old. The renovations included re-paneling and refinishing the inside of the building.
In 1937 the congregation decided to build a parish house next to the church building; the growth of the Sunday School meant that there was no longer room in the church building to hold all the students! This building continued to serve the congregation until the construction of the present Education Building in 1971.
July 2, 1939 was a momentous day in the life of the congregation . On that day the congregation voted officially to join the American Lutheran Church. (Pastors of the congregation had been members of the ALC since its founding in 1930; the congregation had at that time postponed a decision on congregational membership.)
Finally in March 1940, the congregation decided to install electric lights in all church buildings: the church, the parish house and the parsonage.
On December 17, 1941, Pastor Mansur and 16 men of the congregation met to form the Welcome Lutheran Brotherhood. Although inactive today, this organization, known since 1967 as the Welcome Lutheran Church Men, has been significant in the history of the congregation since its founding. It was, for example, a meeting of the Brotherhood in 1953 which first urged the Church Council to call a congregational meeting to consider building a new church building.
For many years, the Brotherhood assumed responsibility for the upkeep and the maintenance of the church, parish house and parsonage, as well as the cemetery. For some years the Brotherhood organized and conducted an annual "Laymen's Sunday" in the congregation.
The congregation celebrated its 75th anniversary in Welcome on March 28, 1944 with a festival worship service and a barbeque on the grounds.
Pastor Mansur resigned in the summer of 1944 to move to Clifton, Texas. In October 1944 the congregation called the Rev Walter O. L. Wolf of Gonzales, Texas as pastor. Pastor Wolf was installed on November 12, 1944.
The next year, in December 1945, the congregation took another step in its transition from German to English: all congregational minutes would thereafter be recorded in English rather than German. And in December 1946, the constitution of the congregation was translated for the first time into English. Shortly thereafter, the new English-language constitution was translated back into German for those members who could not read English well!
By January 1947, the congregation had decided to have English services on the first, third and fifth Sundays of each month. But German-language services continued to hang on: In 1961 the congregation approved two services each week, one in English and one in German. This arrangement seems to have continued throughout Pastor Wolf's ministry in Welcome. German services appear to have been discontinued in 1966.
By 1949, the parish house was no longer large enough to house the Sunday School and it was enlarged and refurbished, and rededicated in 1950.
In mid-1953, at the urging of the Brotherhood of the congregation, the Church Council called a special congregational meeting to consider the possibility of building a new church building to replace the 53-old present structure. After a survey of members and their pledges to the project, the congregation approved the building project in January 1954. The final service was conducted in the "third church" building on June 6, 1954. The structure was then demolished and the cornerstone for the "fourth church"--the present structure--was laid on October 14, 1954. The building was dedicated on March 20, 1955, the congregation's 86th anniversary.
By 1957, the need for a new parsonage to replace the 1916 structure was a pressing issue for the congregation. On March 31, 1957 the congregation approved the demolition of the parsonage and the construction of a "third parsonage" on the same site. This new parsonage was dedicated on November 17, 1957.
Recognizing the importance of the growing educational program of the congregation, a parish education committee was established in May 1959. The ministry of this committee is now lived out in the Board of Parish Education.
On January 10, 1960, the final steps of the merger of the American Lutheran Church with other Lutheran church bodies in the United States was completed, and The American Lutheran Church (the "new ALC") was born. At that time, the Welcome Ladies Aid changed its name to American Lutheran Church Women and Ladies Aid.
In 1964, the congregation enlarged the new cemetery by purchasing two adjacent acres to make room for eventual expansion. A new chain-link fence was installed around the cemetery, with plans to move the fence toward the road when necessary to expand the cemetery.
On February 20, 1966, Pastor Wolf announced his retirement after 50 years as a Lutheran pastor, the last 21 years in the Welcome congregation--effective on the day a new pastor was installed. In a meeting on March 9, 1966, the congregation called the Rev. Charles R. Davis of Berkeley, California to be pastor. Pastor Davis was installed on July 3, 1966. On Pastor's Wolf's last Sunday, June 26, 1966, the congregation also celebrated Pastor Wolf's 50th Anniversary of ordination into the Lutheran ministry.
An era passed at Welcome with the retirement of Pastor Walter Wolf. Pastor Wolf was the last pastor whose "family language" was originally German; he was the last pastor to conduct a regularly-scheduled German service in the congregation; he was the last pastor to wear the traditional German black pulpit robe to conduct services; and he was the last pastor to be born in the 19th century.
Pastor Charles R. Davis was installed as pastor of the Welcome congregation on July 3, 1966. A 1966 graduate of Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, he was ordained on May 29, 1966 and moved to Welcome at the end of June.
There were many changes in the congregation during the short pastorate of Pastor Davis. He was the first pastor of the congregation to use the cassock and surplice as the attire for presiding at worship. Monthly celebrations of Holy Communion were instituted, replaced the practice of Holy Communion only once every three months. Central heating and air conditioning were installed in the parsonage for the first time. The Board of Parish Education was reorganized. A stewardship committee was formed.
On September 1, 1966, the first issue of the congregation's newsletter Good News was published. In order to facilitate mailing the newsletter, the congregation purchased its first bulk-mailing postal permit.
On November 20, 1966, the congregation dedicated and used for the first time the Service Book and Hymnal of The American Lutheran Church. This hymnal had been published jointly in 1958 by those churches which would soon form The American Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church in America.
In January 1967, the "church dues" method of raising revenue was discontinued and was replaced by a total stewardship program of annual pledges and free-will giving.
The congregation was approaching its 100th anniversary; recognizing the significance of this anniversary, the congregation appointed a Centennial Executive Committee in October 1967 and charged the committee with planning the celebration still 18 months away. In December 1967, through diligent work and planning of the American Lutheran Church Women, Welcome's Chrismon Tree was first put together. The congregation still celebrates with a Chrismon tree each Christmas season.
In 1968 a Memorials Committee was established to encourage and administer memorial gifts made to the congregation. This committee continues its ministry today. In the same year a new constitution was approved by the congregation, and Bible Study circles were formed by the American Lutheran Church Women to promote small group Bible study among its members.
For the very first time in 1968, the congregation published a picture directory of all the members of the congregation. More than 80% of the members participated in this project, though the concept of picture directories was still new at the time. Later that same year, the church parking lot was paved with asphalt.
As the centennial year of 1969 began, an Altar Guild was formed to care for the altar and communion ware. This group still faithfully cares for the entire chancel area of the church building.
On March 28, 1969, the actual date of the centennial of the congregation, a special choir festival service was held; the service featured choirs from nine local congregations, and more than 460 people were noted as present. The Festival Centennial Celebration took place on April 20, 1969, with morning and afternoon services and a barbeque in nearby Bleiblerville.
Shortly after the centennial, in May 1969, Pastor Davis resigned to continue his studies for specialized ministry to become an institutional chaplain. On July 20, 1969, the Rev. Frederick Luther Bracher from Bartlett, Texas was installed as pastor of the congregation.
To mark the Centennial of the congregation, the Texas State Historical Society placed a Historical Marker on the front lawn of the congregation. The marker was dedicated on April 12, 1970, unveiled by Mrs. Louisa Thielemann, the oldest living member of the congregation.
Already in 1968, the Board of Parish Education and the Sunday School teachers were concerned that the Parish House was no longer large enough to contain the congregation's educational program. By 1969, the congregation had begun planning for a new building to replace the old Parish House. The plans were approved by the congregation in 1970, and the new Educational Building, attached by a glass-enclosed foyer attached to the church building, was dedicated on December 5, 1970.
A new organ for the congregation's worship was purchased and dedicated on January 21, 1979, and, on the next Sunday, the congregation honored Mrs. Selma Schultz for her faithful and dedicated service as church organist from 1944-1978 -- 34 years!
In 1980, after years of sweating through the hot Texas summer, the church building was air-conditioned, thanks to a bequest to the congregation from the estate of Mrs. Malinda Brinkmeyer. In previous years, health and allergy problems due to the summer heat and humidity had prevented some members from joining the congregation in worship.
In 1982, Pastor Bracher retired after a ministry of 13 years at Welcome, and the congregation called the Rev. Alvin J. Luedke as pastor; he was installed on August 1, 1982. Pastor Luedke was the first pastor called by the congregation directly from the seminary.
It was during Pastor Luedke's time at Welcome that the Brenham area congregations joined Lutherans around the world in celebration the 400th anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther in 1983. The Welcome congregation was very visible in the celebrations, participating with a float in the festival parade in Brenham; there was also a booth displaying a replica of the third church (1900-1954), and the congregation's very first organ, brought to the congregation by Welcome's first pastor, John Moegle.
A special fellowship time for senior members of the congregation was initiated in 1987, to which both members and nonmembers of the congregation were invited. This seniors fellowship is still active today in the congregation, meeting each month for a time of games and refreshments. Among the participants are some very sharp and fast "42" players!
On January 1, 1988, Welcome congregation became a part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America when The American Lutheran Church, of which it was a member, merged with the Lutheran Church in America and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches. Pastor Luedke was thus the last pastor of The American Lutheran Church to serve the congregation.
Pastor Luedke resigned as pastor of Welcome congregation in February 1988 to continue his studies in the Bryan/College Station area. After a number of months of careful planning, thought and deliberation, the congregation called as pastor the Rev. Walter P. Schindehette.
Pastor Schindehette was installed on September 8, 1988. Pastor Schindehette had served as a pastor of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in Meridian, Mississippi and Chalmette, Louisiana, until the formation of the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches as a result of the theological controversies in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in the early 1970's. He and his congregation in Chalmette, Louisiana, helped form the AELC. Pastor Schindehette also served a congregation in east Texas before coming to Brenham.
nder Pastor Schindehette's leadership a series of Mission Festivals was inaugurated in 1989 and the congregation became active in mission with the West End Christian Community Organization (WECCO) in Austin County and in the development and support of Misión San Pablo, a Hispanic congregation in Weslaco, Texas.
Life in the congregation changed radically on the morning of April 7, 1992. At 7:13 a.m., a series of explosions resulted from a leak in a liquid propane storage facility in Wesley community just north of the church. The six explosions, each more powerful than the last, were measured at Rice University in Houston, Texas--more than 70 miles away--at 4.4 on the Richter scale, the force of a moderately destructive earthquake.
The epicenter of the blasts was just 1½ miles northwest of the church, and the destruction in the immediate area was immense--trees sheared to the ground, hundred of cattle killed in the fields. Fortunately, no members of the congregation were killed in the explosions, although many members sustained heavy damage from the blast. The northwest facade of the church building was in a direct line with the blast surge, and almost all of the colored glass windows in the church, as well as most of the windows in the Education Building and some in the parsonage, were destroyed by the force of the blast and the backdraft that followed. In the church building, the windows all imploded, driving small shards of glass into virtually every part of the carpet and imbedding glass fragments into most of the wooden pews. Miraculously, the stained glass windows above the altar survived the blast! Although the frames were damaged, the glass was intact and remains today.
The protective hand of God was clearly upon the congregation that day; Pastor Schindehette and his wife had finished breakfast and left the kitchen area only minutes before the blast shattered the windows and scattered glass throughout the kitchen. A funeral of a long-time member, which would have drawn hundreds of worshippers, had been planned that same morning. Had the blast occurred only three hours later, hundreds would have been killed in the storm of shattered glass fragments that wrecked the sanctuary.
The architect hired by the congregation to do a blast assessment damage report and to determine whether the building was structurally sound was amazed to find that the church had been, in his words, "built like a medieval fortress" and was still structurally sound, despite having borne the full power of the blast. The original architect of the building had used hardened steel pillars and beam and girders, instead of the typical wooden materials. Despite the all-steel superstructure and a six-inch facing of solid stone, the blast blew the building 4 inches off perpendicular, so great was its force.
The careful analysis by the consulting architect resulted in a substantial insurance settlement for the damage and enabled the congregation to replace the destroyed colored glass windows with beautiful and brilliant stained glass along both sides of the nave, matching the stained glass above the altar which had survived the blast. The windows were created by Cavellini Studios of San Antonio, Texas. All of the renovations to the church building, Educational Building and parsonage were completed in September 1993.
Several acres of land adjacent to the new cemetery were exchanged with an adjoining landowner in 1994, thereby providing a better location for expansion of the cemetery as needed. A new chain-link fence was erected around the cemetery at that time.
The congregation approved the purchase of safe playground equipment for the use and entertainment of families in the congregation in 1995. This equipment was set up in the lot behind the Educational Building. Also in 1995, new liquid wax candles were purchased for the sanctuary, eliminating the problem of wax dripping on the carpet; drafts from the air-conditioning system frequently caused candles to burn unevenly and the Altar Guild was too frequently cleaning wax out of the carpet. In 1998, a new Advent Wreath using liquid candles was added to the sanctuary's worship decor.
The Welcome Lutheran Scholarship Fund was established in 1994 to help support persons studying for the ministry or other professional church work. William Jones was the first recipient of a Welcome Lutheran Scholarship. Recipients of these scholarships are students studying at the Lutheran Seminary Program of the Southwest in Austin, and a scholarship is awarded each academic year to a student suggested by the seminary and approved by the Scholarship Committee. Welcome Lutheran has thus been active in encouraging persons, much needed by the church, to study for ministry.
1996 saw the introduction of a new worship resource, the supplemental hymnal With One voice.
Lightning struck the church building in early 1997, severely damaging and disabling the organ purchased in 1979. After worshipping for six months without an organ, the congregation voted to purchase a magnificent new Rodgers computer-electronic organ to lead the congregation in worship. The organ is a state-of-the-art computerized instrument that speaks both from the back and front of the church with Swell, Great and Pedal divisions. Also in 1997 the congregation purchased its first computer system, thanks to a special memorial gift. Entering the "computer age" was something of a culture shock for the congregation and its staff; but the computer has proved invaluable in record-keeping and the production of worship materials.
In 1998, Pastor Schindehette and Anne decided to move into a home of their own and moved out of the parsonage. During the next four years, the parsonage was available as an additional meeting space.
In August 2000, Pastor Schindehette announced to the congregation his intention to retire in June 2001 after 13 faithful and wonderful years as pastor of the congregation. Following Pastor Schindehette's resignation, the congregation began anew the search for a pastor, and on January 27, 2002, the congregation called the Rev. Boyd Faust as its 18th pastor. Pastor Faust, ordained in the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in 1976, served parishes in Chicago, Illinois, Jamestown, North Dakota and Fort Worth, Deanville and Rosenberg, Texas before serving for nearly five years as a missionary pastor with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Central African Republic. Pastor Faust was installed at Welcome on March 17, 2002.
A new computer system for the congregation was purchased in June 2002, thanks to a gift from the Memorials Committee. With this new system, the congregation is now prepared to put all its official records on computer media to safeguard these documents, some of which are over 130 years old. A second computer system was purchased in addition to this one in 2005 and is currently being loaded with those historical records.
In order to continue the relationship developed during the 1990's with Misión San Pablo in Weslaco, Texas, the congregation planned a "Rally Weekend and Fiesta" in early September 2002, including bilingual worship and sharing bi-cultural food and games. More than 30 members of the congregation of San Pablo journeyed to Welcome on that first weekend in September for the Fiesta para despedir al verano - our "Farewell to Summer" festival.
Unfortunately, Pastor Boyd Faust suffered a series of serious heart attacks in autumn 2002, culminating in a massive attack in September and another less severe in October. Although major surgery and lengthy therapy gave some original hope of recovery and the ability to continue as pastor, Pastor Faust was forced by his physical disability to resign as pastor of the Welcome Place at the end of March 2003. During Pastor Faust's disability, the new confirmation program was put "on hold", as our sister congregation, Salem Lutheran Church of Salem, and its pastors Derrick and Widner came to our assistance in providing for our confirmation ministry.
Thanks to the generous donations from members and friends of the congregation and of Welcome Lutheran Cemetery, a new Pavilion was erected on the grounds of the new cemetery in October 2003. Graveside services and committals will be conducted in the pavilion to avoid damage to the gravesites during inclement weather by heavy vehicles and funeral cars. The open-sided pavilion will be fitted with a drop-canvas on the north side to protect mourners from inclement weather and heavy winds.
After a long vacancy in the pulpit at Welcome Lutheran, the church call committee announced at its 135th Anniversary in March 2004 their intention of calling a young pastor, the Rev. Jason Korthauer of Brenham. Pastor Korthauer had been serving St. John Lutheran Church in Cat Spring until he accepted the call to come to Welcome in May of 2004. Pastor Korthauer was a good fit bringing along with him to the congregation a piece of its own history given to him by a member of his former church in Cat Spring, Helen Kurtz. It was a bible from Welcome Lutheran's very first pastor, John Moegle. Slowly under the direction of Pastor Korthauer drifting members returned, Sunday school attendance increased, and Welcome Lutheran actively sought new members, new opportunities for mission, and all ways to continue our tradition of faithful service to Christ's mission in the world.
In the fall of 2007, Rev. Korthauer accepted a call in New Mexico. On March 1, 2008, Rev. David M. Klak began his ministry as the pastor of Welcome Lutheran. He had been ordained in the ELCA in 1999 and served congregations in Wilmington, Geneseo and Joliet, Illinois, as well as Rosenberg, Texas, before accepting the call to Welcome. He and his wife, Rhonda, arrived with their children Jillian, 5, and Jackson, 1, and during the first month worked hard with the congregation as Welcome Lutheran remodeled the parsonage A major part of the project was adding a new bedroom just in time for the arrival of their third child on April 2, 2008 -- Lila. During Rev. Klak's tenure, the congregation returned to a more traditional liturgical form of worship, saw an increase in attendance, and welcomed many new folks into the family of God.
In the fall of 2010, Welcome Lutheran felt called by God to make the decision to leave the ELCA, due to the ELCA's long-term drift away from the more traditional teachings and practices of the Lutheran faith, and decided to join the new North American Lutheran Church (NALC). This was, then, the second time in their history that Welcome had moved to a more conservative, confessional denomination (see 1895 above). However, this time it was not only the pastor (and other pastors of the ELCA who felt the move was necessary); the congregation had to make the choice also. While it was not an easy decision or process, most felt sure the congregation had made a faithful decision.
In February of 2011, the congregation then decided to make a name change. Having been officially known as Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church of Welcome, but publically and informally known by the more familiar name of Welcome Lutheran Church, the congregation voted to officially change their name to "Welcome Lutheran Church." The congregation also began the task of examining its ministry to the poor and suffering in the world (through a newly formed Stewardship and Evangelism team), as well as began to enhance their musical offerings at worship - through choirs and special music. Welcome Lutheran is also exploring ways to enhance Sunday School opportunities and fellowship events, such as the new annual tradition of a Polka Service, which was held for the first time in the fall of 2009, in celebration of the congregations 140th anniversary.
The congregation of Welcome has a long history of ministry in this community, and, as 2012 unfolds, is excited about the future ministries and callings the Lord has for us.
"You are always welcome at Welcome Lutheran"