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A Reconciling in Christ Congregation

Saint Mark Lutheran Church

The Beginnings

The OREGON STATESMAN of April 7, 1927, Carried an article which included the following: “A survey made sometime ago revealed the fact that there were almost a thousand persons in Salem of Germanic and Scandinavian parentage who would be favorably disposed to the organization of a Lutheran Church in the American Language.

Responding to the need . . .

The old Presbyterian Church was for sale. Victor Schneider, prominent realtor and one of the organizing forces of the establishment of a new ” American ” Lutheran Church, began negotiations for its purchase, finally securing it for $16,000.00

April 7th   ” The first service of the new ” American Lutheran Church” will be held this  Sunday afternoon, April 10, 1927 at 4 o’clock in the Presbyterian church. Rev. Luther B. Deck, President of the Southern Conference, will conduct the service.”

Summer 1927   The name AMERICAN LUTHERAN CHURCH was adopted because ” we wanted a name that savored of no bi-lingualism a name that indicated the American language only.”

October 23  An organizing meeting was called for the purpose of selecting the council and calling a pastor. The first council of eight: R.A. Horn, R.C. Arpke, J.A. Sholseth, Joseph Finden, George Quesseth, A.F. Homyer, John Dyrland and Victor Schneider.

Pastor P.W. Ericksen of Seattle was called to be the first pastor of the American Lutheran Church.

April 8  Formal application was made for admission to the Pacific Synod.

April 17,1928  Received from the Corporation Department of Oregon the Certificate of Articles of Incorporation of the American Lutheran Church of Salem.

The Thirties . . .

The decade of the thirties was one of world-wide depression and unemployment ushering out the Republican regime of Hoover and in the longest presidential tenure in American history-that of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler rose to power and the Socialists gained political control in the Scandinavian countries. Oregon suffered two disastrous fires: the Tillamook Burn and the Capital building in Salem. Itself had grown to a city of 26,000, and our American Lutheran Church boasted a membership of 228.

The Year 1931

“In Mr. Gehlar, our Sunday School superintendent, we had a leader that was very aggressive and enterprising and through his efforts our Sunday School became one of the most active and well attended in the city.”

December 31  The church celebrated its fourth anniversary and President D.D. Kistler of the Pacific Synod came to deliver the address.  Total membership exceeded 350.

The Year 1932

January 17  Included in the pastor’s message at the annual meeting: “The choir under the leadership of William McGilchrist has served the church well and the church is duly proud. A Voluntary choir is an asset to any church. It encourages latent talent and gives room for expression in song and praise unto the Lord.”

June   The Pacific Synod held its convention at the young Salem church.

End of the year Membership was brought up to 399

The Year 1933

March 5  The Pacific Lutheran College Choir presented a concert in our church to a capacity audience. Christ Lutheran Church sponsored the concert jointly with our congregation. “In every congregation there are always some pessimists who  grumble and question the wisdom of carrying on church work during times of such depression-but more in the congregation seemed to be optimists and “in Reverend Ericksen we had just the kind of leader we needed. He was a very hard worker and intensely eager to make the American Lutheran Church in Salem a success.”

The Congregation grew to 411 by the end of the year.

The Year 1934

September  The church began broadcasting its entire church service over KSLM

The Year 1935

Due to the absence of much of the church records for the years 1935, 1936, 1937 and 1938 the history is extremely sketchy. Ruth Dedford replaced Gladys Edgar as organist.

December 13  A special Christmas concert was presented by the choir, the Men’s Chorus and the Salem Madrigal Club under the direction of Professor E.H. Hobeson.

The Year 1936

January 5  This was a memorable day in the life of the congregation when with impressive ceremony, it burned its note of $927.00

The Year 1937

October 3  designated Homecoming Day. “The  purpose in mind was to select a day early in the fall when all members might be assembled for a religious and social gathering of such a nature that would interest members and their friends.” Dr. Pohlman of Philadelphia, former missionary to Africa was the special speaker.

The Year 1938

At the beginning of the year R.H. Poff replaced Dr. A.S. Jenson, Dean of Education at Monmouth, as Sunday School Superintendent. Professor E.W. Hobson was director of music and Ruth Bedford, organist.

The Tri-L-Club (Little Lutheran Ladies) was organized for teenage girls. The purpose “To gather teenage girls for Christ to serve the church, to develop Christian ideals and build character.”

Lorraine Guthrie served as the first president.

December 2  The Ladies Guild put on what is called a Lutefisk Dinner. This is a common feast in Scandinavia. The “wage-earning young people reconditioned the interior.”

Total membership: 791

The Year 1939

September  The purchase price of the church had been reduced by $10,000.00.   Oscar Liudahl accepted the Sunday School Superintendency.

The Forties . . .

The Year 1940

January  A cabinet form of government for the church was adopted for one year: Personnel, Property, Auditing, Radio, Publicity, Finance, Fellowship, Choir, Congregational Singing, Men’s Activities, Young People’s work, Confirmation, Welfare and Goodwill.

The Year 1941

September 7  The church still functioned as a mission church. Pastor Ericksen tendered his resignation and announced his acceptance of a call to El Paso, Texas, thus bringing to a close the opening chapters in the life of the Salem American Lutheran Church and a nearly fourteen year pastorate.

September 28 Pastor Ericksen preached his final sermon.

September 29  Under the leadership of Ralph Skopil, vice-chairman of the congregation, and Dr. Sawyer, president of the Synod,  a call was extended to the Reverend Mark A. Getzendanner of Davenport, Iowa.

October 31 Pastor Getzendanner accepted the call. Due to the illness of Mrs. Getzendanner, their arrival in Salem was delayed until January of 1942.

November  Pastor Beistal of Eugene agreed to serve as temporary pastor-spending three days per week in Salem. The Thomas Allports, strong workers in the church, left for Midland College to prepare fro his entrance into the ministry.

December  PEARL HARBOR changed everything. Alfred Quesseth and Verdie Sederstrom gave their lives for their country there.

The Year 1942

January 18  First service conducted by Dr. M.A. Getzendanner.

February 8 Dr. M.A. Getzendanner installed by Dr. Sawyer, Pacific Synod president, as the second pastor of the American Lutheran Church of Salem.

October  Ladies of the church sewed for the Red Cross.

The Year 1943

January  A  constitutional change in council tenure provided upon expiration of a councilman’s term, there would be no re-election of said councilman until a period of one year had elapsed.

First time the question was raised concerning change in the name of the church because the present name conflicted with that  of the American Lutheran Synod.

First time two years was required for catechetical instruction.

June 21  A special meeting of the Church Council was held to consider purchase of three lots at the southeast corner of North Cottage and Chemeketa Streets for future building purposes.

October  Professor Maurice Brennen was obtained as choir director. Later he took over as organist.

The Years 1944, 1945 and 1946

Many men from the congregation served in the war.

We all took Camp Adair boys home for Sunday dinner.

As Sunday School rooms were needed the men “just dug another hole in the ground in that terrible old basement” Volunteers regularly chopped wood for the old furnace and Mrs. Majella Barnes was one of the most faithful at ” throwing the wood into the basement”

October 1945  And -sometime between April and August of 1945, the American Lutheran Church of Salem voted to become SAINT MARK LUTHERAN CHURCH.

The Year 1947

The Sunday School grew and flourished during these years.

The Year 1948

The Rev. John L. Baglien became the first associate pastor of Saint Mark. Much effort in the late Forties was devoted to keeping up and repairing the church building.

The Year 1949

With the Sunday School enrollment at 230, the question of space became more critical. The Boosters Club was funded for any and all over thirty-five years of age. This was the first year for a Junior Choir at Saint Mark.

The Fifties . . .

The Year 1950

June  David Getzendanner ordained.

July 1  Miss Helen Corwin joined the staff as Saint Mark’s first Parish Worker.

Summer  A two-week vacation Bible school was held.

 The Year 1951

Mid-Year  Pastor Getzendaner resigned.

October  Pastor John L. Cauble arrived from Longview, Washington, with his wife, Jenny and their three sons, to become the third pastor of Saint Mark Lutheran Church.

Christmas  With fire extinguishers under the pews, men stationed themselves about the church proper in readiness to snuff out any fire that  might burst forth in that  a tinder box during the festival candlelight services.

The Year 1952


January19  Midland College Choir presented a concert at Saint Mark under the sponsorship of the choir. Vic Palmason was the choir director.

The Dorcas, Priscilla and Vesper Circles were the first circles to be organized within the Guild.

October  All former pastors joined in the special anniversary festivities and banquet at Saint Mark.

The Pastor’s annual report of 1952 included: ” every church has its unsung heroes…Faithfully week after week Arline Meyer prints the church bulletin. The folding and inserting is done early Sunday mornings by Mrs. Ralph Barnes and her two sons, Frederick and Maux.

The Year 1953

January 11  The church voted “to establish our future church on the present church site… and to proceed with a building program at the earliest possible date”.

December  The Council recommended that no further plans should be made for the property at Winter and D Streets.

The Year 1954

January  Dr. Bertram Trelstad was appointed chairman of the Special Building Site Committee. Because the property adjacent to the church was sold to the bank, Saint Mark was forced to change its plans and look elsewhere for a site on which to build its new church.

April 4  At a special congregational meeting, the congregation voted the Council authority to sell the present church and site and purchase the property at Marion and  Winter Streets.

September  Dr. Bertram Trelstad was appointed chairman of the building committee. Serving with him were Mrs. E.W. Hillstrom, secretary, Pastor John Cauble, Deryl Currie, Mrs. Arnold Olson, Alvin Randal and Lionel Trommlitz. Vice-Presidents who served as Building Committee members during their terms of office include: 1954, O.K. Nielsen, 1955 Paul Riensche, 1956 C.E. Jaqua, 1957, Alvin Randall, 1958, Dr. Allan Ferrin.

October 7  The STATESMAN headlined its article: “Saint Mark Lutheran sells North Church street property to the Commercial Bank for $80,000.00”.

The Guild sent packages of clothing, quilts, medical supplies to the Rocky Boy Mission in Liberia.

The Year 1955

The Baptized membership had now reached 1,064, the confirmed 686, the Sunday School enrollment, 407.

Mr. Harold E. Wagoner of Philadelphia, eminent church architect, met with the Building Committee and the church Council to begin work on the church plans.

May 29  three Saint Mark young men entered the service of the church through ordination rites: Howard Baumgart, Melvin Langeland and Edward Meyer.

The Year 1956

January  Funds were budgeted to place THE LUTHERAN magazine in the home of every member.

July and August  First time two services were held on Sunday  mornings.

September  The Guild changed its name to United Lutheran Church Women and adopted the national plan of re-organization to conform with those accepted at the National Convention in Cleveland in 1955

November Two morning services became a permanent arrangement.

December 2  Plans were accepted for the new half-million dollar structure designed by Architect Harold Wagoner and assisted by William I. Williams of Salem.

The Year 1957

Saint Mark began building its new church home.

January 20  The Congregation approved the building plans and Eisenhower was sworn into office for his 2nd term.

March 10  First Sunday in Lent, Saint Mark held its Blessing of the Church Site and Ground Breaking Rites.

September 27  The Cornerstone Laying service was conducted.

April 3  First concrete footings were poured.

July 12  After volunteers from the church unloaded all the Colorado limestone, the first stone was laid by Jack Holt, Foreman.

September  The church property at Winter and D Streets was sold to the State.

December  And this year Weston La Munyon, another son of the congregation was ordained. Pews from the old church were given to Faith Lutheran at Keizer and Trinity Lutheran at McMinnville.

December 30-31  AFTER THIRTY YEARS OF SERVICE AND GROWTH FROM 55 TO THE PRESENT MEMBERSHIP OF 1224, THE MOVE WAS MADE FROM THE OLD CHURCH TO THE NEW CHURCH BASEMENT.  Chairs generously loaned from Willamette University gave Saint Markers something to sit upon.

The Year of the New – 1958


March  The parsonage at 945 Summer Street was sold for $9,500.

May 19-22  Salem and Saint Mark hosted the Fifty-Eighth Annual Convention of the Pacific Synod.

July 17  First meeting held to consider the establishment of a Mid-Valley Lutheran home for the aged.

October 21  Special mission service held with Melvin Langeland, missionary to Liberia, and Edward B. Meyer, both sons of Saint Mark Congregation.

December 25  The Sunday School provided Chemawa Indian School with “several hundred white Christmas gifts”. (This they repeated for many subsequent years.)

The Year 1959

Dr. Steinhoff retired as Synod president.

A Men’s Wednesday morning devotional breakfast was instituted under Dr. Allan Ferrin’s leadership.

Nona Osko joined the staff as parish worker.

October  The decade of the 1950’s closes with the Saint Mark congregation-1,488 strong-at home in its new church.

The Sixties

Although the Sixties were years of riot, years when the world lost great leaders, the Sixties were the epoch-making time of bringing the moon within man’s grasp.  Who will ever forget the awesome experience shared as we sat in our homes and watched the two Americans, Neil Armstrong and Ray “Buzz” Aldrin, set foot upon the moon and heard spoken to us across space Neil Armstrong’s now famous words:  “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.

In Oregon we were long effected by the Columbus Day storm of 1962.

The congregation had grown to the point where Pastor Cauble could not carry on the leadership alone.  During this period we enjoyed fine work and association with student interns among whom were David Augersbach, Richard Lyons and Jon Hellstedt.

1960  Marvin Langeland was ordained.

June 1961  Paul Rienshe and David Angersbach were ordained.

Willamette Lutheran Home construction began.

Miriam Circle began publication of the  TELL-U-SCOPE newsletter. (This was the beginning of what later became THE SAINT MARK MESSENGER and now THE MARKER.)

1962  The year of the new Lutheran Church in America.

March 1  Fire in the new church began in the library and burned  out the entire youth room. Damages exceeded $26,000.00. Pastor and Mrs. Cauble were given three months’ leave and a trip around the world.

The marble figure of Christ was ordered from Antonio Biondi in Rome.

1963  The Reverend Glen Sachs was called to serve as the first associate pastor in the new church.

The Year 1964

June  The Parent property was purchased and used for Sunday School purposes.

July   Harold Wagoner, architect, was again employed to design the Educational Wing.

October     The Lutheran Church Women continued year after year their regular good works at the State Hospital, at Fairview, at the Deaf School and at other institutions..

The Years 1965 and 1966

1965  The Lutheran Church women gathered books for Borneo.

1966  The Social ministry spearheaded assistance to the Valley Migrant League through a child care program.

Pastor Leonard Nelson arrived as the new Associate Pastor.

The three houses on the church property were razed in preparation for the Sunday School wing construction.

November  The congregation accepted the plans for the education wing estimated to cost $283,000.00, and the bids were let.

The Year 1967

In the fortieth year of the life of the congregation,  a new education building wing was dedicated.

May 14  On Pentecost Sunday, three bells rang from the church tower for the first time. This gift to the church came from the estate of the Reverend Peter W. and Elvena Ericksen- he the first pastor of the of the church.

The SAINT MARKER a monthly congregational newsletter came into being.

The Luther League, to conform with the church at large, became the YOUTH MINISTRY with the hope of re-vitalization and expansion.

The Year 1968

June  Pastor Nelson resigned and Pastor Dennis Martalla began his ministry as associate pastor for Saint Mark.

July 23  The Reverend John L. Cauble died at the age of sixty-three.

His seventeen-year pastorate evidenced tremendous strides in congregational growth.

September  Dr. Larry Steinhoff was called to serve as interim pastor of the church.

The Year 1969

Saint Mark changed its constitution to permit a layman to serve in the capacity of president of the congregation and the council.

January  Dr. Larry Steinhoff was installed as Saint Mark’s fourth minister.

February  The church sponsored the St. Olaf Choir Concert.

May  Dr. Horace McGee became Chairman  of the new committee-the Lutheran Fine Arts Committee, as it came to be known. Funded anonymously, this gift would provide an annual grant to promote the religious fine arts in the areas of music, drama and the visual arts. Mrs. W.W. (Irene) Hillstrom became office administrator and co-coordinator of all activities.

September  The kindergarten project became a reality with Libby Brennen as supervisor.

October 19  First Lutheran Fine Arts Festival presented.

The Seventies . . .

1970 April  George Quesseth, first secretary of the congregation, presented to the church a history of Saint Mark from its formation through 1944.

June 21  Lynn Ertsgaard was ordained.

September 21  The first woman intern arrived at Saint Mark in the person of Miss Joan Lepley.

The Year 1972

June 25  The stained glass windows of the east were dedicated to the memory of the Reverend John Cauble.

June 30  Dr. Larry Steinhoff who so graciously left retirement to help Saint Mark through a most difficult period, now stepped down.

Pastor Martalla resigned.

The Year 1973

January 7  The Reverend Christian J. Thearle was installed at the fifth pastor of Saint Mark Lutheran Church.

October 7  The Reverend Randall C. Olson installed as Assistant Pastor.

October  Ministry by objectives began as new management process.

The Year 1974

January 9  Dr. Donald Deffner visiting theologian.

March 13 Dr. Kenneth Chrisopherson visiting theologian.

March 20  Mr. Jack Elshire joined staff as Business Administrator.

June 26  Chapel renovation dedicated to memory of Elizabeth Ferrin.

November 23  Dr. Theodore Mattson visiting theologian.

September   Valerie McIntosh engaged as Director of Music

The Year 1975

July 25  Pastor Thearle left for one year of study. (Sabbatical)

April 30  Larry Brown became new church organist.

August  Pastor James Bornzin arrived to assist pastor Olson.

November  Pastor William Lesher, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Visiting Theologian.

The Year 1976

February  Bicentennial cantata ushered in 200th Anniversary of USA.

April  Dr. A. G. Fjellman visiting theologian.

August Pastor Thearle returned from one-year leave of absence.

September  Parish-wide coffees instituted to close relationship gap.

The Year 1977

Fiftieth anniversary year begins with new hope, new insights and a new sense of mission.

Rev. Randall Olson, Associate Pastor left for a new parish and Dr. Joseph Sittler joined us as visiting theologian.

A study was begun to provide a new organ.

Lutheran Fine Art held a two-week exhibit at the Salem Public Library.

The Year 1978

The Holy Family statue for the courtyard was ordered as a memorial gift to Saint Mark.

Raymond King joined the staff to reinforce objectives in Christian education.

The Jean Marie Peters Saint Mark Lutheran Church Memorial Scholarship Fund was established.

The Year 1979

The congregation began using the new Lutheran Book of Worship.

Marge Vavrick retired as parish assistant after twenty-five years of service.  She was succeeded by Nancy Tang Merzenich.


The Eighties

The Year 1980

The Social Ministry Committee geared up to involve the people of Saint Mark in larger issues.  We helped a refugee family, supported work for indigent people, offered fellowship for senior adults and challenged the minds of our members.

There was a leadership retreat for youth of the Lutheran churches of Salem.  The youth also staffed spring vacation school and Vacation Church School, went caroling to Saint Mark homes, and took gifts to patients at the State Hospital.

The Year 1981

Theresa Sawtell joined the staff as secretary.

In April the organ was removed from the chancel and the new Schantz organ was installed.

Saint Mark Youth Committee hosted the Southern District Luther League Convention.

Jean Anderson became the first woman President of the parish.

The Year 1982

There was talk of a merger by representatives for the Lutheran Church in America, the American Lutheran Church, and the American Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Lutheran Fine Art had a display of serigraphs by Corita Kent.

A task force was appointed to study access to the Fellowship Hall.  The Church  Council approved the concept of an elevator.  Also, the church roof was in serious need of repair.

The church will establish a Saint Mark Foundation or Endowment Fund.  Helping Hands is now part of Saint Mark community ministry.

The Year 1983

On January 16 a reception thanked Pastor Thearle for his 10 years of ministry at Saint Mark.

Mark Thorpe participated in the Cultural Awareness Seminar sponsored by the LCA.  He worked with Migrants in the lettuce fields and talked with corporation executives who have control of vast work forces in the Miami area.

The Social Ministry Committee is delivering a tape recording of the worship service to home bound individuals.

The Saint Mark preschool, kindergarten and Mom’s Morning Out programs are helping satisfy the need for quality day care in our community.

This was the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s birth.  Two special events were planned; Luther’s German Mass (in English) and a film on the life of Martin Luther.

The Year 1984

The Finance Committee proposed a capital funding effort to raise $48,000 to pay off the building mortgage by January 1985 and add the cost of an elevator for a total of $103,000.

The Church Council decided to establish a small food pantry program in the building.  The Social Ministry Committee maintained the food pantry, and the staff administered it.

Associate Pastor Susan Granata resigned in May and became the pastor of Christ the King Lutheran Church in Tigard.  Ray King resigned as director of Christian education and youth ministries.

The Rev. Wesley Howell was called as associate pastor at Saint Mark.  Charlotte Klampe was installed as director of Christian education in September.

The Year 1985

During March Saint Mark hosted the 10th annual All Faiths Luncheon.

Lutheran Fine Art sponsored a banner workshop and a professional mime for Vacation Church School.

The Church Council declared the building would be a no-smoking area.

The Fellowship Hall was carpeted, and communion ware, paraments, and torches were all received through memorial money.

The Year 1986

Saint Mark was host for an ecumenical exchange for Lent with First Presbyterian, Calvary Baptist, Saint Paul Episcopal, and Saint Joseph Catholic participants sharing a potluck dessert and a program presented by Pastor Thearle.

The Chancel Choir of Blankenses, Hamburg, West Germany performed at Saint Mark on Good Friday.

A new women’s group formed known as Joy.

Pastor Thearle finished the Doctor of Ministry program.

The Year 1987

The Constituting Convention for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America was held.  The Constituting Convention for the Oregon Synod of the ELCA was held in Newberg.  Pastor Paul Swanson was elected bishop.

The celebration of the church mortgage burning was on July 19.  One worship service was held and then the congregation processed out to the parking lot for a brief service of thanksgiving.  A brunch was served.  A short program organized by Dr. Horace McGee commemorated the construction of the building.

A Festival Service was held October 18 with Bishop Thomas Blevins of the Pacific Northwest Synod as homilist.  The “Saint Mark” banner commissioned by Lutheran Fine Art and stitched by Donna Wolfe was presented to the church.  A catered dinner was served, with tickets at $2.50 each.  After dinner several members spoke about their memories of Saint Mark Church and its members.

The Church Council voted to have a special offering at this service with the proceeds directed to establishing day care in conjunction with the preschool.  This offering and other donations enabled Saint Mark to receive matching funds of $500 from Lutheran Brotherhood, and $3,000 from a private trust.

To be continued…..