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The History of Christ Lutheran Church in Arcadia, WI

The Beginning Years - 1863 to 1887

1863:  Earliest Beginnings in Glencoe
Rev. Ernst Stube, a Lutheran medical missionary, serving a congregation at Fountain City, WI, began serving families in the Buffalo County Township of Glencoe, near the village of Arcadia.  He traveled to the Glencoe area once a month for twelve years, meeting in homes, to bring the Gospel to the pioneers.

1866:  Land Donated in Glencoe Township

Three acres of land was donated on April 12, 1866, by George and Susan Barbara Keller, to be used for a place of worship and a cemetery.  (from the records of Lee Wieland, Cemetery Board)

1875:   Glencoe Church Formally Established With a Building and Pastor

The Glencoe families called a pastor of their own.  The Rev. Ernest Giesel was called from the Augsburg Synod (or maybe the Iowa Synod) and lived in the home of one of the church members.  The congregation was formally organized with a written constitution and the name St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church.  A Glencoe church building was also constructed in 1875.  (The church was located at the site of the present day Glencoe Lutheran Cemetery.)

1876:  Earliest Beginnings in Montana

Rev. Giesel, who was serving the Glencoe area Lutherans, also began holding services in the homes of the Lutherans he found in the Buffalo County Township of Montana.  He served the area until 1877.

1877 to 1884:  Early Ministers Serving Glencoe and Montana Lutherans

The Glencoe church and Montana Township Lutherans were served by three Iowa Synod pastors and one from the Wisconsin Synod—Rev. Christian Probst, 1877-1879 and Rev. John Burchard, 1879-1881 were from the Iowa Synod.

Rev.  John Weirauch was from the Wisconsin Synod, serving from 1881 to 1883.  In 1884, Carl Ziebell, an Iowa Synod theological student served as pastor for six months.

1884 to 1886:  Church Constructed in Montana —Arcadia Parsonage Purchased

Rev. Julius Badke,  a Wisconsin Synod pastor came to serve St. John’s Church in Glencoe township and continued to minister to the Montana Lutherans.  A parsonage in Arcadia was purchased for the Badke family in 1885.

About 1885, under the leadership of Rev. Badke,  a church building was constructed for the Lutherans in the Montana township.   (The location of the Montana church was at the site of the present day Montana Lutheran Cemetery.)
An interesting note found on page 6 of a 2002 report titled, “Town of Montana Land Use Plan” prepared by Town of Montana Landowners, states the following information about the history of one of the churches in the Montana Township:  “German Evangelical Lutheran Christian Congregation was organized on October 22, 1885, when Frederick and Wilhelmina Dorn deeded one and a half acres to the church for the total of $2.  Then on May 22, 1929, the church trustees deeded it for $1 to St. John’s Christ Lutheran parish in Arcadia.  A cemetery still remains.”
1887: Church Officially Organized in Montana — First Arcadia Church Built  

The Montana congregation was formally organized in about 1887, with the name Christ Church.   A small frame church was built in Arcadia in 1887 so that parishioners would not have to travel to Glencoe to worship on Sunday, but it did not become a separate congregation.  Rev. Badke left in 1887.

The Years of Division - 1888 to 1904

1888 to 1897:  Dissent Begins

The next three ministers, Rev. Albert Froehlke 1888-1890, Rev Carl Rutzen 1890-1896, and Rev. Herman Gerhard 1896-1897, were Wisconsin Synod pastors.  In 1897, congregational disunity forced Rev. Gerhard to leave after serving only ten months.

1897 to 1904:  Division

The Arcadia area Lutherans divided into two groups.  In 1897, Christ Lutheran Church in Montana township, St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Glencoe township and a few of the members attending the church in Arcadia, called an Iowa Synod pastor, Rev. Adolf Werr.  Besides holding services in the two township churches, he also held services in an upstairs room of the parsonage in Arcadia for the few Arcadia members that had called him.

Around this same time, Rev. Theophil Brenner from the Wisconsin Synod’s seminary was called by the remaining majority of the Arcadia Lutherans. Rev. Brenner held services in the little white frame church that had been built in Arcadia in 1887.  Rev. Brenner stayed for a year or less and was followed by Rev. David Metzger, from the Wisconsin Synod, who also served St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Whitehall.  It is not known how long Rev. Metzger stayed.

In an apparent effort to restore church unity, Rev. Werr changed from the Iowa Synod to the Wisconsin Synod and continued to serve at Glencoe, Montana, and the Arcadia parsonage, but unity was not restored, and Rev. Werr left in 1904.

The Building Years - 1904 to 1956

1904 to 1907:  Moving Forward

St. John’s of Glencoe  and Christ Church congregations were served by Rev. G.F. Hanselmann, an Iowa Synod pastor, from 1904 to 1907. Rev. Herbert Zumhingst, from the Ohio Synod became the pastor in 1907.  It was under his leadership in 1910, that the church building was erected in Arcadia and the first English services were conducted.  All previous services had been in German. 

1910:  Two New Church Buildings

St. John’s Church of Glencoe and Christ Church of Montana joined to construct a church building in the village of Arcadia, to serve their members who had retired from farming and moved to Arcadia.  A new congregation was not organized in the village, and any new member living in Arcadia was constrained to take membership in either one of the township churches.  This new building was dedicated in November of 1910, with only eighteen families from the combined parish giving financial assistance and manual labor towards the construction.  The majority of the congregation had deemed the services in the upstairs room of the parsonage to be sufficient and did not contribute to the new building. Rev. Zumhingst served the congregations until 1913.

It was also in 1910, that St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of Arcadia, which had associated with the Wisconsin Synod, since the split back in 1896-97, built a new, larger church to replace the small frame church built in 1887.  The new building was across the street from the old frame church and the old church was enlarged and improved to be used for fellowship activities. (This church remained with the Wisconsin Synod until 1959, when it became an Independent Lutheran Church and in 1962, the congregation disbanded.)

In 1911, the Ladies Aid was formed.

1913 to 1956:  Rev. Muedeking begins 43 Year Pastorate

On February 3, 1913, Rev. George F. Muedeking, a recent graduate of St. Paul Luther College and Seminary, was installed as the new pastor of St. John’s of Glencoe and Christ Church of Montana and the associated group at the new church building in Arcadia.   His entire ministry was spent in Arcadia—43 years until his death, at the age of 73, in 1956. Rev. Muedeking was an active member of the community and had a good relationship with other churches in the community.  He was active in the American Lutheran Synod and served as president of the Marshfield conference. His wife, Rosalie (Brodt) also contributed to the ministry of the congregation.  At the beginning of his pastorate, the combined parish consisted of 51 families but grew to 242 families by 1949.

1913:  The Senior Choir was organized.

1914:  The Sunday School was established.

1923: Educational Building

The residence next to the Arcadia church was purchased and converted into an educational facility.

1929: A Merger to Form One Congregation

Rev. Muedeking was instrumental in merging the two congregations into one Arcadia church.  St. John’s Church of Glencoe and Christ Church of Montana, dissolved themselves, deeded their property, and reorganized and incorporated themselves as the “St John’s-Christ Lutheran Congregation of Arcadia, Wisconsin.”

1930: the Women’s Missionary Society was organized.

1930:  The national American Lutheran Church (ALC) was formed in 1930 from the merger of the three conservative Lutheran synods of German-American origin—the Iowa, Ohio, and Buffalo Synods.  (Wikipedia)

1931:  Midweek religious education classes were established.

1938:  The Junior Choir was organized.


Several times during the 1940s and 1950s, Rev. Muedeking, served the Tamarack Lutheran Church in rural Arcadia, when they were without a pastor. 

1946:  A Luther League was formed for high school age youth.

1948: A Hammond electric organ was purchased

1949:  Church Addition

The Arcadia congregation had increased to 526 total communicant members and the church was usually filled to capacity.  Members decided to enlarge the building by erecting a brick veneered addition using lumber sawed from logs donated by farmers of the congregation and also using lumber salvaged from St. John’s Church of Glencoe, where services had been discontinued. Excavation for the basement began on April 19, 1949, and the new addition was dedicated on Sunday, November 27, 1949. The enlarged church could comfortably seat 550 and an overflow crowd of about 650.  The original Glencoe church bell was placed above the balcony of the new addition.

1951:  A new parsonage was built next to the church.

1953:  Vacation Bible School began in Montana and Arcadia.

1952-1956:  Interns Serving Under pastor Muedeking

Robert A. Garbrecht, 1952—Capital Theological Seminary
Harvey Berg, 1953—Luther Seminary (Arcadia native)
Roger A. Schmidt, 1954—Wartburg Seminary
Marvin Benninga, 1954-55—Wartburg Seminary
Waldo Kruse, 1955—Wartburg Seminary
Kenneth Malpert, 1956—Wartburg Seminary
William Roessler, 1956—Wartburg Seminar

1956:  Rev. Muedeking dies.

Up until his death on June 9, 1956, Rev. George F. Muedeking, actively served the congregation for 43 years.

The Post-Muedeking Years - 1956 to 1989

1956-1963: Pastor Schultheiss

Rev. Walter E. Schultheiss, a graduate of Capital Seminary came to Arcadia and served St. John’s-Christ until 1963.  He also served Tamarack Lutheran Church in rural Arcadia until July 1958, when Tamarack formed a partnership with Mount Calvary Lutheran in Trempealeau, Wi.

1959:  Montana Lutheran Church Closed

The last Sunday service was held at the Montana Christ Church on April 19, 1959. ( Date was found in the Ushers’ Record Book.) During the last years, services had been held about once a month.  Sometime later, the building was razed. The bell was salvaged and has been preserved by the Boberg family.

1960:  The national American Lutheran Church (ALC) merged with the Evangelical Lutheran Church, which was of Norwegian-American origin, and the United Evangelical Lutheran Church, of Danish-American origin, to form a new body that was also named the American Lutheran Church (ALC). (Wikipedia)

1960:  Church Name Changed

The congregation name was changed from St. John's-Christ Lutheran Church to American Lutheran Church of Arcadia.

1960:  Assistance to New church at Trempealeau, WI

The congregation assisted in the start of Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church in Trempealeau, WI.

1962: Reunited Arcadia Lutherans

On November 25, church property from St. John's Independent Lutheran Church, Arcadia (the former Wisconsin Synod, St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church) was transferred to American Lutheran Church of Arcadia.

1964-1968: Pastor Benson

American Lutheran Church of Arcadia was served by Pastor Howard B. Benson, who helped the church study and plan for a new educational addition.

1965:  Church Educational Addition

A two story church educational building addition was dedicated on October 3.

1969-1981: Pastor Radke

Pastor Wayne G. Radke became pastor of American Lutheran Church in Arcadia in 1969. Three intern pastors served under Pastor Radke.  They were, with approximate dates—
Earl Vorpagel 1978,
Keith Koslow 1979,
Gary Lunberg 1980.

1971:  Missionary Support

The congregation voted to support missionaries, Art and Millie Wyse in Cali, Columbia.

1972: Bethel Series Adult Education & support for Joy Lutheran

The congregation began to support the work of Joy Lutheran, a new church in Prescott, WI.
The Bethel Series of Adult Christian Education started and in 1975 there were eight teachers and 120 students involved.

1974: New Enclosed Entrance

Under the leadership of Rev. Radke, a new enclosed entrance was added to the church.

1975:  100th Anniversary

    The one hundredth anniversary of the congregation was observed with a     vesper service at the site of the Montana Church on June 15, a vesper         service at the site of the Glencoe Church on August 17, and a full day of     celebration at American Lutheran Church in Arcadia on September 7.          Membership was 692 baptized members and 494 confirmed members.  

1977:  Missionary Sponsorship

The congregation began helping support Lee Bonhoff, missionary to Cameroon, Africa in 1977, and also his wife, Torborg, in later years.  Missionary support for the Bonhoffs continued to about 2000.

1981-1985:  Pastor Stendahl

Pastor Howard Stendahl became the new pastor of the American Lutheran congregation in 1981.

1982:  Pipe Organ

A Casavant Opus 3547 pipe organ was installed in October.

1984:  Fellowship Hall Remodeled

The basement fellowship hall was remodeled.

1986-1994:  Pastor Whitmore

Pastor Claire Whitmore served the congregation from 1986 to 1994.

During Pastor Whitmore’s time of serving the congregation, the American Lutheran Church of Arcadia became a 501(c)(3) sponsoring organization for the Arcadia Food Pantry for Trempealeau County, located in St. Joseph’s Hospital in Arcadia.  The Pantry received government commodities matched by local donations and food was available to all low income citizens of Trempealeau County. It was completely run by volunteers from the Arcadia area.  This partnership lasted through 2016, when the pantry was forced to move to another city, due to the lack of a suitable site location in Arcadia.

1987: Parking Lot

A parking lot behind the church, was completed in 1987.

The New “Christ Lutheran” Years - 1988 to the present

1988: On January 1, 1988, the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) came into existence, by the merging of three Lutheran church bodies—  The American Lutheran Church (ALC), the Lutheran Church in America (LCA) and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AELC) .  (Wikipedia)

1988: First Parish Ed/Youth Worker

A Parish Ed/Youth Worker position was added in 1988.  Five Youth Directors served the church between 1988 and 2011— Nicole Harmel (1988-1991) David Schiopota (1992) Julie Gates, Erin Wright, and Kris Knutson, who also served as church musician (2000-2010).

1989: Church Goes Back to Historical Name

During the pastorate of Claire Whitmore, the church name changed from American Lutheran Church of Arcadia to Christ Lutheran Church.

1990:  Member, Lara Fetsch became an ELCA missionary in Hong Kong.

1994-1995: Pastor Irwin Flatten served as an interim pastor.

1995-2003: Pastor. Arthur W. Sharot, Jr. served Christ Lutheran.

1996: a grand piano and electronic digital piano were purchased to enhance worship services.

2000: 3 Octaves of Handbells and Choir Chimes were added to the church musical repertoire.

2002:  In 2002, Christ Lutheran began a missionary sponsorship with Rev. Tim and Yuriko Mason in Japan.

2003-2004: Pastor Rodger Knudson served as interim pastor.

2004: Member, Paul Forsyth started as an ELCA Global Missions Young Adult Missionary to Japan.

2004-2007: Pastor Breck McHan served as pastor.

2006: A class was offered to train members to be Stephen Ministers who care for people in distress.

2007: Pastor Chris Hallemeier and Pastor Ron Walter served the church as interim pastors.

2007-2008: Pastor Kris Fahey served as interim pastor.

2008-2017:  Pastor Peter Jonas served Christ Lutheran Church.  Interns from Wartburg Seminary who served under Pastor Jonas were—

David Murphy 2011-2012
Rhia Wilkin  2012-2013
Kim Sturtz 2013-2014
Josh Knudsen 2014-2015
Gus Barnes, Jr. 2016-2017

2012:  the Mt. Sinai Hispanic Church began using Christ Lutheran Church for worship services.

2014: Member, Jenna Putz started as an ELCA Global Missions Young Adult Missionary to Argentina.

2018-2019:  Pastor Robert Schoenknecht & Pastor Thomas Bryan served as interim team pastors.

2019-2021:  Pastor Cheryl Matthews served as pastor.

2020: Christ Lutheran Church started live worship services on Facebook and YouTube using a camera phone and restarted bi-monthly services on WTCO (Trempealeau County Community Television).

2021-2023: Pastor David Johnson serves as interim pastor.

2023: Christ Lutheran Church started using a Marshall 3630 PTZ zoom camera for broadcasting the church service to Facebook and YouTube.

2023-present: Pastor Rufus Kudee serves as pastor.

Information for this church history summary was gathered from the following sources:
St. John’s-Christ Lutheran Church, Dedication booklet, November 27, 1949
American Lutheran Church, Arcadia, WI, Anniversary 1875-1975 booklet
Christ Lutheran Church, Arcadia, WI, 1992 Directory
Olson, Daniel S. The History of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Arcadia,Wisconsin, Church History CH3031 with Appendix 2 , December 12, 2005.
Lutheran Witness, January 1962, monthly newspaper published in the interest of Mondovi and LaCrosse conferences of the American Lutheran Church, La Crosse, Wisconsin

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