The history of Our Savior Lutheran Church began in March 1952 when Zion Lutheran Church in Abilene started a Mission Sunday School at 3001 Hunt Street. Sunday School was held in a house located on the property and the classes were taught by members of Zion. The work was subsequently taken over by the Mission Board of the Texas District and the project was know as the Southside Lutheran Church. The property consisted of three lots which include a four-room house.
On July 6, 1952 the Reverend Herman E. Baumann, having accepted the divine call, was installed as the first pastor of the growing group. On March 29, 1953 the congregation had a total of 28 members. In February 1953 seven ladies met to form a ladies society, called the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League.
By December 1953 the membership had grown to 51 baptized souls. This growth saw the need for a larger building than the house they were meeting in, and they applied for a loan to build a chapel. Approved, the new church was dedicated July 11, 1954. After two and a half years of diligent effort and success under God’s grace, Pastor Baumann accepted the call to serve another congregation, leaving on February 6, 1955.
Upon accepting the divine call extended by the congregation, the Reverend George H. Fehl was installed on November 27, 1955 as the second pastor of the congregation. Carrying on the good work of Pastor Baumann, he succeeded by God’s grace to assist the efforts of the members in building a stronger and growing congregation. After serving one and one-half years, Pastor Fehl left Our Savior Lutheran Church to accept another call on June 16, 1957. The Rev. F. Grothmann served as vacancy pastor.
On December 8, 1957, the Reverend Marcus T. Lang was installed as the third pastor of Our Savior. Under his leadership, and due to growth of the congregation, which now had 232 members, plans were developed to sell the original property and relocate. During this transition worship services were held in the Abilene Garden Club Facilities. Pastor Lang left Our Savior on June 26, 1960, after plans for the present church were completed, to accept the responsibilities of another parish.
The Reverend Frederick A. Mattil accepted the divine call the congregation extended, and was installed as the fourth pastor on August 7, 1960. Under his leadership and through the diligent efforts of the congregation as well, evangelism efforts continued. At the same time work went ahead on the new “church-in-the-round” and the present nave was dedicated on March 5, 1961. The Abilene Reporter News reported on March 3, 1961 that the sanctuary was “Abilene’s most unusual church building.”
The church-in the round concept emphasizes our fellowship in Christian communion. The altar is located in the center of the building. A Large ‘cross in eternity’ is suspended over the altar, which is a white marble slab on an oak base. The two simple candlesticks placed on the altar carry the same cross on eternity theme. All the building lines rise heavenwards to remind us that our strength is from above.
In a summary of the first 10 years of our congregation, the following statistics were presented: Four pastors had served the congregation, each leaving Abilene to assume the pastorate of larger churches. There were 173 communicants and 331 baptized members, with a large portion of membership being Lutherans who live in Abilene only a short while. Over 600 people had been received as members over these years. 131 children had been baptized, 79 youth confirmations and 15 adult confirmations, 13 marriages and 7 funerals performed. On April 14, 1963, Pastor Mattil left Abilene to accept a divine call to a pastorate in New Orleans, Louisiana. Rev. J. Arthur Rebber served as a vacancy pastor.
Our gracious Lord the brought forth another servant to continue the good work of the previous dedicated pastors in the person of the Reverend Oscar H. Horn, (then serving in Victorsville, California) who had worked so hard to establish the Southside mission when he was a pastor at Zion Lutheran Church in Abilene ten years earlier. He was installed as the fifth pastor of the congregation on July 28, 1963.
Through the continued efforts of Pastor Horn and the congregation, and by the grace of God, the original Education Building was completed and dedication took place in October, 1964. The congregation continued its growth until on November 3, 1969 Pastor Horn accepted a call to Katy, Texas. Rev. C. T. Boriak served as vacancy pastor.
On April 19, 1970 the Reverend M. Erich Knippa accepted our divine call, and became our Savior’s sixth pastor. In spite of many difficulties,and the ever transient nature of a large portion of the congregation due to military transfers, Our Savior still experienced growth. In May 1977 Pastor Knippa accepted a call to a pastorate in Missouri. During the vacancy, Chaplin Everett Gerdes, who was a member of the congregation, assisted the congregation.
On August 28th, 1977 the Reverend Robert G. Hagemann, from Oklahoma City, was installed as Our Savior’s seventh pastor, and our congregation celebrated its 25th anniversary.
In 1979 our congregation sponsored an Indo/Chinese family of “boat people.” Many in the congregation participated in preparing for their arrival. Our Saviour provided for everything from clothing, household items, furniture, food, rent, coordinating services from various local and government agencies, helping with medical services, translators, obtaining employment, transportation, financial support, and friendship. Tang Le Thuan Hao (How) and Tang Le Que To (Sol) arrived in Abilene on September 20, 1979. Their brother, Le That’s arrival was delayed due to his health. How and Sol were baptized at Our Savior on January 11, 1981 and Let That on July 30, 1982. All three were confirmed on August 14, 1983, after completing studies of Luther’s Catechism in the Chinese language. Le That went to his new home in heaven on June 12, 1992. How and Sol are still members at Our Savior.
In 1985 plans were begun to add six classrooms to the Education building, and renovate and remodel the existing fellowship area and kitchen. The new addition to the building was dedicated on March 23, 1986. Pastor Hagemann retired in December, 1990, after serving the congregation for thirteen years and four months.
Following a vacancy period of 15 months, during which time the Reverend J, Russell Kinser of Zion Lutheran Church in Abilene served as our vacancy pastor, Reverend LaVerne A. Janssen of Rolla, Missouri, was extended a divine call. God lead him to accept this call, and he was installed on April 4, 1992 as the eighth pastor of our congregation. As the congregation grew, the Education-Fellowship Building was again enlarged, adding a 20 foot section along the entire length of the building. This addition includes a youth room, additional bathrooms, and expanded kitchen and fellowship facilities. The addition was dedicated to God’s glory on January 12, 2003.
For over 50 years this congregation has been involved in Christ’s mission to Abilene, with its membership growing from the original 27 to over well over 300. As time moves on, and under the guidance and blessing of the Holy Spirit, Our Savior will continue to preach God’s Word, administer the Sacraments, witness to the community, share Christ’s love and forgiveness, and work to build His Church in Abilene, Texas. Thanks be to God!