The History of Resurrection Lutheran Church
In July 1976 the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod was in turmoil over many issues. Pastor Fred Giraud and a number of members of Faith Lutheran could no longer endure the direction the church was taking and they struck out to create a new environment for a church where the Gospel could reign free. On July 18th over 150 people came to the first worship service on Henry Street to express solidarity with this new movement within the Lutheran Church.
In 1978 Resurrection was the first congregation in southern Illinois to join the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AELC). In time the AELC would have over 1,000 congregations and more than 100,000 members. Later, the AELC would be one of the three church bodies that became the ELCA.
In 1979, Pastor Giraud left Resurrection to devote himself to full-time counseling. In December Pastor Rudy Mueller was called Resurrection’s second pastor.
Around this time the ‘rust-belt’ industries began to leave the Alton area, energy costs began to skyrocket, enthusiasm for something new and different began to wane and membership dropped so much that Resurrection had to sell its Henry Street property and become renters.
Pastor Mueller’s years were marked by an increased sensitivity to ecumenism, and in 1981 the joint Episcopal/Lutheran Tuesday Morning Bible Class was begun under the direction of Father Allen Farbe and Pastor Mueller. Pastor Mueller introduced the Lutheran Book of Worship, the weekly Eucharist became a reality, and the historic vestments for the church’s worship were reintroduced.
But by 1985 attendance hovered at 24 per Sunday, contributions declined, and Resurrection could no longer support a full-time pastor. In August 1985 Pastor Mueller accepted a call to Evansville, Indiana and in the absence of a pastor, it was clear that Resurrection’s history had reached its final chapter.
Bishop Harold Hecht, of the English Synod of the AELC, asked Pastor Dennis Young to take a 3-month sabbatical from writing his dissertation for a Doctorate of Theology to close or merge Resurrection with another congregation. By October 1985 Bishop Hecht expected the congregation to be closed or merged with Trinity Lutheran, Alton, but when the options were presented to the few remaining folks of Resurrection they rejected both choices, even though warned that to survive as a congregation would require an immense amount of work, dedication, and commitment.
Pastor Young met Elwen Ewald, President of the AELC, and told him Resurrection’s decision. President Ewald said the AELC could not offer much assistance to Resurrection, but since a new Lutheran Church was forming, the Division for Missions in North America of the Lutheran Church in America might consider Resurrection as a mission congregation. Unbelievably, they did! Pastor Young was sent for Mission Developer Training, which gave the congregation status as a Mission Congregation.
The Division for Missions started sending Resurrection $30,000 a year in support. Resurrection purchased the Homer Adams property in March 1988 and on Palm Sunday of that year the little band of members made the grand processional from 801 Blair to 1020 West Delmar in Godfrey with a police escort and newspaper reporters! The house on West Delmar became Resurrection’s church building until April 1992 when the congregation moved into the uncompleted sanctuary, and on September 20th the new (current) building was dedicated.
For the next 13 years, Pastor Young led Resurrection to significant growth in terms of both membership and programming in the new facility. Sunday School grew and community Vacation Bible School flourished. A choir was begun. Pastor Young prepared the congregation for continued growth by establishing a committee structure for the congregation and began annual planning retreats to guide the life and ministry of Resurrection exhorting the congregation to look ahead to the future.
Pastor Young did significant teaching and counseling in the congregation. His Sunday and weekday classes were well attended. He was known not only in the congregation but also in the community, for his grief counseling ministry.
In 2005, Pastor Young died and Resurrection spent the next couple of years suffering a deep sense of both grief and loss. He continues to be greatly missed within this faith community. Resurrection continues on with a sense of tremendous gratitude for God’s many blessings and gifts in the life and ministry of Pastor Young.
After Pastor Young’s death, Rev. George Pence, an Episcopal priest of the diocese of Quincy, Illinois, served as Interim Pastor. Father Pence was selected by Pastor Young before his death. For almost two years, Father Pence guided Resurrection during its time of grief and loss and prepared them to accept and call a new pastor.
In October of 2007, Resurrection installed its fourth pastor, Kenneth Tegtmeier. It is with renewed hope that Resurrection looks forward to a new chapter in its life and ministry. In May of 2018, after almost 11 years, Pastor Tegtmeier retired.
Resurrection seeks to “Make Christ Known” in this time and in this community. Resurrection’s impetus for ministry continues today as it was at the start: proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen.
The journey of Resurrection has been one of “grace upon grace” (John 1:16). Through the dedication of so many, Resurrection continues to be a vital Lutheran presence in the greater Alton community. Looking at the challenges and blessings of its past, Resurrection considers itself living proof that God is with them and that Resurrection still happens!