The History of Christ the Servant Lutheran Church
The History of Christ the Servant Lutheran Church
3676 Centerville Road
Vadnais Heights, Minnesota
1966 – 1996
In the fall of 1964, the Board of American Missions of the Lutheran Church in America, conducted a study to ascertain the feasibility of establishing a Lutheran Church in the community of Vadnais Heights. The Reverend Garry B. Anderson, a recent graduate of Northwestern Seminary, knocked on many doors. Pastor Anderson was convinced a new church definitely belonged in the new and growing community. The first interest meeting was held at the school gymnasium in August of 1965. One hundred and four people were present at the interest meeting and seventy-two adults signed the Charter Roll.
Twenty-one additional adults signed the Charter Roll at the service of organization as a congregation of the Minnesota Synod of the Lutheran Church in America on January 9, 1966, making a total of ninety-two charter members. Reverend Dr. Melvin I Hammarberg, President of the Minnesota Synod, preached on this special day. For over two years, parishioners worshipped in the school gymnasium.
Ground breaking for the new church took place on December 24, 1967. The first worship service in the new church was August 14, 1968, with the dedication on May 25, 1969.
Pastor Anderson frequently mentioned to some lay people of the newly organized church that he had always had a deep desire to become a chaplain in the United States Army before he “became too old” and passed the age eligibility requirement. He conducted the first worship service in the new church August 4, 1968, and shortly thereafter, resigned to become a chaplain in the United States Army, serving in Germany and Vietnam as well as other stations. He will always be remembered by those who knew him for his tenacity and love for the people of Vadnais Heights. He served as chaplain in the Army until 1982, when a sudden heart attack caused his untimely death.
After Pastor Anderson joined the chaplaincy, the Reverend Gary B. Tessman became the second pastor. He served Christ the Servant from December of 1968, to August of 1971. Pastor Tessman will be remembered by many for his active involvement in the Civil Rights Movement of the Sixties. He was one of the first members of the Vadnais Heights Human Rights Department. He had great empathy toward human rights and for all people regardless of color. Pastor Tessman resigned in the fall of 1971 to become a pastor at Afton Memorial Lutheran Church, Afton, Minnesota, where he served until 1977. Later he served in Chicago, Illinois where he had a sudden cerebral hemorrhage and died at an early age in 1981.
Pastor Tom Schultz served as vice-pastor during the first two pastoral vacancies, assisted by seminarians Tom Ledbetter and Jim Nelson, respectively.
In June of 1972, the Reverend Richard J. Meier accepted his first call to the ministry and became the third pastor of Christ the Servant Lutheran Church. He served for seven years until June, 1979, when he and his family answered a call to become missionaries to Argentina. Since returning to the United States, they have served congregations in Florida and Illinois, where they are now. He will always be affectionately remembered as “Pastor Rick” and as an ardent sports lover. In 1973, he formed a softball league for White Bear area churches and was the captain and played shortstop on his team. Pastor Meier served as the first chaplain at the city council meetings. His wife, Helen, a talented musician, organized and directed a very dedicated choir during their ministry here.
In 1 975, Pastor Rick made three announcements from the pulpit that delighted the congregation. On Mother’s Day, he said he was to become a father. On Father’s Day, he said there would he two babies. In September, he breathlessly announced there would be three. Rebecca, Richard, arid Jennifer became three very special members of Christ the Servant. Pastor Meier and Helen will be remembered for their youthful, dedicated commitment to the church and community.
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From June 1979 until November 1979, the Reverend Reinhold Peterson served as our interim pastor.
In November 1979, Reverend Dr. Duain W. Vierow accepted the call to ministry at Christ the Servant. Pastor Vierow, who grew up in North St. Paul, served as a missionary for over nineteen years. With the experience of working for over fifteen years in Malaysia, Southeast Asia, he brought a new dimension in ministry to Christ the Servant. Just prior to accepting the call to Vadnais Heights, he had been serving the larger church in the Upper Midwest and Central Canada region in interpreting global concerns. His marriage to Donna Ford was celebrated at Christ the Servant in December of 1980.
With a growing church in a growing community, Pastor Vierow and the congregation saw the need to expand facilities. Ground breaking for the church addition was June 1985. The spirit of volunteer help was seen in this “self built” project undertaken by the congregation. Well over 9000 hours of volunteer labor were put into the building of the church addition, which includes a beautiful sanctuary (proclaimed by many to be one of the most beautiful in the Twin Cities), a narthex in which there is plenty of room to welcome people and have fellowship, and a larger kitchen. Dedication was presided over by Bishop Herbert Chilstrom on May 11, 1986. Pastor Vierow and his wife, Donna, gave sacrificially many hours of their time to the labor of love that ultimately became the beautiful church worshipped in today.
In December 1986, Pastor Vierow resigned and accepted a call at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in St. Paul, MN.
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Again it became necessary for Christ the Servant to put out a call for a new pastor. Pastor Tom Schultz agreed for the third time to help out as our vice-pastor during the interim period. Christ the Servant will always be grateful to Pastor Tom for adding this church to his workload when asked to do so.
During this time, our church was also fortunate to have Stanley Berntson, a seminary student, do his intern work here. During their brief ministry at Christ the Servant, Stan and his wife, Kathy provided many inspirational hours of worship. Both Stan and Kathy are very talented musicians. One of the most memorable experiences within our church was the performance of Godspell, which Stan directed. He used the talents of fifty or more persons from the church; and after many hours of practice, five performances, open to the public, were put on at the church in April of 1987. Stan subsequently became Pastor Berntson and accepted his first call to the ministry at Ward Cove, Alaska.
Reverend R. Ray Singleton began his ministry at Christ the Servant on September 9, 1987. In January 1994, he left Christ the Servant.
From January 1994, to the present, we have received into our church many excellent pastors who have brought us messages of hope and love and caring. Pastor Gary Koutsopoulos preached at Christ the Servant for several weeks as a graduate seminarian, who was awaiting his first call in California. The members of this congregation considered the time “the Preacher Man” spent here with his wile, Stephanie, and sons, as their “first call.” Today they serve a church in California.
Pastor Elder Bentley was the Sunday preacher plus for the summer months of 1994. Pastor Bentley’s sermons of hope and love filled the sanctuary of Christ the Servant that summer. This congregation will be forever grateful to this wonderful pastor for his messages. He is considered to be a very special pastor in the life of this church.
In September of 1 994, Pastor Keith Knoff, agreed to serve our church as a part-time interim pastor. Pastor Knoff was with us for 22 months until he accepted a call in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Pastor Keith and his wife Outi became very special people to this congregation as they helped us through some difficult times. Their care and concern for us will always be remembered.
In July of 1996, Pastor Kathy Sukke was asked to serve our church as a part-time interim pastor for three months as we began our call process for a permanent pastor at Christ the Servant. In the past two months, she has given us some valuable direction as we prepare for the arrival of a permanent pastor.
On this, our 30th Anniversary celebration, we want to express our thanks and appreciation to all the pastors who have served at Christ the Servant Lutheran Church, whether for one Sunday or for many. The messages of God’s love which have been heard from the pulpits in the church have been very important in our lives. At one time or another, at several times or maybe just once, the gospel has touched those of us who have worshipped in this house of God.
We want to express our thanks and appreciation to all the members and friends of this church. We thank God for all of you. We thank God for all the hugs, the smiles, the songs, the love we have received from the children. We thank God for all the hotdishes eaten, for all the words of comfort received, for all the floors cleaned, for all the blades of grass mown, for all the love of family, for all the talents shared, for all the songs sung, for all the prayers on our behalf, for all the meetings, for all the wonderful fellowship.
On February 12, 1997 Christ the Servant extended a call to Richard Allyn White to serve as our pastor. Pastor White accepted our call and was ordained here at Christ the Servant on March 2, 1997. Pastor Rick and his wife Kathy have two children, Christine and Jason. Since his arrival at Christ the Servant, we have been very busy! Christ the Servant has once again become a growing church in a growing community. Under Pastor Rick’s leadership and care, much healing has taken place as we now strive to identify our vision and our ministries for Christ the Servant.
In June of 1999, Christ the Servant became a teaching church when Roberta Flood came as an Intern Pastor. She has preached, taught, led retreats, helped with planning in committees, and learned about being a pastor. We wish her well as she continues her studies at Luther Seminary and prepares to lead her own church someday.
2017 Rev. John Keller
I am a Minnesotan by birth and was baptized at First Lutheran in Little Falls, Minnesota in May, 1954. When I was a year old my family moved to Washington state. I was confirmed at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Bremerton, Washington. However I missed the first communion celebration with my confirmation classmates because I went on my first backpacking trip with friends. The call to explore God’s creation has often been as strong as my call to ministry.
Though I was always active in my Lutheran congregation, I also participated in the charismatic renewal of the 1970’s. While attending a Quaker college I participated in a variety of non-Lutheran local congregations and youth summer camps. Yet when I finished college, I knew that I was still a Lutheran at heart and so decided to attend Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul.
I graduated from Luther Seminary in 1984 and then served St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi. As a parish pastor, I worked in a variety of capacities: evangelism and church growth, congregational care and senior ministry, adult education and spiritual development. I was a key leader in the congregation’s development of senior housing, St. Andrew’s Village, and in the transition of senior leadership in 2005 to 2007.
In 2010 Pastor I was called to be lead pastor of Resurrection Lutheran Church in Woodbury. I helped the congregation grow in mission outreach and in stewardship. In 2015 the Holy Spirit lead me to consider Intentional Interim ministry and I completed the ELCA training in Spring of 2016. I recently served a thirteen month interim at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lindstrom, MN.
Through out my pastoral ministry I focused on three things: 1. The Lord is a God who is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving the iniquity and transgression of sin. (Exodus 34:6-7) In a word: Grace. 2. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. (I John 14:11). In a word: Love. 3. Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him. (Psalm 37:7) In a word: Prayer
My wife, Carolyn, served four years as a Lutheran pastor at Mt. Carmel Lutheran Church in NE Minneapolis, but chose to be home as our children grew up. In more recent years, she has written a Bible study for the Women of the ELCA and has served as continuing education advisor for the Minneapolis Area Synod. We live in Shoreview.
Our three children are now young adults. Jonathan is married, has three children and is the CEO of a small company called Lifefloor. Suzanne graduated from college in 2005 and works with her brother at Lifefloor. Christina is a Montessori Grade 1-3 teacher in Austin, Texas.
Since 1999, I have participated in a weekly running group at St. Andrew’s. I have completed 12 marathons and have hosted an annual 5K race benefiting Habitat for Humanity. I continue to enjoy back-packing in the mountains and exploring new trails of adventure. You can read more about my adventures on my blog: pastorjohnkeller.org.
I look forward to helping Christ the Servant grow in mission and spirit during my short “bridge” interim with you. May God strengthen and guide us during our time together.
Blessings, Pastor John Keller
Our 30th Anniversary
Our 50th Anniversary Celebration