History of Peace Thru Christ

God made the way clear

In the fall of 1966 an invitation was received by Pastor Egbert Albrecht of Faith Lutheran Church, Markesan, to hold services in a chapel on the top floor of a new luxury retirement apartment building called the Commodore on Lake Mendota, Madison. A CLC layman had visited the complex and God made the way clear.

In 1968 Pastor Paul Albrecht moved to Middleton, having retired from his service at Bowdle SD and as president of the CLC. Two other families had moved to the area and he served them as well. The apartment complex proved to be ahead of its time as a retirement residence and was converted into a facility for the care of disabled adults and renamed Lake Shore Manor. Then, Pastor Albrecht moved to Florida and one of the families moved away.

The Lord’s plans became clearer. When other CLC members moved into the area the CLC Mission Board called Pastor John Johannes to serve as missionary in the Madison vicinity in addition to his pastorate at Faith Lutheran Church, Cambridge.

His call was to minister to the residents of Lake Shore Manor, serve CLC students attending the University of Wisconsin, and explore the potential for a congregation in the area. In the fall of 1971 weekly Bible classes were begun in a meeting room of the Affiliated Bank of Hilldale, Madison.

Sunday afternoon worship service for the mentally handicapped at Lake Shore Manor

The fervent desire for fellowship and sharing

the Gospel that filled the group led them to have Sunday worship services at the Neighborhood House in Madison (29 S. Mills). These began February 13, 1972, with 34 people present.

In January of 1973 the first officers were elected; Mike Buck, Pres., and Duane Riggert, Sec.-Treas. On April 26 the congregation was incorporated in Dane county as Peace Thru Christ Lutheran Church. Its name had been chosen carefully in those days of the “peace movement” and its riots and demonstrations in Madison with a university dominating a community with a liberal outlook on social matters.

The Neighborhood House had drawbacks as a worship home.

It was learned the chapel in the UW YMCA could be obtained for Sunday worship services, which were begun there in August of 1973. However, this proved to be a rather infamous location. Each Sunday morning there might be a surprise as to evidence of use of the area – from Communist musicals to smut movies prohibited from playing elsewhere.

By April of 1974 the congregation was made up of 18 souls, 15 communicants, and six voters. A study was undertaken to review potential church locations and it appeared northwest Madison and Middleton held promise. In July a constitution was adopted and membership in the CLC was applied for and approved. That fall the location of suitable church property in the Middleton area was being pursued. On September 15 Sunday worship services were begun at the Affiliated Bank of Middleton (now Associated Bank).

On April 13, 1975, the congregation called Pastor Johannes to be its regular pastor. He continued to serve Faith Lutheran Church and live in its parsonage.

In October of 1974 the present property

of 3.5 acres was located. The CLC Mission Board had encouraged the finding of suitable land but lack of funds to be loaned by the CLC delayed its purchase until November 21, 1975. The price was $35,000.

In 1976 the congregation determined to build a home as a chapel, thus complying with the CLC officials’ desire that a resalable building be constructed in case the property had to be sold later. The intended building could be converted to a parsonage at a later date. A ground-breaking ceremony was held on May 16. That summer vicar John Ude came to help with the work in the Madison area.

The building was completed on October 22

The cost was $46,000. Pews had been purchased earlier from an area church that had closed and were stored. An altar was secured from another church. The pews and altar were upgraded and a member built a pulpit and baptismal font. The first worship service was held Thanksgiving Eve, November 24, 1976. The ILC Mission Society and members of the congregation canvassed in Middleton on December 4 to invite people to the chapel dedication which was held December 10. Pastor Egbert Albrecht brought the Word of God’s blessing.

In the spring of 1977 the congregation hosted the district pastoral conference. That summer its second vicar, Glenn Oster, served in the members’ midst.

In October of 1978 Pastor Johannes accepted a call to serve Luther Memorial Church, Fond du Lac. In November of that year the congregation called seminary graduate John Ude to be its pastor and he accepted. The church’s first children’s Christmas Eve Service was held and the following spring came the first visit of the ILC Tour Choir.

A steeple was acquired from Gethsemane Lutheran Church, Saginaw, where a new church had been built. Its addition to the chapel roof helped identify the building as a place of worship. During the winter months of 1980 and 1981members of the congregation finished the downstairs walls and ceiling and partitioned the area for Sunday School rooms.

A Tenth Anniversary service was held at the “church with the orange doors” on April 24, 1983, with Pastor Johannes returning to celebrate the “tie that binds our hearts.” And for the third time the congregation was blessed with the presence of a vicar, this time David Reim.

In the summer of 1984 ILC student Mike Roehl made four beautiful stained glass windows for the chapel’s front windows. A special gift had made this precious adornment possible.

By 1985 there was earnest contemplation – should a request be made to the CLC for funds to build a church, convert the chapel to a parsonage and invite the pastor to be moved from Cambridge to Middleton? (The Cambridge parsonage had some deficiencies.) But since the funding was not then available a second plan was finalized in May. It was to remodel the downstairs of the chapel building to serve as a parsonage and to construct a garage that could help gain needed storage space.

The Lord opened hearts of congregation members to loan the $8,000 needed to finance the project. And He filled ladies of the congregation and the seven men leading the work with dedication. For almost three months members came from their jobs and homes to labor 20 to 30 hours a week on the remodeling, admittedly not always really experienced but joking, “next time I’ll know how to do this from the start.” On July 28 the pastor’s family was moved. Next, the garage was built. A special service of thanksgiving, praise and dedication was held October 27, 1985, in conjunction with a Mission Festival service.

In the fall of 1985 the congregation had 44 souls, 23 communicants and seven voters.

Throughout history the Lord has not despised small things but healed discouragement, to the glory His Saving Name.

By 1987 the congregation began to hope and pray for a church building. With the help of Jack Mayhew, a CLC member and contractor from Valentine NE, a plan was developed for an L-shaped structure, and for a Minnesota firm to create blueprints for review and amendment and to supply and transport pre-made walls, trusses, and building materials to the site on certain dates.

Mayhew was engaged to serve as building supervisor to work with congregation volunteers. Contracts were sought and let for foundation and plumbing. Electrical work was to be done by knowledgeable members. The Mayhew family came with a camping trailer and a pickup full of tools and equipment. They arrived on the first Sunday in June and a get-acquainted picnic was held. The first thing Jack did after the picnic was to check the “square” of the poured concrete foundation to learn if the hypotenuse of 30 feet of width and 40 feet of building length was equal to 50 feet. It was. He was pleased.

The next day was June 6, 1988 and the first truckload of materials arrived – the floor joists and the flooring.

Members arranged vacation time to work on the project. Retired members worked full-time. It was a dry and dusty summer and not a single hour was lost to inclement weather. It was a project that pulled people together into a dedicated and thankful team as a church project often does. Jack Mayhew was likeable and knowledgeable and everyone was eager to learn and work with him.

Trucks delivered the walls, the trusses and the various materials exactly on time. On June 11 members of other congregations in the area came for a “workday” during which the roof was shingled and siding was stained. Each guest worker was given a wooden commemorative plaque with the words from Haggai 1:8a, Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house.

The new church building was completed for dedication on the first Sunday in August.

Next, the chapel space was remodeled into rooms for the parsonage and the kitchen was moved upstairs, as was the Ude family.

Pastor Ude accepted the call of Messiah Lutheran Church at Hales Corners in December of 1990.

The next pastor to serve Peace Thru Christ was David Koenig who had most recently served as the CLC missionary to Nigeria. He and his family moved to Middleton in early 1991.

Pastor Koenig followed up numerous opportunities to work with prisoners in Dane county jail and state correctional institutions to offer God’s Word and counseling. Exploratory services were held at Dodgeville as an evangelism effort. His love of working with the soil produced hundreds of pumpkins that were given to children on Allied Drive in Madison along with invitations to attend Christmas and Easter Bible school sessions held at the local community house.

The congregation determined to go off CLC subsidy, with the Lord’s help. This was accomplished in 1994.

The congregation reviewed its situation and considered prayerfully whether it could institute a Christian day school. After review of the various factors involved it was determined the time had not arrived.

In 1998 the CLC Mission Board called Pastor Koenig to work with and assist the CLC’s sister churches in Nigeria and India and he left to take up that position.

Retired pastor Keith Olmanson served as vacancy pastor until Pastor Rob McDonald of St Peter’s Lutheran Church of Stambaugh MI accepted the call of PeaceThru Christ, moving to Middleton in May of 1998. Pastor McDonald resigned for personal reasons and withdrew from the ministry early in 1999.

Pastor Olmanson again served as the vacancy pastor until Pastor Kevin McKenny came to take up the work at Peace Thru Christ and Faith in May of 1999. His most recent pastorate had been with a Wisconsin Synod church in Fremont CA. He had left that fellowship and moved to Wisconsin. He had become a member of Messiah Lutheran Church at Hales Corners, went through the colloquy process with the CLC, and had been declared eligible for call.

By this time the congregation again began to consider how and when it could begin a Christian day school. For a time it was hoped that one might be started in the fall of 2000 but the preparation time available was deemed to be too short. By November of 2000 the congregation believed it was ready to take the step and decided to call a teacher. A call was issued to Gail Schaefer, a member of Peace Thru Christ and a former CLC teacher, and she accepted. A Board of Christian Education was elected and school was opened for the 2001-02 school year.

Pastor McKenney resigned his pastorate at Peace Thru Christ in February, 2002. He was called by and serves Faith at Cambridge and the joint parish effectively was dissolved.

During the vacancy that ensued Peace Thru Christ congregation was served with worship services conducted by Professor Paul Sullivan of Immanuel Lutheran College and, for his third vacancy period at Peace Thru Christ, by retired Pastor Keith Olmanson of Mankato, with some lay-led services between. Pastor Koenig, who was back in the United States on furlough from his foreign missionary duties, also served the congregation during the vacancy.

The congregation extended a call to Pastor Mark Bernthal

who was serving Gesthemane Lutheran Church at Saginaw MI. He accepted and was installed at a special afternoon service on June 16, 2002.

On November 14, 2004 a mortgage burning and groundbreaking ceremony for a new school/fellowship hall was conducted. During 2005 a new kitchen, fellowship hall, bathrooms and classroom addition was built. The parking lot also was expanded. On October 2, 2005 a dedication service was held for the new fellowship hall and classroom.

In the spring of 2009 Mrs. Gail Schaefer retired as our teacher and in the fall our new teacher, Miss Jennifer Ohlmann was installed.

Throughout 2011 the inside of the church was remodeled with the back wall being removed, new carpet, new pews, new lights and fans installed. The parsonage was sided with new steel siding, new windows were installed and a new garage was attached.

In 2012 a new church sign was erected.

In the spring of 2013 Miss Jennifer Ohlmann accepted the call to Luther Memorial, Fond du Lac, WI. In the fall Miss Claire Abbas was installed as our new K-8 teacher. That same year the congregation celebrated the congregation’s 40th anniversary and the 25th anniversary of the church building.

In the fall of 2016 our school did not open due to lack of students. The congregation called Miss Abbas to be our new pre-school teacher. She accepted. In the spring of 2017 Miss Abbas accepted the call to Gethsemane, Spokane, WA to be their lower grade school teacher. In the fall Miss Miriam Bernthal accepted our call to be the new pre-school teacher. When we did not get enough interest in our pre-school the congregation in the spring of 2018 released Miss Bernthal from her call.

In August 2018 we celebrated our congregation’s 45th anniversary. In the summer of 2018 a new Automower was purchased (Bruce) to help with the mowing of the property.

In the summer of 2019 an every other Wednesday Playgroup for parents and children under 5 was initiated. A new gym set was purchased and installed.

Because of Covid restrictions church attendance was discontinued for awhile but we videotaped our services on Friday evening and played them on Sunday morning. After we returned to worship services in church we were able to show our services live online. 

In 2021 we have 61 souls (53 communicant members and 8 non-communicant members). We have 18 voters.