God has given his church to be a place of salvation and grace. She is such because the truth of God Word is preached there and his sacraments are received and sinners are forgiven and the faithful gather in God's presence. God never abandons or forsakes his people. That is the story of God's people everywhere and the story of this congregation : Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church in Catawba, North Carolina. Hear how God has preserved and kept his people here in this place!
Sometime early in the year 1915, the Rev. G. E. Mennen began work among the Lutherans in the town of Catawba, while he was a professor at Concordia College in Conover. Through the English District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, funds were made available to construct the first church building on the same site on which this new structure has been erected. This debt was liquidated in 1956.
On August 20, 1916, the first service was held in the new brick structure. On the same Sunday, twenty new members were received by the rite of confirmation, who had been instructed in the school house. Among those confirmed on this first service in the new church were: Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Fox, Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Fox, Mrs. Etta Ervin, Mrs. Ora Bridges, Mrs. Alice Isenhour , Mr. Frank Murphy, Mr. Carl Murphy, Mr. Will Hedrick, Miss Jessie Murphy, Mrs. Beulah Matthews, Mrs. Ruben Isenhour, Misses Annie, Pearl and Ella Miller .
The first resident pastor was the Rev. Robert L. Lail, installed into his office on September 3, 1916. In September of the same year, the communicant membership was listed at 48, with a total membership of 90 souls. Pastor Lail served until May, 1922. On August 13, 1922, the Rev. W. P. Hunsucker, who later served as Pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church, Claremont, was installed. He served until .June 6, 1926.
The pastoral leadership during the next three years is somewhat unclear . It seems that a number of pastors came in to conduct services and perform official acts. During one of these three years, the Rev. C. 0. Smith served as pastor. The Rev. Fred Rockett served Redeemer as pastor during the short period of time between September, 1929 and August, 1930. In 1931 the Rev. G. E. Mennen returned to Redeemer, this time as its called pastor. He served five years until 1936.
Pastor Mennen was serving at Conover at the same time, and received some help from a seminary student, the Rev. G. A. Wagner, later a pastor in Baltimore. Pastor Mennen conducted services in Catawba twice a month on Sunday afternoons.
On August 23, 1936, The Rev. Robert Lail was again installed as pastor and served the congregation until June, 1938. At this time the congregation listed 81 communicants and 119 souls. On June 22,1938, the Rev. C. 0. Smith was again installed as pastor and served the congregation until November; 1946. Under his able leadership the congregation grew to 100 communicant members.
On November 17, 1946, the Rev. Carl A. Koerber was installed. He served the congregation faithfully until June, 1954, at which time he accepted a call into the institutional mission field of Baltimore. During his ministry, in January, 1947, the congregation undertook a great project for a small congregation -the building of the parsonage. The contract was let to the Elmore and Mackie Construction Company at $9,975.00. Much of the labor and materials were donated, and practically every male member of the congregation gave some of his time on Saturdays to help lay bricks. On June 18, 1947, Pastor Koerber and his family moved into the new parsonage.
The Rev. R. P. Sieving, who later served as Executive Secretary of the Mission Board of the Southeastern District, served as supply pastor until June 24, 1956. During this interim, the church debt was completely retired, and the Congregation terminated it's subsidy from the District Mission Board.
On June 24 1956, the Rev. David L. Luecke was installed as pastor of Redeemer. Under his leadership a Building Committee was selected in the fall of 1958. In the fall of 1959, the first church structure which. had served for 43 years was razed. On September 25, 1960, a new church building dedicated. The congregation then listed 135 communicant members with a total of 200 baptized members.
The Rev. Robert L. Jackson was installed as pastor on September 23, 1962. During his short time at Redeemer, the new Educational Wing was begun and was dedicated. on November 3, 1963, after Pastor Jackson accepted a call to Newton, Kansas. In August1963, the congregation listed 177 communicant members and a total of 230 souls.
On September l 1, 1963, the Rev. John J. McRee was installed. The New Educational Wing was completed in 1964 and Rev Dean Mues served from 1966 10 1968. In 1968 a new seminarian arrived on the scene by the name of Pastor David Gerken. He and his wife were blessed with three children while serving at Redeemer, one of whom died in infancy.
Rev. Gerken served Redeemer until 1978. His son, Mike, continues to serve the Catawba County area as a Thrivent representative. After a long period of back surgeries and declining health, Rev Gerken passed away in Conover, NC in 1997.
In 1978, Rev. Michael Brondos was installed as Pastor. Pastor Brondos came to Redeemer from the mission fields of Australia and served until his retirement in 1984. He has been back several times to preach at Redeemer for anniversaries and homecoming celebrations. He and his wife Amelia reside in Richmond, VA.
Redeemer was blessed with another seminarian on his first call, Pastor Mark Raddatz, who arrived in 1984. Pastor Raddatz served as pastor until 1996. He and his wife Angela were blessed with five boys while here at Redeemer and, since taking a call to Lancaster, Ohio, have added another baby boy. The current pastor of Redeemer Lutheran church is Pastor Greg Alms who arrived in 1996.
The years from 1980 to the present have been active, busy years for Redeemer Lutheran Church. In December of 1985 a new hymnal, Lutheran Worship was introduced along with a vibrant liturgical worship including the use of processional crosses, torches, chanting and incense. That liturgical life which is centered in the Gospel of Jesus Christ continues to flourish today. Magnificent new stained glass windows were installed in 1994, a beautiful new organ added in 1998 and a new hymnal Supplement in September of 1999.
Bible study has been a focus at Redeemer with various evening classes along with weekday sessions and Sunday morning education. The entire Holy Scriptures were studied, verse by verse, in the Sunday morning Bible class beginning in 1985 and concluding in 2001. Catechesis, centering in the Small Catechism, has been a constant feature of Confirmation instruction for young and old.
There has also been development in physical facilities as well. In 1987, a new parish hall was dedicated for Bible Classes, church meetings, gatherings and fellowship. In the late 1980's additional seating was added in the sanctuary in what used to be the parish hall. In 2001 two pieces of property were purchased, one of which, the Rufty house, is being used by the Youth group for activities and Bible study.
A history of Redeemer Lutheran such as this one cannot express what really goes on in this place. Here the Gospel of forgiveness through God's Word is preached and heard, here sinners are baptized and thus born again, here forgiveness is given, here God's praises are sung, here God's people serve Him and one another in support, joy, laughter and hope. All of this through no effort of our own but through the might and mercy of Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory now and always!