On February 25, 1944, fifteen adult Lutherans met at 6583 University Avenue in a hardware store, which had been converted into a chapel to officially organize Windsor Heights Lutheran Church. Less than a year earlier, Pastor A.C. Schumacher began his work in what was called “The Windsor Heights Field.” The first Sunday Service of Worship was on July 1, 1943. Eleven persons attended this service, seven of whom were visitors from sister Lutheran congregations in Des Moines. The first Sunday School session that day had an attendance of three children, two teachers, and the pastor. The congregation purchased lots at the corner of 66th Street and Carpenter Avenue.
Construction of a church building began on February 19, 1947, and dedication of the new church facility took place on August 10, 1947. Members contributed countless hours of their time in the construction of a church building and the parsonage. Some of them mortgaged their homes so the congregation could survive the financial stress of attempting to liquidate its indebtedness in a short period of time. A mortgage burning ceremony was held on February 28, 1954 at which time the congregation had 402 baptized members.
When Pastor Schumacher accepted a Call to St. John’s Lutheran Church in Madison, Wisconsin in the fall of 1954, Ervin Schlachtenhaufen was called as Pastor and installed on April 17, 1955. He served the congregation until October 1970 when he accepted a call to serve a congregation in northern Wisconsin. Stained glass (given in memory of one of the congregation’s members) was placed around the large cross on the east wall of the chancel in 1956. On May 24, 1959, a new addition to the original facility was dedicated. A metal house (which came to be called “The Tin Can”) was purchased in 1966. It was located immediately west of the parsonage. This metal house and the unattached garage were used for Sunday School classes and small group meetings. That same year, the congregation voted to purchase a Reuter Unit Pipe Organ.
Douglas Lindgren accepted the call to serve as Pastor. He was installed on January 17, 1971. The sanctuary and parsonage were air-conditioned that summer and a room was remodeled to create a Pastor’s Study (replacing the one which had been in the parsonage). In June of 1971, Pastor Lindgren announced his decision to resign so he could begin serving in a different Christian ministry in North Dakota.
Richard Rehfeldt was installed as Pastor on September 5, 1971. He was joined in 1973 by Norman Litzner who was installed as co-Pastor on August 12, 1973. A new addition to the church facility was dedicated on August 27, 1978. The congregation established a Community Concerns Fund in its annual budget in 1981. The Fund assists local agencies, program and shelters, which help persons in need in the greater Des Moines area. In 1983, the congregation established the Windsor Heights Lutheran Foundation.
At a special congregational meeting in January of 1989, the decision was made to begin the Minister of Health program. Mary McBride, R.N. was the congregation’s first Minister of Health. Since 1989 the congregation has had four persons serve as Minister of Health. Through the years there have been three parish workers and a seminary intern. By the end of the 1980s, the congregation had helped sponsor two world missionaries. During the years from 1973 through 1989, Windsor Heights Lutheran sponsored five refugee families.
In 1991, member Laurie Meyer left to serve as an accountant for the Lutheran Church in Tanzania, increasing our sponsorship of global missionaries to three. The congregation sponsored a sixth refugee family in the early 1990s. In 1991, the congregation established a three-month sabbatical leave for pastors serving seven years in the congregation. In 1991, fifteen youth and adults of the church spent a week in Mexico City at the Lutheran Center as pilgrims among God’s people in Mexico. In subsequent years, sixteen different groups made a week-long pilgrimage to Mexico City.
In September of 1994 Pastor Litzner accepted a call to serve Christ Lutheran Church in Hot Springs Village, Arkansas. Pastor Hans Lee came to WHLC from Milwaukee in January of 1996 and served as co-pastor until December of 1997 when he accepted a call to be senior pastor of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. In June of 1996 we began a weekly Saturday evening Service of Worship. In 1998 the congregation began serving meals each month at the Central Iowa Shelter in Des Moines.
Cynthia Keyser Rothgery came to WHLC upon graduation from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota to serve as Team Pastor starting in July of 1999. A full time Family Life & Youth Director was added to the staff in June of 1998 with Becky Kocourek being the first to fill the position. She left to take a similar position in July of 2002. The first annual mission trip to Jackson, Mississippi was in the summer of 2002. High school youth and adults did hands-on-work for Voice of Calvary Ministries in Jackson. A new and expanded parking lot was completed in the fall of 2002 in conjunction with a new development to the south of the church property. Erik Ullestad began duties as Family Life & Youth Director in June of 2003. Pastor Rothgery took a call to Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Largo, Florida in December of 2003.
Pastor Eric Carlson was called on May 23, 2004 to join our pastoral staff. Pastor Richard Rehfeldt retired in November 2005 after 34 years of faithful service as pastor of WHLC. Pastor Robin Karst was called on October 1, 2006 as Associate Pastor. Pastor Karst married in April 2008 and became Pastor Coughennower. Pastor Eric Carlson accepted a call to serve as Assistant to Bishop Michael Burk of the Southeastern Iowa Synod in December 2008. In December 2009 Pastor Chris Olkiewicz became the lead pastor.
In October 2013 the congregation voted to embark on a facility renovation and expansion project. The project led to renovations in the sanctuary, as well as the addition of a new kitchen and parish hall. The renovation allowed WHLC to host programs from the local community, including Special Olympics Basketball, Lutheran Services International, Girl Scouts & The Heartland Youth Choir.
New changes in the staff occurred in 2017 and 2018. Alice Barrett resigned as office manager in June of 2017. Later that month, WHLC hired Heidi Hennig to fill the position. Following the departures of former youth leaders Erik Ullestad and Caitlyn Reinders, in 2015 and 2017 respectively, to new ministry calls, WHLC created a new position title: Director of Youth & Family Ministry/Congregational Life Coordinator. Zach Meyer stepped into this role in March of 2018.
In July of 2018, WHLC welcomed the Chin Baptist Church as they began using the building for their Sunday services. That same year, WHLC also welcomed the Eastseals Iowa group, who use the building 5 days a week for their community and employment programs! Beginning in January of 2019, WHLC started hosting special functions and events to celebrate our 75th Anniversary.
We are blessed to have such a vivid and wonderful history that has led across 75 years to our current congregation and ministries. As we move forward worshiping the Lord and serving our neighbors, we hold our history as a reminder to always invite, grow and serve in Jesus’ name!
Interested in hearing from some of the voices of our church’s History? Check out our Voices From Out Past Page, where we stored greetings, updates and shared memories from previous staff and members of the congregation, collected during our 75th Anniversary!