In 1943, Holy Ghost Lutheran Church (est.1871) and Our Savior’s Lutheran Church (est.1877) came together to form Trinity Lutheran Church of Waupaca. Both were Danish in background, not using English in services until 1908. Holy Ghost, located on Maple Street, is now the site of the Christian Church. The War Production Board denied the request to build a new church, so
the members alternated using the two buildings for a time. Finally, in 1945, an architect was hired to begin plans for the building.
The congregation pushed ahead and broke ground in July, 1948, but only for a basement. Members did not approve a full structure until later that year. As a result, the Our Savior’s building was torn down at the same time that the new building was being constructed. The new church was finally dedicated in 1951. The cornerstone for Our Savior’s was recently discovered nearby in the yard of the late Harold and Phyllis Schroeder, members at the time, and has been moved back to the grounds of Trinity to be rededicated.
The last half of the 1940’s saw “The Trinity Lutheran Monthly” newsletter was mailed to members for 2 cents each, home-canned produce was donated to Bethany Children’s Home, six ladies’ circles met with dues of 25 cents a month, and a new pastor, A.S. Petersen was installed.
In the 1950’s, the new church was finally dedicated, 42 couples made up the couples group, and the ushers included Forrest Radley, LeRoy Haberkorn and Arlin Barden. The library was established in 1952, VBS lasted three weeks, and Millie Forseth was SS superintendent. In 1953, Bethany Children’s Home was sold, a family worship service was available at 9:15 am, and the Sunday School was crying for more space. An unknown publication called us “a major league church”! Pews arrived in 1954 at a cost of $133 each. By 1958, the Sunday school had reached 431 enrollment (more space!), and a lay assistant for the pastor was authorized.
The American Lutheran Church Northern Wisconsin District was begun in 1960, with Rev. Petersen of Waupaca preaching. Later, he was elected vice-president. Bethany Home was being constructed in 1962, and two sessions of VBS were needed to hold all the children. In 1964, the building was updated with new educational facilities, a rebuilt organ, a public address system, the present 36-foot tower and enlarged narthex, and many energy-saving projects. The newsletter called us “The Friendly Church with Friendly People”.
Gary Danielson, the first son of Trinity to enter the ministry, was ordained in 1970. Also that year, the ALC voted to permit the ordination of women. The “Trinity Times made its debut in 1971. 1972 brought the weekly radio broadcast of the service, members participated in city recreation leagues in dart ball, ping-pong, and bowling. Volunteers paved the parking lot, and Saturday evening services began for the summer. The congregation voted in 1973 to remain a downtown church and to purchase adjacent homes for parking as they became available. Released-time education for 7th and 8th graders began in 1974, as well as the Bethel Bible Series training was offered. Anne Handschke returned from 2 years of volunteer teaching in New Guinea.
1975 found us with a new bus and topping our goal for missions by over $37,000! Jenny, the donkey, paraded for the first time on Palm Sunday in 1976. A club for folks over 50 was started and Bibles were placed in all the pews. VBS was held at Shadow Lake Camp. A Vietnam refugee family was adopted in 1977. 24 ladies attended the National ALCW convention in Minneapolis aboard the Trinity bus in 1978. A new program titled “Evangelism Explosion was offered.1979 brought us a new “Lutheran Book of Worship” and a Living Nativity.
“Committed to Christ” was the theme in 1981, with Saturday services all year round, new sponsorship of a missionary in Papua, New Guinea, and a burning of the old mortgage. By 1982, the “Trinity Times” was being sent to 5,000 area homes and the ladies sent quilts, soap, layettes, activity kits, and 736 pounds of clothing to Lutheran World Relief.
Pastor Gene Gauerke visited the Midthuns (missionaries) in Papua, New Guinea, in 1983 as a gift in honor of his 25 years in the ministry. The organ was rebuilt and 110 members completed the “Witnesses for Christ” program. 1985 saw the beginning os the “Share the Blessings” building fund. We started “Through the Bible in a Year”, a popular study course. A Lutherland tour was led by Pastors Irv and Joyce Sandberg. The congregation was divided up into 79 geographical clusters of 12 families each to foster fellowship and care of our neighbors. Martin Luther’s 500th birthday was celebrated with a musical dramatization of his life.
Rev. James Carlson accepted a call to Trinity in 1984 and a cantata entitled “The Kingdom of God”, by our own Helen Morey, was presented. 1985 found Jean Schwartz becoming the new Sunday School coordinator and we were still working our way through the Bible in one year. Mr. Pionke was unable to cut wood for the family stove due to an injury, so 47 Trinity members responded to cut wood and serve lunch for all.
Pastor Chuck Tews arrived at the end of 1986, along with new handbells and a new congregational directory. It was decided to extend support for the New Guinea mission for another five years. The weekly newsletter was cut back to biweekly and Ray Clausen was ordained into the ministry. And yes, the “Lutheran Lakemen” played against the “Lake Wobegon Whippets” in a game following the church picnic.
1987 also brought the contractors back to work on the new addition. A new kitchen, fellowship hall, chapel, library and new classrooms were added, along with air conditioning in the sanctuary. The building was dedicated on September 20. Another cantata, “Everlasting Light”, by Helen Morey, was performed in honor of her retirement as our organist. Pastor Chuck was elected president of the Tomorrow River Conference, while Margaret Miller was elected treasurer.
An even greater change came in 1988 with the establishment of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) encompassing 5,200,000 members in 11,127 congregations. Mary Lund was ordained into the ministry, while Faye Sorenson was the first woman to be elected congregational president. 14 students attended the ELCA Youth Gathering in San Antonio. The Madrigal Singers from Waupaca High School participated in a pre-Christmas service. To close the decade, computers were being used to record financial and other materials, and a beautiful poinsettia tree graced the chancel for Christmas in 1989.
Parking had become an even more serious problem by 1990, so the congregation began purchasing adjacent homes and property to enlarge the parking lot. The purchases were completed in 2010. The Midthun missionary family returned from Papua, New Guinea, to visit and share their experiences. Dr. Jim Robinson began his short-term dental care in third world countries program and the youth committee recommended a third pastor be hired for youth ministry.
Two LAMP (Lutheran Assoc. of Missionaries and Pilots) teams taught VBS among Indian children in Canada in 1991. Youth programs were the emphasis in 1992 with the names “Logos” and “Riot”, meeting on Wednesday evenings. “SpiritFest” contemporary worship debuted in September, complete with keyboard, guitars and drums. Trinity celebrated its 50th Anniversary with a series of speakers and events. in 1993. A new pictoral directory was produced. Pastor Chuck began work on a Doctoral program through the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. And two of Helen Morey”s cantatas, “You Are My Witnesses” and “Called to Be Saints” were presented by the choir during the year. Pastor James Bump was welcomed to Trinity.
Trinity participated in a series of discussions entitled “The Covenant”, sharing the teachings of Shepherd of the Lakes, St. Marks Episcopal, and St. Mary’s Catholic churches in various areas including Holy Communion. Finally, 1993 brought a variety of mission endeavors and support including a Youth Work Camp in Colorado, Crossways Bible Camp, Lutheran Social Services’ chaplaincy work in prison, hospital, and counseling programs in Wisconsin, and response to the flooding disasters in the midwest.
A Sweetheart Dinner Dance on Valentine’s Day, 1994, was held to raise funds for the next Youth Gathering trip to Atlanta. The youth also sponsored a talent show and silent auction. 45 students were in this year’s confirmation class! A Master Plan was adopted to address any future building at Trinity. Another Helen Morey cantata, “Called to Be Saints” was presented in October. Pastor Gene Gauerke retired in 1996.
1997-1998 brought a major re-direction to the flow of worshipers with a new entrance on the south end of the building. To accommodate anticipated needs, an elevator, handicapped restrooms and a nursery were also added. Pastor Sean Motley was installed as Youth Pastor.
The new millennium was entered with the same activity and enthusiasm. With Pastors Tews, Bump and Motley, Trinity’s programs and service continued with the same dynamics. The year 2000 saw the establishment of Living Waters, a more contemporary worship experience led by Pastor Bump, and held at Waupaca High School. Its aim was to explore Christianity in the light of everyday life events. In 2002, an endowment fund was established to help students of Trinity who wished to enter the field of Lutheran ministry and service.
2003 saw the 50th Anniversary of Trinity with many former members and pastors returning to participate in the celebration. Six sons and daughters of Trinity were now in the ministry. Doctor Jim Robinson continued his mission to provide dental care to areas in South America. Other activities included a team for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, “Turn Off TV” week, a new bus, and Sue Townsend becoming our new business secretary.
In 2005, Pastor Bump received a call to another church and Trinity extended a call to Rev. Jennifer DeNetz in 2006. Lots of other changes came that year, including the retirement of Betsy Sachs as parish nurse, Paster Sean moving to a church in Wausau, and Wanda Eikenbary as our new music coordinator. Trinity extended a call to Rev. Nathan Liedke as the new youth pastor. The building also got a new roof. The Leap of Faith Program was developed in anticipation of further expansion of the facility.
Trinity established its first website in 2007, entering a new phase of communication with its members. The Fellowship Club marked 50 years of providing new Bibles to the 3rd graders for their very own. The high school youth held a 30-Hour famine, led by Pastor Nate and Michele Drake, to honor the ELCA World Hunger initiative. New photo directories were prepared and distributed. In 2008, Pastor Chuck traveled to South Africa to visit ELCA mission volunteers in Cape Town, including his daughter Kristin.
Trinity congregation continued find ways to suit its growing needs. It was decided to implement a major expansion of the ministry, using the Moving Forward With Christ program. In 2009, a building and site plan were approved. A statement on human sexuality was accepted by the ELCA National Assembly. The congregation was assured that Trinity was an independent entity and would not be forced to call a pastor or lay-rostered leader in a same-sex relationship. Pastor Nate took a call to Iowa.
Rev. Andy Behrendt was installed as our new youth pastor in 2010, in a memorable service held in the basement due to a tornado warning! Shepherd’s Quarter began leading Worship on Wednesdays, a new sprinkler system was installed, and Holly Meza made a mission trip to Haiti. We were proud that in Kevin Peterson’s 40th District, 5 out of 6 Eagle Scouts came from our own Troop 634.
2011 marked the start of construction on the new facility. Tiny Treasures preschool celebrated 10 years of classes and electronic giving was initiated. Trinity was given the “Angel Award” by CAP Services for “tremendous compassion toward victims of domestic violence” (through the Agape fund). And Pastor Andy allowed himself to be duct taped to a wall by his students following the Vikings’ loss to the Green Bay Packers.
The new sanctuary was dedicated in June, 2012. Situated where Our Savior’s had been, it included projection screens, improved digital technologies, and a full basement for classrooms and a kitchen. The offices were moved to a more convenient location immediately inside the south doors. The organ was updated again and carefully moved to its present location in 2013.
A plan to move confirmation to October for the freshmen was begun in order to remove the “graduation” aspect from the re-affirmation of baptism. Students attended the National Youth Gathering in New Orleans.
In 2014, after 27 years as pastor at Trinity, Pastor Chuck Tews retired from the ministry. The congregation celebrated with a party and recognition of his years of service. A call committee was formed and a search for a new head pastor was begun. After more than a year of work, Pastor Bryan Robertson was called. He was installed on December 6, 2015. Pastor Jennifer Denetz received a call to a church in Appleton in 2016. She moved away after serving Trinity for ten years. Trinity welcomed its newest pastor, Rev. Dione Miller, in July of 2016. She came to us as a brand new seminary graduate, having spent her vicarage in Thailand.