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Our History

History of Faith Lutheran Church, Elma
(by Pat Ronholt, Faith Historian)

It all began in 1960. Pastor O.R. Kleppe was called to start a Lutheran church in Elma, and he arrived in town in June of that year. Work soon began on the parsonage and in August the church building began. By August Pastor Kleppe had acquainted Elma with the Lutheran Church.

108 prospective members met on September 11, 1960 at the Whiteside Chapel in Elma for the first worship service of the Lutheran church. All there signed a paper to be placed in the church cornerstone. Lora McMillan was baptized at that service to become the first charter member of the yet to be named church. The second worship service had 55 in attendance and many also attended the Sunday school. 85 attended the third service. With worship services begun, the pastor looked to beginning church programs. Confirmation classes for 12 began, adult instruction was offered and there was Sunday school for all ages each Sunday.

Work continued on the Sanctuary and the education wing. By October the large beams were in place. It was also in October that Luther League for the youth was organized, and junior confirmation met. The women organized and held their first meeting November 10 at the home of Clara Buswell.

On December 11 the Home Mission Director met with 99 people at the Elma Grange. He explained the Home Mission program and how it would concern the Elma church. This included the Mission Agreement that would be read at each annual meeting for as long as the church was a mission. The Sanctuary was used for the first time on Christmas Day, 1960. Many harbor churches joined with the young church to celebrate the day. The organization meeting was held in January 15, 1961, and officers were elected at that first congregational meeting. The constitution and by-laws were accepted and the name of Faith was voted on. On January 29,
1961 the president of the North Pacific Council read the names of 153 members and declared Faith Lutheran a congregation of the Lutheran church and installed O.R. Kleppe as the first pastor.

At the dedication of the building there was an impressive list of clergy. Joining Dr. H.L. Foss, president of the North Pacific Council, there were pastors from Tacoma, Aberdeen, Grayland, Raymond, Chinook, Olympia and Bremerton. The Junior and Senior choirs sang. The Elma Chronicle listed the cost of the parsonage as $19,000 and the church building as $47,000. The debt of the two buildings plus other expenses proved to be a handicap for years. Council business focused on how to handle the debt and yet pay the bills to keep the church operating. All the groups at Faith were involved in retiring the debt. Still the first year sped by and to celebrate the anniversary of the first worship service a Loyalty Dinner was held at the Sharon Grange on Sept 14, 1961.

In 1962 the men’s group was able to secure ten wooden pews from a church in Beach, North Dakota and they were shipped out by freight. They were refinished just in time for the Easter service. Topsoil was brought in, the lawn was seeded, and plants and shrubs planted.

The debt continued to be a problem, as some months even the interest could not be met. Additional loans were needed and by December 1964 the debt had risen to $89,500 and growing when unpaid interest was added to the principle. Some help came from Good Shepherd Lutheran in Olympia and more help came from American Missions when in November, 1971 they forgave $15,000 of the loan and interest for 3 years. In 1973 American Missions gave Faith a re-tooling grant and a loan payment subsidy. The debt was now reduced to $36,000. In 1974 Faith accepted a $10,000 gift from the American Mission and refinanced a loan of $25,000 from Lutheran Brotherhood.
The money owed the Lutheran Church was now taken care of and as of January 1975 Faith was no longer a mission church. Monthly payments to Lutheran Brotherhood were low enough that they could easily be met.

With mission status behind them, the congregation could look ahead and deal with the problem of lack of classrooms. A new education wing was planned that would include 3 classrooms, a larger room that became the library, and an addition to the fellowship area. It was decided that the work would be done on a pay-as-you-go basis and divided into 3 phases. Phase I was the foundation and shell. Members did most of the construction. A tally board showed each week’s volunteer hours. By November 1977 there were 1143 hours donated with more work needed to be done. By March of 1976 the roof was 90% done. An impromptu picnic was held in the new wing in 35degree temperature while a crew picked up debris from the roof. Phase I was completed in September 1976 and Phase II, interior work, was completed in August 1977. Carpeting was laid just before Sunday school began in September. The wing was dedicated in January 1977 even though the project was not done until 1978. But the dedication was held because the wing was being used.

As the years went by other work was done. A new gabled roof was put on the original flat roof of the educational wing in 1973. The new addition also had a pitched roof to match the existing education wing. A new organ was added in 1978 and the roof on the sanctuary and parsonage replaced in the 80’s. In 1983 Faith began a joint ministry with Village Lutheran sharing a pastor. This continued until Village disbanded in 1989. A golden chain tree was planted at Faith in honor of Village. In 1986 the last loan payment was made, and on November 9 the "mortgage" was burned. Another 10 pews were added in 1990, this time from Emmanuel Lutheran in Bremerton. The parking lot was paved in 1991 and the front landscaped.

A window was installed in the Narthex and double paned windows put in the fellowship area. In 2001 a stained glass partition was installed between the Narthex and Sanctuary. In 2004 the rest rooms were remodeled and a handicapped rest room added.

Beginning in 2001 Pastor Rod Kastelle began making new furnishings for the Sanctuary. He began with an altar, a baptismal font, crosses and candlesticks to match a hymn board he had previously made. In 2003 he added the altar rail and in 2008 the pulpit. In 2010 the kitchen was completely remodeled and new landscaping around the church.

Through the years the church has been busy in the community. Each year they collect toys for the East County Christmas basket, the women make quilts for Harbors Home Health and the Domestic Violence Center in Aberdeen and other places where needs are known. Fleece blankets were made in 2008 to fill a request made by Camp Corey. In 1978 they sponsored a family from Viet Nam until they could be settled in Seattle. They tried a soup and sandwich Saturday for the community, and since 1978 have provided a home for the community Bible Study, Bible Study Outreach. They have provided space for AA since the 70’s. There is a monthly collection of food for food banks in Montesano, McCleary and Elma, and they collect school supplies for area schools. Have invited the community to free concerts and dinners, to participate in a 10K and 5K run, and this summer a sidewalk chalk contest.

For the past 50+ years there have been 8 pastors. In order they were: Orville R. Kleppe, Roy T. Johnson, Elvin G. Borg, A. Virgil Wood, Paul R. Hermansen, Walter B. Klockers, Angela K. Renecker and Dennis Hartsook, present called pastor.

(edited 2012, by Steve Wolfe)