Broken Arrow Lutheran church celebrates its 100th anniversary
BY BILL SHERMAN World Religion Writer
Saturday, December 22, 2012
12/22/12 at 5:04 AM
BROKEN ARROW - One of Oklahoma's largest and oldest Lutheran churches will celebrate its 100th anniversary next weekend.
Immanuel Lutheran Church was founded on Dec. 29, 1912, by seven German families who had settled in the Broken Arrow area.
Services were conducted in German until World War I, when the church switched to English to avoid the suspicion of their neighbors.
The church worshipped for years in a classic white frame church near downtown.
In 1961, the church dedicated a new architecturally sweeping modernistic building on a high hill overlooking Broken Arrow. The building became a local landmark.
The congregation outgrew the building on the hill, and in 2002 completed a spacious, modern building at 400 N. Aspen (145th East) Ave.
That 80,000-square-foot complex includes the church, a chapel, a youth center and a 300-student school for infants through 12th-graders.
With a membership of 1,200, the church is one of the two largest Lutheran churches in the state.
The Rev. Art Spomer, pastor emeritus, said the anniversary celebration will include a combined 10 a.m. service Dec. 30 with the Rev. Dennis Hilken, former associate pastor at Immanuel, and a 2 p.m. celebration service and reunion with a message by Reed Lessing of the Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Mo.
Receipts from the two anniversary services will go toward student scholarships and other projects, including a new bell tower to house a bell donated for the anniversary and help for a Lutheran pastor in Tanzania.
The Rev. John Wilke, senior pastor at Immanuel Lutheran, came to the church as a vicar in 2003.
The church is one of about 75 Missouri Synod Lutheran churches in Oklahoma, which is the largest Lutheran denomination in the state, and second-largest Lutheran denomination nationally, with 2.6 million members.
The denomination is more conservative than the largest Lutheran denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Wilke said the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church membership has remained stable in a era when many denominational churches are losing ground.
"I do think we'll experience a growth in denominational churches," he said.
The Lutheran church offers a historical continuity that goes back centuries, he said.
"I think people are looking for something that is bigger than themselves.
"There's a connection to the past in the way we worship. ... People are saying, 'If this is my faith, it should be bigger than this community. It should be bigger than the pastor.'
"I think we bring an understanding of law and gospel, how they work together, calling people to repentance, and bringing the gift of forgiveness," Wilke said.
Spomer said, "Martin Luther brought the restoration of the common understanding of the Gospel. Every Protestant denomination is indebted to Martin Luther."
Original Print Headline: Broken Arrow Lutheran church celebrates its 100th
Bill Sherman 918-581-8398
The Revs. John Wilke (left) and Art Spomer pose outside Immanuel Lutheran Church’s
80,000-square-foot building at 400 N. Aspen St. BILL SHERMAN/Tulsa World
The church’s building on a high hill in north Broken Arrow from
1961 until 2002 became a local landmark.