One hundred fifty two years ago on February 23, 1870, an attempt to establish a church “society” took place. Not much is known about that meeting except that it was called for the purpose of organizing the group into a body corporate. It was decided that the church should incorporate under the name “First Lutheran Scandinavian Church of Lincoln.”  Apparently, the organization was short-lived as there is no further mention of its existence or of any activity. However, it appears to be where we began – one of the first efforts to establish a Lutheran Society or Church in Lincoln, Nebraska.

In 1870 Lincoln was a four year old village of 2500 people. It was in December of that year a second meeting of Lincoln Lutherans was chaired by Rev. S.G. Larson, a pioneer pastor of the Swedish Lutheran Church in Nebraska. The group immediately moved to affiliate with the Augustana Synod. The congregation numbered fifteen members – one married couple and thirteen single persons.

To the determination of this little congregation, we owe not only our gratitude, but our very existence today. It must have required uncommon courage, and above all, a vigorous faith to nurture a struggling little church through the difficulties of a pioneer economy in a frontier social setting. Fortunately, the group persevered.

Today, we take stock of where we are and where we have been. We acknowledge God’s faithfulness, breathing life into our ministries, and all our brothers and sisters who responded to this faithfulness by carrying out the business that God has given us over the past 150 years.

Thanks be to God!

Download the First Lutheran History book

Download the Bios of Former Pastors, Vicars and Sons & Daughters of First Lutheran Church

Reflecting on Our 150+2 Anniversary Celebration

Hugging. Smiling. Laughing. Crying. Welcoming. Reminiscing. Singing. Praying. Communing. Reflecting. Dreaming. Celebrating.

We may have had to wait two extra years to celebrate our 150th anniversary at First Lutheran Church, but it didn’t dampen the celebratory spirit of all who attended the day’s events on April 24. Hearts were filled with joy as we welcomed each other and our special guests into a worship experience like no other! From 420+ worshipers filling the pews, to an inspiring message from Bishop Brian Maas, and music, featuring the children’s choirs, adult choir, brass, percussion, woodwinds, strings, pipe organ and bells (sometimes all playing and singing together), it all would have made our brothers and sisters from the past proud of who we are today as First Lutheran Church.

Every inch of available space was occupied in the Activity Center by those attending the luncheon and program that followed worship. This, in and of itself, brought so much joy as we have yearned to gather over a meal and in fellowship with one another for the past two years.

It is hard to express in words how one felt at the end of the day, but one feeling was obvious – thankfulness. We give thanks to all those who worked behind the scenes before the pandemic, and now in 2022, to plan such an amazing celebration. We give thanks to the staff, especially to Masako and Boyd Bacon, for the extra hours of work it required of them just one week after Easter! We give thanks for the former pastors, vicars and daughters of First Lutheran Church, and their families, who took the time to celebrate with us in-person or through video greetings. We give thanks for all who have been called to serve First Lutheran in the past 152 years! We give thanks for each other and our faith community and the resilience, hope and faith instilled in us today – just as our brothers and sisters from the past had as they looked towards the future of a church that would serve Lincoln and the larger community in bold ways! Lastly, we give thanks to God for his continual faithfulness to us for 152 years and equipping us with all we need to be disciples of Jesus Christ who are transformig the world in 2022 and in the years to come! Praise be to God!

Video greetings and updates from former pastors, vicars and daughers of First Lutheran Church

We were blessed to have former pastors, a vicar and daughters of First Lutheran join us at our 152nd anniversary celebration:  Pastor Juliet (Rasi) Focken (Vicar from 2006-2007), Sheri Roberts (daughter of First Lutheran and Former Director of Youth, Family and Education Ministries), Pastor Dan Warnes (Lead Pastor from 2013-2020), Pastor and Dr. Katherine Shaner (daughter of First Lutheran), Bishop Brian Maas (Lead Pastor from 2006-2012), Pastor Barb Oshlo (Daughter of First Lutheran), Pastor Aaron Erdley (Associate Pastor from 2007-2015) and Deacon Bonita Johnsen (Daughter of First Lutheran and Former Director of Music Ministry). We also had Pastor Bill Peterson (Interim Associate Pastor in 2021) celebrate with us! We want to also thank their family members for attending the celebration also!

Did you ever yearn in the past two years to simply be in fellowship with your church family and to be in close proximity and hug another person without fear or anxiety? Imagine, then, the feelings and emotions of those who gathered during the fellowship hour of our anniversary celebration on Sunday when hugs were given freely and closeness was not just felt physically, but emotionally, as well.

The banners displayed on the Altar on Sunday for our anniversary were designed for the 150th anniversary. They were the work of a special committee composed of Andrew Morrow, Molly Goninan, Loretta Hammelmann, Judy Bailey, Jane Shaner and Pastor Dan Warnes.

The committee worked in an unusual way in that they designed and tweaked by committee. Andrew was the “chief architect.” He drew the committee’s ideas on paper. Once the committee approved, colors and fabric swatches were introduced. Jane then transfered patterns and constructed the banners. Judy cut a great many letters to make the words and numbers.

The “Living Water” banner is self-explanatory. All blessings flow from the hand of God.

The cross banner replicates the central cross over the Altar in the Sanctuary. This banner has our 150th anniversary theme, “Celebrating God’s Faithfulness.”

The red, blue, yellow and white circle banner is our official First Lutheran logo. Within the circle can be found overlapping circles to represent the Trinity, the heart of Jesus and the cross he died on. The green bud represents growth in discipleship. The blue background comes from the Lutheran seal. The yellow ring symbolizes blessed heaven. This banner has been on display for several months by the doors of the Gathering Area.

Thanks goes to John Jenkins and Dean Sewell for making the banner stands.

These banners beautified the Altar and Sanctuary on Sunday and we are grateful to all who contributed to the creation of them. We especially remember Andrew Morrow who we lost in 2020.

Since our early days, music has been a cornerstone of our church’s identity. Sunday’s anniversary worship services involved over 85 member musicians and singers – young and old! The music featured the children’s choirs, adult choir, brass, percussion, woodwinds, strings, pipe organ and bells (sometimes all playing and singing together). It all would have made our brothers and sisters from the past proud of who we still are today at First Lutheran – a congregation that loves and values music!

First Lutheran Church has been blessed to have a sister and brother both serve as music ministry staff – Bonita Johnsen-Thomsen and Boyd Bacon.

Bonita served at the time of our 125th anniversary in 1995 and was commissioned by the church to arrange a song in honor of the celebration. The song, “God Has Called Us”, features the tune of David M. Cherwien and text from Susan Palo Cherwien.

Boyd was commissioned to do the same for our 150th anniversary. The piece, “Welcomed by God’s Grace,” was written by him and focuses on the welcoming statement of First Lutheran Church.

We sang both songs at last Sunday’s 152nd anniversary luncheon with Bonita and Boyd accompanying us on the piano for each.