History

In the spring of 1949 the Mission Committee of the Northwestern District of the American Lutheran Church requested the Reverend Edward Wagner of Reardan, Washington to investigate the possibility of holding Lutheran services at Cheney, Washington.  After visiting a number of Lutheran families at Cheney, a great deal of interest and eagerness were shown by the people of Cheney.  The first service was held on Pentecost Sunday, June 5, 1949, in the American Legion Hall, with 47 worshipers present. Services were conducted by Pastor Wagner every Sunday morning at 9:00 A.M. during the summer.

The district parish worker, Miss Olive Eichelberg, came to Cheney and worked during the months of July and August to canvass the field and to organize a Sunday School.

In September the congregation moved to the G.A.R. Hall on First Street and held services at 2:00 P.M. in the afternoon. On November 20, 1949, President S. G. Siefkes helped organize the congregation with 40 charter members.

The prospects for a permanent ministry looked so good that the Mission Committee decided to call a full-time pastor for this new congregation. In February of 1950, a call was extended to Reverend Edward Wagner of Reardan. He accepted the call and moved to Cheney near the end of March. Services were then being held at the Junior High School.

In September of 1950, a church program was begun. At this time no funds were available from the Mission Committee building fund, so a number of men loaned money to our congregation for a church building, including Mr. Charles Fiess, Mr. Dan Kiehn, Mr. Emil Stuhlmiller, Mr. Walter Wendlandt, Mr. Ed Mahrt, of Reardan, and Mr. H. F. Batterman, of Salem Oregon. Mr. Arnott Woodroofe of Spokane was the architect. Mr. Charles Brandt of Spokane was the head carpenter.
 
The cornerstone was laid on Palm Sunday, 1951. The first service was held in the new building on Easter Sunday of that year, with 150 people present. The new building was dedicated on June 3, 1951. By this time membership had grown to 66 confirmed members, 111 baptized members, and a Sunday School enrollment of 66. There were 12 members of the Luther League, 24 members of the Ladies Guild, and a Nursery Roll of 20. The first choir was organized by Mr. Benedict Hallgrimson in January, 1951, with 16 members.

Pastor Wagner served until August 1956. Pastor Donald Butenshon was called in October 1956, and served until October 1961. During these years the congregation grew rapidly, reaching 356 baptized and 213 confirmed members on January 1, 1962.
 
On January 7, 1962, Reverend Clair Grube was installed as Pastor. It was at the annual meeting in 1962 that the congregation voted to begin planning for a parish education building. On April 7, 1963, the congregation voted to begin construction following the retirement of the indebtedness on the church sanctuary. Ground was broken on September 28, 1963, and the education addition to the building was dedicated on May 15, 1966. Pastor Grube served until June 1968.

Pastor Ronald Tellefson was called and began his ministry here in July, 1968. Following the enthusiastic lead of Andy Pribnow, the congregation began working to minister to the needs of students and staff at Eastern Washington State College (now EWU) during the early 1970’s. Pastor Tellefson left in July 1973.
 
On October 28, 1973 Philip Maakestad was installed as the fifth pastor of Emmanuel congregation serving until March 1989. During this time, the development of a campus ministry continued. Another important area of ministry undertaken by the congregation was the development of a day care program which began operation in 1981. In 1987 the congregation approved the merger plan adopted by the ALC, which culminated in the formation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 1988.

Pastor Dan Litzer served as our Interim Pastor from April to June, 1989, and Pastor Neal Buckaloo has served as Interim Pastor from July to November 1989 while the congregation was engaged in the process of calling a new pastor.

Pastor Ladd Bjorneby accepted the call in September, 1989, and commenced his ministry at Emmanuel in November 1989. During Pastor Bjorneby’s ministry, the congregation revisited the day care ministry, and determined that it was no longer possible to provide the quality of ministry desired. At a congregational meeting the congregation voted to close the day care. Following that decision, the fellowship hall was remodeled and a basement entry without steps was built to the fellowship hall. Following this change, work was undertaken to add an elevator from the fellowship hall to the sanctuary to provide unimpeded access to the building. Pastor Ladd accepted a call to Yakima in June 1998.
 
Our Interim Pastors during this time were Pastor Rick Evenson (August 1998-September 1999) and Pastor Helga Jansons (November 1999-January 2000).

Pastor Ann Frerks was called and began her ministry in January 2000. During her ministry, Pastor Ann encouraged the congregation to work beyond the immediate region. She participated in exchange visits to Nicaragua, and to our companion synod in Tanzania. Pastor Ann Frerks accepted a call to Trinity in Coeur d Alene, ID in January 2009, concluding her ministry at Emmanuel in December, 2008.
 
In February 2009 Pastor Paul Anderson became our Interim Pastor. The call committee is meeting, and working to prepare for calling a new pastor to join us in ministering to God’s people in eastern Washington.

Eastern Washington University is an integral part of the Cheney community. Through the years Emmanuel congregation has sought to minister in various ways to students, faculty, staff, and supporting personnel. In 1972 Mrs. Sandra Kreis of Ritzville became our part-time Lutheran Campus Counselor. The campus ministry has evolved over the years since then. Loren Rude served as Campus Pastor from June 1973 through 1978. Larry Meyer served as Campus Pastor from 1979 through December 1982. He divided his time between the Eastern campus and the Campus and Young Adult Ministry (CAYAM) of Spokane. He was succeeded by Pastor Fred Fritz, who served in this dual capacity from June, 1983 until July 1988. In April of 1989 Adrianne Heskin became our new Campus Pastor. She received another call in May 1990. Bob Knutsen took over as Lay Campus Minister from September 1990 thru June 1991. In October of 1991 Pastor George B. Cheney became our new Campus Pastor. In 1996 Pastor Mike Nelson accepted the call to be our Campus Pastor until the spring of 2008. Pastor Beth Jarrett served as Interim Campus Pastor before Pastor Shelley Bryan Wee accepted the call to be our Campus Pastor the fall of 2009.

The Emmanuel Lutheran Day Care Ministry was another way in which our congregation has moved to meet specific needs in our community. Over the last 20 years the number of double wage-earner and single parent families has increased, creating a great need for adequate child care. The idea for a day care originated in a discussion group including Pastor Maakestad, Carolyn Gray, Lavone Kuhn, and Margaret Swenson. Emmanuel Lutheran Day Care opened on September 1, 1981, with Carolyn Gray as its Director. When it opened, the enrollment consisted of 12 children. From its modest beginning this program had grown steadily, and enrollment as of May, 1989 is 106 children. The day care was open from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM Monday through Friday, and operated 12 months a year. Emmanuel Lutheran Day Care worked with various departments at EWU, and had employed students engaged in the Early Childhood Education and Elementary Education programs at the university. Emmanuel Lutheran Day Care closed their doors for the final time on December 31, 1991.
 
The Lord has blessed us richly these 60 years. As we look to the future, we pray for the Holy Spirit’s power and guidance as we seek to faithfully proclaim the Gospel in the part of His Kingdom.

 

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