Our church homes throughout the years:
Top left: 3rd and I
Top middle: 4th and Union
Top right: 11th and Lincoln
Bottom: Current facilities at 3200 E. Military Ave.
The history of First Lutheran Church began with Bluffs Trinity Lutheran Church of rural Fremont in 1879. After being called to serve Bluffs Trinity, Pastor A.M. Andersen was soon in contact with a group of Danes from Fremont. The details of this mission work are sketchy. One of the earliest histories of Nebraska published in 1882 mentions “a small Danish Lutheran Society.” Pastor Andersen would drive a horse and buggy into Fremont and provide worship and the sacraments in the Danish language probably in a private home. Pastor Andersen also started a mission congregation at Pohocco in Saunders County. These three churches would work together to share a pastor until 1945.
By 1884 the mission group was ready to organize as a congregation. On January 15, 1885, an organizational meeting was held. The minutes read that “a number of Scandinavians” were in attendance. The name of “The First Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Congregation in Fremont, Nebr.” was adopted unanimously. Within two months the congregation decided to build on the south side on 3rd Street between H and I Streets preparing for the dedication by the 1st of July.
By the second quarter century of the congregation's existence, the church had a new name and a new building. "The Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church" incorporated in 1895 in the State of Nebraska and adopted a new constitution. Worship was often held on Sunday evening so that the pastor's travel (by horse and buggy) would be in the daylight hours. A parsonage was constructed by early 1900. In 1906 there were 56 Confirmed members of the congregation (95 baptized) and soon they would hold the last service in the "First Church.” By the end of 1907 these members had dedicated the new building at Fourth and Union Streets, debt free at of cost of $4,602 with land and furnishings. The old church became a synagogue for the Hebrew Society. The decision was made to borrow what was needed to complete a new parsonage, and the young congregation continued to grow. A bell was added to the church in 1918. This bell would be moved to the 11th & Lincoln church in 1957 where it announced the call to worship each Sunday morning.
By the end of World War I, the church had been dealing with the Danish-English language issue for a long time. By the end of the 1920’s, the church was a bi-lingual church and the name had been changed to “First Lutheran Church.” The church recognized they needed to worship in English to continue to grow and attract young people. It wasn’t until 1939 that all services were held in English. Occasional services in the parlor were held in Danish.
After 50 years in the second home, First Lutheran Church invested in land located at 11th and Lincoln Streets for $6000. Members continued to look for other locations but choices were severely limited to moving east. In March 1953, an adjoining lot for the parsonage was purchased for $1,000. Groundbreaking for the new church building was held on Easter Sunday, April 1, 1956, with the congregation moving into the new building the next April. Construction costs would have been significantly greater had members not volunteered much of the labor. In what became known as "The Church of the Inviting Christ" due to the brick sculpture by Hermann Becker on the west side, the congregation continued to thrive. Pastor Archie Madsen wrote "the sculpturing includes Christ with His arms extended in invitation, [and] a boy who has brought a second child to Christ, thus portraying the evangelism mission of the Church...." Growth continued and remodeling and expansion of the Lincoln Avenue building was approved in 1979. As First Lutheran was expanding, the old church at 4th and Union was being torn down. The cross from the top of the tower was saved and displayed in the parish hall.
First Lutheran celebrated the 100th anniversary in 1985. Church membership now totaled more than 1500. The regularly scheduled annual meeting coincided with the founding of the original church on January 15, 1985. The congregation’s growth called for the need to hold four Sunday morning services and a Sunday evening service each week for many years in the late 1990’s and early into the new century.
After many years of study and struggle to find a solution to the church space needs, the congregation voted to again buy bare ground instead of remodel and expand on the Lincoln Avenue location. Thirty acres on east Military Avenue was purchased. Capital fund drives were held and on Palm Sunday, April 9, 2006, First Lutheran members officially closed the old building and paraded 1.5 miles from 11th & Lincoln to 3200 East Military for the opening service at the new facility.
On January 17, 2010, First Lutheran Church began a year of celebration for the125th anniversary. This included a mortgage burning to celebrate the retirement of the debt on the new building. The congregation looks forward with excitement for the ministries yet to come.
To see more about these points in our history and learn many other details of the first century, check out "New Song to the Lord: A History of First Lutheran Church, Fremont, Nebraska," written in 1985 by Midland Professor William E. Christensen. A copy is located in our library now housed in the Heritage Room of the current building. (Library improvements in 1898 included the expansion from a bookshelf to a bookcase, which was built at the cost of $1.50. Read about it on Page 18.)