Our History ...
The Mission: 1940-1944
In January of 1940, Rev. William J. Schepman, who had been called as Assistant Pastor to Trinity, Crown Point in 1939, conducted a survey of fifty families in the Independence Hill area. As a result of that survey, a Sunday school was opened in a room with a pool table behind Jim Moniger's Grocery store at 7805 Taft St. Moniger made this space available for the first session of the Sunday School on February 4, 1940. April 28, 1940 marked the date of the first preaching service conducted by Rev. Schepman at the Independence Hill Mission.
The enthusiasm for this mission project was so great that the Trinity congregation allocated all of their 1940 Lenten collections toward acquisition of a building. A lot at 7715 Independence Street was obtained from Mr. Henry Fieler for the mission and construction on the Trinity Memorial Chapel was begun.
The Chapel cost the Trinity Congregation a total of $755.00, a sum that from the perspective of the early nineteen forties represented a generous gift. This modest facility would remain the home of the congregation until 1951 when the congregation began to hold services in the basement at the present site on Marshall Street. Soon after the Chapel was organized here in Independence Hill, Pastor Biester, who had served the Trinity Congregation since 1910 retired, and ultimately Pastor Schepman accepted the call as Pastor at Crown Point, forcing a shift of responsibility at Trinity Memorial Chapel. Rev. Louis A. Kaufman, who served as the institutional missionary for the Calumet Region Mission Association, assumed the additional responsibilities as Pastor for Independence Hill on May 23, 1943.
The Organized Congregation: 1944-1956
The second period of our congregation's history begins in 1944 when Pastor Schepman, who as Pastor of Trinity remained the final authority over matters at the mission, suggested that the congregation at Independence Hill should be ready to organize itself informally as a separate congregation. Enthusiastic response came from the members at that time who began the arduous task of developing congregational identity. A Women's Missionary Society was founded in April of 1944, officers were elected who led the members in the drafting of a constitution. Finally on August 13, 1944, the first full-time Pastor was installed: Rev. Jack Muhlenbruch. Pastor Muhlenbruch would serve the congregation at Trinity Memorial and Immanuel in Brunswick of Gary. Before Pastor Muhlenbruch accepted a call to Fort Wayne in 1952, he would ultimately serve in addition to our congregation and Immanuel in Gary, the congregation of Hope Lutheran in Cedar Lake.
With Pastor Muhlenbruch, the subsidy from The Central District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod began. Also during the Muhlenbruch tenure, the congregation would grow and expand. After many months of deliberation the congregatoin finally decided upon the present name for our church in February of 1945. A house at 7526 Independence Street was purchased in March of 1946 as a parsonage. In June of 1946, the congregation became a member of the Central District, a designation that implied formal organization, and the responsiblity of representation at District conventions. In July of 1948, the first parcel of land was purchased on the corner of U.S. 30 and Marshall street. This land would be expanded by three additional acquisitions, first two lots north of the orginal property in February, 1952 and an additional 420 feet in November of 1954. Finally the purchase of the 6.7 acres of land to the west of the property in June of 1960 would complete the present land site.
Upon this Marshall Street property the people of Trinity Memorial began to build their church in 1951. That original church structure, the front portion of our present building, was dedicated on April 27, 1952. Soon after that dedication, Pastor Muhlenbruch accepted the call to Fort Wayne and Rev. Rippe, the institutional missionary for the Calumet Mission Institute accepted the position as vacancy pastor, a position he held until 1955.
According to a 1952 manual, the bell is over 133 years old from a one room school house in Evans City Pennsylvania. Donated by M/M George Jacobus in 1952. The clapper was made by Keen foundry in Griffith but is too large for the bell making it sound like a cow bell. If the bell was rung too vigorously it would hang upside down and someone would have to climb up the roof and unstick it. The last time that happened, Bill Rathjen (our resident iron worker) said the wooden framework is so rotten that we should not ring it anymore. That was in the 70s.
Self-Supporting Congregation: 1957-Present
As the year 1956 ended, our congregation had a membership of 200 souls with 128 communicants. Then in December of that year, the congregation voted to become a self-supporting congregation, and entered the third period of its history. On July 21, 1957, Rev. Allen A Gartner was ordained and installed as the Pastor of Trinity Memorial Lutheran Church. Pastor Gartner guided the church into its next period of growth and expansion. The final land acquisition was made during his tenure. On April 29, 1962, the congregation celebrated two major events: the burning of the mortgage on the original church building and ground breaking on the new addition to the sanctuary to the west of the original structure. Within eight months of that dedication, Rev. Garner had accepted a call to Minneapolis, Minnesota.
On December 6, 1964, Pastor Gerard Isenberg, former Pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church, Beaumont, Texas, was installed as the sixth Pastor to serve this congregation. Again under new leadership the congregation enjoyed growth and change.
In January, 1965, a Building Committee was formed to build a new parsonage on the north east corner of the church property. On February 27, 1966, Pastor and Sue Isenberg held an Open House in the new parsonage.
During the 1960's, Trinity Memorial emphasized evangelical activities within the community as well as to its members. Kindergarten classes for the church and community continued to flourish under the leadership of Mrs. Lillian Heintz and her assistant, Mrs. Clarabell Brunmeier. On October 17-21, 1965, a Lutheran Open House was held at Trinity Memorial for the people of the community. A second phase of community outreach was accomplished with the establishment on January 25, 1966 of a Call-A-Month-Club.
In the first years of his ministry here, Pastor Isenberg led our congregation to a strong financial level, as well as an effective Elders' program for reaching the membership. Also under his guidance, a historic position was taken by the congregation in the mid 1970's with the adoption of women's suffrage.
The mortgage burning ceremony for the enlarged church building was celebrated on may 16, 1976. This was followed rapidly by the forming of a new building Committe to resolve the need for more Sunday School and narthex space. on June 7, 1977, an agreement was signed between Gnesevich & Associates, Architects, and Trinity Memorial. Between August 21 and September 25, 1977, a successful $100,000 Building Fund Drive was accomplished, using as consultants, H.P. Demand & Associates. Ground breaking for the new building was held on october 22, 1977, with dedication to the glory of God and the edification of His people on September 10, 1978.
The congregation used Deaconess students from Valparaiso for teaching confirmation and Sunday School classes. On September 18, 1977, Wilma Kucharek, was installed as full time Deaconess, and served one year before returning home out East.
In September of 1985 the music program of the church was strengthened with the hiring of Mrs. Anna Padberg as Director of Music. A second choir, a children's choir, was quickly formed. The new Missouri Synod Hymnal, Lutheran Worship, was adopted by the congregation, with full time use and dedication on May 4, 1986. The first Christmas Cantata, "This Holy Child," was given by the Adult choir on December 21, 1986.
On August 10, 1986, an Organ Fund was officially established under the guidance of the Music Committee. After a successful financial drive, a new Allen Digital Computer Organ was dedicated on Palm Sunday, April 12, 1987. A Dedication Concert was given, May 31, 1987, by Dr. Robin Dinda.
At the time of our Fiftieth Anniversary, Trinity Memorial numbered 364 communicants, with a total of 476 souls. During its first fifty years of history, by means of child and adult baptism, youth and adult confirmation, profession of faith, and transfers-in, approximately 1,945 people have held membership in this congregation.
As we look beyond our fiftieth year, we shall remember, as our Lord has directed, those who came before us so we can imitate their faith and life. Their efforts shall continue as a beacon to shine for us as we project our thoughts into our second fifty years. Our intention is not to glorify men, but to magnify the grace of our God, who working through weak men, has achieved such glorious things in our midst. "Soli Deo Gloria" must ever be the motto of our Lutheran Church -- "To God alone belongs all glory."