Our Savior Lutheran Church was organized as a sister congregation of Zion Lutheran Church of Crookston, Nebraska. In October 1963, Zion was the only Missouri Synod Church in the area. To accommodate the membership and for continued growth, a decision was reached at the time to establish a “preaching station” in Valentine. Numerous meetings were held with District officers and, in October 1965, arrangements were made to rent the Women’s Improvement Club building (old Methodist Church) for $15.00 per Sunday (for the first floor only), with an option for a longer lease.
This building is one of the oldest landmarks in Valentine. It was built out of native stone cut from one of the stone quarries near Valentine. The first service held in the building was on October 7, 1888. The cornerstone was laid July 24, 1894 and it was dedicated as a Methodist Church on April 7, 1895. The tower, belfry, and 86-foot steeple were added. The basement was added in 1928 and in 1951, 23 years later, the education wing was added.
The first worship service was held on October 10, 1965, with Pastor Dorr of Crookston conducting the service. Margaret Ohlmann served as pianist. Attendance at the first service was 64 worshipers. Sunday school attendance under the organization of Mrs. Harlan Glanzer was 15 children. Teachers included Marilyn Carr, Inez Cochran, Viola Lovejoy, and Ellen Glanzer.
The organizational meeting of the Valentine Lutheran Mission, Missouri Synod was held at the W.I.C. building on Sunday, November 14, 1965. It was decided to lease the building for $750.00 a year and services would be held every Sunday with Pastor Dorr conducting the services.
Officers elected were Chairman: Lorenz (Shorty) Ohlmann; Vice-chairman: Walter Ohlmann; Secretary: James Carr; Treasurer: Harlan Glanzer; Evangelism Chairs: Mr. and Mrs. Dean Jochem; and Social Welfare Chairman: Mrs. William D. Sheets.
Transferring from Zion Crookston and charter members were: Darrell and Bonnie Copeland and Fred; James and Marilyn Carr and Carrie, Don and Inez Cochran, Peggy and Mike; Tim and Patty Colburn, Pam and Tammy; Walt and Maxine Lucht; Kathy and Rodney Brown; Otis and Viola Lovejoy and Maurice; Lorenz and Faye Ohlmann; Walter and Margaret Ohlmann; Darrel and Sally Sheets, Joyce, Lois, and Richard; Harlan and Ellen Glanzer, Joan and Janet; Duane and Joan Singass; Sandi Ormesher, Jacqueline, Susan, and Mark; J.D. Ross; and Viola Deutsch, Velva Jean, Larry and Patricia.
The first confirmands of the new church were Patricia Deutsch, Mindy Meier, and Kathy Lucht. The first two baptisms were Fred and Cindy Copeland, children of Mr. and Mrs. Darrell Copeland.
The official membership count on November 15, 1967 was 48 baptized and 28 communicant members. In August, 1966 the Voters were offered options for a name for the new congregation. They were Our Savior, Faith, and Trinity. “Our Savior” was selected on August 28. The proposed budget for 1966 was $1,610.
Many generous donations were received to make worship at the new church more pleasing. The altar, pulpit, and lectern were donated by an ALC Church in Bassett, Nebraska. The Witte family donated funds to purchase the dorsal cloth in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Witte. Henry Wiesflog donated the organ in memory of his wife, Elizabeth. The church purchased the speakers and the organ was dedicated on March 27, 1966. Nebraska District contributed the communion vessels. Paraments, hymnals, several crosses and candelabras, and a baptismal font were also received.
Paneling was installed behind the altar. The sanctuary was also painted at a cost of $271 and carpeting was installed. None of this would have been possible without the many donated hours of labor.
On April 27, 1966 a meeting was held by women interested in forming an auxiliary. Pastor Dorr and nine women were present. Purposes of the organization were discussed and officers were elected. President: Patty Colburn; Vice-president: Sandi Ormesher; Secretary/Treasurer: Joan Singass. The name Priscilla Guild was chosen and a constitution was drawn up and approved. The group became a member of the Nebraska North District LWML in May 1968 and officially recognized at the fall rally in September.
The Constitution organizing Our Savior Lutheran Church was drawn up and presented to the congregation on December 4, 1966 and was signed by the Voters on February 16, 1969 after approval from District.
In October 1967 a proposal was presented to the Voters to purchase the building from W.I.C. The proposal was to purchase the building and contents for a total of $25,000 with rent received for the prior two years applied, making the total due $23,000. In January 1968 the Voters authorized Walter Ohlmann and Don Cochran to proceed with the purchase. The building was officially purchased on November 1, 1969 with a loan from the Nebraska District.
In August 1969 Pastor Dorr was called by Synod to serve the deaf. Pastors Renee Corcoran of Zion, Ainsworth and William Paepke of Norris South Dakota both served as vacancy pastors. The church continued to grow with 35 communicant and 82 baptized members. The budget for that year was $3,100 with a $500 mission goal.
On July 26, 1970 the building was dedicated with Pastor M.T. Duchow, former Pastor of Zion, Crookston, as the guest speaker. Services were held at 8:00 p.m. with a reception following. New front doors were installed in memory of Walter Ohlmann. Pastor Michael Simminger accepted the call to Zion/Our Savior and was installed on July 12, 1970. He served the dual parish until October 1971 when Pastor Wendall Hamilton of Ainsworth became the Vacancy Pastor. The newly-formed youth group provided a live manger scene in front of the church on December 23, 1970. Membership again showed an increase with 80 baptized members and 45 communicants.
In 1971 the Voters discussed the possibility of purchasing or leasing a parsonage.
Pastor Donald Patterson was installed as pastor of the dual parish on March 19, 1972. He served until February 2, 1975 when he accepted a call to Wilcox, Nebraska. Once again, Pastor Hamilton of Zion, Ainsworth served the parishes as vacancy pastor with assistance from Byron Stolzenburg, Ben Eichoff, and Glen Studeman.
At a joint Voters meeting it was determined that a parsonage for the dual parish should be established in Valentine. A loan was obtained from LCEF and the home located at 534 W 3rd Street was purchased from Larry Todd for $16,000. After remodeling and adding a garage, the total cost reached $31,000. The mortgage for the parsonage was signed December 22, 1975.
A special celebration was held on October 12, 1975 to recognize 10 years of services at Our Savior with the annual Mission Festival. This involved both congregations. Guest speaker for the occasion was Pastor Donald Reed of Our Savior, Norfolk.
Pastor Douglas Haynes accepted the call to the dual parish and was installed on March 14, 1976. Paneling was installed in the church basement and cabinets were donated and installed in the kitchen in 1977. Extensive painting was also done.
In 1978 the base salary for the Pastor was set at $10,200. The steeple was painted in September 1978. Boyer Tree Service of Schuyler, Nebraska did the work using an aerial man lift. It took 14 gallons of paint and 34 man hours to complete.
The Charismatic movement in 1979 directly affected Our Savior membership. Loss of membership on August 2, 1979 was a total of 13.
Pastor Haynes accepted a call to Wisconsin with a farewell service on March 3, 1980. Pastor Georg Williams accepted the call to serve as vacancy pastor. He served until November 1981 when the duties at Ainsworth became too great. With this vacancy, Bud Stolzenburg or Crookston, lay person, served the church.
After two years of vacancy, Pastor Douglas Fusselman was ordained and installed as Pastor of the joint congregation on July 25, 1982. Participating in the ordination service were Dr. Eldor Meyer, Nebraska District President, and Pastor Martin Hoyer, First Vice President. Also participating were Pastor Jerry Meyer, circuit counselor, Vicar Thomas St. Jean, and Pastor Georg Williams. Dinner was served in Valentine after the ordination service, with an evening service held in Crookston.
Pastor Fusselman’s arrival meant an increased emphasis on Bible Study. A ladies’ group, called the Esther Circle, met in the morning and a men’s bible study group was organized as a breakfast group. Later, a rural ladies’ study group was organized in the Cody-Nenzel area.
Pam Fusselman, a very talented musician with a degree in music education, used her talents to add to the special music of worship services. Selections from the Easter Cantata “Alive” were presented by joint choirs of Zion and Our Savior. A junior choir with Sunday School children presented “Let’s Go with Mo”, a special rendition of Moses and the 10 Plagues.
Vacation Bible School was held annually, but in 1983 the joint congregations hosted VBS in the Valentine City Parkto accommodate more children. Daily attendance averaged 107 children. This became an annual event until the pavilion was no longer available.
Pastor Fusselman began teaching a class on Sunday evenings in September 1982. There were nine families in attendance. Marriage enrichment classes were added. Family fun events were organized and included a snow ski trip to the Black Hills, water skiing and boating at Merritt Dam, tubing the Niobrara River, softball and volleyball tournaments with the three other Lutheran Churches in the area, winter picnics in January, couples card club, and hayrack rides.
In an attempt to better serve members of both congregations, a three-hour worship schedule was adopted. This included a catechism class and/or matins at 9:00, followed by the worship service. This was followed by Sunday School and Bible Class. Because of distance involved and the inconvenience of the early morning times, both congregations agreed to drop the dual parish agreement and become separate parishes. Pastor Fusselman was granted a release fromZion and became the Pastor for Our Savior only.
On Sunday, October 18, 1987, Iddo Heinike from the Nebraska District presented a gift of $10,000 as incentive to purchase a future building site. A committee was formed to find a location. Property consisting of 3.8 acres located in the northeast part of town was later purchased at a cost of $12,000. A gift of $5,000 was later received.
A group of seniors was formed in 1988. This group met at lunchtime at the local Senior Center, then adjourned to a member’s home for Bible Study. Funds were collected by the group to purchase a tape duplicator with plans to deliver the audio tape of the Sunday services to shut-ins.
In July 1988, a special celebration was held in recognition for the 6 years served by Pastor and Pam Fusselman. A surprise dinner was held at the Senior Center followed by a special program by Pastor Georg Williams.
Redecoration of the Sanctuary took place during 1988 and 1989. The church walls were painted, pews were varnished, a new dorsal curtain was hung, and an oak pulpit and altar were built by Lloyd Lenz of Hyannis, Nebraska. An FM sound enhancement system was also installed.
Pastor Fusselman’s family had outgrown the parsonage and the home needed repair. A study was conducted and options were discussed. The house was then sold to the Fusselmans for $31,000. Proceeds were used to retire the LCEF loan of $14,000 and a one-time equity allowance of $7,000 was paid to Pastor Fusselman.
Our Savior celebrated 25 years of service in Valentine on October 14, 1990 with Pastor Paul Dorr and the guest speaker. Membership varied throughout the 25 years, beginning with 48 baptized and 28 communicant members to 188 baptized and 141 communicants in 1990. Average attendance at that time was 100. A Monday evening worship service was added on November 5th of that year to serve those who were unable to attend Sunday worship services. During this time Marilyn Ohlmann was organist.
The strength of the congregation was severely tested during the next several years. Average attendance and, consequently, offerings became a concern. Discussion did continue regarding the building of a new church. A proposal to apply for a grant for architect fees was passed.
Due to the deaths of several members of the congregation, substantial funds were received during this time; however, most of these were allocated to the building fund. New hymnals were purchased in 1991 with funds from the Edna Heinert memorial fund.
During the next several years membership remained fairly constant; however, attendance and support of the church gradually declined. A series of meetings was held with members of the congregation and circuit counselor, Pastor Georg Williams, in an effort to resolve the problems. As of December 31, 1996 there were 143 baptized members and 111 communicants; however only four or five families were attending services.
On October 19, 1997 another building site was purchased in the City Third Addition for $22,500. It was anticipated the original land site purchased in 1987 could be sold.
At a special congregational meeting in October 1997, Pastor Fusselman was given his release from Our Savior.Pastor Andrew Utecht began serving the congregation in November 1997. Pastor Utecht, a missionary for the Rosebud area, was active in doing puppet shows. Vacation Bible School was, again, held shortly after school was out for the summer. The puppet trailer parked outside of the church created interest and curiosity. Sessions were held in the evening beginning with a light supper. This was held Monday through Friday evenings.
Noon bible studies were held on Thursdays for women. Later, studies were added for the men. This group alternated with the women. The “Black Shirts” Bible School for first through fifth grades was also held on Thursdays after school. The first class confirmed following Pastor Utecht’s installation was in 2000.
On March 27, 2000 work was started on shingling the roof and revamping the steeple. Shingles were removed, but it wasn’t until a year later that replacement of the shingles started. Metal shingles that were hunter green in color were used to cover the lower area of the steeple. White shingles were used to surround the bell area, and copper-colored shingles were used for the top of the steeple. A cross was placed at the very top of the steeple. The scaffolding was removed shortly after Easter; however, the steeple was not completed until June 2001. It was at this time that the land for the original building site was sold, with proceeds of the sale invested in LCEF.
With all of the positive things happening both within the church through bible studies and VBS, and to the structure of the church building, attendance was improving. Still, many of the former members did not return.
During this time a full-time organist was not available. Michelle Tetherow played the organ when available, but the congregation frequently found itself without an organist. Jeff McQuistan and his family moved to Valentine in 2001, and he became our organist. His wife, Lori, also a very talented musician, has given of her talents. The Christmas Eve programs have been the beneficiary of both of their talents.
In November 2002 a “new” 90-year-old pipe organ was purchased from Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Kearney, which had to be disassembled, transported, and reassembled in the loft of the church. Prior to assembly, extensive work needed to be done to loft. The front half of the loft floor had to be leveled (because the floor sloped from the back wall to the railing), the railing had to be raised, and new electric wiring had to be installed. The organ itself also had to have electronic upgrading and once assembled, had to be professionally tuned. The organ was dedicated in a special evening service in January 2003.
In 2004, the roof of the church was replaced with metal shingles to match the steeple. Hunter green shingles were used for the majority of the roof, with copper-colored shingles used on the dormer windows. Later, the gutters and downspouts were also replaced.
In August 2005, the congregation decided to undergo a major remodeling project in preparation for its 40th anniversary. Billy Beel removed the existing ceiling, insulated, and replaced it with a wooden ceiling. New light fixtures were also installed. The aisle and altar carpeting was replaced. The dorsal curtain was also removed and replaced with a new wooden cross, crafted by Terry Hunt.
Membership of the church continued to grow through 2005. As of September 30 there were 102 communicant members and 36 baptized members. Our Savior celebrated its 40th anniversary in an afternoon service on October 30, 2005.
The circular stained glass window above the altar that had been removed by the Methodists when they moved to their new location was replaced with a new stained glass window in 2006. The new window, designed specifically for the congregation, features Luther’s Rose at its center, with the rest of the design complementing the existing stained glass windows of the church. Also in 2006, the congregation purchased a Yamaha Clavinova keyboard to replace the acoustic piano in the sanctuary and also purchased copies of Lutheran Service Book, the new Lutheran hymnal.
In 2006 the Voters decided to repair the north exterior wall of the church. Some of the stone fascia was coming loose and falling off causing a safety hazard. Additionally, the emergency doors and fire escape were in need of replacement.
During the summers of 2006 and 2007 the congregation supported bringing a seminary student to serve a summer vicarage at Our Savior, mainly to assist Pastor Utecht with summer VBS at Valentine, Rosebud, Parmelee, Norris, and Porcupine. Nathan Fuehrer from Fort Wayne Seminary served during the summer of 2006 and half of summer 2007. In addition to assisting Pastor with VBS, Nathan led a weekly Bible Study and assisted with the worship service. During the last part of summer 2007, Kristy Ring, an LCMS Deaconess, assisted Pastor by presenting the children’s message during the worship service and by preparing an informational outreach pamphlet.
Kristy Ring returned during 2008 and continued work with Pastor Utecht in Indian Missions as well as assisting with Vacation Bible School and Youth Group. An internet website for Our Savior was developed in 2008—oursaviorvalentine.org. A new Christmas Tree was presented to Our Savior Lutheran Church by an anonymous donor.
A major remodeling project was completed during 2009. The main floor level of the north addition was remodeled, creating a new fellowship hall with kitchen and two restrooms. Additionally, a pamphlet rack was installed in the main entry.
In partnership with Zion-Crookston, it was decided to call a vicar to serve both congregations, beginning June 2010. Gerry Weaver accepted the call, and will perform pastoral duties at Crookston in addition to assisting Pastor Utecht. Our Savior created a Facebook page to expand outreach and communication efforts.
In 2011 Bud Stolzenburg attended Peacemakers training at Seward and then conducted a training for four couples in the congregation. The church pews were reconditioned by Cornhusker State Industries. The Voters decided to add a part-time church secretary. Michelle Garwood was hired and will work 3 hours a week. Job responsibilities will include a church newsletter, filing, and schedulingIn 2013 Pastor Gerry Weaver left Zion-Crookston. In 2014 Gregory Hinners accepted the call. Pastor Hinners also conducted visits for shut-in members of Our Savior as well as preaching in Pastor Utecht’s absence.In 2014 a handicap entrance was added to the east side of the church, entering into the fellowship hall. The constitution was amended to expand voting membership privileges to include women and to establish a board of elders. Committees were created to discuss the role and responsibilities of the future board of elders and to review and revise the constitution.