150 Years of Lutheran Education

By Pastor Bill Wangelin
Our Savior Lutheran Church was organized in 1956 for the purpose of continuing the Lutheran school ministry started by Trinity Lutheran Church in 1872. When Trinity decided to close their school, a number of families wanted to continue Lutheran education for their children, and our congregation was born as a result. The teachers and students of Trinity came over and started at Our Savior the following year. This is our heritage. In a sense, the school that was started in 1872 changed locations twice (first from Trinity on Saginaw Hwy. to Holmes Road in 1957, and then to St. Joe Hwy in Delta Twp. in 2008) and its name once (when it went from Trinity to Our Savior in 1957). In fall of 2022, we are marking 150 years of continuous Lutheran Education through our school ministry.
German Lutheran settlers in Michigan in the mid-1800’s brought with them their value of Lutheran education for their children. This was our heritage of the Reformation, when Martin Luther, a university professor, encouraged and equipped schools for boys and girls to learn – especially to learn the Christian faith through the Catechism. Almost all early Lutheran churches in Michigan had schools as a part of their ministry, and in the late 1800’s, the 
synod required all churches to have an affiliated school ministry.
The first Lutheran church in Lansing, Emmanuel First, was founded in 1855, and their school was started in 1868. The school continued until the 1920’s. After a hiatus of 60 years, the school was opened again in 1983 and continues as Emmanuel Lutheran School in Lansing.
When Trinity Lutheran split from Emmanuel in 1871, the newly formed congregation voted in April, 1872, to purchase school books from the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod for a school ministry to start in September of that year. This was the beginning of Trinity Lutheran School. The pastor taught the school during the week, which was common in Lutheran churches of that era. Classes were held in the church building built in 1872, and when the congregation built a new sanctuary in 1886, the old church continued to serve as the school building.
Instruction was held in German, the native language of the immigrant families that formed Trinity. Students also learned English as a subject as they acclimated to their new home. Foundational in every generation was the Small Catechism of Martin Luther to teach the basics of the Christian faith. The old wooden framed building could only serve the school so long, and a new school hall was built by the congregation in 1906 and dedicated on September 30 of that year.
The first Lutheran school teacher in Lansing was Miss Helen Moll, who started teaching at Trinity Lutheran in 1887. Soon Trinity had two teachers who taught upper and lower grades respectively in two classrooms. Through the early 1900’s, the school continued to grow and minister to the families of the congregation.
When both the church building from 1886 and the school building from 1906 were in need of replacement, the congregation struggled with how to build both a new church and a new school. When the pastor of Trinity at that time, Rev. Schroeder, recommended closing the school and focusing on building a new church, a large group of families asked for a peaceful release so they could form a new church to continue the school ministry. Two congregations, in fact, were birthed from Trinity in 1956 – Ascension Lutheran in Easter Lansing and Our Savior Lutheran on the south side on Holmes Road. The charter members (founding members) of Our Savior first worshipped in Everett High School until they could build their first building – a school, which opened in fall, 1957. The church worshipped in the school building for ten years until they built a sanctuary. This shows how central the school ministry was to the new congregation.
The charter families of Our Savior knew that it would be a significant commitment to start a church and school ministry simultaneously. They committed to a tithe and a half (giving 15% of their income to the ministry) and many members did a double tithe (20%). This sacrificial giving continued for 
decades as the church and school grew. The church sanctuary was dedicated in 1968, and multiple additions to the school followed over the years. The first teachers and the first principal, Arthur Wolter, were previously serving at Trinity. Over the years, dedicated and faithful teachers were called to teach the faith through the school ministry. They have always been a highly esteemed part of our church family. For several years, the school went up to 9th grade. In 1980’s, a preschool program was started. Enrollment peaked in the 1980’s with over 220 students.
In the 1990’s, the church and school buildings were in need of greater repair and investment, while the families being served were scattered across the greater Lansing area. The original families who lived near the church were now older and their kids were grown. The school began to decline. After prayerful discernment, the church leadership proposed that the church consider moving to a new location that would better serve the greater Lansing area where the school ministry could thrive again. This would be another bold move for the Kingdom that required sacrifice and commitment to the ministry. Land was donated to the church in Delta Township, and in 2008, construction began on a new church and school simultaneously. Once again, the church worshipped in the school gymnasium for a brief time until the sanctuary was completed. The building was dedicated on November 2, 2008, with Lutheran Hour Speaker Ken Klaus delivering the dedicatory sermon. The church was to be a house of prayer for all nations.
In the first few years at the new location, our church and school focused on connecting with our community and navigating the financial challenges of the Great Recession. The school experienced steady growth over the years, and currently serves 195 students in K-8 and 65 students in the early childhood program. Our mission is to learn, live, and share Christ, and the best way we as a congregation know how to do that is through the ministry of our Lutheran school.