History of Immanuel Lutheran Church


Before the turn of the 20th century, German-Lutherans in the Grand Forks area were served by itinerant missionaries on an occasional basis.  More regular missionary work was begun by Rev. Paul Schedler - the resident pastor at Fisher, MN. He held regular services in the German language and served the people of Grand Forks for some time before recommending to the Minnesota/Dakota District of the Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States that a regular call be made for a pastor to serve the people.


Rev. A.F. Parge was called from Bemidji, MN.  He arrived in May 1901 and the first congregational organizing meeting was held. A constitution was adopted and the congregation organized under the name of The German Evangelical Lutheran Immanuel Church of Grand Forks, ND.  Worship services continued in German. The first church building was erected and dedicated in 1902.  It was located at 606 South Third Street and served the congregation until 1937. Rev. Parge built a parsonage that was later purchased by the church.  In 1906 Immanuel formally joined the Minnesota/North Dakota District of the Synod of Missouri, Ohio and Other States. Rev. Parge retired in 1908 due to ill health.


A call was made to Rev. L. Walpar at Rolla, ND.  He accepted and arrived in 1909 and served the congregation until 1912 when he accepted a call to a congregation in Meriden, Iowa.


Rev. H.F. Buegel from St. Thomas, ND was called in 1913.  During his tenure, the first services in English were conducted. Two services were held each Sunday, one in English the other in German. Sunday School started and Vacation Bible School was held, and a young people's organization affiliated with the International Walther League began in November 1923.  The congregation experienced rapid growth in membership. In 1930 the name of the congregation changed to Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Congregation of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession, of Grand Forks, ND. Failing health forced Rev. Buegel to retire in 1932.


Rev. Theodore E. Dorpat was called from Miles City, MT, in 1932. The congregation experienced rapid growth in membership, church organizations, and significant mission work. Outreach mission work began in 1934 when Rev, Dorpat began serving St. Matthew's Lutheran Church in Thompson, ND.  During the same year he also began conducting services in Inkster, ND, and a formal call was made for a pastor by Inkster in 1935. A new building was constructed and on November 21,1937, a stone church was dedicated at the corner of South 5th Street, Belmont Road and Division Avenue. An entire week of services celebrated the dedication. Jr. Walther League and Lutherans Laymen's League membership grew rapidly, and the Ladies' Aide Society joined the Lutheran Women's Missionary League.  In 1940 a new parsonage was purchased on Reeves Drive. A children's chorus was started as a part of the early Sunday morning children's radio service on KNOX that aired in the fall of 1943. In 1945 First Lutheran Church in East Grand Forks was founded, and 40% of Immanuel's membership was released to them.  Rev. Dorpat accepted a call to a congregation in Spokane, WA in 1945.


Rev. Lambert J. Mehl was called in 1945. A Christian school was started. Classes were held in the church basement from 1947 until 1948 when the school was moved to 624 North Washington Street. Redeemer Lutheran Church was started as a sister congregation in 1950, and was also affiliated with the school. Rev. Mehl accepted a call in 1952 to Concordia, MO as President of St. Paul's College.


Rev. W.M. Wangerin was called to serve Immanuel in 1952.  The land for the present church and school facility at 1710 Cherry Street was purchased. Rev. Wangerin accepted a call to serve as president of Concordia College, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada in 1954.


In 1954 Rev. John D. Fritz accepted the call to serve Immanuel.  A fund drive resulted in the school portion of the current building being built and dedicated in 1958.  The school continued in operation until 1966. During this time, and until the new church facility was built, the school building also served as a second place of worship for the expanding congregation. Rev. Fritz also served as President of the ND District. He accepted a call to Springfield Seminary in Springfield, IL, in 1967.


Rev. Clemens H. Hartfield was called as Pastor in 1967.  The former church buliding was sold in 1972 and all worship services were then held in the school building at the current location on Cherry Street. The last worship service at the old church was on December 31, 1972. Rev. Hartfield accepted a call to a congregation in Council Bluffs, IA, in 1972.


Rev. Neil R. Schmidt was called in 1973.  A fund drive began for a new worship building. Evangelism through use of public media began. TV spots on local Channel 8 were purchased during 1977.  During the 1978 Christmas season, TV spots were again utilized. Rev. Schmidt accepted a call to a congregation in St. Ann, MO, in 1979.


Rev. A.B. Reimann was called in 1979. The professional position of Director of Christian Education was established in 1979.  In 1981 the position was changed to part-time lay worker. In 1982 a Vicarage Program was started. Vicars served at Immanuel over the next 5 years. In 1985 a pipe organ was purchased. Poor health forced Rev. Reimann to retire in June 1986. Rev. Rex Longshore of Redeemer Lutheran Church served as Vacancy Pastor.


Rev. John W. Walter was called in 1987. In 1989 the stained glass windows were removed from the old church building and placed in storage. The new Lutheran Worship (LW) hymnal was purchased and installed as the official hymnal in 1991. In 1992 a second Sunday morning adult Bible class began. Ministry to the deaf began in 1994 with the use of a "signer" during the 11:00 worship service. In 1995 a scholarship endowment fund was established to more adequately provide help for members' educational costs.  The winter of 1996-1997 brought numerous blizzards followed by the most devastating flood in the history of North Dakota. The church was severely damaged as were the homes of most members of the congregation. The next year was spent reconstructing the church and members' homes.  A new outdoor lighted sign was installed on the Cherry Street side of the building. As a result of the improvements to the building, a Christian Preschool/Daycare was established. In August 1998 Rev. Walter accepted a Call to a congregation in Northbrook, Illinois.


During the vacancy, a Parish Nurse program was started in 1999 with the installation of Wendy Wilke as a part-time volunteer in June. It became a paid position in January 2000, when a Bremer Grant was received. Rev. Bradley Viken was installed in August 1999 and served until 2003 when he accepted a call to a congregation in California. 


Rev. Mark Buchhop of Wittenberg Chapel served the congregation during the vacancy.

2005 - present

Rev. Craig Fenske was installed at Immanuel in May 2005 and is currently the Senior Pastor. Rev. Jonathan Buescher was installed in August 2011 and served as Associate Pastor until accepting a Call to a congregation in Illinois in 2015. In 2015, new heating and air-conditioning units were installed, the Fellowship Hall was remodeled, a sprinkler system and a metal roof were installed. Deaconess Faith Swenson began serving in 2015 and Rev. Dan Voth was installed as Associate Pastor in February 2016.