Regular Events

History of Trinity Lutheran Church

By Gen DeVleming
With assistance from George Frykman

Lutheran services were first conducted on the Washington State College campus in 1922 by Reverend William F. Schmidt, the District traveling missionary (ALC). Periodically, Pastors John Groschupf and Amos Minneman of Spokane and Pastor Anton Wolff of Genesee, Idaho also held services for students in "The White Owl," or maybe it was called "The Green Lantern" (my sources seemed to be in conflict over this), a dance hall on Maiden Lane. Reverend Schmidt joined the faculty of Spokane College, a Norwegian Lutheran school, but continued to serve the Lutheran students in Pullman and Cheney on an occasional basis.

In 1923 a formal request for services of the Lutheran Church was sent by 90 students of Washington State to the Reverend O.T. Just, President of the Washington District and the father of our beloved Amanda Just. Reverend Just persuaded the Spokane Conference to sponsor this new work, and Reverend Walter Hellman of Port Angeles, Washington became the first full-time student pastor. He was installed in that position in the fall of 1925 in the Pullman Episcopal Church, and he preached on that day to eight students and eleven townspeople. A rented parsonage provided quarters for Sunday School classes, some worship services, and social functions.

An abandoned church on Sunnyside Hill - near the present Gladish building - was finally secured. A group of volunteer students cleared away the filth in the building, replaced many broken windows, and made the building available for Sunday School and Worship Service. It was difficult for the students to reach this church for it was a mile from the campus. However, it was in the church, locally known as "The Haunted Church," that in the fall of 1926 Pastor Hellman organized Trinity Congregation with eight charter members.

When Pastor Hellman also joined the faculty of Spokane College in 1927, Reverend Werner Fritz came to Trinity. Also, in September 1927 the Spokane Conference approved a building program for Trinity. Mr. Christian Burkowsky, charter member of TLC, donated the building site, valued at $3,500. Financial support for the building came from the Joint Synod, the Olympia Fund, the District Mission Committee, and donations and pledges from many individuals.

The church on Ruby and Oak streets was dedicated in the last Sunday of September of 1930. This provided space for 140 to attend Sunday Worship as well as facilities for student and social activities. Henrietta Burkowsky, another charter member, provided in her will a gift of $10,000 to Trinity to be invested, with the earnings to be used to help the students at Washington State.

Pastor Fritz served Trinity until 1942, and he was followed for a little over a year by the Reverend Erwin Krebs. The Reverend Al Dillemuth served Trinity from 1944 to 1952 and also served the student population at a time of tremendous growth on the Washington State campus with the return of so many veterans from World War II. The National Luther League Convention of the American Lutheran Church was held in 1949, and 3,000 young people attended.

The Reverend Karl Ufer came in 1953 following service as a military chaplain. Pastor Karl served during periods of great student unrest. The Rev. Philip Engstrom joined him from 1960 to 1964. Pastor Karl left Trinity in 1972 to serve as Assistant to the Bishop, but he saw Trinity plan and construct the present church which was first used for Worship Service on March 13, 1966, even though construction was not complete. The bulletin for that Sunday said, "This first service in our new house of worship is held here, not because it is ready for occupancy, but because we had agreed to leave the former one by this date. Therefore, many evidences of unfinished work are around us today. We are aware of them." This building was dedicated on May 1, 1966.

The Reverend Robert Quello served Trinity from 1973 to 1986, and he was joined by the Rev. Craig Shirley from 1979 to 1985. When Pastor Quello received another call in 1986, the Rev. Joan Jesperson served as interim until she was replaced by the Rev. Jack Leininger. After Pastor Jack left in 1996, the Rev. Peter Shen served as interim pastor until June 1997. The Rev. Janine Goodrich replaced Pastor Shen as interim in August 1997. The Rev. Tor Kristian Berg was here from August 1998 to May 2010, in June of that year Rev. Tom Inch arrived as our interim pastor through August 2011. The Rev. Wesley Howell began serving us in September 2011.

Members of Trinity Lutheran Church have been most fortunate over the years with good leadership and loyal, hardworking members. We have also been fortunate in having Rev. Roger Pettinger, campus pastor from 1972 to 1999, Rev. Bruce Wollenberg, and Wayne Beebe participating as members of Trinity and filling in so many ways when they are needed.