OUR STORY

Cool Timeline

1854
May 25

1854 | Kansas-Nebraska Act

President Franklin Pierce signs this historic act creating the territories of Nebraska and Kansas. Omaha City is founded that same year.
1856
May 25

1856 | Augustus Kountze

1856 | Augustus Kountze
Shortly after arriving in Omaha City, Augustus Kountze writes a letter to his former pastor, the Rev. W. P. Ruthrauff of Canton, Ohio, asking him to send a Lutheran minister to Omaha.
1857
May 26

1857 | Rev. W. P. Ruthrauff

1857 | Rev. W. P. Ruthrauff
The Pittsburg Synod sends Rev. W. P. Ruthrauff to Nebraska Territory to purchase church lots.
1858
May 26

1858 | Rev. Henry W. Kuhns

1858 | Rev. Henry W. Kuhns
In response to Kountze’s letter, Rev. Kuhns (1858-1870) arrives in Omaha City on November 19 as a missionary of the Allegheny Synod of Pennsylvania to the Nebraska Territory. Kuhns, a graduate of Gettysburg Seminary, is the first Lutheran Missionary in Nebraska Territory, and receives a salary of $500 per year plus whatever he could collect in the field.
May 26

1858 | Emanuel’s Evangelical Lutheran Church

On December 5, Kuhns and fourteen prominent area residents organize Emanuel’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, the first Lutheran church in Omaha and Nebraska Territory.
1862
May 26

1862 | First Building

1862 | First Building
After meeting in rented facilities, Emanuel’s dedicates its first building at 1210 Douglas Street on February 16. The building measures 35’ x 50’ and costs $5,000 to construct.
1867
May 26

1867 | Church Bell

1867 | Church Bell
Purchased by the congregation and still in use today, the bell calls all to worship and once served as Omaha’s fire alarm.
1871
May 26

1871 | Rev. Ira C Billman

1871 | Rev. Ira C Billman
Rev. Billman (1871-1873) begins his pastorate at Emanuel’s and is later elected Secretary of the newly formed Nebraska Synod. Billman is a graduate of Wittenberg College and Seminary.
1873
May 26

1873 | Rev. Wyley A. Lipe

1873 | Rev. Wyley A. Lipe
During Rev. Lipe’s tenure (1873-1880), the envelope system is introduced.
1880
May 26

1880 | Rev. Henry L. Baugher

1880 | Rev. Henry L. Baugher
Rev. Baugher (1880-1881), a professor from Gettysburg Seminary, is called to Emanuel’s.
1881
May 26

1881 | Rev. George F. Stelling

1881 | Rev. George F. Stelling
Under Rev. Stelling’s (1881-1884) leadership, the first church is sold for $16,000 to developers of the Millard Hotel. A new church lot is purchased near 16th and Harney. The congregation rents the Boyd Opera House on 15th and Farnam for Sunday services for two years until the basement of the second building is complete.
1883
May 26

1883 | Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustus Kountze agrees to match pledges for the construction of the second church building. In gratitude, the congregation unanimously votes to rename the church in honor of Kountze’s father, thus becoming Kountze Memorial Evangelical Lutheran Church.
1884
May 26

1884 | Rev. John S. Detweiler

1884 | Rev. John S. Detweiler
Beloved pastor George Stelling dies of a sudden illness. Rev. Detweiler (1884-1890), president of Carthage College, is called.
1885
May 26

Easter 1885 | Second Building

Easter 1885 | Second Building
Kountze Memorial completes an impressive $50,000 building on the northeast corner of 16th and Harney Streets to meet the needs of its growing congregation. Due to financial hardship, the congregation never officially dedicates its second home.
1886
May 26

1886 | St. Mark’s Lutheran Church

1886 | St. Mark’s Lutheran Church
Members of Kountze Memorial, wanting to worship closer to home, establish the first satellite church, St. Mark’s Lutheran at 21st and Burdette.
1887
May 26

1887 | General Synod Convention

1887 | General Synod Convention
The 33rd Biennial Convention of the General Synod is held from June 1-13 at Kountze Memorial bringing pastors and lay people from around the country to Omaha. This was the first National Synod Convention held west of the Missouri River.
1888
May 26

1888 | The Helping Hand Society

Mrs. Allen Koch organizes the Helping Hand Society, following the disbanding of the Ladies Aid Society. This organization would later become the Women of the ELCA.
1889
May 26

1889 | Grace Lutheran Church

1889 | Grace Lutheran Church
Grace Lutheran, 1326 S. 26th, is founded as the second satallite church of Kountze Memorial by Luther Melancthon Kuhns, the first Nebraska-born Lutheran minister and son of Rev. Henry Kuhns. Rev. Luther Kuhns is the first of more than 20 known members of Kountze Memorial to enter the ministry.
1890
May 26

1890 | Rev. Alonzo Turkle

1890 | Rev. Alonzo Turkle
Rev. Turkle (1890-1899), a graduate of Wittenberg College and Seminary, begins his ministry.
1892
May 26

1892 | St. Matthew Lutheran Church

1892 | St. Matthew Lutheran Church
St. Matthew, the first Sunday school mission, is founded at 14th and Center. In 1924, Kountze re-establishes St. Matthew as its fourth Sunday school mission, which would later grow into its own congregation at 60th and Walnut.
1899
May 26

1899 | Rev. Edward F. Trefz

1899 | Rev. Edward F. Trefz
Rev. Trefz (1899-1903), a graduate of Midland College in Atchison, Kansas begins his ministry and later implements the use of the common book of worship. Rev. Henry Kuhns dies suddenly and his funeral is held at Kountze Memorial.
1904
May 26

1904 | Rev. John E. Hummon

1904 | Rev. John E. Hummon
The congregation calls Rev. Hummon (1904-1911), a graduate of Wittenberg College and Seminary.
1906
May 26

1906 | Third Building

1906 | Third Building
Following the sale of the second building for $90,000, portions of the structure are salvaged for use in the new church at 26th and Farnam. Until the basement of the new building is complete, worship takes place in rented facilities, including Creighton Hall, the YMCA, and the Metropolitan Club. Herman Kountze and his brothers contribute $28,000 of the $124,000 construction and land costs, allowing the church to be dedicated debt free on May 27, 1906.
1909
May 26

1909 | Gethsemane Lutheran Church

1909 | Gethsemane Lutheran Church
Kountze Memorial establishes a second Sunday school mission at 19th and Castelar that later becomes Gethsemane Lutheran Church. It was sold in 1948.
1911
May 26

1911 | Rev. Oliver Baltzly

1911 | Rev. Oliver Baltzly
During Baltzly’s (1911-1931) ministry, Kountze Memorial becomes the largest Lutheran church in America with over 5,000 members and a 1931 Confirmation class of 364. In 1919, Midland Lutheran College moves to Fremont, Nebraska, from Atchison, Kansas, with financial help from Kountze Memorial under the leadership of Baltzly. Baltzly is the first Kountze pastor to be born in Nebraska.
1913
May 26

1913 | Easter Tornado

1913 | Easter Tornado
After the sale of Kountze Memorial’s first building, the church bell serves Zion Lutheran Church in Yutan, Nebraska, until their building’s destruction in the tornado. In 1915, the bell is returned to Kountze Memorial.
1915
May 26

1915 | An Associate Pastor is Called

1915 | An Associate Pastor is Called
Rev. C. Franklin Koch is hired as the first associate pastor at Kountze Memorial. That same year, the congregation establishes a third Sunday school mission at Druid Hall on 24th and Ames. Two years later the mission is dissolved and its members establish Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer at 24th and Larimore.
1918
May 26

1918 | WWI Service Flag

1918 | WWI Service Flag
Kountze Memorial has a long history of service to the nation in times of war. In WWI, the congregation displays the largest known church service flag in the country with 250 blue and 4 gold stars.
1920
May 26

1920 | Foreign Missionaries

Commissioned at Kountze Memorial, Mette Blair, RN, sails to southern India to provide medical services, continuing a long standing tradition of missionary outreach. Blair labors in India for 42 years.
1923
May 26

1923 | Pilgrim Lutheran Church

1923 | Pilgrim Lutheran Church
Kountze Memorial’s third Sunday school mission, Pilgrim Lutheran Church, at 42nd and Bancroft, is established by Assoc. Pastor, Rev. Weertz, and for many years is served by Deaconess Harriet Franklin. Pilgrim closed in 1971.
1931
May 26

1931 | Rev. Walter Traub

1931 | Rev. Walter Traub
An Omaha World Herald article boasts that under Rev. Traub’s (1931-1959) leadership, Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church had grown to be the largest Lutheran church in the world.
May 26

1931 | Largest Confirmation Class in History

In the final year of Rev. Baltzly’s ministry, Kountze Memorial celebrates the largest confirmation class (363) in the history of the Lutheran Church, the 13th year in a row of record numbers.
1937
May 26

1937 | Sister Harriet Franklin

Sister Franklin is hired from the Deaconesses Mother House in Baltimore, MD and serves the congregation from 1937- 1949, overseeing the services at Kountze Sunday school missions.
1941
May 26

1941 | Order of Saint John Established

1941 | Order of Saint John Established
Rev. Traub establishes the 4th chapter of the Order of Saint John at Kountze Memorial, inviting young men to serve at the altar as worship assistants. Young women would be accepted into the Order in 1986.
1942
May 26

1942 | Parish House and Educational Wing

1942 | Parish House and Educational Wing
At a cost of $100,000, Kountze Memorial greatly expands its building to include the Fellowship Hall, Sunday School, Church Offices, and Kitchen.
1945
May 26

1945 | Largest Church WWII Service Flag in the United States

1945 | Largest Church WWII Service Flag in the United States
Kountze Memorial displays the largest known church service flag in the county, with over 700 blue stars and 29 gold stars.
1949
May 26

1940 | United Lutheran Church in America Convention

The 12th Biennial Convention of the United Lutheran Church in America is held at Kountze Memorial, the first ULCA Convention held west of the Mississippi River. Also, five women’s organizations merge to form the Women of the Church of Kountze Memorial, a precursor to the W-ELCA.
1950
May 26

1950 | Aeolian-Skinner Organ

Kountze Memorial dedicates a most beautiful Aeolian-Skinner Organ as a memorial to all those who served in WWII.
1951
May 26

1951 | Protestant Preaching Mission to the USAF

Rev. Traub conducts the first Protestant preaching mission in history to the United States Air Force in Europe.
1955
May 26

1955 | Central States Synod Convention

Kountze Memorial hosts the Central States Synod convention in May.
1958
May 26

1958 | 100th Anniversary

Kountze Memorial celebrates its 100th Anniversary of ministry on December 5, 1958.
1962
May 26

1962 Rev. Paul deFreese

1962 Rev. Paul deFreese
Under the leadership of Rev. deFreese (1962-1985), Kountze Memorial begins weekly television broadcasts of Sunday worship services and holds many large annual Rally Dinners. Rev. deFreese was called to Kountze Memorial from First St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Hastings, NE.
1969
May 26

1969 | Fellowship Hall and Sunday School

The Sunday School, Kitchen, and Fellowship Hall are expanded at a cost of $500,000.
1982
May 26

1982 | deFreese Manor

1982 | deFreese Manor
The construction of an impressive four-story complex of 51 apartments at 2669 Dodge Street fills the affordable housing need for low-income senior citizens. The church names the building in honor of Rev. Paul deFreese.
1983
May 26

1983 | 125th Anniversary

Kountze Memorial celebrates its 125th Anniversary with a large banquet and pageant.
1985
May 26

1985 | Endowment Fund

A $250,000 gift establishes a fund for the purpose of outreach and later provides money for college scholarships and capital improvements. Today, our Endowment fund totals over $6 million.
1986
May 26

1986 | Rev. Lawrence W. Wick

1986 | Rev. Lawrence W. Wick
Rev. Wick (1986-1997) is called to be the 13th Senior Pastor of Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church. Wick is a graduate of Wartburg College, the Lutheran School of Theology – Chicago, and Purdue University.
1987
May 26

1987 | Wick’s Tenure

1987 | Wick’s Tenure
For the first time, high school girls were invited to serve in the Order of Saint John. Under Rev. Wick, the lower parking lot was purchased and developed at a cost of $325,000.
1990
May 26

1990 | History Book

Through Wick’s efforts, Dr. Dale Lund, President of Midland College, is commissioned to write the history of the congregation, Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church – A History.
1996
May 26

1996-1997 | Building Renovations

During the last couple of years of Rev. Wick’s pastorate, a number of building renovations were undertaken including the kitchen, restrooms, fellowship lounge, and chancel areas.
1998
May 26

1998 | Rev. Carlos Schneider

1998 | Rev. Carlos Schneider
Born in Brazil to missionary parents, Rev. Schneider (1998-2012), a graduate of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, becomes the 14th Senior Pastor. During his ministry, a nearly $10 million building renovation (Sanctuary, Fellowship Hall, Sunday School, Church offices, etc.) is completed, bringing most of the church building up to modern day standards.
1999
May 26

1999 | Neighborhood Gathering

The congregation holds the first Neighborhood Gathering, inviting those in the surrounding community to the church for fun, food, and fellowship.
2005
May 26

2005 | Food Pantry

For over two decades, the Food Pantry at Kountze Memorial, which had its beginnings in a little closet, has grown into a well-built weekly operation, with over 70 volunteers serving an estimated 1, 500 guests each month.
2008
May 26

2008 | Abundantly Blessed

Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church, with close to 2,100 members, celebrates 150 years of worship and fellowship with one another, growth in faith, and service to the community. KMLC is the oldest continuous Lutheran church west of the Missouri River.
2010
May 26

2010 | Healing Gift Free Clinic

On February 25, Kountze Memorial opens a free health clinic, staffed by volunteers, for the purpose of providing much needed medical care to the surrounding community. Its mission is to empower those it serves toward health of the body, mind, and spirit.
2011
May 26

2011 | Celebrating 70 Years of Ministry

2011 | Celebrating 70 Years of Ministry
Since 1941, young people have served as acolytes in worship through the Order of Saint John, providing life, energy, and leadership to our worship experience. The Order of St. John is an integral part of our ministry and today has nearly 40 youth serving in its ranks.
2013
May 26

2013 | The Next Chapter

Following a national search, Rev. Jeffery Alvestad (2013-   ), a graduate of Luther Seminary, begins his ministry as Senior Pastor on July 1, 2013. The Congregation looks ahead with much anticipation to what the future holds for Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church as we seek to Worship, Grow, and Serve in Downtown Omaha.
2014
May 26

2014 | $1.1 Million Organ Refurbishment and Chamber Expansion

Kountze Memorial embarks on a massive organ renovation, refurbishment and building expansion, allowing our most beautiful Aeolian-Skinner Organ Opus 1090 to serve the congregation and community for years to come.
2015
May 26

2015 | In the City for Good Campaign

After purchasing the KETV news station property through a gift of the Kountze Memorial Endowment Fund, the congregation begins a capital campaign, raising over $2 million towards the redevelopment of the KETV. The ambitious plans include space for our health clinic, food pantry, expanded parking, accessible entrances, outdoor green space, cafe, meeting rooms, and commons area.
2016
October 3

2016 Kountze Commons

Hundreds were on hand on Sunday, June 19 as our congregation broke ground on the new building that will include space for a free medical clinic, commons area, expanded parking, and green space. The ceremony began in the Sanctuary with remarks by Rev. Dean Bard, Interim Senior Pastor at Kountze Memorial, who remarked, “Today, we break ground and launch an historic initiative in response to our Lord’s call to serve people in need and minister to all people in Christ’s name." Many of our partners in ministry were present, including representatives from Lutheran Family Services, Mosaic, and Dr. Lindsey Northam from Methodist Health System who serves as medical director for the new Methodist Community Health Clinic.