Mr. William Anderson, the chair of the Messiah Lutheran Church's 50th Anniversary Committee in 2004, who did not live to see the culmination of his efforts, chose as the theme for that celebration, "Little Children Have Lead Us." It was a very appropriate theme because not only has Christian Education been one of the core ministries at Messiah Lutheran Church for more than 50 years, but the congregation actually started in April, 1951 as a Sunday School. Mrs. Jenny Phillips' car became too small to transport her children and friends to Edison Park Lutheran Church in Chicago and so she started a Sunday School which met at Park Lane Community House. That Sunday School grew to over 400 members by 1965 and became the nucleus for an extensive educational program for the congregation including the Luther League, confirmation, youth and family ministries, adult Bible Study, the Adult Forum, and (beginning in 1965) the Nursery School Program, now the Messiah Lutheran Day Care Center.
Within a few months of that April 1951 beginning, worship services were begun at the Community House and the congregation became known as the Park Lane Lutheran Church. At first visiting pastors from the Chicago area provided leadership and two years later, after the Shoreline Builders Company, in the person of a Messiah charter member, Mr. Godfrey Lindstrom, had donated a substantial piece of property for the congregation in Park Ridge its present name was adopted: Messiah Lutheran Church. Laypeople took leadership positions in 1954 when the first Church Council, now called the Leadership Team, was formed.
A rapidly developing area in Niles and Maine Townships was designated as the congregation's ministry area. This six-square-mile mission field was bounded by Potter Road on the west, Oakton St. on the south, Golf Road on the north and Waukegan Road on the east. On May 7, 1954 the congregation was officially organized as part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, now the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The Rev. Warren Weeg was called as the first pastor and in the congregation's first decade of ministry it experienced its most rapid growth. By 1962 the congregation had the largest baptized membership in its 50 year history: 940. Ground was broken for a parsonage in January, 1954, and for the church building two months later. By 1964 the religious education building had been completed.
A demographic study in 1963 predicted that Park Ridge itself would grow from its population then of 37,500 to 70,000 by the year 1970. This, of course, never happened and the expectation that congregational membership itself might peak at 2,500 was no closer to reality. In fact, after 1963 when the average age of the baptized membership was 27 there began a steady decline in membership to today's total of less than half of what it was at its peak while the average age of the members naturally increased steadily! Some analysts predicted that the construction of Lutheran General Hospital next door in 1959 would attract many employees as congregational members, but this also was not the case.
The congregation's various ministries continued to thrive, however. In addition to the extensive educational program, four other programs have continued from early on. These include the Ladies Guild begun in 1951, now called the Messiah Lutheran Church Women; the Messiah Church Choirs, also begun in 1951, which have been under the direction of Mr. Tom Daniels since 1966; the Messiah Men's Club, begun in 1954, now called the Brotherhood; and the Altar Guild, begun in 1955. The congregation's monthly publication, the MESSIAH MESSENGER, has been faithfully produced by staff and volunteers since 1960. In addition to assistant, youth and interim pastors; four senior pastors have served the congregation since Pastor Weeg's departure in 1962:
The Rev. Luther Keay 1963-1976
The Rev. Gaylen Gilbertson 1977-1992
The Rev. Duane Kamrath 1992-1996
The Rev. Mark Larson 1997-2004
The Rev. Gordon Straw (interim) 2004-2005
In 2005 we called Rev. Paul C. Stolz to our congregation. He has been serving since November of 2005.
During this period the main sanctuary has been air conditioned and the bell tower and balcony added in 1969, a new organ was dedicated in 1973, and the fellowship hall and kitchen were remodeled in 1977. A new building fund project was launched in 2004 with the hope of adding a new large gathering area and increasing accessibility convenience for all facilities and programs including additional worship space and more space for the Child Care Center. In recent years new ministries have developed such as United Power for Peace and Justice, Mission Outreach, The Vintage Christians, Ministry to Families with Young Children, Contemporary Worship on Saturday evenings, the Mission Endowment Fund, and the like. The optimistic spirit of the Messiah membership is captured in the chorus of what is known as "Messiah's Hymn," written by Patrick R. Panknin for the 50th Anniversary celebrations:
Lead us through all our days
Calm the raging seas with your Right Hand
Lord of all, our anthems praise
King of all the creatures of the Land.
David L. Lindberg
Our History will be updated with the celebration of our 60th anniversary. Currently, Pastor Lynne Morrow serves as our senior pastor - she began serving in July 2009.