Church History

It started with settlers from Norway.  Traveling to the Manitowoc area at around 1850, the early immigrants wanted to build churches in Wisconsin to worship Jesus in their familiar ways, in their native tongue.  Three churches were founded together in October 1850.  Two were out in the countrynear Valders (west of town).  The other was placed on the north side of Manitowoc.  Across the river, on the south side, were the German Lutherans.

Over the years the congregation grew and separated from the other two, forming a separate entity.  Originally named the “Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church” the name shifted to “First Norwegian Lutheran” and finally in the 1920’s it became “First Lutheran.”

As the years went by the congregation grew and dealt with the issues that plagued many an immigrant church.  Issues like:  the language of worship, the styles of worship, the need for a pipe organ, the relationship with the community, the struggle to find suitable pastors, and the occasional theological controversy.  Blessed with strong leadership on every level, the congregation weathered each storm. The church worshiped initially in a nearby school building.  They built their first structure in 1869 (just south across the street from where the church parking lot now stands).  That was replaced by a new building in 1900 on the same land.  The current building was built in the early 1950’s.  Several renovations have taken place over the years to keep it up to date.

Currently the church parsonage is used by Lutheran Social Services for their “Project Youth” program.

The congregation has a long history of support for local missions.  Since the 1940’s, they have expanded to support world missions through sponsorship of specific missionaries.  A strong partner in the Bible Camps, the congregation consistently sends large numbers of people, young and old, to Camp and supports the Camps financially.   Participation in Adult Bible Studies is also a hallmark of First Lutheran.  The congregation has long been known for its strong music programs and Sunday school.

Currently the church is served by many staff persons. Current Senior Pastor is Roald Harswick.  Stephanie Bowman is our full time Youth Director.  Ann Unertl serves as our part time Parish Nurse.  The church office is staffed by our two part time secretaries, Rebecca Konik and Jean Olson.  Caroline Sonnenberg is our part time bookkeeper.

Many choir directors and accompanists also serve us.  Our Nursery is run by paid adult staff


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