Rev. Susan Debner
PASTOR
Worship Schedule (Summer)
9:30 a.m. Sundays

Office Hours
8:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. Monday - Friday

The History of Nokomis Heights Lutheran Church

In the summer of 1928, Pastor Anker Berg, with the assistance of Mr. and Mrs. Anton Thuras, began conducting services in a rented tent placed on the corner of 52nd Street and 15th Avenue South in a fast-growing section of south Minneapolis. Small gatherings and an unbearable attack of mosquitoes almost defeated this noble venture, but gradually more people became interested in the fledgling church. With $4000 received from the Extension Fund of the Lutheran Free Church, a little white chapel was constructed at the corner of 53rd Street and 10th Avenue South, the site of our current building. The congregation was formally organized on January 13, 1929, with 22 charter members. Pastor Berg was the congregation's first pastor, a duty he held while also serving Olivet Lutheran Church at Franklin Avenue and 23rd Street South. He was assisted by a seminary student named Maurice Sand, who later went on to become pastor at Nokomis Heights.

The church grew rapidly in its early years. With few other churches in the area, the Sunday school grew from 18 children at its beginning to 450 within a decade. The little chapel was expanded twice: in 1934 and again in 1937. In 1946, the little white chapel was sold to a Baptist congregation and moved to the corner of 55th and Chicago. That summer, men of the congregation tore out the old foundation in preparation for the construction of a new church building. The Minneapolis architectural firm, Bard and Vanderbuilt, drew up plans for a stone, gothic-style sanctuary, and George Madsen served as general contractor for the superstructure. Men of the congregation provided a significant amount of the labor, supported in their efforts by the Ladies’ Guild, which provided additional financial support and refreshments for the workers. During the two-year construction, the congregation met at nearby Nathan Hale Elementary School. The new building was dedicated on September 26, 1948.

In the years that followed, it became necessary to build an education wing to house Sunday school classrooms and church offices. Before the completion of the addition in 1955, the burgeoning Sunday school held classes in whatever space was available around the church, including the basement, sanctuary, choir robe room, pastor’s office, and even the kitchen. In 1963, the balcony in the church sanctuary was enlarged in order to install a Hillgreen-Lane pipe organ and provide space for the choir. In the early 1990s, major construction took place to enclose the area between the sanctuary and education wing in order to add an elevator for accessibility and a comfortable courtyard for fellowship. The project was completed and dedicated in 1993.

Eleven senior pastors have led Nokomis Heights since its organization: Pastor Anker Berg, Pastor Maurice Sand, Pastor Alfred M. Hansen, Pastor J.T. Quanbeck, Pastor Ernest Larson, Pastor Freeman Sveom, Pastor Paul Almquist, Pastor Vernon Christoperson, Pastor Mark Nelson, Pastor Peter Johnson, and Pastor Susan Debner. Numerous assistant and associate pastors have also served the congregation, including Pastor Jerry O'Neill, Pastor Eleanor Hunsberger, Pastor Mary Pechauer, Pastor Christine Wenzel, and Pastor Susan Debner.

Throughout its more than 85-year history, Nokomis Heights Lutheran has stood fast to its Lutheran roots and traditions. The church, begun under the auspices of the Lutheran Free Church, became part of the American Lutheran Church (ALC) in 1963, and, with another merger, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in 1987. Established by Norwegian Americans, the church has grown to embrace people of many cultures and backgrounds. Worship, music, education, and missions have been hallmarks of the congregation through the years. Currently, Nokomis Heights Lutheran Church is involved with the African community here and in Africa, through its partnership with Trinity-Riverside Lutheran Church in Minneapolis and its sponsorship of Ethiopian girls' education through REAL (Resources for the Enrichment of African Lives). True to its mission statement, “A community of the cross called to confess hope in action,” Nokomis Heights continues to be a church where the people of God gather to hear God's Word, partake in the sacraments, and carry out the work of God's kingdom in the world.