After celebrating 150 years of faithful ministry in their community, the members of First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Waterloo, IA faced closing their doors with faith in a new life for their mission and legacy. They chose to trust Wartburg Theological Seminary with that faith. This fall, the first students started learning in the newly renovated “First Evangelical Lutheran Church of Waterloo Classroom” and if there’s one thing the members of First Lutheran want students to know when they learn in that classroom, it’s “that faith is a living, breathing gift!”

For many members of First Lutheran, it is and has been the only church home they have ever known. Sandra Gardner, Treasurer of the congregation, has been a member for over 30 years and still considers herself a “newbie” at First Lutheran! At their recent 150th anniversary celebration, members shared story after story about kindnesses shown to them in both the joys of life and in tough times, through marriages, baptisms, confirmations, and burying loved ones. Members of First Lutheran have known it as a place of hope, comfort, and above all – a place where the gospel of grace and salvation has been preached and modeled throughout its history.

As members of the congregation discerned it was time to consider closing its doors and passing on their legacy, they wanted to find a way to honor the spirit of their membership and hope of their mission, “Faith to Ensure, Hope to Ensure, by Grace we are Saved.” The congregation was determined to “hand off” their legacy in a way that demonstrated faith in the future of the church. “By working with Wartburg Seminary,” Gardner recalls, they had the opportunity to “provide a learning space for current and future faith leaders that allows our mission to become our legacy – supporting faith, providing hope, and helping to develop leaders that will preach the gospel of salvation through grace.” The classroom renovation is now complete and an endowed scholarship fund has been set up in the congregation’s name as well.

In addition to the congregation’s gift to Wartburg Seminary, First Lutheran has encouraged members to continue their generous giving to the seminary through regular or planned gifts. Join us in our gratitude for the ministry of First Lutheran. Just as they have lifted up nine of their own congregants to become pastors, Wartburg Seminary takes on that legacy with great honor to continue lifting up leaders who will preach the gospel for the church and the world.