We are busy planning a grand celebration for the anniversary of our beloved church. Please check back for updates on the festivities.
Our Steeple is in dire need of replacement, and there is damage to the Southeast side of the building. Your donations towards the renovation of this historic site are greatly appreciated.
First Lutheran began as a mission congregation, formally organized in 1925.
In the summer of 1923, the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America Home Mission had sent the Rev. C.K. Malmin to Ketchikan to open a home service center to help meet the needs of seamen living and/or working locally. At that time, Ketchikan was a thriving fishing and fish processing center. Halibut was a vital part of the industry, and a good portion of the halibut fishermen were Norwegian Lutherans. Many of these men were recent immigrants away from home and family.
The Seamen’s Home located on Mission Street, next to the Coliseum Theater provided a chapel, kitchen, and lounge and sleeping rooms for transient and local single fishermen.
Also in Ketchikan were a number of families of Norwegian Lutheran descent, many of them immigrants. The husbands worked either in the fishing and fish processing industry or in businesses serving that industry. The wives were homemakers.
Malmin’s presence at the Seamen’s Home encouraged the wives to exercise their religion and their creative and nurturing needs. They formed a Lutheran Ladies Aide two months after the home opened.
The Lutheran group met two to three times each month, as they continued to do for the next several decades. Although each meeting had a devotion, the women primarily busied themselves with varieties of needlework and planning community luncheons and dinners to raise funds for the Home. They repaired clothing and made linens for the Seamen’s Home and for sale. The women also planned and carried out a yearly dinner each March to bless the fishing fleet. Donations and sales from these activities provided support for the Home and provided a needed service to Ketchikan.
In turn, the Home provided for the women and their families with Sunday worship services in the chapel, a young people’s group and a Sunday school. With a year, the subject of forming a Lutheran congregation came up.
On August 18, 1925, nine member of the Ladies Aide and five of their husbands met with Rev. Malmin at the Seamen’s Home Chapel. They unanimously voted to form a congregation, affiliating with the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America. The next step was to find a building site.
Several sites were considered, but the one chosen was at the corner of Tongass Avenue. The congregation set about planning its church and soliciting funds for construction. The first pastor, the Rev. O. Fosso, was called in 1928. He served the church for 11 years.
Financing a problem.
Finding money to build was difficult. Through a number of loans from members, local banks and the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America Extension Fund (used expressly to support home mission congregations), the local congregation found capital to begin construction. Members hired Carl Foss, the lowest bidder, and construction began July 21, 1930. The church was ready for occupancy by late October that year. The total cost was $23,756, excluding many of the furnishings.
The Great Depression provided a sometimes overwhelming challenge to the congregation to pay off the mortgage. At times, loans were secured from the bank or from congregation members simply to pay the back interest on other loans.
If one group deserves credit for seeing the church move from an idea to a reality, it is the Lutheran Ladies Aide. Through their community lunches and dinners, their craft bazaars, and a variety of sales efforts, Aide members retired a substantial portion of the debt. Each year, much of the group’s budget went to paying off the mortgage or providing for furnishings and supplies for the church. At the same time, the Ladies Aide and the congregation continued to support the Seamen’s Home.
The church building itself became a landmark in the community. People coming from the north or south into town looked for the familiar white steeple looming against the sky. During World War II it was familiar to pilots as the “white church by the sea”.
Initially, the congregation was primarily Norwegian, and one in every three services was in that language. In succeeding years, the congregation has become heterogeneous, representing a cross-section of Ketchikan. However, the traditions of the congregation have continued. The church still considers itself a mission church.
It its 79-year history, Fist Lutheran has had 22 pastors. Some served as interim, the following is a list and dates of pastors who served at First Lutheran:
C.K. Malmin, 1923-1926
Roy E. Olson, 1926-1927(installed as a student pastor for Home Missions)
G.W. Adskin, 1927-1928(installed as an interim pastor)
O.Fosso, 1928-1939 (from Lakefiled, Minnesota)
G.B. Odegaard, 1940-1942 (from Luther Seminary)
E.Holen, 1942-1942 (interim pastor)
J.Haifjeld, 1943-1944 (from Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Roy E. Olson, 1944-1946 (from Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Theo Hokenstad, 1947-1947 (interim pastor from Bremerton, Wash.)
Raymond Halvorsen 1947-1952 (from Marysville, Wash.)
Norman G. Wick,. 1952-1952 (interim pastor-student)
Sanford O. Shafland, 1952-1956
M.K. Fuhr, 1957-1958 (from Seattle)
Floyd R. Larson, 1958-1958 (interim pastor)
Floyd R. Larson, 1958-1963 (from Clinton, Wash.)
Norman A. Dahle, 1963-1974 (from Bellingham, Wash.)
Gordon O. Toelfson, 1974-1975 (interim pastor)
Neil Hendrickson, 1974-1975 (from Zahl, N.D.)
Theo S. Hoiland, 1975-1981 (interim pastor)
O.B. Fjelstad, 1981-1988 (from Wenatchee, Wash.)
Stan Berntson, 1988-2006 (from Minnesota)
Connie McConnell, 2007-2008 (interim from Iowa)
Keith Anderson, 2008-2022 (from Minnesota)
A thrust to build started in 1981 when two congregation members approached the Rev. O.B. Fjelstad. Interest was revived in building and a committee was started in 1982 to pursue the idea. John Short headed the committee and members included Joan Leach, Sylvia Humleker, Richard Stillman, Ken Nestler, Virginia Klepser, Ken Thynes, and Bruce Christiansen. The committee asked Bob Pearson of Persco Construction of Puyallup, Wash. to come to Ketchikan and provide a preliminary design. The congregation approved the concept of a large building with a multi-purpose room and a racquetball court. The design was finalized by Frank I. Brown of the architectural firm Charles Bettisworth and Co., Juneau.
In the spring of 1984, construction began on the First Lutheran Center. The cost of the new building was about $400,000 and was paid for from proceeds from the sale of the church’s retirement home (contributed about half the cost), personal pledges from congregation members to back bank loans, and personal contributions.
The 10,000-square foot building holds three large rooms (one which can be divided into two, which holds the Preschool class), five carpeted smaller rooms, a full kitchen, a half-gym sized muti-purpose room, two sets of restrooms (one set with showers) and a racquetball court.
Chapter I - Advent - Advent is the first season of the Church year. We prepare to welcome God’s Son who is sent in fulfillment of prophecy as our salvation.
The blue background, the color of hope, represents Christ’s origin in God’s heavenly love for us and Jesus’ purpose to unveil the truth of God’s all encompassing love and care.
The dawning sun, a symbol of the coming of the “sun of righteousness”, Malachi 4:2; the crescent moon as a symbol of the believer reflecting the light; and the cross planted in the earth, a symbol of the daily life and the church our spiritual food and shelter are the parts of the firs illumination. Song of Solomon 6:10 describes the beauty of God; in John 8:12 Jesus says “...I am the light of the world…”.
Four metal lamps are the symbol for illumination two. These lamps show us how God provided light for us, Genesis 1:3 and Proverbs 8:22-31; how we should use God’s light in joyous celebration, Psalm 118:27; and how God’s word leads us, Psalm 119:105, to prepare us for His heavenly kingdom, Matthew 25:1-13.
The third page uses two prophetic symbols of the promised Messiah. The lion and lamb which are mirror-imaged on either side of the large design refer to Isaiah 11:6. The large symbol illustrates Isaiah 1:11 “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. “This large symbol also refers to Jeremiah 33:15-16 and Luke 2:4.
Peace is the meaning of the fourth illumination. In Isaiah 2:4-5 and Micah 4:3 the prophets refer to a time when”...they shall beat their swords into plowshares...” In Ephesians 2:14-17 Jesus is referred to as our peace.
The final leaf in the Advent chapter uses the symbol of the shepherd holding the sheep to depict the shepherd Lord, Psalm 23; the first people to hear about Christ’s birth, Luke 1:8-13; and the good shepherd, John 10:11 who does everything for us.
Chapter II - Epiphany - Epiphany is the third season of the Church year. We celebrate the significance of Christ, starting with the visit of the wise men from the East. The green background for leaf two in our illuminated book suggests the continual renewal of our Christian life as paralleled with the initiation rites in the life of Christ. The baptismal shell in the first illumination refers to Jesus’ baptism (MK. 1:9), the baptism of the first believers (Acts 2:41,8:36,9:17-19), and the supernatural baptism of God’s people into the covenant with Moses (I Cor.10:1-50.
The three drops of water falling from the cockleshell represent the Trinity. The second image presents the Epiphany star (Mt.2:11-2,9), leading us to Christ; and the tree crowns of the kings whose visit to the Messiah was prophesied in Numbers 24:17 and Isaiah 60:3, and recorded in Mt. 2. The net and fishes in the mirror0imaged third illumination symbolize both the Kingdom of Heaven to come (Mt.13:47-48), and our call as “fisher of men.” The cross as a tree (Acts 10:39), which supports a vine (Jn.15:5), together form a single symbol which refers us to Genesis 2:9, the tree of life created by God. Color is especially important in this picture. The brown cross showing our spiritual death; the green, budding leaves the triumph of life over death, and the yellow halo the sun of divinity. The fifth small illumination presents the cross crosslet. A single cross is formed by four joined Latin crosses. These crosses reaching in all directions are doing as God commanded in Mt. 28:19. The black crosses set in the green field use colors to show the completed message of Jesus. His death on the cross will bring us eternal renewal of life. The large center panel on these green leaves tells the entire story of the life of Christ. The crown and manger explain his prophesied coming, the cross and crown of thorns his purpose (Is.42:1-7), and the cross and crown of thorns used again illustrate our dependence on Christ (Romans 6:8-11). The shaft of light symbolizes God’s approval and vindication of Christ.
Chapter III - Easter - Easter presents symbols illustrating the resurrection, the Christian keystone. Without this keystone the arch of Christianity would crumble. The shades of yellow and gold, the background color for the season, bathe the window in a light representing both sacredness and divinity.
The purple Alpha and the black Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, signify that Jesus is the beginning and end of all things, Revelation 1:8. The purple of the Alpha is the color symbolizing God the Father. The black Omega symbolizes death and mourning. The butterfly is an ancient symbol of rebirth and renewal of Christian life through
Death and resurrection. Just as the caterpillar goes into the chrysalis and then emerges with a changed body, so are Christians changed through Jesus Christ into a new life - Philippians 3:20,21.
The mirror-imaged lambs flanking the large center illumination symbolize Christ’s purity by their white color and his recognition as the spotless Lamb of God by John the Baptist which is found in John 1:29,36.
The large center illumination has the dawning sun, a symbol of the bringing of light into the world, shining on the brown cross of degradation and renunciation of the world. These symbols illustrate Ephesians 3:14 and 16-18.
The pure white lily, another ancient symbol of resurrection because of the death of the bulb in the winter and its rebirth and flowering in the spring, reminds us of 1 Corinthians 15:53,54.
The final symbol on this page of the illuminated window book is the golden, sacred, enlightening crown over the brown cross of renunciation of the world. It illustrates the reward of the faithful in the life after death to those who believe in the crucified Savior as shown to us in Revelation 2:10, 11.
Chapter IV - Christmas Season - The clear, sparkling crystal background for these leaves symbolized the purity and innocence of the color white, the liturgical color for the Christmas season.
The bottom illumination uses three green holly leaves to depict, through their number the Triune nature of God. The Son of God came to us at Christmas and the evergreen holly is an ancient symbol of triumph over winter.
The white Messianic rose refers to the blossoming of the desert, described in Isaiah 35, at the coming of the Messiah, God’s anointed and appointed king at the end of time.
Two heralding angels mirror-image the large central illumination of this page. These represent God’s messengers told about in Luke 2:10-11.
The large central illumination presents us with an overall view of Christ. The star of Bethlehem shines down on the manger for us to see as it did for the shepherds and wise men in Luke and Matthew 2. The beautiful covenant rainbow, Genesis 9:13-17 shines through the crystal star, Genesis 1:16. The cross, brown for renunciation of the world, is superimposed over the manger and presents an overview of the birth and meaning of the life of our Christ, the greatest of God’s gifts to us.
Four blue Advent candles appear above the angels. They symbolize the four weeks of waiting for the birth of Christ. They flank the single pure white candle of Christ. “I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” John 12:46.
The crown and shepherd’s crook at the top of this illuminated page depict the prophecy in Isaiah 9:6 and 7, as it is fulfilled in Luke 2:11 superimposed over the shepherd’s crook which Jesus claims in John 10:14 –18.
Chapter V - The Lent Window - This window represents the season of Lent, using purple as its background color. God the Father, imperial power, royalty and sorrow and penitence are all symbols attributed to purple and make the color a complete symbol of the Trinity. The symbol at the top of the page is the chalice holding the black cross of death. Matthew 26:39 and 20:22 tell us that Jesus was willing to accomplish God’s will but knew that it would consume Him and that He also knew that only He could bear the horror of the cross for us.
The three black crosses in the second illumination set the scene on Golgotha as described in Mark 16:22-27. The two roosters, harbingers of a new day, mirror the large, center illumination and represent both the prophecy and the fact of Peter’s wavering witness, Matthew 26:34 and 35 and Luke 22:60-62. and calls to mind our wavering.
The central illumination presents the cross of death, set in the purple of sorrow and penitence, draped with a pure white cloth. This picture for us, the agony of the cross and the bright new day of the cloths laid aside described in John 20:4-9.
The cross rising from a crown of thorns, a visual representation of the mocking of Christ recounted in Matthew 27:29, is shown next.
The final, bottom symbol in this chapter shows the bowl and pitcher representing the ritual of innocence described in Deuteronomy 21:6-9, and Pilate’s denial of guilt in Matthew 27:24.
This Lenten chapter is a visual reminder of all that we need to consider as we prepare to celebrate the full meaning of Easter and assume our Christian responsibilities.
Chapter VI – Pentecost Season The sixth season of the church year, and the final chapter in our illuminated book of windows present Pentecost, the longest liturgical season is set aside especially for Christian instruction.
These leaves are set in the emotionally powerful color red, the color of blood and fire, and present a visual lesson about the Triune God Head, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The symbol at the top of the chapter portrays a statement of the Trinity, God’s right hand is holding growing life and nurturing this life and ours with three blue, Heavenly drops representing His Heavenly love as demonstrated in the gift of his son, and his truth descending to us as it did to Jesus at his baptism, Matthew 3:16 “and unto Him, and He say the spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him.” The purple grapes, purple to symbolize both God the Father and penitence; the green leaf of regeneration of the soul and the yellow, sacred, grain together present a picture of communion, Luke 22:15-20, “and He said unto them, with desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I say unto you not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the Kingdom of God. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this and divide it among yourselves: for I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God shall come. And He took bread, and gave thanks, and broke it, and gave unto them saying, This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me. Again, after supper, he took the cup, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for you.”
The fishing boats flanking the large center panel link us here in Ketchikan, as well as the symbolic church, with the promise in Jeremiah 16:16 “behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them”, also Jesus who stilled the storm, Luke 8:22-25 “now it came to pass on a certain day, that He went into a ship with His disciples, and He said unto them, let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth. But as they sailed He fell asleep, and thee came down a storm of wind on the lake, and they were filled with water and were in jeopardy. And they came to Him saying, Master, Master, we perish. Then He arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased and there was a calm, and He said unto them, where is your faith? And they begin afraid wondered, saying one to another, what manner of man is this? For he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him”. The fishing boats are also a call to become “fishers of men”, Mark 1:16-17 “now as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, His brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, come with me and I will make you become fishers of men”. The ship is an established symbol for the church, and many of the architectural terms used in shipbuilding are used to designate parts of the physical church building.
The large center panel clearly depicts the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:1-3 “and when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from Heaven as a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.” The pure white dove, the color of light, descends from Heaven toward the purifying, sacred flames; the cross, a symbol of God’s greatest gift, is a background anchor and center post of this panel.
The open Bible, a symbol of truth by text and doctrine, supports a green, growing plant. The green leaves visualize our Christian growth, rooted in and nurtured by God’s word. Ephesians 3:4-6 “whereby, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ. Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the spirit; that the gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.”
The final symbol in our six-chapter illuminated book offers a brown cross of spiritual death. Degradation and renunciation of the world overcome by a yellow triangle of Divinity, a symbol of the Triune God. John 16:33 “these things I have spoken unto you, that in me you might have peace, in the world you shall have tribulation; be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”.
First Lutheran Church
1200 Tongass Ave
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