Serving God and Community Since 1979
The History of Living Lord Lutheran Church
Living Lord Lutheran Church began as a small mission congregation that met in members’ homes for Bible study and worship in the mid 1970s. In December 1977, the Rev. Robert Schact led services, held in Eastview School. In September 1978, the Rev. Bill Bartlett accepted the call as mission developer pastor of Living Lord. Pastor Bill’s method of community outreach was to walk door-to-door through the neighborhoods of Bartlett, asking people to come and worship, and it worked.
Although Pastor Bill’s first worship service included only 31 people, the number grew to 900 baptized members over the 4 years he served at Living Lord. Our congregation’s commitment to the mission of the church was demonstrated when 116 adults and 82 children signed the official charter in December 1978.
Living Lord’s next home was the basement of Bartlett’s old Village Hall. It was in this setting that we formalized our existence by entering into official partnership with what was then called the Lutheran Church in America (now the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), in April 1979. April 2009 marked the 30th anniversary of this date.
By February 1980, we needed more space, so we returned to Eastview School for worship services. Eight months later, on a chilly fall day, we broke ground for our permanent home, at the intersection of Congress Drive and Route 59. The Lutheran Church in America had purchased the land in 1963 for mission development.
Our congregation reached another milestone when the new church building was dedicated in June 1981. Shortly after this, we saw a need in the community for a Christian preschool in Bartlett, and so Living Lord Lutheran Preschool opened its doors. Today, the Preschool remains a popular choice for parents in the community who are seeking a preschool that provides their children with a loving atmosphere in which to learn good values along with social and school readiness.
In December 1982, the Rev. Ken Soderlund and his family joined our congregation. Pastor Ken helped expand the ministries begun under Pastor Bill, who had moved on to another pastoral calling. Pastor Ken steadily guided us for 18 years as we grew to be one of the largest churches in the Bartlett area. During those years, development in and around Bartlett was booming, and Living Lord experienced a large increase in young families. By 1988, the original church building was bursting at the seams, so we expanded the building to accommodate the need for more Christian education space.
In the late 1990s, Pastor Ken helped set in motion another addition to the original building: a beautiful new, much larger sanctuary, which was completed in 1999. In the spring of 2000, Pastor Ken accepted a call to move his ministry to a church in Wisconsin, where he remained until retirement a few years later.
Throughout Pastor Ken’s time with the congregation, our church hosted many pastoral interns and employed an associate in ministry, Susan Forrester, as well as several associate pastors, including Pastor Amely Lisner, Pastor Frank Ewert, Pastor Bill Wessner, Pastor Christine Stiger, and Pastor Trudy Foote.
One important ministry of Living Lord that really began to expand during the late 1980s was its youth program, which today continues to offer many faith-development opportunities for young people ranging in age from fifth grade to college. The youth director integral to this growth and development was Mark Nienow, followed by Suzanne Clarey. These lay ministers touched the lives of hundreds of children in and around Bartlett.
The Rev. Eric Lesher was called to lead the congregation from the fall of 2000 until May 2007, when he moved on to a new calling, in Kearney, Neb. Pastor Eric had the help of two associate pastors, the Rev. Jean Marie Durán and the Rev. Steve Myers. This active team of pastors worked together to grow the spirituality of the congregation, and this time was marked by an increase in participation in Bible study and the growth of many other ministries and community-outreach activities. The youth program also continued to do well, under the direction of Leesa Lance and Jason Brandt, followed by Andrew Dodd and Chris Maloney, who have since moved on to other opportunities and callings.
In 2008, our congregation hired long-time member Bob Esmail to lead a new Youth and Family Ministry focused on the spiritual development of the entire family. Bob has been active in youth ministries at Living Lord for nearly 15 years. Diana Turk, who grew up in this congregation was also hired as the part-time director of Living Lord’s Confirmation Program for seventh and eighth graders and served for two program years.
Living Lord Lutheran Church has steadily grown in ministry throughout our 30+ years in Bartlett. Our large, mission-minded congregation continues to serve the community through youth and family programs, Christian education opportunities, and social ministries.
In May 2009, we embarked on another chapter in our history, with a change in our team of pastors. Pastor Jean remained on our ministerial team, but Pastor Steve moved on to a new calling, as the full-time executive director of his Sabbath Center Ministries near Lake Carroll, Ill. Pastor Steve served as our interim lead pastor from May 2007 to May 2009.
The Rev. Sue Allen became our new lead pastor in May 2009. Pastor Sue came to us with a wealth of experience and new ideas to help grow and develop the body of Christ at Living Lord. In 2010, when Pastor Jean took a leave of absence and later resigned due to health reasons, we were joined by Pastor Jennifer Fisher, who served as associate pastor. The tradition of strong pastoral leadership continued with Pastor Sue and Pastor Jennifer. Pastor Jennifer took a call with a different congregation as their lead pastor in March of 2013. In May of 2016, Rev. John Hildner joined us in a part time roll as the Community Life Pastor. We look forward with hope to a wonderful future as we follow our mission to grow in faith and reach out to the community. At Living Lord, we are Growing to Serve, Serving to Grow.