Amidst horse-drawn wagons hauling lumber and oil lamps illuminating the storefronts of downtown Hood River, Immanuel Lutheran Church was established in 1905.
The photo on this page shows the homestead property of W.A. Slingerland in 1902, where a group of German Lutherans first gathered together to establish a Lutheran church in Hood River Valley.
On April 2, 1905, Mr. Ludwig Struck, Mr. George Rordon, Mr. Louis Plog, Mr. F.W. Pribnow, Mr. George Plog and Rev. H.J. Kolb signed a resolution to establish a Lutheran Church in Hood River. This was the beginning of what is now Immanuel Lutheran Church.
The majority of these earliest members were farmers of German heritage living in the Barrett area and along Tucker Road as far south as the top of the hill on the south bank of the Hood River. The cornerstone for the first church building was laid in September of 1906. The church was located several hundred yards south of the present day Windmaster Corner. Today there is no evidence remaining of that original structure.
For these early pioneer families it was very important that their children be trained in the ways of the Lord. They felt that establishing a Lutheran church in this area would be a good beginning. Pauline Krussow, an early member of Immanuel, was reputed to have told her husband “I won’t raise my children where there is no Lutheran church.”
By 1920 Immanuel had outgrown the small wooden structure at Windmaster Corner. Arrangements were made to purchase the vacant Unitarian church building on the southwest corner of 9th and State Streets. This building served Immanuel until the present house of worship was built in 1954. The former church is now a residence located directly west of the present church.
Immanuel Grows and Matures:
The 32 years from 1920 through 1952 reflect Immanuel’s growth from a mission congregation, subsidized by District funds, to a self-supporting congregation sponsoring mission congregations in neighboring communities. In 1921, the congregation decided to have German services every other Sunday evening rather than every week. In 1925, Immanuel voted to join the Missouri Synod.
Two years later the church received $2,950 for a parsonage from the Mission Board. This money was used to purchase the Baker house at 904 State Street for $4,500. This house is still home to Immanuel’s pastor.
Throughout these early years Immanuel’s pastors also served a variety of mission congregations. In addition to Bingen, Cascade Locks and The Dalles, a mission congregation was established in Grass Valley, Oregon. The Grass Valley mission (located 27 miles south of the present day Biggs Jct. on I 84 and Hwy 97) was thought to cover the largest area, in relation to membership, of any in the Synod.
Today there are Missouri Synod Lutheran Churches in Bingen and The Dalles, but there are no congregations in Cascade Locks or Grass Valley. Immanuel began serious discussions regarding the building of a new church in 1945. It is interesting to note that women were allowed to participate in the discussion and to vote regarding the building of a new church. At the time, women were not allowed to be voting members of Missouri Synod Churches.
Serving the Lord in a Time of Change:
In 1953, work began on a new house of worship for Immanuel. Much of the work was done by members of the congregation. This new church building was dedicated in April 1957.
Shortly afterward, construction was completed on the new churches in Bingen and The Dalles. The decades between 1950 and 1980 brought many changes to our church and our nation. Immanuel survived doctrinal disputes within the Missouri Synod and refused to leave the Synod as was suggested by a pastor.
A review of the minutes of the 50s and 60s serve as signs of the times. Among items discussed at voters meetings were:
- Members did not favor shopping on Sunday except in case of emergencies.
- The Walther League was given the go-ahead to sponsor a civil defense program to be presented to the congregation.
- Concordia College was given permission to use Immanuel as a regrouping point in case of an atomic attack.
- Ladies of Immanuel canned 38 quarts of green beans and 214 quarts of peaches for Concordia College.
- Girls were permitted to serve as acolytes as long as they wore robes.
In 1977, the church’s constitution was revised to allow women to vote at congregational meetings and to hold offices within the congregation. On September 10, 1977, Joyce Eggers, Susan Bohlmann, Marilyn Sylwester, Jeanette Wells, Sharon Visser and Darlene Nellermoe were the first women to be received into voting membership. To this day, the role of women in the life of the church has expanded and is valued.
Bringing Christ to a Diverse Community, 1978 to Present:
The Hood River Valley today is a much different place than the one that was home to those German-speaking settlers in 1904. Immanuel has grown from a congregation serving a close-knit group with a strong German heritage to a congregation ministering to a diverse community.
Today’s challenge is not only to minister to the traditional faith community, but also to reach out to those unfamiliar with any church. An aging congregation must be stimulated by the influx of young people into the congregation. It must be remembered that different groups may have different physical needs, but we all have the same spiritual needs. Out of this desire to connect with all, Immanuel made its facility handicapped accessible and engaged in community outreach efforts like sponsoring local events, food banks, and parks.
Beyond our work in the local community, Immanuel has been active in our district and in international ministry efforts. The servant heart of Immanuel's members is evident in the number of “children of Immanuel” who have entered the professional ministry.
Today, Immanuel Lutheran Church embraces its role as a neighborhood church that shares Jesus in creative and meaningful ways. By harnessing social media and utilizing a digital live stream, the message of God's love is being proclaimed in our beautiful church, perched on top of downtown Hood River, and heard all over the world.
We are excited to honor our historical heritage, while working be trailblazers in ministry for the future. We strive to become the model for the next generation of neighborhood church, with the foundation of community, hospitality, and the Gospel of Jesus.
We are proud to be Immanuel, God With Us, for this neighborhood, for this community, and for this world. We look forward to vibrant ministry for centuries to come.