History of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod in Shawnee, OK

Missouri Synod missionaries were first sent to Oklahoma after the land run of 1889 to faithfully preach the Word of God and to administer the Sacraments as instituted by Christ. After two years of groundwork, the first Lutheran services were held at Marena, OK in 1891. Later, Lutheran pastors from Wellston and Cushing began serving the community around Shawnee until 1909 when Rev. Theodore C. Otto was called from Concordia Theological Seminary in Springfield, Illinois. As an area missionary, Pastor Otto held Lutheran services in German at the Shawnee City Hall and reached out into the area communities as far as Earlsboro, Prague, Arlington, Durant, Coalgate, and Hugo for the three and a half years he was here. In 1912 he accepted a call from the Lutheran church in Okarche, leaving a vacancy in Shawnee that lasted for eight months.

As the Lutheran community sought to fill that vacancy, there were no regular Lutheran services until Rev. Karl Freese accepted the call to serve the Shawnee area in 1913. Rev. Freese changed to holding a regular English-language service while offering one service each month in German. On June 24, 1914, the Lutheran community around Shawnee organized itself as St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church with seven charter members. The first official service of St. John was held Easter Sunday, 1916 in the Dutch Reform worship center (which was the former Horton Memorial Church building). 

1922-1943 Rev. Edgar J. Buerger; 1943-1944 Vicar Elmer Neunaber; 1944-1946 Rev. L. A. Reinke; 1946-1950 Rev. Mark L. Heilman; 1950-1952 Rev. Edward F. Eggert; 1952-1959 Rev. Paul H. Heitman; 1959-1966 Rev. R. L. Young; 1966-1971 Rev. Dan Streufert 

Rev. Floyd Schoenhals accepted the call to St. John in 1971. During this time, Shawnee drew many Lutherans from Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin to serve in the growing industrial trades. The 70’s also saw rising conflict in the Missouri Synod over the truth and interpretation of the Bible in what famously became known as Seminex (“Seminary In Exile), when the errant faculty walked out from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. Concern about this tension in the LCMS caused Rev. Schoenhals to encourage St. John to leave the LCMS and join the American Lutheran Church (ALC). After a congregational vote, St. John was received into membership in the ALC in 1979

Those who did not agree with abandoning the Missouri Synod had to leave their home church. In 1980, a contingent of 7 members joined Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Midwest City. There they approached Good Shepherd’s pastor, Rev. Gerald Quiram, about continuing an LCMS ministry in Shawnee. On August 22, 1982, the core 7, with Pastor Quiram, plus 16 others met at Kimi’s Pizza Place in Shawnee to officially re-constitute a Missouri Synod congregation – at first known as “Faith Lutheran,” but then in October 1982 formally designated “Redeemer Lutheran Church.” The first scheduled worship service was held at 7pm on September 26, 1982 at Kimi’s, with Pastor Quiram using the counter space as the altar. With the sale of Kimi’s, Redeemer met at the Seminole College Campus, then at the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Seminole, until they settled at the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Shawnee on January 16, 1983

August 26, 1984, Pastor Robert Krahn was ordained as Redeemer’s first pastor. He had served a convertible vicarage with Redeemer the previous year since August 1983. With their new pastor, Redeemer embarked on building their own place for receiving God’s gifts of Word and Sacrament. In partnership with the Oklahoma District of the LCMS, “Laborers for Christ,” and the commitment of the members, land was found and a groundbreaking ceremony was held at the MacArthur Street property for Redeemer Lutheran Church on September 28, 1986. On October 25, 1987 the first service at the new church celebrated the Baptism of Tyler James Brack, with the Church Dedication service held that afternoon at 3p with approximately 240 people in attendance. At 6:30p an appreciation dinner was held in honor of the “Laborers for Christ” who had helped build Redeemer for the previous 4 months, since July 1987. 

In 1989 Pastor Krahn accepted a call. The vacancy was filled by Pastor Charles Miller from Wellston until Pastor Jonathon Cholcher was called from the seminary and ordained as Redemer’s second pastor in July 1990. During this time, membership grew and an outreach was established in Prague. In 1996, Pastor Cholcher took a call and Pastor Miller of Wellston again served the vacancy until Pastor John Nelson took the call as our third pastor in June of 1997. In early 1999, Pastor Nelson took another call and Pastor Wackler served the vacancy until August of 1999 when Pastor Lenny Szeto was called from the seminary and ordained as Redeemer’s fourth pastor. After he took a call in 2001, Oklahoma District President Hartman met to discuss Redeemer’s future as the years between 2001 and 2004 were very difficult. Pastor Myron Maltz served as guest preacher for morning services and Pastor Gary Brandt of Ada served for visitation and special services. 

On August 29, 2004 , Lewis Walters began his A.R. vicarage at Redeemer and was ordained as our fifth pastor on February 22, 2005. During this time, Pastor Walters built up the Sunday School, VBS, and community outreach programs. The Lord blessed Redeemer during these years with much growth, including the building of a new sanctuary which was dedicated August 23, 2015

During 2020, the COVID epidemic hit churches hard as members and leadership sought to determine how best to “love their neighbor” while “loving the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.” Like most churches, Redeemer closed for a time while providing virtual ministries. Pastor Walters retired in August of 2020. In the spring of 2021, the available vaccinations against COVID enabled members to return to worship and Redeemer began to build back from the effects of the separation. 

February 21, 2021, Pastor Matthew Tassey was installed as Redeemer’s sixth pastor. 

From 1909 to this day, the Word and Sacraments have been God’s mission among the Confessional Lutherans here in Shawnee. May the Lord grant continued zeal and opportunity to His glory and to our community’s good.