In the summer of 1958 a young assistant pastor from Trinity Lutheran church in Rapid City, SD was making calls when he stopped to ask for directions. Over a glass of cold water, that pastor, Robert Henriksen, and Marie Neugebauer began a conversation that would eventually lead a small group of people to decide to form a Lutheran Mission Church in Hermosa, SD.
An organizational meeting was held on September 10, 1958. By a show of hands the name “Our Savior’s Lutheran Mission of Hermosa” was chosen. A church council of Walter Neugebauer (president), Alfred Mielke (vice-president), Hilda Mielke (secretary), John Rittberger (treasurer), and Lloyd Neugebauer, Ervin Mintzlaff, and Don Kaiser (trustees) was elected.
The first worship service, lead by Pastor Henriksen, was held on September 21 in the Hermosa Community Hall with 48 people attending. Pastor Henriksen remembered that the altar was a “dainty and charming library table”. Roger Downen’s little hat was used as the offering plate.
On February 8, 1959 a groundbreaking ceremony was held on a piece of land donated by Walter and Marie Neugebauer at what is now 386 Main Street, Hermosa, SD. Construction began on a basement structure. In just 13 days the work was completed by the men of the congregation. One hundred chairs were ordered and arrived during the Good Friday Services on March 27, 1959. Excess Lutheran Hymnaries from Trinity Lutheran were used as hymnals. The altar, pulpit and baptismal font came from a disbanded church north of Quinn/Cottonwood, home congregation of Helen Rittberger. A paint-by-number picture of the Last Supper completed by Clarence-Henriksen of San Diego, CA was used as the altar painting. Pastor Henriksen was officially installed as the first pastor on September 13, 1959.
In 1961 the church was informed that it could no longer be considered a mission church because the church was not started by the American Missions Board. The name was officially changed to “Our Savior’s Lutheran Church”. An agreement was made with Trinity Lutheran that they would be responsible for the Hermosa parish and their intern pastors would serve in Hermosa. Between 1962 and 1963 pastoral duties were performed by Pastor Ralph Okland, who was serving the new mission church, Atonement Lutheran, under the jurisdiction of Trinity.
The now five-year-old church was determined to continue and in 1963 sought a supply pastor. Pastor Richard Borrud, then employed at Outlaw Ranch Bible Camp, agreed to serve. Another sign of the desire to grow was the start of construction on the upper structure of the church building. The new sanctuary was dedicated on October 20, 1963.
April of 1965 brought another change when Our Savior’s joined with St. John’s to become a two-point parish. St. John’s in Smithwick had been in the Nebraska district and decided to move their parsonage to Maverick Junction, build a new church there and become a member of the South Dakota district. This move allowed the two small churches to call a full-time pastor together.
In 1977 St.John’s and Our Savior’s applied and were accepted for the Internship Program. This three year program provided needed help for pastor’s workload and provided a good training experience for seminary students.
A trailer house was purchased in December of 1980 to be used as housing for interns or possible Sunday School classrooms. It was used as housing for at least one interim pastor.
St. John’s decided to become a one-point parish in 1981. The members of Our Savior’s felt that we were not able to support our own pastor at that time and voted to sign up for the Rural Intern Program through Lutheran Theological Seminary in St. Paul, MN. This program allowed the church to have students beginning in August of each year. Faith Lutheran in Rapid City agreed to accept the responsibility of supervision of the interns serving in Hermosa. Once each month the intern would fill the pulpit in Rapid City and a pastor from Faith would serve communion at OSL on that Sunday. Beginning in 1985 Trinity Lutheran, also in Rapid City served as intern supervisor.
October of 1982 saw the next physical expansion of the church. The basement was enlarged to allow for Sunday School rooms and the sanctuary was expanded. The new kitchen and dining room were finished in the spring of 1983 just in time for the annual pancake supper. The upper addition was nearly completed and services were held in it for the first time on Good Friday (April 1, 1983).
When the internship program ended, Pastor Jim Hanson from the Chapel in the Hills in Rapid City agreed to serve on an interim basis. This “short term” arrangement lasted nearly ten years from 1987 until 1996.
At the annual meeting in 1996 the church voted to purchase a parsonage and begin the process of calling a full time pastor. The decision to purchase a house was besieged with questions of paying for it. Numbers were “crunched”, budgets planned, donations pledged, loans offered and somehow as the congregation continued to wonder “How will we do this?” the fund in the bank continued to grow. Miraculously, by the grace of God, by the date of closing the purchase price was in the bank!
Pastor Bryce Fellbaum was installed as the first full-time pastor in September of 1996 and with his wife, Kathy, and children Sarah and Ben were the first to move in to the new parsonage. During his tenure here a basement room and additional rest room with a new entry and handicapped accessible facilities above were added in 1997 once again changing the face of the church. An outside ramp provided access in addition to steps in to the sanctuary. Pastor Bryce served until July 1999.
Pastor H.B. “Herb” Cleveland served OSL as interim pastor from 1999 until August 2002. He made an impact on our church and all the Hermosa community by drawing on his experiences in the military, living in New York City and Washington, D.C. as he ministered to us during the months following the tragedy of 9-11-o1.
In the summer of 2002, the congregation called our second full time minister, Geoff Sinibaldo. Pastor Geoff, a recent graduate of Luther Seminary, and his wife, Tammy, arrived in Hermosa in August. Our church family, as well as the Sinibaldo family increased by one with the birth of Giuseppe Waldemar, “Little Joe”, in April 2003. In the spring of 2003 the congregation acquired additional land and an addition to the fellowship hall was built. We used the not-quite-completed area during our 45th anniversary celebration. Pastor Geoff served Our Savior’s until November 2003 when he accepted a call to a church in Connecticut where he had interned.
Once again Pastor Herb was called to serve as our interim pastor from January 2004 through May of 2005. During the times Pastor Herb was with us, many in the congregation were able to travel with him on mission trips to Thailand, Washington D.C., and Australia.
Pastor Chuck Hazlett, his wife, Kaona, and sister, Marilyn, were welcomed to Hermosa and Our Savior’s in June, 2005. He was installed as our third full time pastor. Pastor Chuck has led members of the congregation on two mission trips to help with rebuilding efforts following the hurricanes on the Gulf Coast, as well as cleaning up and rebuilding after the flood in Hermosa of 2007, and a mission trip to the Mexican border with the youth group and some adults from the congregation.
In a major change from “Sunday School”, Wednesday evenings have become D.O.G. (Disciples of God) Night in the Hermosa community. This education time serves an average of 75 students ages 4 through adult attending each week. This has become a time not only for education, but also outreach to children in the community.
Mission has become a major focus of Our Savior’s. Ten percent of our offerings are given to mission, we serve a meal at the homeless shelter in Rapid City once a month, and we have a “Mission of the Month” of which 100% is given to a designated mission.
In 2005, lights for the parking lot were donated and installed and improvements and repairs were made on the parsonage. We established “Core Values”, “Bedrock Beliefs” a Vision, and a Mission Statement for our church in 2006. Two groups of volunteers went to Mississippi to work with hurricane Katrina victims.
During 2006-2007 our sanctuary was improved by the addition of a new organ, air conditioning, and a new sound system. Thanks to fundraising and planning spearheaded by WELCA, a major kitchen remodeling project was completed just before Christmas 2007.
Many major projects took place in 2008 in preparation for our church’s 50th Anniversary celebration. The altar was redesigned, a sound room was built, and new lights were installed. Then one Sunday, after a potluck, many willing workers of all ages took out the pews and the old carpet in the sanctuary, altar, and entry. By the next Sunday, the sanctuary was painted, new carpet installed, and the pews and furniture were back in place.
The 50th Anniversary was held on July 27, 2008. At that time our membership had grown to 287 people. In attendance were several pastors and interim pastors, along with charter members as our special guests. We held a special dinner in the fellowship hall serving over 200 people. A program with a slide show followed the dinner. A memory book that looked back over 50 years of ministry was presented to each family, a cookbook was put together and published, and there were pewter ornaments sold for this special occasion.
Pastor Chuck retired the next month and the council began the process of locating an interim pastor. Pastor Evelyn Johnson, a retired pastor from Hill City agreed to fill in for the church until a new pastor was found.
We were blessed in 2009 with not one but two pastors. Pastor Becky and Pastor David Piper joined our church family on March 22. Pastor Becky was installed as our fourth full-time pastor and Pastor David was a quarter-time call. Their two young, red haired boys, Corban and Joshua completed their family.
The building committee had a very productive year in 2010. Most of the year was dominated by church expansion. After ten months of planning and six weeks of labor with lots of help, two new classrooms and additional overflow seating to the sanctuary, along with a new Pastor’s office was completed on the north side of the church. Pastor David was called as a part-time mission developer for Woyatan Lutheran Church in Rapid City.
2011 we had many happenings to the grounds of the church. Through the dream of Connor Bushman and his Eagle Scout project, he initiated a new playground. Thanks to his family, friends and all who worked to make this a reality. His goal was to was to recycle metal to raise money for the project. The playground has filled a need in our community.
Major repairs and remodeling took place at the parsonage for 2012. An amazing group came together to work on these projects. Again the grounds committee was very busy. They sold 22 trees that were planted along the north and east side of the church lot to the north. With the proceeds of the trees and several dinners held at the church, and were able to raise enough money to purchase an underground sprinkler system for the entire back lot.
2013 we experienced some changes. We hired Peg Tesch as our new church secretary. Joy Neugebauer retired as the first paid secretary after 8 years of service. Pastor Becky accepted the Community Circle for Education Award (on behalf of the church) with Becky Lowe for the PJ’s project for The Children’s Home Society of the Black Hills. The D.O.G. Night program continued to grow with an increase in parental help and new families from the community. We held a goodbye blessing for our ministry and service with Cornerstone Mission. The church received a new piano and a new furnace (the old furnace was a good one, it lasted over 30 years). The grounds committee was hard at work again putting in a rail fence next to the parking lot in front of the church, new sod between the fence and the sidewalk, and planting 5 flowering shrubs inside tree rings. The storage shed was moved north of the playground up against the sidewalk.
It was another very busy summer for the grounds committee in 2014. The sprinkler system was installed, landscaping completed and seeding done in the back lot. A retaining wall was built on the west side parking lot and a wood fence put in next to church on the west side. The wood on the church, the deck, and the fences were stained and sealed. A new sound system was installed. Vacation Bible School week was a success. Dog Night started out with a new curriculum for the year. God’s Cupboard was open each month to help anyone needing food assistance. Pastor David was installed as Associate Pastor at Calvary Lutheran Church.
Life in the church is always changing. People come and go. Babies are born. Children grow up and move to new places. Loved ones and friends among us come to the end of their lives. New folks move into the community and share church life.
This brings us through 56 years of life for Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Hermosa, South Dakota. We strive to continue to enrich the faith lives of everyone we come in contact with. We are always mindful of our mission, core values, and bedrock beliefs.
We thank God for so richly blessing us in the last 56 years and pray that He will bless us and allow us to be a blessing to others, and guide us in His service.