A new congregation of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod came to Spring Lake, Michigan, when a mission board of the Michigan District (LCMS) issued a Divine Call to the Rev. Kenneth Schroeder to serve as a missionary in the District. He was assigned to the Spring Lake area. The first worship service was held under Pastor Schroeder’s leadership on Reformation Sunday, November 2, 1969, at Holmes Elementary School of Spring Lake.
On November 13, 1969, 78 communicant members from several Lutheran congregations met to form the original congregation. Having sought their transfer from mother congregations, the charter members adopted the name St. Matthew Lutheran Church of Spring Lake.
Many of the original nucleus of members came from St. Luke Lutheran Church, Nunica, MI, and St. John’s Lutheran Church, Grand Haven, MI. The Rev. Roland J. Rauber, pastor of St. Luke, counselor of the Muskegon Circuit, and Rev. Cecil Klages, pastor of St. John’s, assisted Pastor Kenneth Schroeder. First officers, prior to organization, included Richard Hemmelsbach, chairman; Don Beimers, secretary; John Shears, treasurer; Heb Selbach, financial secretary; and trustees Glenn Collison, Trygvi Knutson and Carl Hansen.
At the first official election held in April, 1971, these individuals served the congregation: Richard Hemmelsbach, chairman; Don Beimers, vice-chairman; Leo Zupin, secretary; Fred Fletemeyer, treasurer: Herb Selbach, financial secretary, and trustees Glenn Collison, Carl Hansen and Marian Zupin.
St. Matthew purchased a 14 acre parcel located on Rannes Street, south of Lloyd’s Bayou, on February 4, 1971, financed by the Church Extension Fund of the Michigan District. The Mission Board and the Church Extension Fund authorized the erection of the new church building. Robert Cain was chosen as architect and Stepheson Construction of Zeeland was awarded the general contract. Chairman of the building committee was Roger Vigland, with Al Erkes, chairman of the site committee. Mary Lannin and John Shears served as chairpersons for the dedication committee. The church covered 5,950 square feet.
The Rev. Kenneth Schroeder continued as missionary pastor while the congregation grew, broke ground on July 25, 1971, and laid the cornerstone for the new house of worship. The cornerstone service was held on Reformation Sunday, October 31, 1971. Following a Reformation worship service at their temporary worship facility at Holmes Elementary School, the members drove to the Rannes Street site to witness the laying of the stone. The church officers were Richard Hemmelsbach, chairman; Don Beimers, vice chairman; Leo Zupin, secretary; Fred Fletemeyer, treasurer; and Herb Selbach, financial secretary. Chairmen of the different boards included Roy Lannin, elders; Glenn Coillison, trustees; and Mary Lannin, board of education. Committee chairmen are Roger Vigland, building committee, and Al Erkes, site committee.
Below the tower at the entrance of the building, the ceremony proceeded with a reading of Psalm 84, a New Testament reading and the confession of the Apostles’ Creed, the faith of the church. Pastor Schroeder addressed those assembled remarking that the different sized individual cut stones centered around the cornerstone, indicated symbolically how the church, all the individual different people cling together around the cornerstone, Christ, as a force into the world. The articles going into the capsule to be sealed within the cornerstone were announced by the chairman, Richard Hemmelsbach and the cornerstone laid by Roger Vigland and Al Erkes. The pastor then blessed the laying of the stone. Before the final blessing, the congregation sang, “The Church’s One Foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord.” The contracted date of completion was February 1, 1972. Robert Cain of Kalamazoo was the architect, and Stephenson Construction of Zeeland, the general contractor.
Following the ministry of Missionary Pastor Schroeder, the Rev. Merle Lutz of St. Mark, Muskegon served as interim vacancy pastor. The congregation continued to worship at Holmes School until March 26, 1972, Pentecost Sunday. Speakers for the 2 services included the Rev. Dr. Richard Schlecht, Michigan District President and Pastor Heinecke.
The Rev. Thomas A. Fischer, pastor of Trinity, Corona, South Dakota accepted the call and became the first called pastor of St. Matthew. He was installed on May 28, 1972, and served until January 22, 1978, when he accepted the call as pastor of Trinity, Davenport, Iowa.
The new congregation and pastor envisioned St. Matthew as more than a beautiful building. Many people-oriented projects were undertaken, including Vacation Bible School, construction of an outdoor ice skating rink and warming house. Youth, ladies, fellowship club, and Lutheran Laymen's League organizations came into being. The Tiny Tot pre-school program of Spring Lake school system came to use the facilities.
After Pastor Fisher accepted the call to Davenport, Iowa, the congregation engaged the Rev. Richard A. Nelson, pastor of St. Luke, Nunica, as vacancy pastor. Rev. Charles H. Pool of West Bethlehem, Detroit, accepted the call and was installed on April 22, 1979. Pews for the church were donated by St. Matthew of Holt, after the Holt parish had finished their enlarged church. A donor of the congregation gave the amplifier and labor while funds from organizations and individuals made possible the installation of a public address system. By recording, bells were broadcast by PA Horns in the church tower. Worship services were beautified by the installation of a used Allen computer organ, which was financed by a personal loan from a member with no interest over a 4-year period.
Remembering earlier days, St. Matthew donated to the new mission at Mecosta, equipment with which the St. Matthew mission was begun, portable communion rails, folding altar, crucifix with paraments, lectern, and the Hammond spinet organ and tone chamber.
The late 1980s and early 1990s saw growth in church membership. Building expansion resulted in this growth. A education wing was built and put into use in the early 1990s. It currently is used for child care and preschool rooms and offices. Rev. David Davis, a graduate of Concordia Seminary in 1984 who came to the church following Pastor Pool's retirement, guided St. Matthew during these building years.
Upon Pastor Davis's acceptance of another call within Michigan, Rev. George Hamilton began to serve St. Matthew in 1995. Rev. Mark Yeager and Rev. Michael Goers have followed in service to St. Matthew.
A major building renovation and addition to St. Matthew was completed in 2016. The sanctuary was expanded and Cedar Commons was built to serve as a new entrance for both the church and preschool.
* The Pastors of St. Matthew Lutheran Church *
Rev. Kenneth Schroeder (1969 to 1971)
Pastor Schroeder was the first spiritual leader of St. Matthew. He was selected by the mission board as the missionary for this young, growing congregation.
Rev. Thomas Fischer (1972 to 1978)
Pastor Fischer was the first called pastor of St. Matthew Lutheran Church. He served in this capacity until he accepted a Divine Call as pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Davenport, Iowa in 1978.
Rev. Charles Pool (1979 to 1983)
Pastor Pool accepted St. Matthew’s Divine Call on April 22,1979. He retired from St. Matthew and continued to served the congregation in a pastor emeritus role.
Rev. David Davis (1984 to 1994)
Pastor Davis accepted the Divine Call from St. Matthew directly from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO. He served in this capacity until he accepted a Divine Call to St. Paul Lutheran Church in Trenton, Michigan, in June of 1994.
Rev. George Hamilton (1995 to 2003)
Pastor Hamilton accepted the Divine Call to St. Matthew from Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in New Buffalo. He was installed as pastor at St. Matthew on December 17, 1995. He served in this capacity until he accepted the call to Cross and Resurrection Lutheran Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan on May 4, 2003.
Rev. Mark Yeager (2004 to 2005)
Pastor Yeager accepted the call from St. Matthew directly from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO.
Rev. Michael Goers (2006--Present)