Our History

  Our History  
In 1916 the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Wisconsin advocated the establishing of a new mission congregation between Washington Park and the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, then located at the southwest corner of Spring and Pabst Avenues (later known as North 60th and West Lloyd Streets, respectively).  A portable chapel was placed on the north side of 60th Street.  After canvassing the neighborhood, finding an organist and choir director, the group was large enough to form a congregation.  On May 29, 1921 St. James Lutheran Church was officially organized with Professors Pieper, Henkel and Meyer along with some seminary students providing the preaching and conducting of services.

As the congregation grew in a fast developing neighborhood there became a problem with the location of the chapel.  It was part of the Pabst Estate and they wanted the chapel moved from their land.  The congregation was forced to act quickly  to find another location. In September of 1921 land was purchased across the street and south of Lloyd Street, 120 feet of frontage at $3000.00.  The portable chapel was moved to this location in December of 1921.

In November of 1921 Arthur P. Voss was installed as the congregation's first pastor. He served the congregation until 1954.

A 16 by 24 foot addition was added to the chapel to serve as a classroom for day school, the Sunday school and evening Bible classes.  Dedication for this addition was held on December 10 of 1922.  The Christian Day school  started in February of 1923 with three boys in attendance.  The following year enrollment was up to 21.

By 1924, growing worship attendance made it obvious that a new church building would be needed. In August drawings were accepted by the congregation from architect Arnold Meyer.  Land was purchased north of the chapel plot adding 160 feet of frontage. The church would be 85 feet long and 56 feet wide with the estimated cost of $22,000.  The corner stone was laid on October 19, 1924 and work began with the completion being done the following spring.  Dedication took place May 17, 1925.  The portable chapel was moved to West Allis where it served for the beginning of another WELS church. 

In January of 1931 the congregation resolved to take the step of formally joining the Wisconsin Synod.  Until this point St. James was considered a mission church.

By the summer of 1932 St. James had 294 contributing members and plans for expansion had reached the stage of preliminary sketches for an addition that would enlarge the church and add three classrooms. Because of the depression it was difficult to borrow money. It was a waiting game to see what would happen with the economy.

On August 30, 1937 the congregation authorized the moving forward of adding on to the church and adding classrooms.  Dedication of the completed structure took place on May 22, 1938 at which time there were 597 souls and 493 communicants.

In October of 1954, Pastor Waldemar O. Pless accepted the call to St. James.  He served St. James until November of 1979.

With the continuing growth of the congregation another addition was added to the building in 1958.  Included in this was a small sacristy on the east side, an enlarged kitchen in the basement, new offices for the pastor and secretary, a first floor classroom and a second floor classroom.

The highest point of enrollment for the St. James school came in the fall of 1962 with 184 students, kindergarten through 8th grade.
In the late summer of 1965 renovation of the church interior was begun. The entire chancel area was changed: wainscoting was removed from the walls, mosaic tile was installed as a background for a new large cross above the altar,  a new pulpit and lectern were placed farther forward on the extended chancel floor. A new baptismal font of matching wood was included. All of the pews were removed, refinished and reinstalled after sanding and refinishing the floors; new lighting fixtures and new carpet were installed. The ceiling was renovated, the interior walls redecorated and a new roof placed on the building.  In addition, repair work was done on the exterior walls, the tower and basement areas.

St. James calls a second pastor, Pastor John A. Braun, who was installed on August 29. 1979.  He served until 1984.
In October of 1984, St. James had a new fulltime pastor, Peter Kassulke. 

With the congregation at 833 souls, the voter's approve the construction of a gymnasium, locker rooms, offices, meeting room and an elevator to meet the needs of the school and congregation.  This project entailed purchasing three homes on 59th Street to be demolished to make room for the gym. Construction was completed in the spring of 1988 with a dedication service on May 1 of that year.

There was a growing need to serve our families with preschool aged children. So in the fall of 1994 St. James added a 4 year old preschool to our current K thru 8 grade school.  8 students attended that year.

In 1996 St. James was to celebrate its 75th Anniversary. In preparation for such an event it was decided to do some renovation work in the inside of the church. This would include removing a wall that had hidden a stained glass window behind the pulpit since 1965.  Painting and new carpeting were done in the sanctuary and new light fixtures were installed in the narthex hallway.
In 2000 St. James voter's approved a new staff position, Deacon of Outreach and Administration, to aid the Pastor and the congregation.  Through this position was the creation of a World Outreach Committee.  The World Outreach Committee developed a coloring book, My Jesus Coloring Book, for distribution throughout the world. The bible stories are written in English next to the foreign language translation. When all was said and done, between 2002 and 2007 the My Jesus Coloring Book was sent to the Ukraine (650 copies), Mexico (1200 copies), Peru (300 copies), Sweden, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Thailand, Cameroon, Malawi, Albania, Japan, India, Indonesia, Hungary (230 copies), Southwestern United States and the Milwaukee area (250 copies). Many thanks go to the Multi Language Publications at Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod for helping with the many translations.
In 2005 St. James purchased the house on the southeast corner of 60th and Lloyd Streets. A year later the house was demolished to open up the visibility of the church from the corner.

As years went by, the enrollment of our Christian Day School continued to decline.  As hard as it was to make the decision, the voter's voted to close our K thru 8 school in June of 2006 due to the declining enrollment and increasing costs in keeping it running.  The preschool continues to operate.

St. James has focused on growing disciples by connecting members to God and others through its small groups offered at various times.  These groups focus on our common faith and to express it in works of service to each other and our community.  Our mission statement proclaims this clearly: Compelled by Christ's love, our St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church exists to Grow in God's Word and Go with God's Word.
With the closing of our school, the school funds were invested. A Scholarship Fund was developed, using only the earnings, to award scholarships to students attending WELS schools K thru Seminary. 

Wildcard Gymnastics group rents our gym for five years (2006-2011). 

Books and science equipment from our school are boxed up and sent to Liberia, Africa. 18 boxes of text books and 3 boxes of science equipment.

In 2010, St James committs to supporting the Thailand Mission for Missionary Robert Meister for a two year period. We continue to support this mission today.

A new fire alarm system needed to be installed in 2013. The 60 year old control panel burned out. Installation included horns, light strobes and smoke detectors.

Devotional service are started at Hawthorn Terrace Intergenerational Community in February of 2014. Devotions are once a month.
Renovations to the facility have included: a first floor  classroom converted to a fellowship room; adding two large bathrooms in the church basement; repairs to stained glass windows behind the altar and in the narthex area and upgrading the lighting in the narthex, church and balcony areas. Pictures of the lighting renovation can be found in our website photo gallery.

An outreach opportunity to the Karen Community came about through a chain of events at the WELS Pregnancy Counciling Center. Several worship services have been conducted, with the help of a Karen pastor, in the Karen language for this group of people. St James has also started an English Language Learning Class, through the Wisconsin Literacy Program, to help the Karen Community.

On July 9, 2017, St James installed its new pastor, Christian Marquardt, a 2017 graduate from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. He becomes the fifth pastor in our history.  Pastor Peter Kassulke retires from the public ministry August 31, 2017. A dinner and program were held in the gymnasium on August 27.