Early Church History

Mission Developer :
December 1949-June 1951 Francis I Fesperman
1951 Interim Dr. A.J. Holl
------Supply Pastor Hiers -who commuted from Jacksonville and was paid $15.- plus gas and lodging at the Primrose Inn. Members were still meeting in the Williams Thomas funeral Home when the Sunday School was formed, a women’s group got started as well as an active Student Group.

1952-1962 William C. Kaiser
1963-1974 D. Frederick Castor
1966-1968 Richard Basemer Asst Pastor
1975-1985 Roger B. Kronmann
1978-1981 Kathryn B. Baines Asst Pastor
1979-1982 Deborah Larson Deaconess
1982-1999 Robert Carr assoc Pastor
1986-2002 Jack A. Saarela
2003-2016 Michael L. Collins
2016-2018 several Interim Pastors
2018-            Terrance A. Jacob, Pastor/Redeveloper

Helen Kaiser remembers:
Pastor and Mrs. William C. Kaiser were living in Trafford, Pennsylvania, when they drove down to visit her brother’s church in Rochester for a dedication service. Dr Wootson, who was the head of the American missions at that time, was there. He asked Pastor Kaiser why he wasn’t in Mission work. Pastor Kaiser told him he was trying to get into it. He had even written to Florida but had received no response. Dr Wootson informed Pastor Kaiser of the opening in Gainesville. Pastor Kaiser subsequently received the Call to Our Savior’s Lutheran Church. The church couldn’t afford to have Pastor Kaiser come for an interview, so the Kaisers agreed to come without officially meeting each other. It was a matter of Faith in 1952.

In the meantime, Dr. Earl Martinsen went in search of a Parsonage. The church bought the house at 304 NW 24th Street, which became pastor and Helen Kaiser’s home the entire time they served Our Savior’s Church. Pastor Kaiser began his ministry by preaching on the first Sunday in October 1950. The Church was a little house chapel on an L-shaped lot on the corner of NW 19th Street.

Helen Kaiser:

“The first project after arriving was finding a new organ. An old fashioned organ, which had to be pumped with your feet was being used. It was getting to be too much for Marie Martinsen who was the organist at that time. So Pastor Kaiser and one of the men rigged a motor from a washing machine under the “house chapel” to electrify the organ. Eventually it was replaced with Wurlitzer which was dedicated with a concert by Dr. Claude L. Murphree, Professor of Music and university organist and organist at First Presbyterian Church.

As time went along, we realized the need for more space. As t happened, the Jewish Fraternity right next door, facing University Avenue, was for sale because all the fraternities were being transferred onto campus. With the help of Dr. Reitz, then President of UF, we were able to purchase that property for our Student Center. Other buyers wanted that property very badly, but Dr. Reitz was particular about what would be situated on the periphery of Campus.

On University Avenue, just west of the fraternity was an old house which belonged to Mr. Smyser. He rented it out to students. We had tried to purchase it early on, but he wanted too much for it at that time.

As plans progressed to build our church it was necessary to contact him again. His price was even higher this time. He claimed he did not want to sell it outright for tax purposes. So we looked for and found a piece of property of similar value and bought that piece and traded it with him. The house on the lot was razed in order to give us all the room on this side of the Sigma Ki Fraternity to build our sanctuary. Originally an L-shaped structure had been drawn up but that was abandoned as it did not seem like a decent looking building on the lot. There was a garage apartment adjacent to the original house facing NW 1st Avenue. That little building was refurbished for Evelyn and Rob Fremont, both chaperones for the student center. Evelyn was a part-time secretary/choir director and Bob a part-time industrial engineering student at that time.

The original fraternity house was cleaned up and a new kitchen was installed. The downstairs was used for Lutheran students and church activities such as suppers and other meetings. Students held Sunday night suppers and meetings in the big living room, which extended across the whole front with fireplaces on both ends. Down a hallway were a big dining room on the right and a television room on the left. Pastor Kaiser’s office was in the back of the building. The second floor of the building held study rooms and Sunday school rooms and the third floor became a dormitory for Lutheran students. At one time ten students were housed which was a big help for many students who were financially strapped.

When plans were finally made to build a new Sanctuary, we were able to sell the little house chapel to Kanapaha Presbyterian Church, now off Archer Road.

Services were held in the student center in 1957. Complete plans for a new student center were supposed to be completed with the construction and design of the sanctuary, but it did not materialize. Bowman was instrumental in supporting the finances for the building project. Originally we planned to economize on the cost of a new church by scrapping the tile roof, but Bowman would’nt hear of it. He gave the okay to proceed. The design for the whole church called for the use of natural materials, stained wood and concrete, no paint. The cross designed by Dr. Howard Wilkowski was left “Driftwood gray” to resemble a tree - as much as possible.

During the construction somebody made a mistake, probably the contractor. The measurements for the beams were sent to Oregon to be cut. The beams were raised with a crane brought up from Tampa. When it was time to put in the cross pieces, they were found to be too short. They were laminated so new ones had to be made. This was costly. And it meant that the beams extended several feet higher than planned – more tile! Bowman was very upset about this, but he appropriated the extra money. The contractors did pay for some of the extra expense.

Before the tiling was completed someone wrote on the roofing paper “Luther is a heretic and the Pope”. The contractor got upset. An announcement was even made on the local radio that the new Lutheran Church had been desecrated. The contractor was going to paint it out, but Pastor Kaiser said, “ No! it will be a while before the tile is put in place. You don’t know what they will do tomorrow. And it is correct. Luther was a heretic.” There was a rumor that someone wrote under it “Thank God!”, but I cannot confirm that.

Several of the students who lived in the house became Lutheran pastors. David Hinkley and his brother Kerry, Klaus Koch, and Clarence Caldwell. Pastor Kaiser and I were here for 10 years.”

Pastor Kaiser went on to be in charge of Missions for many years. Pastor Kaiser was sent to encourage and to help churches that needed Stewardship work. Bishop Yount said, at the memorial service, that every church Pastor Kaiser was sent to was better after he had visited.

The new Student Center was dedicated on May 16 1971