Through two World Wars and other national crises, a Depression, serious financial uncertainties, community dissension and leadership changes, Lake Grove Presbyterian Church has remained steadfast in its mission of service to the Lord.
That's quite literally true, for the three dedication dates affirming church solidarity and growth have been immortalized on a massive rock in the church's Courtyard, proclaiming each milestone of service to believers in Lake Oswego, in Oregon, and the Presbytery of the Cascades, and even extending to "the uttermost parts of the earth."
The history of this 1200+ member church had humble - and appropriate - beginnings in service to children: a Sunday School that started prior to the first World War in the Community Swim facility, moving to the Community House at Reese Road in 1918. Convinced this program should grow into a church, nine residents met, named their fledgling church "Calvary Community," and adopted their articles of Faith.
Rev. Wilder Nutting, whose name is the first in LGPC's "Roll of Pastors, Associate Pastors and Stated Supplies," was installed March 11, 1922. He served nearly two years, leaving after a disagreement with church officials in January 1924. That handful of the faithful who envisioned a thriving church did not falter, however. They met again in the spring of 1924, corresponded with both Presbyterian and Methodist hierarchies, and learned the responsibilities and obligations of each affiliation.
On April 22, 1924, the remnant of the earlier Calvary church, joined by additional community residents, decided to "go Presbyterian," a decision that pleased Rev. R.D. Everett, the Presbyterian representative, and disappointed Rev. Henry Spiess, representing the Methodists. Alberta Brooks Fogdall, historian of those formative years, comments in A Brief History of the Lake Grove United Presbyterian Church, "We were almost Methodist!" But Presbyterian we became, and Presbyterian we remain for over three-quarters of a century later.
In the fall of 1924, 55 charter members organized the Lake Grove Community Church, calling Rev. Arthur Baskerville as organizing pastor. The official birthday of the church was decreed to be September 10, 1924. Several name and pastor changes later, in 1927, the congregation purchased land in Lakeview Villas next to the Community House for $1,250 and, with a loan of $3,500 from the Church Extension Committee of Portland Presbytery, broke ground for the first building on May 26, 1929. The cornerstone was laid in September. The Session met for the first time in the completed church, built for $15,000, on January 6, 1930. The dedication date of January 12, 1930, is the first engraved on the plaque, set in the Courtyard stone.
But despite the courageous beginning, all was not well with the infant congregation, which unknowingly, had launched the church as a major Depression was about to overtake the country. Unable to grow and pay debts, LGPC was beleaguered by creditors and a loss of membership. The church was forced to borrow from its members as times became more desperate, and, on February 25, 1936 a motion was made to sell the church to satisfy creditors. The church, Mrs. Fogdall relates, owed not only current bank loans, but also sums for "insurance and wood, and most of all, the pastor's salary and pension." The motion, fortunately, did not pass. A membership canvass was authorized and eventually the then-pastor, Rev. Roy W. Nelson, (salaried at $1,200 per year) received some back salary and pension prior to accepting a new call.
Unable to support a full time pastor, supply pastors served the congregation until the financial position improved and Rev. William Gearhart was called - at the princely sum of $900 per year - in 1938. He remained for two years. Dr. Walter Van Nuys was called to an interim ministry in 1940, and agreed to serve a second year if he could employ an assistant. That assistant was Donald J. Peterson, a student at Lewis and Clark College who began his work at LGPC in September 1941.
Dr. Van Nuys served as pastor until 1944 when Rev. William R. Lindsay was called and Dr. Van Nuys was honored with the title "Emeritus." (Such was the respect and affection of the congregation for Rev. Van Nuys that a later two-story addition - chapel, classrooms and offices - was named in his honor. That dedication April 27, 1952, is recalled on the Courtyard plaque.) Rev. Lindsay created an historic moment in the church, as he was the first pastor supported totally by the congregation, with no Presbytery underwriting. Postwar construction moved under his tenure. The early building efforts, started in 1929, had been halted by the Depression and only the old Sanctuary, which seated 140, and Fireside Room were completed. The attic and basement, still unimproved, were completed by church volunteers - encouraged by Bill, the "carpenter pastor".
An old school bus was purchased to circle the Lake each Sunday picking up children for the Sunday school. Inevitably, youngsters' parents not already members followed their children to LGPC, fueling the membership growth of that era, (When Rev. Lindsay arrived, rolls boasted 74 members: By the time he left in 1950, there were 400 members.)
Music was important to the congregation; the church purchased a "crank" organ from a movie theater in Astoria and converted it to electricity during that period. Traditions began during Rev. Lindsay's era: the Homebuilders, later to become Mariners, were formed; Sunday evening hymn sings were introduced, two 8'x 8' storage rooms became "real" church offices, and the Flowering of the Cross (children decorating a wire cross with flowers) brought Easter beauty to the sanctuary. Rev. Lindsay's call to Butte, Montana, left the pastorate open and Rev. Chester L. Tolson joined the staff in 1951, serving until 1955. His leadership, combined with postwar expansion, resulted in a more than doubled membership.
More property was acquired when, with Session approval, the church purchased land and constructed the nearby Manse, first occupied by Rev. Don Peterson. The church also acquired the property for church offices and a parking lot.
When Rev. Tolson left, a hard working Pastoral Search Committee issued the notice of pulpit vacancy. After due deliberation, Rev. Dr. Donald J. Peterson, remembered as the enthusiastic youth pastor of the early 40's, was called. He remained with the church for 11 years (1955-1966). In 1955, considerable debate was held on whether the church should move to the "old" Oswego community. (This was prior to Lake Grove's annexation.) A Long-Range Planning Committee was formed and it was determined the church should remain - and grow - at its current location. A decision that promised continuity at the place where it started at what is now its home on Upper Drive. The new sanctuary was completed under Dr. Peterson's guidance, and the third date on the Courtyard rock commemorates that milestone - December 6, 1959.
Following Dr. Peterson's departure his associate, Rev. James C. Petersen, remained as interim until Rev. Robert C. Groves accepted the call as senior pastor in 1967. Rev. Wayne Wattman joined the staff as associate pastor, remaining until 1971. Under Rev. Groves' guidance, the church added its popular early Sunday morning contemporary service. Rev. Groves' service continued to the summer of 1972 when Rev. John R. (Jack) Harland was welcomed to LGPC in 1973. His emphasis on the commitment of each and every member, and his background in youth ministry, encouraged participation of members of all ages and interests. Following his departure as senior pastor, Rev. Steve Kliewer served LGPC from Aug 1987 thru Dec 1989. Several assistant, associate and interim pastors served until the arrival of Rev. Robert P. Sanders as senior pastor on December 16, 1990.
Joining Pastor Bob in the 1990's was Elder [Rev.] Dave Coterill, who became our "Associate in Pastoral Ministry" after the departure of our Parish Associate, Rev. Mark Valeri. Two Interim Associate Pastors, Rev. Michael O'Brien and Rev. Dr. Bruce Armstrong, came to us following the loss of two former Associate Pastors, Rev. Dr. Roger Newell and Rev. Steve Beard. Since the year 2000, we have received three new Associate Pastors, two of whom are currently serving on LGPC's pastoral staff: Rev. Dr. Graig Flach (2001), and Rev. Robin Garvin (2014). Susan Graham was ordained and joined the LPGC staff (from her position as Director of Children's Ministry) as Associate Pastor of Congregational Care in 2015.
Under Pastor Bob's guidance, the membership has grown to over 1200 members. A third Sunday service was added to accommodate the increased attendance. The church has completed a three-phase building project, conceived in 1981 and begun in 1988, which included the addition of a Fellowship Hall, new kitchen, new office complex, nursery, library, youth rooms, conference rooms, Courtyard Room, expanded Sanctuary, improved Narthex, new choir room and additional parking. The new Christian Education Wing was opened in April 2001. These have been exciting events after years of planning and preparation. After 24 years, Pastor Bob has retired and he and his wife Debbie are travelling and spending time with grandkids.
Pastors Robin Garvin, Graig Flach and Susan Graham lead us into the future as we begin the search for a new Head of Staff.
Our church has been blessed with many faithful and committed stewards who have served faithfully over the years to bring us to where we are today. Soli Deo Gloria!