Trinity Lutheran CC | History
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History

Trinity Lutheran Corpus Christi – Over 72 Years of History

Early in 1944, a group of Lutherans banded together to start a third Missouri Synod congregation in Corpus Christi. World War II was raging and the town experienced a rapid population increase due to the growth of military installations in and around the city.

St. John’s, the first LCMS church (1935) in Corpus Christi, was located on the north side. Our Savior Lutheran, a Hispanic mission (1941), was located on the west side.The new group saw the need for a church in what was then the growing south side (an area that has now become the central part of the city).

They petitioned the Mission Board of the Texas District (LCMS) and soon thereafter Pastor Julius A. Fritze was assigned to serve the new mission. He served from 1944-1948. The first service was held on September 24, 1944, in Carpenter’s Union Hall, located at the corner of 19th Street and Morgan Avenue. Services continued at that location until July 1946.

On December 31, 1944, seven lots had been purchased at the corner of 16th Street and Louisiana Parkway for a new sanctuary. On March 26, 1945, a Constitution was adopted and Trinity Lutheran Church was formally organized with 23 charter members. By early 1946, the Building Committee was proceeding with construction plans for a building.

Pastor Fritze

Pastor Fritze

The ground breaking ceremony was held November 25, 1945, and construction began around February 1946. WWII had ended in September 1945 and service people were coming home. Optimism ran high.

Soon thereafter, the members voted to start a school. They bought a barracks from the Army Air Corps base on Matagorda Island, had it barged down to Corpus Christi and trucked over to Louisiana Parkway.

In 1958, Pastor Roland Wiederaenders was installed at Trinity. He served until 1962. Under his leadership, the present school building was erected in January 1961. A year later, he accepted a position as Vice President of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod in St. Louis.

The next pastor was George H. Fehl, installed on November 11, 1962. He served until 1969.

Church growth continued to climb and projections were that attendance at Trinity would exceed 300 on any given Sunday.

With that in mind, a building project was begun, special revenue bonds were sold to raise funds, and ground breaking took place on May 23, 1965, for a new sanctuary adjacent to the original church.

Construction on the new sanctuary began June 15, 1965. During construction the congregation worshiped two blocks east in Menger School cafeteria for several months. The new sanctuary was dedicated on February 6, 1966.

Ground Breaking 1945

Ground Breaking

Steeple Erected

Steeple Erected

Pastor J. C. Henning was installed in January 1970, after Pastor Fehl was called and accepted a pastorate in St. Louis. Pastor Henning served until 1980. Under his leadership during the next 10 years the church and the school both thrived. It was during his service at Trinity that the city of Corpus Christi was struck by Hurricane Celia (August 3, 1970), resulting in some of the worst damage on record for the city. Its 180 mph winds raised the roof of the church several inches and then set it back down. The damage estimate was $70,000, most of which was covered by insurance.

Pastor Henning accepted a call to Houston in 1980. By 1981, Pastor Clifford Larson was called and accepted. Pastor Larson was a man who was very perceptive to people’s needs. After retiring from Trinity in 1989, he served nearly every church in Circuit 27 in some capacity… interim, vacancy or substitute pastor.

The decade of the 1980s was characterized by sharp swings in the economy in the state of Texas, largely influenced by what was happening in the oil business. It was the “best of times and the worst of times”.

The congregation numbered 950 souls at its 40th anniversary in 1984.

After Pastor Larson’s retirement in 1989, Pastor Stephen Rynearson (Faith Lutheran, Aransas Pass) served as vacancy pastor during the 1989-1990 period. It was also during this time period that Trinity made the financial decision to close the elementary school.

In August 1991, Pastor Michael Birnbaum, a “son of the congregation,” accepted a call, coming here from California. He brought new vision and a desire to try different forms of evangelism. A contemporary service and home Bible studies were started.

Pastor Michael leading a contemporary service in the Parish Hall.

In October 1993, Pastor Michael retired from full time ministry due to health problems. A call was then extended to Captain Alston Kirk, a Navy Chaplain, soon-to-be-retired but still working at the Naval Base. He accepted and was installed in August 1994.

On September 25, 1994, a celebration service was held in Carpenter’s Hall, shortly before it was demolished, commemorating Trinity’s first service held there on September 24, 1944.

About one month later, that bullding was raised to make way for the building of a new Walgreen’s drugstore. Invitations were sent to former members near and far. Two charter members of Trinity, Mr. and Mrs. Bill Franz, still living in Victoria, Texas, were able to come to the festivities.

In 1999, it was with a great sense of pride and relief that Trinity “burned the mortgage.”

Shortly thereafter an associate pastor was called and Jeffrey Doria was installed in that position on July 8, 2001. Pastor Jeff served Trinity until February 2003. During his tenure, he also served Trinity-West Sinton as vacancy pastor. He left Trinity to accept a call to King of Kings, San Antonio.

Following a long and illustrious career, Pastor Kirk retired in May, 2004. He and wife Susan live in Corpus Christi and continue as faithful members of Trinity Lutheran.

Pastor Phillip Phifer was called and arrived in July 2005. Enthusiastic and energetic, he started programs to reach out and serve not only the members of Trinity but others in the Corpus Christi community as well. Pastor Phifer was instrumental in re-opening the school as a preschool and childcare center.

In February 2009, Pastor Phifer received and accepted a call to a parish in Indiana.

Pastor Russell Strimple accepted a call to Trinity and was installed as Trinity’s pastor in July 2009. With a new pastor, Trinity again experienced a growth spurt, adding new members and new traditions.

Pastor Strimple received and accepted a call back to his hometown of Houston in December 2010. Trinity was very fortunate to have Pastor Gil Franke, recently retired from St. Paul in Bishop, Texas, serve as vacancy pastor during the call process.

In June 2011 Pastor Dustin Beck was installed as Trinity’s new pastor. Pastor Beck, a native Texan, is a recent graduate of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. Trinity is blessed to have a new young pastor with fresh ideas to guide the congregation forward.