THE HISTORY OF OUR CONGREGATION
Dedication Service of Mighty Fortress's first home at 311 Jackson Avenue.
"Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." --Matthew 9:38
Early in the year 2004, a small group of confessional Lutherans in Seward, Nebraska began to meet together in various homes for weekly Bible Study and discussion. This group was dedicated to God, and looked to him for direction. Through Bible study and prayer, members of the group gained spiritual strength and wisdom. They were assured that God’s divine hand was with them as he continued to bless their gathering.
It wasn’t long before the group realized that their informal meetings could only be a temporary measure.In order to continue to grow spiritually and actively spread the Gospel in the community, they needed to come together and form a bona fide congregation. Even though Seward has a large Lutheran population, and four other Lutheran bodies also have an active presence in the community, the group felt the need to create a new and fresh congregation that would be separate and distinct from what had already been established.
The group then made contact with the Rev. Daniel K. Schroeder of Lincoln to assist them in this task, and he agreed to meet with them. Their first meeting together was held on April 14, 2004.
Even though much was discussed at that first meeting, two very important conclusions were made: First, that the 66 books of the Holy Bible are the inspired and inerrant Word of God, and the only rule and norm for faith and life; and second, that the Lutheran Confessions as set forth in the Book of Concord of 1580 accurately present the teachings of Scripture. These two items are objective truth; and a strong congregation could not be built without these pillars firmly set at the foundation level.
A second meeting was scheduled just ten days later on April 24, 2004. This meeting became the organizational meeting of our congregation. At this meeting, several names for the congregation were presented to the group. Support was voiced for the name “Reformation Lutheran,” but it could not get a unanimous vote. The name “Mighty Fortress” was also suggested, and it received a unanimous vote with no dissentions. As a result, the official name of the congregation became “Mighty Fortress Evangelical Lutheran Church.” Our congregation's name is often written simply as "Mighty Fortress Lutheran Church" to avoid any confusion with other church groups and bodies who use the word "Evangelical" who are not in fellowship with us.
It was at this same meeting that the new congregation decided to extend the permanent pastoral call to the Rev. Daniel K. Schroeder of Lincoln, Nebraska.
Up until this time, the congregation had only been meeting for Bible Study. It was their desire to begin regular worship and receive the Lord’s Supper. Heartland Park Retirement Home in north Seward was willing to provide their small chapel to the congregation for worship on Saturday evenings. On May 8, 2004, Mighty Fortress held their first worship service with Holy Communion in the chapel with 7 people attending. Bible Study continued to be rotated in the various homes of the members.
After meeting at Heartland Park for awhile, the congregation began to feel a "space crunch;" and so more permanent facilities were sought. A space became available at 311 Jackson Ave., which had been vacated by the Seward Public Schools Special Ed program. The space included an area for worship and fellowship, a kitchen, and an office/classroom space. On August 7, 2004 the congregation held their first worship service in the new facility. They also moved the Tuesday evening Bible Study from the homes of the members to the new building.
On Reformation Sunday, October 31, 2004 the congregation held their first Sunday morning worship service, where the new facility was dedicated to the glory of God.
The congregation continued to meet regularly for worship on Saturdays; however due to input received from other people interested in the congregation, it was decided to discontinue the Saturday evening service, and worship instead on Sunday Morning. So on Easter Sunday, March 27, 2005, the members of Mighty Fortress held their first regular Sunday Morning service.
When Mighty Fortress was established in 2004, it was organized as an independent Lutheran congregation, not affiliated with any external organization or synod. However, for various practical reasons, the need was felt to affiliate with a larger church body. So at a meeting held on October 9, 2005, the congregation voted to approach the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations, headquartered in Plymouth, Minnesota. On November 8, 2005, President Robert Lee and Mr. Lavon Bohling of the AFLC met with members of the congregation and provided information regarding their association. Then on April 23, 2006, the congregation adopted a constitution and unanimously voted to join the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations, which is an association of independent congregations.
As time marches on, the Lord continues to open new doors and present new opportunities. Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, a Wisconsin Synod congregation in Seward informed us in August of 2009 that they were going to start construction on their new building in the Spring of 2010, and gave us first option to purchase their existing facility. At that time, it seemed like an almost impossible dream to be in our own facility. But the Lord in his providence saw fit to make it all possible. So on December 16, 2010, representatives from Mighty Fortress Evangelical Lutheran Church and Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church signed all the closing papers, and the facility was successfully purchased. The first official opening service was held on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2010.
Prior to this, at a congregational voters' meeting on December 5, 2010, the congregation voted unanimously to leave the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations at the end of 2010, in order that membership in the American Association of Lutheran Congregations could be finalized. By having membership in the AALC, Mighty Fortress would then be in full pulpit and altar fellowship with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. This would allow us the opportunity to join with other LCMS congregations in the area for various cooperative ventures, and strengthen our relationship with Concordia University in Seward. The congregation also voted to begin using the 1941 Lutheran Hymnal and the associated liturgies.
The members of Mighty Fortress agree that even though building a congregation is a difficult task, it is all worth it in the end. God has certainly shown his hand of blessing since the congregation’s inception, and there is no doubt that he will continue to do so in the future. By faithfully preaching and teaching God’s Word, Mighty Fortress Lutheran Church will “bring new hope to a fallen world through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Let none hear you idly saying
“There is nothing I can do,”
While the souls of men are dying,
And the Master calls for you.
Take the task he gives you gladly,
Let his work your pleasure be;
Answer quickly when he calleth,
“Here am I; send me, send me.”
--TLH 496, vs. 4