Our Story

St. Mark Lutheran Church is Eau Claire's Only WELS Congregation

In January of 1966, three families independently contacted Pastor H. Marcus Schwartz of Menomonie to see if there would be a possibility of starting a Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) congregation in Eau Claire.

While there were other Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) churches in Eau Claire, each family wanted to keep with the same liturgy and heritage of the WELS.

The prayers of Alwin and Thelma Koch, Ken and Carol Trehey and LaVerne and Lorraine Vetter were answered when on March 6, 1966, Pastor Schwartz held the first service for the tiny group of believers (14 people) in the Youth Center Room of the Eau Claire YMCA. Pastor Schwartz and Vicar Robert Berg of Beyer Settlement would continue ministering to them on a Sunday-only basis.

The Genesis of St. Mark

On April 19, 1966, an organizational meeting was held at St. Paul in Menomonie to make a request to the Wisconsin Synod that a mission church be started in Eau Claire. The Synod honored the request and granted mission status to the group of believers.

In the late summer of 1966, Pastor Schwartz realized that the mission needed its own pastor, so he wrote to retired Pastor Kurt Timmel of Wausau, asking him if he would conduct the services which he had started. Pastor Timmel gladly and enthusiastically accepted the opportunity. He conducted his first service on Sept. 11, 1966 and drove back and forth from Wausau (100 miles one way) every Sunday to lead services.

On February 5, 1967, another organizational meeting was held in Menomonie at which time the name St. Mark was chosen. The first officers were also chosen with LaVerne Vetter as president, Alwin Kock as vice-president and Ken Trehey as secretary-treasurer.

In April of 1967, Western Wisconsin District President Carl Mischke and District Mission Board chairman Henry Paustian visited Eau Claire to see the growth potential of the mission and also to see if it would be feasible to make St. Mark part of a dual parish with St. Peter of Elmwood. They determined that was a good fit and forwarded a call for the dual parish to the Assignment Committee, made up of the District Presidents.

As a result, candidate Frederick A. Kogler was assigned to the dual parish in May of 1967 and set up residence in Elmwood, making the weekly drive to Eau Claire for a service at the YMCA. The YMCA allowed the congregation to store its table and paraments for the altar, two candles and a wooden cross in a small storage room.

Also in May, the Synod gave approval for selecting a site for a permanent church structure. On May 15, 1967 an offer to purchase was drawn up for a four-acre plot owned by Roy Langdon. The property, at the corner of State and Hamilton where the church still worships, included a house, garage and barn. In June, the Synod approved the purchase for $28,000.

Pastor Kogler was ordained on July 24, 1967 and on November 30, 1967 the congregation officially incorporated. While the congregation still did not have a permanent church structure, the house on the property was utilized for meetings. It would be almost two more years of services at the YMCA before ground was broken for a new church building. The ground-breaking took place on Sept. 7, 1969 and dedication was held on March 8, 1970. Synod President Oscar Naumann, the grandfather of current pastor Joel Naumann, was the guest speaker. The building design included a worship area, office, commons and cry room. With a waved roof and windows along the top, it took on a resemblance to Noah's ark. It was built into the ground with the sanctuary floor four feet below grade. The intent was that a permanent church would be built as the congregation grew and the sanctuary could be turned into a gymnasium for a school. That has not happened and the original sanctuary still serves as the sanctuary although it has since been enlarged, remodeled and enhanced.

Once the church was built, Pastor Kogler accepted a fulltime call to serve St. Mark and St. John, Hay Creek and the parsonage was relocated to its present position at 215 E. Hamilton.

In May, 1971, the congregation approved purchasing a bell, cast in 1892, from Luther Hospital for $400. In summer, 2018, a bell tower was erected and the bell was finally positioned off the ground.

In January, 1972, the congregation approved establishing a Lutheran Elementary School (LES) which would open in the fall of 1973 with one room and 10 students in grades 1 thru 5. It would be staffed by DMLC graduate Charlotte Fitschen.

Before that happened, in January of 1973, Pastor Kogler departed after accepting a new call. Pastor John Zickuhr of St. Katherine, Beyer Settlement, served as a vacancy pastor while the congregation issued four calls to the field, all of which were returned. The congregation then went to the Assignment Committee and seminary graduate Herbert Prahl was assigned to the congregation in May, 1973.

The intersecting of events in 1972 and 1973 meant that a new pastor was ordained on July 8, 1973 and the first teacher was installed on Aug. 5, 1973. Lives brought together by the hand of the Lord through the Synod's calling process resulted in the marriage of Charlotte Fitschen and Herbert Prahl on Dec. 28, 1974 in Lake City, Minnesota. That duo has been part of congregational life for the past 45 years.

Collegiate Involvement

Attendance at the YMCA was bolstered in the early years by students from UW-Eau Claire. The university experienced tremendous enrollment growth in the 1960s and early 1970s (from 2,000 to 10,000) that brought students with WELS backgrounds from throughout the Midwest. It is estimated that half of the attendance for services at the YMCA was college students. To encourage students to attend, the adult members of the congregation provided rides to services for students.

This tradition continues to this day as members take turns picking up students in front of the Towers Dorm on upper campus. Among the Bible studies offered by the congregation are on campus studies strictly for the college students. Life-long friendships have been established between college students and congregational members. College students often serve in babysitting roles for St. Mark members and some have added their musical talents to the worship services through choir or playing of instruments. A collegiate photo board helps members get to know the college students and thus provide spiritual encouragement for them at their church away from home.

Growth in Baptized Souls

What began as a fairly young congregation has evolved into a congregation with a diverse age distribution with empty nesters, snowbirds, widows, widowers, couples with high school and college age children, families with elementary and middle school children and singles, young professionals and retired members. For the first few decades of existence, the congregation was largely populated by families with young children.

From the 14 members who met together in March, 1966, there were over 100 baptized members when the first church building was dedicated four years later in March, 1970. Two years later, the congregation had doubled in membership and by 1979 topped 300. As one of the fastest-growing missions in the WELS, the congregation reached 400 baptized souls by 1983 and by 1987 was able to grow out of mission status. A growth chart shows a steady increase with the congregation reaching 500 souls by 1989, 600 by 2000, 700 by 2004 and 800 in 2018.

Growth in the congregation paralleled population growth in the city of Eau Claire which currently numbers over 65,000. While there are many long-time residents of the city, a fair percentage of the population is transient which translates to the church as well. Despite being a sizable congregation with 800 souls, the congregation has served approximately 1800 member souls during its 50 years of existence, not counting the ebb and flow of college students which could be 1,000 or more considering 20 new students attending each year.

The growth in members usually brought added numbers to the school and after opening with grades 1 through 5, first sixth grade was added, then kindergarten followed by pre-school. Seventh and eighth followed but with no gym and a limited curriculum based on fixed staffing, many parents opted to send children to the public schools once they reached middle school age. That would change in 2000 when the congregation added a gymnasium. Enrollment peaked at 137 in 2011.

Construction Projects

With the growth in both the number of children in the elementary school and souls in the church, there was a need for expansion. Not having the resources to handle both, the congregation solved the need for more church space in 1976 by going to a second worship service on Sundays with a Monday night service in the summer. The resources then were put into a school addition, necessitated with a second teacher and the utilization of the small storage room in the northwest corner of the sanctuary as the kindergarten classroom. Groundbreaking for two classrooms took place on Aug. 7, 1977 and dedication occurred on March 6, 1978.

On July 15, 1980, a severe straight-line windstorm struck the entire city of Eau Claire. St. Mark was not spared as the church roof was damaged and the interior suffered much water damage. The congregation had been contemplating a roof repair but had delayed the project due to lack of finances. As a result of the storm, insurance covered the replacement of the roof and from disaster, the Lord worked his blessing.

In 1982, with the Prahl family growing, the house that had been on the property when it was purchased was getting cramped, so the congregation embarked on an addition which was begun in May and completed in August of that year.

Something else that was getting cramped was the space in church and the gathering space for members after services. Since a new sanctuary did not seem to be an economic feasibility at the time, the plans were made for pushing out the altar end of the sanctuary and adding an entryway that would include two offices, a coat room and a handicap accessible ramp. Pastor's office had been moved into a small room that was part of the school addition in 1978. Now his office and the secretary's office would be closer to the main entrance when members or visitors came for a visit. Groundbreaking for the church addition and entryway took place on August 10, 1986. To save costs, the members became actively involved in this addition, doing some of the demolition, taping and texturing, staining of the wood ceiling and construction of the chancel platform. Member John Beck designed the stained glass windows for the front of sanctuary and member Jean Schroeder produced the windows. Dedication of the new additions took place on March 1, 1987, just seven days short of 17 years from when the initial sanctuary was dedicated. The congregation continued to hold services in the sanctuary, even as the construction progressed. They even cleaned up for the Children's Christmas Eve service which took place with a plastic backdrop.

Continued growth meant that another addition would be necessary in just six years. This time, it was another school addition with two more classrooms added to the east end of the facility. Groundbreaking would take place on Nov. 10, 1993 and dedication occurred on Feb. 27, 1994, just after second semester had started. Again, members helped with a lot of the interior work on the classrooms to help contain expenses.

There was still something missing that would enhance student enrollment and congregational fellowship. The commons area was being used as a classroom during the week and then desks would be moved aside to provide some space for fellowship on the weekends. That area also included the only kitchen area for the church and school and a refrigerated cooler sat in the room and had to be shut off during meetings or Bible classes that were scheduled there because of the noise. Potluck dinners would take place in the sanctuary after the members took down all the chairs and set up tables. Then after a potluck, the crews would take everything down, vacuum and put back the chairs for the next service. The same thing occurred during school days for phy ed classes. Vicky Petermann, who started the phy ed and athletic programs and served as a volunteer teacher and coach for the first 16 years of the school, would have the students set the chairs against the side walls for phy ed. They would then bring out mats for tumbling or play stick hockey or kickball. Fortunately, the only windows were up high and protected from flying objects during the classes and the congregation was still using folding chairs.

So the congregation embarked on its largest building project ever. A gymnasium was planned with a kitchen, large meeting room, small meeting room, janitor's room and new bathrooms. With gym classes and potlucks moved out of the sanctuary, there was an opportunity to include enhancements there. Stained glass windows were added on both sides of the sanctuary, pews were installed to replace the single chairs and new lighting was added. Groundbreaking for this project took place on April 18, 1999 and less than a year later, on February 27, 2000, the facility was dedicated. Because of the many uses intended for the gymnasium, it was named the George Shaker Family Center in honor of the church's longtime volunteer custodian and grandpa to so many students.

This addition, more than any other the congregation had done in the past, provided significant momentum for both church and school growth. So just four years later, it was necessary to add two more classrooms to serve as an upper grade wing and allow for a dedicated kindergarten/preschool room in the lower grade wing. After much debate, the two rooms were positioned across a courtyard from the lower grade wing and to the east of the gymnasium and large meeting room. Groundbreaking took place in the fall of 2003 and dedication took place on March 14, 2004.

Build for Christ Campaign

In 2010, the congregation enlisted the services of the James Company and undertook a $1.4 million fundraising project. The focus was to eliminate the large debt that still existed from the previous two building projects and provide enough capital for the addition of two new classrooms. While coming up short of doing both things during the three-year campaign entitled Build for Christ, a significant amount was raised, reaching $792,000. The amount would have been enough to build the classrooms without increasing the debt, but there was enough of a pushback on not addressing the high debt with its large interest payments, that the building plans were put on hold even though the congregation had invested in final architectural plans for the addition. But rather than letting the collections sit in a low interest-bearing account, good stewardship dictated that a significant amount be used to pay down the debt while the fund remained open for continued donations which are still occurring in 2018.

Two things have happened since the drive ended in 2013. A vision committee in May, 2009 recommended to the church council to anticipate school enrollment expanding to between 150 and 200 and church growth to reach 1000 by 2017. The Lord had other plans. After school enrollment peaked at 137, it has fallen to just below 100. While church growth has slowly risen, the percentage of members attending church services has dropped below 50 percent. To take some pressure off the sanctuary, the congregation added a Saturday night service in 2007 and went to year-round Monday night services. The unfortunate consequence is that the congregation actually became four separate congregations as members tended to frequent only one of the four services. In 2018, the congregation voted to eliminate the Saturday night service.

While no more construction took place after the classroom addition in 2004, the congregation has been active in expanding its footprint. During several SWOT analysis done by vision committees over the years, the congregation's location at the corner of State and Hamilton, two high traffic thoroughfares in the city, has always come out as the congregation's top strength. So when a property on Patton, straight east of the last addition became available in November, 2005, the congregation made the move to purchase what has become known as the Patton Street property. Then in November, 2012, a property south of the gymnasium that the congregation had been trying to purchase for nearly 25 years became available. The congregation purchased that property, tore down the house that would have needed major repairs, and developed an athletic field in that space. In 2015, the Herbert property at the southwest corner of Hamilton and Patton Streets became available and the congregation purchased that final piece of the puzzle. The most recent long-range site plan envisions the three houses on the property to be moved or torn down to make room for a new sanctuary and parking on that end of the property. Until then, the houses serve as residences for called workers.

Sanctuary and Grounds Enhancements

Given that the new construction might be a multi-million dollar project and it appears that it could be a decade before a new sanctuary becomes a reality, a group of members formed an enhancement committee to improve the current sanctuary. Using funds from the George Shaker estate, a new wood chancel platform was built and Nathan Pope was enlisted to build new appointments. The retired WELS pastor also did the appointments in Martin Luther College's Chapel of Christ and at Faith Lutheran Church in Black River Falls among many. An ambo was built to replace the pulpit and serve both for sermons and the reading of lessons. An open baptismal font was added to make that sacrament continually visible since the previous font was regularly hidden under the lectern top. A new altar was built with a lot of symbolism evident on the mensa and base. Two wood pastor chairs were also built. Dedication of these new furnishings took place on July 5, 2015. A paschal candle was added later and dedicated on April 9, 2017.

In the summer of 2018, a bell tower was erected and the bell, cast in 1892, was refurbished and electrified so that it no longer needs to be swung but is controlled from inside the church. Prior to that, the bell sat on the ground and was rung manually by an usher for services.

A number of members worked together with the Buildings and Grounds committee to develop a Biblical garden to the east of the church entrance. The garden includes many of the plants mentioned in the Bible, fully labeled to educate the visitor to the garden. The group took out rocks and started planting in 2011 and put in a path and completed planting in 2012. They added irrigation in 2013 and continue to work on enhancing the area.

The same group also landscaped the area around the church sign and the grass garden in the boulevard in 2010.

Pastoral Care

Through 2018, St. Mark has been served by only five pastors and a vicar, all assigned by the Conference of Presidents. The congregation has gone to the field with calls for an experienced pastor at least nine times with no success.

Veteran pastor H. Marcus Schwartz of St. Paul, Menomonie was the first contact made by the group of members looking to start a WELS congregation in Eau Claire. He and Vicar Robert Berg began services but Pastor Schwartz realized that he could not continue handling the new congregation and do due diligence with his own congregation. He contacted retired pastor Kurt Timmel in Wausau and he made the weekly drive from Wausau to conduct services.

Seminary student Frederick Kogler was assigned to the dual parish of St. Mark, Eau Claire and St. Peter, Elmwood in May, 1967 and was ordained on July 24, 1967. He set up residence in Elmwood and commuted for Sunday services at the Eau Claire YMCA which continued until a new sanctuary was built and dedicated in March, 1970. The next month, he was called to serve St. Mark, Eau Claire and St. John, Hay Creek and moved to the parsonage which was relocated to its present position at 215 E. Hamilton.

In late January, 1973, Pastor Kogler accepted a call and the congregation began the process of calling from the field. While that took place, John Zickuhr from Beyer Settlement served as vacancy pastor. After four calls to the field were returned, the congregation opted to go to the Assignment Committee. This resulted in Herbert Prahl coming to St. Mark in July, 1973. He has remained with the congregation ever since. During his tenure, he became a Circuit Pastor and then a member of the Western Wisconsin District praesidium as first vice president.

Then in June, 1993, Pastor Prahl became District President (DP), replacing Karl Gurgel who had been elected Synod President. In 1992, St. Mark had engaged in the synod's vicar program and Paul Schossow was assigned as a vicar. At this time in Synod history, District Presidents were assigned a seminary graduate as an assistant because of the time commitment required of a DP. Since Pastor Prahl entered his district presidency in June of 1993, a month after seminary assignments, Vicar Schossow agreed to delay his final year of studies at the seminary and serve as that assistant. The following spring, the assignment committee was able to place Brett Brauer as the associate pastor at St. Mark. The rules also were altered and Pastor Brauer served St. Mark for 11 years. Previously, District Presidents were assigned a new associate every two years. Pastor Prahl continued to be re-elected DP for 11 terms. He opted not to run for re-election in 2016 after serving as DP for 23 years in the synod's largest district in number of congregations (174).

When Pastor Brauer accepted a call in 2005, Aaron Mueller was assigned as the new associate pastor. He remained until accepting a call to Arizona in the spring of 2010. The congregation had one opportunity to call from the field, but when that call was returned, the congregation again went to the Assignment Committee and Joel Naumann was placed at St. Mark. In 2016, after Pastor Prahl opted not to seek re-election as DP, the congregation moved to increase its pastoral care to two full-time positions. Pastor Prahl and Pastor Naumann both served fulltime until 2017 when Pastor Prahl decided to move to half-time. In the spring of 2018, the congregation voted to increase pastoral care to 2.5 positions and go to the field for another full-time associate. Pastor Prahl has indicated to the congregation that he will retire as of the summer of 2019.

When the congregation added a Saturday night service in 2007, retired Pastor James Mumm was called to assist on a once a month basis to give the pastors a break from the four-services-a-weekend routine. His service lasted only a year as the pastors missed the privilege of preaching. Pastor Mumm has had a few guest appearances since then.

School Principals

When the elementary school began with a single female teacher, the pastor was the de facto principal in accordance with synod headship principles. The first dedicated principal was Jay Storm, who came to the congregation from Jenera, Ohio in 1979. He remained here for five years before taking a call to Arizona.

John Kanter accepted the call to become the new principal but abruptly left after two years (1984-86). With no chance to call from the field, Paul Kelm, a recent DMLC graduate without a call, was called on an emergency basis for one year (1986-87) to serve as the upper grades teacher. Pastor Prahl and the Board of Education covered the principal responsibilities that year. The following spring, a call to the field brought Dave Noack from Elkhorn, Wisconsin. He remained for eight years (1987-95) before leaving for Stillwater, Minnesota.

Steve Dankert accepted the call and served for four years from 1995-1999. When he accepted a call to Fond du Lac, Chad Marohn tabbed by the Assignment Committee and began an 11-year term as principal (1999-2010), the longest of any principal. He was here for the Shaker Center addition and the upper grade classroom addition. When he took a call to St. John, Lannon, Peter Micheel accepted the call and has served in the principal position since 2010.

School Teachers

St. Mark has been truly blessed with an abundance of faithful and talented teachers, many of whom served a decade or longer. Six of the current staff have been together for the past seven years. Char Prahl was the original teacher when the school started in 1973 and will conclude her career at the end of the 2018-19 school year. Her service was interrupted for nine years while she raised her three children and six years were part-time. She has taught mostly the first and second graders but over the years had pre-school, kindergarten and grades 1-6.

Casey Bandelin was called to handle both kindergarten and pre-school in 1981-82 and remained on staff through the 2009-10 school year. In her final 13 years, she left the youngsters and handled combinations of third, fourth and fifth grades.

After teaching kindergarten for a half year in 1998-99, Sharon Pitt joined the staff fulltime in 2000-01 and has remained ever since. After initially handling kindergarten, she has taught all of the grades from first through sixth as well as departmentalized English and math.

Jenny Riebe spent seven years as the preschool teacher (1997-2003) before stepping down, but came back as the kindergarten teacher in 2012-13 and remains with that group in 2018-19.

Connie Anason filled in as a preschool teacher in 1995-96, then came back in 2004-05 and has been working with the preschool ever since.

Phil Gustafson was assigned to St. Mark right out of MLC in 2010 and has taught upper grade classes ever since. He is involved in principal training at present and expects to get a principal call when his coursework is completed in 2019-20.

Marie Gehlhar, now Marie Seipel, was also assigned right out of MLC in 2010-11 and has been teaching in the lower grades ever since.

Scott Sponholz, a retired public school teacher and long-time member of the congregation, was hired to teach physical education in 2014-15 and has remained on staff since.

Among the teachers who spent four or more years at St. Mark but later took another call or resigned were Dave Leonard (2005-17), Andrea Dunsmoor (1976-82), Karen Schinske, later Karen Hong (1982-88, 1997-99), Cherie Wehausen (1988-92), Lynda Krueger (1986-90), Linda Noack (1990-95), Laura Metcalf (2007-14) and Jen Carter (2005-12, 15-18).

A number of teachers were assigned to St. Mark as their first call but stayed only a short time as they married and followed their husbands. They include Bonnie Zastrow (1975-76), Nancy Heup (1978-79), Kris Lemke (1992-95), and Melissa Schupmann (1999-00).

Two members of St. Paul in Menomonie were willing to accept short-term calls. Anne Rust taught in 1995-97 and Karen Krueger was a long-time sub during 1996-97.

Member Brenda Demulling was called for two years as a preschool helper. Kristin Knickelbein is the most recent member to fill a called position, beginning in the 2018-19 school year.

Several members have had long-term volunteer positions with the school. Vicky Petermann started the physical education and athletic program in 1973-74 and did that for 16 years. Tammy Jastrow began teaching art classes in 1996-97 and continues to do so today in 2018-19. John Beck, a member who served as the Eau Claire school district's art director, spent many years as a volunteer art instructor for the school. Rita Steffenhagen has served as a volunteer tutor since 2009.

Over the years, 17 Martin Luther College students have done their student teaching semester at St. Mark under the supervision of a veteran teacher. In addition, numerous parents and other members have served as classroom assistants and/or tutors.

Sons and Daughters of the Congregation

Over the past 50 years, several members of the congregation have trained for and become called workers in the WELS, graduating from Martin Luther College and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. Currently, three individuals are serving as pastors. Tony Hansen, a 1992 graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, has been the Dean of Students at Great Plains Lutheran High School in Watertown, South Dakota, since 2013. Chris Goelzer, a 1996 graduate of WLS, is currently the pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Deltona, Florida. Steve Prahl, a 2005 graduate of WLS, is currently the pastor of Foundation Lutheran Church in Falcon, Colorado, a suburb of Colorado Springs. He began startup work for the mission church in 2015.

Susan Vetter, now Susan Zeitler, and the daughter of one the St. Mark's founding members, was the first St. Mark member to get a call after graduating from Dr. Martin Luther College in 1981. She is currently the preschool director at St. Lucas Lutheran School in Milwaukee. Terri Hall, now Terri Frank, graduated from DMLC in 1984 and was initially assigned to Western Koshkonong, an ELS school in Cottage Grove, Wisconsin. Lisa Petermann, a 2003 graduate of Martin Luther College, was initially assigned to St. John's Lutheran School in Sparta. She currently teaches in a public school. Ellen Prahl, now Ellen Stevenson, a 2004 graduate of MLC, just began service this fall with her husband Scott at Pilgrim Lutheran School in Mesa, Arizona. She teaches 3rd and 4th grade. Harmon Krause, a 2014 graduate of MLC, is currently the principal of New Hope Lutheran Academy in West Melbourne, Florida.

There are four St. Mark members who are currently enrolled at Martin Luther College. They are Hannah Carter, a senior, and sophomores Ethan Carter, Rebecca Bieberitz, and Jon Riebe.

George Shaker

George Shaker (4/18/28-5/3/13) was neither a called worker nor served regularly on any boards but had an endearing impact on members of St. Mark school and church during his lifetime.

George was one of the first members to join the congregation after St. Mark was incorporated in November, 1967. He was a strong proponent of Christian education and helped push for the formation of our Lutheran Elementary School in 1973, serving on the first Board of Education.

George came to school every day and proudly served as a volunteer custodian. He seldom missed a day except when he vacationed by car to each state in the US. He considered all the St. Mark children as his grandchildren and knew and loved each one.

George was a fixture at all school athletic events, plays and concerts, enjoying each child's accomplishments. He quietly provided for the children's candy bags that he handed out annually on Christmas Eve. He also enjoyed playing dartball with the men, always shooting for third base.

A proud veteran of the occupational forces in Japan and a combat veteran of the Korean conflict, the army chose George to calculate the trajectory and position for the artillery to shoot their weapons. He was the only one that could use a slide rule in his unit! He had attended Eau Claire State University enjoying math, reading and precise penmanship. Many members will always remember his shouting artillery command call.

He lived a simple bachelor lifestyle working at Pope and Talbot Paper Mill for 39 years. George's life was always focused on the Lord, his church friends and the children who were his family. When the church expanded in 2000 with the addition of a gymnasium, it was appropriately named the George J. Shaker Family Center.

George left the church and school a sizeable life insurance policy. His aim was to ensure that the Shaker Center had funds to fix the floor and roof so it was always there for the kids. He also wanted the funds to be used in his special resting areas--the nursery and commons.

Short in stature but large in heart, George will be remembered for his strong faith and willingness to serve without fanfare for the Lord.

Anniveraries and Special Events

Over the years, the congregation has taken opportunities to remember the many blessings that have been showered upon the congregation. The first was March 14, 1976 on the 10th anniversary of the first service at the YMCA. A 15th anniversary service was held on March 15, 1981. Anniversaries thereafter occurred based on the time of incorporation which was November, 1967. A 20th anniversary took place in November, 1987 and a 25th anniversary on Oct. 19, 1992. A special 35th anniversary event occurred on Nov. 3, 2002 and the 50th anniversary on Oct. 1, 2017. Recognition services also took place on the 40th and 45th anniversaries. Pastor Carl Mischke, who was Pastor Prahl's supervising pastor when he vicared at St. John, Juneau and then became Western Wisconsin District President and Synod President, was the guest speaker for the both the 10th and 20th anniversaries. St. Mark's first pastor Frederick Kogler was the guest preacher for the 15th, 25th and 35th anniversaries. Paul Schossow was the guest preacher for the morning service on the 35th anniversary. The 50th included a collaboration of former pastors Brett Brauer and Aaron Mueller along with current pastors Herbert Prahl and Joel Naumann.

The congregation bought a new organ as part of the 25th anniversary celebration and was able to install a wood choir platform and erect a bell tower as a result of the 50th anniversary celebration, which also dedicated funds to hurricane relief and debt reduction.

On June 2, 1985, the congregation recognized Elsie Stetzer on her 50th anniversary as a church organist.

On June 15, 1985, former collegian Deb Kramer was commissioned as a nurse to Lilongwe, Malawi.

On June 28, 1992, the congregation marked the 25th anniversary of its campus ministry with many former UW-Eau Claire students returning.

The 25th anniversary of the St. Mark Lutheran Elementary School took place on June 14-15, 1998. Pastor Prahl was honored on his 25th anniversary in the public ministry on Sept. 20, 1998 and on June 28, 2013 for his 40th anniversary.


For four years, the founding members of St. Mark worshiped at the YMCA in downtown Eau Claire. The congregation finally got its own building in March, 1970. When growth necessitated more room, a second service was added in 1976 as well as a Monday service in the summer. More growth necessitated the addition of more seating in March, 1987 with the expansion of the sanctuary. Year around Monday night services were added in 2001. Saturday night services were added in the fall of 2007 but were eliminated in 2017 largely due to the pressure on the pastoral staff.

In 1975, the congregation opted to switch from general use of the King James Version of the Bible to the New International Version. In 1993, The Lutheran Hymnal was replaced by Christian Worship. The congregation had experimented with parts of the liturgy and some of the new hymns, beginning already in 1989. Currently the congregation is utilizing the Christian Worship Supplement and anticipates a new hymnal that is currently being worked on by the WELS.

Scholarship Fund

In an effort to encourage students from the congregation to study for the public ministry, the congregation early in its life established a scholarship fund. Annually, awards are made to any congregation members who are attending a WELS ministerial education school. A few who have attended an area Lutheran high school have also benefitted from the fund.


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