Though few were around for the beginning, many will gather Sunday to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Star of the North Lutheran Church's presence in Kenai.
Lutheran mission work began in 1960, when Kenai was still a small area with a population of about 2,000. During this time, Rev. Joseph Frenz, from the Anchorage Lutheran Church, began flying to Kenai once a month to hold services in the general store and then later in a small library. The Kenai and Soldotna congregation amounted to about 40 people.
Soon, those from Soldotna formed a group of their own.
In 1963, Rev. Ronald Laue took over the Kenai mission's work. He came to Kenai weekly until his church, Zion Lutheran, was formed in Anchorage. He then alternately served in Kenai and Kodiak.
He started a confirmation class, held in the home of a church family after school on Mondays when he was in town. On 1965, the church advanced by having Sunday school in the furnace room of the library while confirmation class was held in the main room.
The congregation received a full-time pastor in 1967. Rev. Ralph Theimer and family took up residence in a mobile home. Soon after, plans were drawn up for the building of the church and the parsonage with help provided by the International Lutheran Women's Missionary League.
Sunday school classes were held in the basement, while confirmation classes and church services were held in the attached two-car garage.
Less than two years later, the congregation dedicated the new sanctuary in Kenai.
After Theimer left in 1971, Rev. Raymond Ernst became pastor until 1976, when Rev. Bruce Betker took the position. In 1988, Rev. Schaan held the position until the present pastor, Rev. Robert Deardoff, arrived in 1995.
The Star of the North Lutheran Church is located at 216 N. Forest Drive in Kenai.
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