On September 30, 1947, 19 people firmly dedicated to the Lord met at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Theodore H. Hanser. Their desire was clear—to start a new congregation in southern Webster Groves for the purpose of reaching the community with the gospel of Jesus Christ. A door-to-door survey of the surrounding community was conducted early in 1948 under the direction of Concordia Lutheran Church in Kirkwood and with the help of students from Concordia Seminary. Encouraged by the results of that survey and the possibility for growth, the first worship service was held on April 11, 1948, in the auditorium of (then) Grant School at Grant and Watson Roads. The Rev. Martin C. Schaefer, who was in charge of missions in the Western District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, was the preacher.
On November 21 of that year, Mr. Wallace Sweeten became the first person to be baptized into the Christian faith at the small mission congregation. Just a few months later, on March 18, 1949, 27 people became charter members of The Lutheran Church of Webster Gardens. Recognizing the call of God upon their lives and knowing the challenges and frustrations of starting a new congregation, those pioneers included Melba Oliver, Ruth Sweeten, Wallace Sweeten, George Bekebrede, Elvira Bekebrede, Wilfred Bekebrede, Henry Gross, Margrete Gross, Dr. Theodore Hanser, Edna Hanser, Roy Hemminghaus, Henrietta Hemminghaus, Robert Kurth, Betty Kurth, Neva Meyers, Marguerite Stohldrier, George Krumm, Lillian Krumm and their families. Pastor Edward L. Schneider was ordained into the ministry and installed as the first pastor of Webster Gardens on June 12 of that year.
With many reasons to cherish and rejoice in all that God had already accomplished in the brief history, Webster Gardens proceeded boldly into the future. Just a year after its organization, the congregation developed a building committee under the leadership of Mr. Ferd Gast. The purpose of the committee was to plan for construction of a combined chapel and school on a tract of land owned by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod located at 8651 Watson Road. Ground was broken on September 17, 1950, and the building was dedicated on November 4, 1951. The blessing of God was evident in the growth of the congregation. There were already 208 members and 140 children attending Sunday School on a regular basis.
Committed to the mission of raising children in the Christian faith and providing ministries to reach the community, the first Vacation Bible School was held for more than 100 children in August of 1952 and a Christian day school was opened that September. Webster Gardens School opened with one class of six kindergarten students. Each year an additional grade level was added until there were eight grades plus kindergarten and pre-kindergarten. In June of 1957, Mr. Herman Wentzel became the first principal.
The Lord blessed Webster Gardens as it continued to reach out to more and more families. Even with the addition of a second worship service in 1953, it was still necessary to expand the worship facility. Early in 1954, Ferd Gast visited Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Treybal concerning the purchase of a large tract of land they owned just to the west of our existing building. The Lord's plan, however, concerned more than property. After learning that the Treybals were not connected to a Christian church, Mr. Gast witnessed to them concerning their spiritual need. God blessed his Christian witness as well as the witness of others in the congregation, and the Treybals were confirmed later that year.
Property at our present site was purchased from the Treybals in March of 1954. Ground breaking for a new sanctuary was March 30, 1958, and the new worship facility was dedicated to the glory of God on April 26, 1959. The day school continued to conduct classes in the original building. Together the land and furnishings for the new Sanctuary had cost close to $350,000. Looking back after 10 years, it was evident that the hand of God had indeed been charting the future of Webster Gardens! By that time, 900 people called Webster Gardens their church home and 400 children and adults were involved in Christian discipleship through Sunday morning Sunday school and Bible classes. There were numerous opportunities to serve God through ministries such as Ushers, Choir, Altar Guild, Friendship Circles (first called the Friendly Circles), and the Couples' and Men's Clubs. A Mothers' Club, Parent-Teacher League, and Scout troops were organized, as well as Junior and Senior Walther Leagues.
In 1957 a controversy arose over the name of the church, The Lutheran Church of Webster Gardens. Many thought that the name should reflect more the name and nature of God than the name of the subdivision in the community. After 13 months of debate, however, it was decided to retain the name.
The worship life of the congregation was important for the growth of the church, but it was most important to give credit for every gift and blessing to God alone. After first using a new Wurlitzer electric organ donated by Dr. and Mrs. Theodore A. Hanser in 1958, a new pipe organ was dedicated in February 1968. The instrument was designed by Herr Bosch of Germany and installed under the direction of the Midwest Pipe Organ Company. Later in 1968 a Schumerlich Carillon was installed. By this time there were multiple choirs, with the men's choir even having opportunities to sing on Ted Mack's television program and "The Way of Life" television program.
As God continued to grow Webster Gardens, He also provided new opportunities for ministry. One of those opportunities was to start a new congregation. Just as Webster Gardens was begun with a group of people from Concordia Lutheran Church in Kirkwood, over 100 people from Webster Gardens became charter members of a mission congregation in Crestwood in 1963. The church became known as Prince of Peace Lutheran Church.
The discipleship of children continued to be a strong emphasis of Webster Garden's ministry, but there was such serious overcrowding by the mid-1960s that a Sunday School class was held in the school bus. In 1965, in response to the need for additional space, another major challenge was undertaken by the growing congregation. A new education and youth building, complete with 11 classrooms, offices, and a gymnasium were constructed and dedicated on the new site that year.
The ministry to children took a new and exciting turn when the first Sunday School class for children with special needs was held in 1965. Later, a Vacation Bible School was also begun for these special children. Congregations from around the area brought their children to learn of Jesus from Mrs. Ruth Meyer and others involved in this ministry. In 1970, a school classroom was provided for the Lutheran Special Education Association.
Encouraged by past partnerships with other congregations and determined to be even more effective in the discipleship of children, Webster Gardens set out on a bold adventure in 1973. A consolidated school, Christ Community Lutheran School was formed. The schools of Webster Gardens and Concordia Lutheran Church, Kirkwood, were joined together with the support of those two congregations, as well as Prince of Peace and Mt. Calvary, Brentwood Lutheran Churches. Glendale Lutheran Church later became a part of the partnership. Now Christ Community School disciples 520 children in pre-kindergarten through 8th grade on three campuses.
In 1976, Pastor Daniel Teuscher was called as the Pastor, and in 1978 the congregation embarked on a spiritual and administrative renewal program. The program surged forward in the fall of 1981 when the congregation entered into a two-year church growth process. A renewed focus on spiritual growth, Biblical knowledge, and evangelism and witnessing training resulted in the need for an additional staff person and more physical space. In 1983, Rev. Robert Kasper was added to the staff as Assistant Pastor, and in September of 1986 the fellowship rooms, new office area, library, nursery, and board room were dedicated to the glory of God. In 1989, there was an increased desire to minister to those in our congregation and those in our community who were in particularly difficult circumstances. As a result, a parish health ministry team and later a congregational care ministry team began to reach out with God's love and care in very practical, tangible ways.
With an increasing emphasis on evangelism and Christian maturity, Webster Gardens responded to yet another opportunity to step forward in faith in 1990. Rev. Richard Wilson was called as the Director of Outreach and Assimilation, and Mr. Mark Jones was called as the Director of Christian Education. As God continued to work in the lives of the members of Webster Gardens, the 90's brought significant growth in size and vitality. Major outreach efforts into the community through the years have included Community Easter Egg Hunts, Frightless Halloween Parties, Christmas Outreach Events, marriage and parenting seminars, participation in the community Fourth of July celebrations, and choir cantatas.
Charged with the desire to reach the lost for the sake of Christ, Webster Gardens began a contemporary worship service on Saturday evenings in 1991. This service provided an opportunity for many to experience a revitalized passion for worship. The service was moved to Sunday mornings in 1996.
Still moving forward in faith according to God's blessing, Pastor Joel Christiansen was called as Pastor of Public Ministry in January of 1996. Firmly dedicated to the Lord's call to be an authentic community of faith, Webster Garden's focus today is on community of believers that Know and Enjoy God in Worship, Read and Reflect on Scripture, and Serve and Share the Gospel.
We are grateful to God for His blessings, cherish the past, and go forward in faith according to His leading! To God be the glory!