1952 to 1992
The first service of St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church of Homestead, Florida was held in Branam Funeral Home on Sunday Evening, February 17, 1952 with 26 people attending. This meeting was called by Mr. and Mrs. David Carpenter. Pastor Luther A. Thomas of Epiphany Lutheran Church of Miami Beach conducted the service. Pastor Thomas continued service until the middle of June at which time Mr. Jack Martin, a student of Southern Seminary took the work over for the summer. In September Dr. Frank Jensen, retired and living in Miami held service until February 1953. At this time the field was officially taken over by the Board of American Missions with Rev. J. D. Sheppard, Mission Developer starting February 1, 1953.
Service continued at Branam Funeral Home until the third Sunday in October. The place of meeting was changed to Neva King Elementary School. Organization service was held on Reformation Sunday, November 1, 1953. It was at this service that the church name was chosen. The service for organization were read by the Mission Developer, Rev. J. D. Sheppard. The sermon was presented by Rev. Royall A. Yount, president of the Florida Lutheran Synod. The attendance at this service was 125.
The church site at Krome Avenue and 19th Street was approved on January 24, 1954. The five acre site was purchased from Mr. Clovis Walker in March 1954 for a cost of $22.50. Mr. O. Ralph Matousek was selected as church Attorney on June 9, 1954. Mr. T. Norman Mansell and Mr. Herbert Rosser Savage were chosen as church architects at this time as well.
Although the charter membership roll was closed the first Sunday in February 1954 with 99 adult members and 18 baptized children, our first called Pastor did not arrive until May. On May 15, 1954 Rev. Louis C. Suessman began his ministry at St. Andrew’s. On June 19, 1954 services moved from Neva King Elementary school to South Dade High School. St. Andrew’s was incorporated on July 13, 1954.
During the year as St. Andrew’s began to grow, new things emerged. St. Andrew’s Luther League began July 31, 1954. The first issue of the parish paper “The Homestead Lutheran” was produced in October 1954.
On Thanksgiving morning, November 24, 1954, 76 people attended the first worship service on the property. The congregation met on place where the walls of the future church were to rise. Each worshiper attending brought a stone to be laid at the base of the huge rustic cross being erected to mark the location of the new church’s altar. The stones were later used in the construction of Jacob’s Altar recoded in the 28th chapter of Genesis.
On April 17, 1955 Mrs. Ruth Carpenter broke ground for the construction of our chapel and educational wing which would house pastor’s office and Sunday School rooms that would also serve as our social hall. Council approved a contract for $65,000 with Vihlen Brothers Construction on May 15, 1955. A cornerstone laying ceremony was held on December 11, 1955. The first service in the chapel was conducted on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1955. On this special Christmas Eve, candlelight services were held in the open before a manger scene.
1956 was a formative year. Inspection of the newly completed church took place on Sunday, January 29. On Ash Wednesday, February 15, the congregation began limited use of the church building. On March 18 the first confirmation class began. Lutheran Service Center serving the military personnel in the area opened on April 1. The church bell which was from the last train to make the trip to Key West, was dedicated on April 15, 1956. Vacation Bible school was organized on August 13-24. In September the congregation voted to petition the City of Homestead for inclusion into the city limits. Kindergarten class opened at St. Andrew’s in October, 1956.
St. Andrew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church was formally dedicated on March 10, 1957. Pastor Suessman felt called to move on in July 1957. Rev. Harry Vensel answered our call on September 8, 1957.
Pastor Harry E. Vensel began work on Thanksgiving Day, 1957. During this time we had well done productions of the Passion Play. Pastor Vensel loved drama and we used to have skits during Lent. In 1965 most of the congregation performed in the Passion Play. The Passion Play was presented at the Miami Beach Convention Hall before 12,000 attending the Youth Conference. It was this production that resulted in the reflection pool having a 10 foot foundation.
Although no there was no physical building of new buildings while Pastor Vensel was here, the buildings and property were improved. The chancel was enhanced by the devotion of the Altar Guild.
While Pastor Vensel was here, there was a choice of three services, 7:30 am, 8:15 am and 11:00 am. The congregation had a slow but continual growthe. On October 30, 1966 61 baptized members were added to the membership roll. In 1970, Pastor Vensel gave notice that he would leave St. Andrew’s. He left November 14, 1970. Rev. Warren C. Rippe answered St. Andrew’s call August 1, 1971. Pastor Rippe served St. Andrew’s until January 30, 1976. Now it was Rev. Dr. George E. Becker who answered the call. Pastor Becker arrived on June 15, 1976 and was installed on September 26, 1976.
St. Andrew’s “Newsletter” first issue was published April 1976. Luther League revived with “Let’s Get Organized” worship on July 17, 1976. On October 5, 1976 the church Council approved the Congregation to bring in canned goods on Communion Sunday to aid the Protestant Social Service. A program to save used stamps to benefit the Lutheran Retirement Center in Deland Florida was started in October. On October 23, EMR banquet preceded Visitation Sunday for pledges which would take place October 24. The Congregation approved the fiscal year to coincide with the calendar year on December 12, 1976.
Programs grew and developed. The Bethel Bible Program began on January 10, 1977. The Telephone Tree also began in January. The Sewing Circle started on March 23 to meet the fourth Wednesday of each month.
We began major renovation and repairs of the church beginning with the new flagstone altar, pulpit and lectern and roof of the chancel. The flagstone altar, pulpit and lectern were dedicated on May 15, 1977. Annexation into Homestead’s city limits was approved June 20, 1977 by the City Council with a formal resolution adopted June 27.
We broke ground for our new fellowship hall on June 26, 1977. An estate left to St. Andrew’s from Mae Rena Rodin in memory of her son, David Christian, and a gift of the later Mary and Pat Cox of Leisure City helped build the church’s fellowship hall. Mrs. Cox was the church organist for many years. David’s picture is permanently displayed on the wall of the fellowship hall. The fellowship hall building was dedicated on December 11, 1977.
During 1978, the Sunshine Fund was established on March 7th to aid members with emergencies. An associate membership plan was approved by Council on August 8th. Pastor’s six week instruction for new/old members began on September 3rd. On November 25 we celebrated our twenty-fifth anniversary with a special dinner. On December, Council approved membership into the Miami Coalition.
The Men’s Prayer Breakfast started March 24, 1979 meeting on the fourth Saturday of each month. We began full use of the Lutheran Book of Worship in April. In May, the Lutheran Church Women purchased red cushions for the chapel chairs. The Congregation approved paving the parking lot on May 20th. The church was completely painted inside and out.
We began to use the “Celebrate” and Prayer Request cards in July 1980. In September, Sunday School began at 9:30 am with opening in the fellowship hall. The Christmas project “Parson of the Hills” began. LCW presented new paraments for blessing on October 19th, 1980. In November, the piano in the chapel was presented by Mr. and Mrs. James L. Alexander. We also paid our benevolence in full for the first time!
It was 1982 when Pastor Becker answered another call. Rev. Greg Moore stepped up to lead St. Andrew’s. Pastor Moor stayed with us until April 1985.
Our next Pastor was Alan Ford who came to us in 1985. While Pastor Ford was here, he started the Palm Sunday Procession with St. John’s Episcopal and Sacred Heart Catholic churches. Later First United Methodist church also joined in. The procession started at our church, then proceed down Krome Avenue to the other churches with transportation for those who were unable to walk.
Things were going well for St. Andrew’s. On December 13, 1987 we had a mortgage burning ceremony and celebration. The Sunday School Expansion committee was formed November 20, 1988 to look at ways to expand for our Sunday school. January 15, 1989 a Church Building Committee was formed and in February it absorbed the Sunday School Expansion committee. A new church sign was under construction by church members with estimated completion date Easter 1990. After many hours of meetings, research, changed drawings, in March 1990 we received tentative drawings from the national church architect for the remodeling and building expansion of our church.
1992 - Current
In May 1992, 23 members began a pledge program. There were great plans for the pledge program but God had a different plan. Hurricane Andrews hit August 24, 1992. The sanctuary was demolished but the Fellowship Hall was in repairable condition. After repairs, the Fellowship Hall became our House of Worship. On October 10, 1992 the destroyed sanctuary was decommissioned. Ms. Sharon Ness, Assistant to the Bishop presided at the decommissioning. It was back to the drawing board for new plans, this time it included a new sanctuary.
Throughout 1992 and 1993, St. Andrew’s became one of the disaster centers for Homestead. As a disaster center, we were kept busy passing out food, clothing, medical supplies, etc. for the community. We did this as well as try to resolve our own personal and parish disasters. May volunteers from all over the country arrived to help in any way they could, cleaning up the grounds, repairing what could be repaired, dismantling the old sanctuary and helping rebuild. Unfortunately, because of the storm, many members’ homes were destroyed causing a great loss of membership due to relocation.
September 19, 1993 Rev. Arlene Landin was installed as Assistant Pastor by Bishop Frazen. Rev Arnold Perry was also in attendance. A sit down dinner followed. Pastor Arlene was here to help through the difficult times of post-Hurricane Andrews. In December 1994, Pastor Arlene left St. Andrew’s.
Because we had funds from insurance monies, our pledge program and church donations from around the country we were able to break ground on May 22, 1994. The expected completion date was Christmas 1994. Although Pastor Ford helped break ground for the new sanctuary, he answered a call before the dedication and left St. Andrew’s in January 1995. On Father’s Day, June 18, 1995 with great celebration, we dedicated the new sanctuary. It was an exciting and glorious day. We were fortunate to have a brand new sanctuary and no mortgage.
When Pastor Ford accepted another call, during our search we had interim pastors. First we had Rev. John Roth who served our congregation from January 1995 until July 1995 when Rev. Dr. Dale Young took over the interim responsibilities.
In August 1996 after a long search, Rev. Bruce E. Johnson accepted the call to St. Andrew’s. Pastor Johnson was instrumental in starting the Stephen Ministry in conjunction with First Presbyterian and the Parish Health Ministry. In 1997, we opened our church facilities to a sister congregation from the Missouri Synod, El Hospital del Alma. On August 31, 1997 we dedicated a new office wing. In September 2001, Pastor Johnson felt “called by God to seek a different place and type of pastoral work.”
Another search process, another interim. Rev. Leroy Stackpole began his interim ministry October 2001. Pastor Stackpole was from Lakeland so he served St. Andrew’s on weekends returning home to Lakeland during the week. In April 2002, El Hospital del Alma found a new church home but in March 2003 we again opened our facilities to a new Spanish speaking congregation Centro Internacional de Albanzas (C.I.A.) In April 2003 by a unanimous vote of the congregation, we agreed to call Rev. Edward W. Ebersole, Jr. Pastor Ebersole began his ministry with St. Andrew’s July 15, 2003.
On November 1, 2003, we celebrated our 50th anniversary as a congregation. It was an extraordinary weekend. We had a youth group reunion, a special banquet commemorating the anniversary, a special worship service presided by Bishop Edward Benoway and the installation service for Pastor Ebersole. During our celebration, we took on a service project of building a house in Haiti through Food for the Poor. Our service project was called 25/40 after Matthew 25:40 ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
During Pastor Ebersole’s tenure at St. Andrew’s the music program took off with the vocal choir and the bell choir, the Adopt-a-Highway program was started, the grounds were maintained and renovated, the Sunday School program and Vacation Bible school were revamped, the kitchen was remodeled with stainless appliances, the Blanket Ministry was started as well as the Social Ministry and we continued to make our facilities available to Spanish speaking congregations.
Through her estate Martha Hunderlock gave the congregation a huge gift. She also left the congregation her condominium. At that time, the congregation agreed to keep the condo and rent it out as an additional source of income.
At the February 1, 2009 Special Congregation Meeting, the congregation approved enclosing the northeast and southeast wings and the Krome room to be used as offices. Tom Roberts’ gift in his wife Mildred’s name served to make the northeast wing a cry room. Upon completion of the project, the pastor’s office was moved from the office wing of the Fellowship building to the Krome room and the secretary’s office was moved to the southeast wing. This left the fellowship hall building to be used for a child day care, adult day care or school that needed security.
This congregation has been truly blessed. We are debt free, we have received a generous gift from the Martha Hunderlock estate and most recently a generous gift from the Tom Roberts estate.
In July 2010, Pastor Ebersole’s call was changed to a Term Call ending December 2010. Starting January 1, 2011 Rev. Dr. Dale Young was once again the interim pastor.
Pastor Young served this congregation well taking us through the long transition process of hurting, healing, and moving on. He took us though the steps of the process and also helped with a Visioning process.
At the Special Congregation Meeting held on July 11, 2012 the congregation voted to call Rev. Mark R. Tonnesen. Pastor Tonnesen accepted the call and began his work on October 15, 2012. Pastor Tonnesen was installed on February 16, 2013.
On May 26, 2014 the construction of our Retreat Center was completed and dedicated. Our Mission Statement for the Retreat Center is "We are a ministry providing a facility for strengthening relationships and fostering community."
Pastor Tonnesen's mission and vision regarding relationships within the congregation and in the local community, ministry with youth, leadership, and organizational structure was the focus of his ministry until March 2017.
Pastor Paul Kruger serves the congregation as the Interim Pastor during the time that St. Andrews re-develops the mission and vision for the future.
Where to find us:
St. Andrew's Lutheran Church
1955 N. Krome Avenue
Homestead, FL 33030
Phone: (305) 247-6544
Fax: (305) 247-6544
St. Andrew's Lutheran Church in Homestead
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Join us for our Worship Services and other Events on the calendar on the left.