"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
A Brief History of Our Congregation
Our congregation’s name, Nain, is unique. Nain was a village in Galilee where Jesus brought comfort and joy to a grieving widow by raising her son from the dead. After seeing Jesus perform this remarkable miracle, the large crowd in attendance could only conclude that, “God has come to help his people.”
When we pause to remember our centennial anniversary, we first and foremost thank our gracious God for the blessings he has provided to us and many others through our congregation at Nain. A brief look at our congregation’s history proves that, time and time again, our timeless God has truly come to help his people just as much here as he did 2,000 years ago in Galilee. Here our faithful Savior has regularly come to his people through his Word and sacraments, creating and sustaining faith in us. This work God has done among us truly is cause for rejoicing and thanking him. To him alone be the glory.
In 1914 the Wisconsin Synod Mission Board called 1913 seminary graduate Walter Motzkus to canvass the growing village of West Milwaukee as the area was beginning to grow in conjunction with the opening of many nearby factories. As he canvassed the area, he found many faithful Lutheran families in the vicinity of S. 44th St. These families were willing to open their homes and meet together for Sunday morning services.
As Pastor and some of his followers started to move westward in their canvassing, they found even more prospects. Soon West Allis seemed to look even more promising than West Milwaukee as a place to start a congregation.
The Lord continued to bless the work of Pastor Motzkus and the budding congregation, and the Mission Board determined there was sufficient interest to start a congregation. The Synod made a down payment on a triangular lot on the west side of S. 58th St. and they built a small portable chapel there.
On May 14, 1914, the chapel was dedicated in a worship service. Though many of the members worshipping at the new chapel already had memberships at area Lutheran churches, they were enthusiastic about forming this new congregation. The founding members set up meetings to ogranize the congregation and draw up a constitution. At the fourth meeting, held on October 15, 1914, the name Nain was chosen for the congregation, the constitution was adopted, and Nain Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized according to the laws of the State of Wisconsin.
In June 1915, the young congregation formally joined the Wisconsin Synod as a self-supporting congregation and was no longer considered a “mission.” The zealous members did not hesitate in starting a Sunday school, meeting together for Bible study, and forming the Nain Ladies Aid.
In 1916, Pastor Motzkus accepted a divine call to serve in Cameron, WI. Walter Keibel, a 1916 seminary graduate, was called to replace Pastor Motzkus and become the new pastor of young Nain.
In the next few years, the Lord blessed Nain with good growth. By 1919, it became apparent that the congregation were outgrowing the humble chapel. Members began looking for land, and they soon found six lots available on the corner of S. 57th and W. Mitchell Streets. Right away in 1921, they adopted a resolution to build a parsonage for Pastor Keibel and his young family. A church building was to follow.
As the congregation continued to grow, it became more and more apparent that a new church would need to be built sooner rather than later. Quite possibly it was no more apparent then, when on Christmas Eve of 1921, the floor of the crowded chapel gave way under the heating stove. Thankfully, no one was hurt.
Over the course of the next year, Pastor Keibel and other members worked hard to secure loans and funding for a new church building. A bid of $11,111.11 was accepted by the building committee.
On February 11, 1923 the new church was dedicated. The building was full of worshipers for the dedication, but in the weeks following, many pews sat empty. Some wondered if they had overbuilt. After the first few weeks, however, the Lord contiued to bless Nain with growth and the new church started to regularly fill up for Sunday services.
In the next few years, Nain became a very active congregation-not only in worship life but also in Christian social fellowship. The congregation’s choir performed concerts and cantatas. A men’s club was formed and they performed popular minstrel shows. The Laidies Aid performed The Lily Pond Special and The Old Family Album. In these years, the Nain Athletic Club was was founded and fielded some very active and successful teams.
In 1939, Nain celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary with a weeklong celebration. The congregation rented the Horace Mann School’s auditorium because their church building would not be able to handle all the worshipers attending the three worship services.
The World War II Era affected Nain as it did the rest of the country. Though the church carried on its gospel work as usual during this time, it was a period of reduced activity and social fellowship. Nain had several men and also some women who served in the War, and nine of its members died serving.
When the war ended, Nain was blessed again with growth. The congregation found itself with the “problem” or running out of space to accompany its worshipers. Sunday school classes were held just a few feet apart and in any available space-even the furnace room. Space planned for fifty students was being used to accommodate 225!
On February 15, 1953, the congregation approved a resolution to build a new church. A three-year peroid of collecting funds was begun so that, by 1956, Nain was able to accept the plans from architecht firm Steffen & Kemp and begin the process of building.
Since the current church building was on the site they planned to build on, the members of Nain had to figure out where they would worship while construction was taking place. Nain decided to move its current church building across the alley to a lot the had previously purchased.
On April 22, 1956, the ground-breaking ceremony for contruction of the new church was held after the 10:30 a.m. service. Immediately that week after the ground-breaking, excavating machines showed up and the process of building a new church was officially underway.
The completed church was dedicated on March 31, 1957 and it’s where we still worship today. The building can hold approximately 400 worshipers.
After the dedication of the new church, Nain continued to grow even more. Pastor Keibel’s responsibilites also increased, and it soon became apparent that he would need assistance. To that end, Prof. Paul Ruege was called to act as Sunday school superintendent and choir director. Nain also employed students from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary to work with the youth of the congregation.
In January of 1963, the seventy-year-old Pastor Keibel was unexpectedly called to heaven during a winter vacation in California. Nain was without a pastor, and Pastor Gilbert from Jordan Lutheran agreed to serve as the vacancy pastor.
After six months without a full-time pastor, Nain called Pastor Gordon Snyder and he accepted the call to serve Nain. He had previously been serving a congregation in Nebraska.
Nain’s focus soon turned to Christian education. Nain didn’t have a school but had been supporting children of the congregation in attending nearby Lutheran schools. In 1971, Nain called its own teacher, Mr. Stanely Cole, to serve as 7th and 8th grade teacher at Jordan Lutheran School. Nain also purchased a home for its new called worker.
Not long after Mr. Cole was called by Nain, it became apparent that many of Nain’s gradeschool students were attending Fairview Lutheran School. Nain’s teaching support shifted to Fairview, and Mr. Cole began teaching at Fairview instead of Jordan. In March of 1980, Stanley Cole accepted a call to Michigan. Nain called Mr. Robert Sawall to replace him as their teacher to Fairview. Mr. Sawall and his family moved into the Nainowned teacherage where the Coles had been living.
During this period, Nain continued its focus on Christian education. In the fall of 1985, Nain opened a preschool for it’s young children. Patty Snyder was the head teacher. The very next year, Nain purchased its own bus to facilitate transportation of its students to Fairview.
In 1993, a big change came to the worship life of Nain. The hymnal that had been in use since 1941 was replaced by the Synod’s new hymnal, Christian Worship.
In April of 2007, Nain celebrated the 50th anniversary of it’s church building. Later that same year, Pastor Snyder would formally retire, but would continue to serve as vacancy pastor until the time a new pastor would be installed at Nain.
On June 22, 2008, seminary graduate Joseph Berg was ordained and installed to become only the fourth pastor in Nain’s history. That year also saw the beginning of major rennovations at Nain. Work was done to make the building handicap accessible, and the pastor’s office and upstairs basement were completely remodeled and modernized.
After the 2009-2010 school year, Fairview Lutheran School closed. Mr. Sawall took a call to serve at St. John’s Lutheran school in Milwaukee, and Christian day school students from Nain attended different nearby Lutheran schools. Pastor Berg also continued to work to educate Nain’s students by continuing Bible history and catechism classes for school-aged members.
To this day and throughout all of Nain’s history, the Lord has continously kept his promise to feed and sustain his people here through his Word and Sacraments. Though many things have changed over the course of one-hundred years, our changless God has remained faithful to his people at Nain and showered up with countless blessings.