FIRST LUTHERAN CHURCH HISTORY
First Lutheran has grown with the Geneseo community for over 150 years. "American"
settlers arrived in the Geneseo area in 1836 and Swedish settlers began arriving as early
as 1852. On June 27, 1856, Pastor L.P. Esbjon of Andover met with 13 residents and helped them organize "The First Lutheran Church and Society of Geneseo." The "Society" in the title indicates an organization that extended beyond Sunday services to include mutual support throughout the week. One of the main reasons for organizing the church and society was language. In fact, Swedish remained the only or primary language at services until 1918. For 36 years, our official name was even "Svenska Evangeliska Lutherska församling i Geneseo." Many members still revere the Augustana Lutheran heritage of the congregation. We no
longer have "Society" in our name, but we still strive to supply mutual support services.
There was no resident pastor for the first nine years. Strong lay leadership sustained the congregation. Lay leadership is another attribute we maintain within our congregation as
well as in broader activities of the Northern Illinois Synod and the ELCA, and our community. In recent years, two lay leaders have been ordained as ELCA pastors as a second career. Pastors of First Lutheran Church, Geneseo include:
- Rev. Nils Anderson 1865-1869
- Rev. C.J. Malmberg 1871-1876
- Rev. P.J. Brodine 1879-1887
- Rev. C.K. Hultkrans 1889-1891
- Rev. A.P. Fors 1891-1899
- Rev. P.A. Edquist 1899-1903
- Rev. C.E. Lundgren 1905-1908
- Rev. A.T. Lorimer 1908-1913
- Rev. E.W. Magnusson 1914-1920
- Rev. W.X Magnusson 1920-1927
- Rev. G.E. Burton 1927-1953
- Rev. E.F. Sahlgren 1953-1959
- Rev. Phillip Larson 1960-1974
- Rev. David Spong 1974-1984 (Sen.)
- Rev. Richard Holmer 1979-1981 (Assoc.)
- Rev. Susan Cripe-Benzon 1982-1987 (Assoc./Sen.)
- Rev. C. Carl Ekloff 1985-1988 (Assoc./Int. Sen.)
- Rev. Paul L. Olson 1988-1998 (Sen.)
- Rev. Douglas Mose 1989-1992 (Assoc.)
- Rev. Frank Langholf 1993-1996 (Assoc.)
- Rev. Barbara Melaas-Swanson 1997-2000 (Assoc.)
- Rev. Wayne Melaas-Swanson 1997-2000 (Assoc.)
- Rev. Thomas Heyd 1999-2006 (Sen.)
- Rev. Arthur C. Bergren 2006-2015
- Rev. Al Beck, Interim Pastor 2015
- Rev. Keith Killinger, Interim Pastor 2016
- Rev. Laura Kamprath and Pastor Matthew Kamprath 2016
The first church structure was erected in 1857 and a new building constructed at the present site from 1882 to 1886. We purchased a bell for the tower in 1908 and added stained glass windows in 1913. Major remodeling has occurred and additional space added several times since then, including a major addition of fellowship, office and classroom space in 2006.
We enjoy an exciting mixture and blending of members. Fifty years ago, more than half our members were farm families and most of the others lived and worked in Geneseo. Today, we draw from a radius of almost 20 miles. Less than a fifth of our members live on farms, while
many commute to the Quad Cities. We are diverse, yet we work well together. Closing in on
a century and a half of ministry, our membership has increased from the foundling 13 to 496
in 1896 to 649 in 1956 to more than 1,200 members today. If one of those original Swedish immigrants could visit us, the changes would be awesome - in membership, language, affiliation, buildings, and budget.
The mission of our church has always been to share the love of Christ among ourselves, and
with others. We have done that in a variety of ways, including a community food bank, quilts
for Lutheran World Relief, strong support to World Hunger and the larger church, and "in-house"
opportunities for growth and fellowship. We look forward to new and continuing opportunities to Share Christ's Love at First Lutheran and in the world beyond.