Our History

Click here for a detailed history of Hope Lutheran Church

A committee to organize a new American Lutheran Church congregation in Milton, Wisconsin, began meeting in January 1974. The first service was held in September 1974, and the congregation voted itself into existence in December 1974. Initially, the services were held in the Seventh Day Baptist Church in Milton. Services were moved to the Milton High School auditorium in 1981.

In October 1982, the Hope Lutheran Church congregation celebrated the dedication of its own building, on Dairyland Drive in Milton. In 1997, an office wing, known as Benjamin Hall, was added to the building.

From 104 members in December 1974, by the congregation’s 25th anniversary in December 1999, membership had grown to 1,025.

Pre-Christmas stable services began in 1978. In the spring of 1979, Hope joined several other congregations in Milton to help resettle Southeast Asian refugees from the war in Viet Nam.

One of the things that has drawn people to Hope since our founding has been our strong emphasis and support for Christian education—in the elementary grades, Lutheran Religious Education (LRE) for 4th through 6th grades, and our confirmation program for 7th and 8th grades.

Hope Lutheran Church has been served by the following called pastors:

  • Rev. George Carlson, 1974-1990
  • Rev. Julia Shreve, associate pastor, 1990-1993
  • Rev. Joel Olson, 1991-2000
  • Rev. Ron Weber, 2000-2004
  • Rev. Matt Powell, 2006-2012
  • Rev. Rachel Powell, associate pastor, 2008-2012
  • Rev. Garrett Streussel, 2014-2016
  • Rev. Collette Gould, 2018-

In 1997, Hope started its ministry of contributing to the future of the wider church by hosting seminary interns. We have been blessed with the service of:

  • Tom Meyer from Wartburg Seminary, 1997-1998
  • Jane McChesney, from Wartburg Seminary, 1999-2000, who also served as our interim pastor from January to October 2000
  • Mary Zupansic, from Lutheran School of Theology–Chicago, 2001-2002
  • Josh Brecht, from Wartburg Seminary, 2011-2012

A vibrant Christian music life has been part of the ministry of Hope Lutheran Church since its founding. Our music directors have included:

  • Barbara Saunders, 1981-2011
  • Ondra Williams, 2011-2012
  • Jayne Lubke and Mary Eckert, co-directors, 2012-2017
  • Carleen Courtney, 2017-


Click below to expand the window below for More Details About Our History

More Details About Our History

An organization committee for the future Hope Lutheran Church started meeting in January 1974, first at home of Bob and Sally Peterson and later in the basement of the Bank of Milton, where Bob Peterson was the president.

Several years earlier, the Southern Wisconsin District of the American Lutheran Church (ALC) had turned sown a proposal to establish a mission congregation in Milton. One argument from the new committee was that they wanted their children to go to church in the same community that they went to school.  Whatever the reasons were, the district decided to begin the process of staring a mission congregation in Milton.

The first service was held on September 15, 1974, at the Seventh Day Baptist church.  Pastor George Carlson, from St. Mary’s Lutheran Church in Kenosha arrived in late November 1974 to begin as our mission development pastor.

The congregation voted itself into existence on December 15, 1974. with the adoption of a constitution and the selection of a name. We were a “feisty” congregation from the start, as we did not like some of the requirements from imposed ALC, so we got off subsidy from the ALC as quickly as we could.  In 1979, we received our last subsidy payment from the ALC—$300.

In 1974, the congregation purchased a house on Homestead Road in Milton as our parsonage, by borrowing money from members of the congregation.  Eventually the Carlsons purchased the house from the congregation, and all the loans were paid off with interest.

We rented the Seventh Day Baptist church for Sunday services.  From our first worship service, therefore, we were blessed with a sanctuary with a pipe organ, classrooms, a complete kitchen, and AV equipment.  We rented office space at 211 Parkview Drive.  Choir rehearsals were held in the office.

By 1978, we had held several stable services just before Christmas, the first in the stable of the Milton House museum.  Later stable services were held in a barn on Dale and Geri Brown’s farm. In 1978, three babies were born in December. making the choice for Baby Jesus difficult.  The stable service continued for many years in the barns of several different farms.  Sometimes the cow barn was cleaned just in time to bring in straw bales for people to sit on.

In the spring of 1979, Hope joined several other congregations in Milton to help resettle Southeast Asian refugees from the war in Viet Nam.  The Hmong couple we were originally scheduled to resettle ended up joining relatives in Whitewater.  Early in 1980, Milton welcomed Giang and Xiem Au to Milton.  They eventually joined Hope Lutheran and are still members.

In 1981, we moved to the high school auditorium—for a very cold winter with no heat.  It was the middle of the energy crisis, and the building heat was turned off Friday afternoon and turned back on very early Monday morning.  People wore coats and gloves during the service.  It was a good time to begin fund raising for our own building—there was a great deal of incentive to build, and soon.  Barbara Saunders became our pianist that winter.

Our initial site for building was just south of the post office on Hilltop Drive, but we ended up buying 9+ acres at present site.  The ALC would not lend us money if we built a two-level building, so went on our own—the Bank of Milton, the Farmer’s Bank (now the First Community Bank), and the Milton Savings and Loan (later absorbed by the Bank of Milton) went together to lend us the money, the joint loan being a first for each of them.  We borrowed $225,000 at 15 percent interest (interest rates were very high at that time).

The building was designed as an “envelope” building, a building inside a building with a narrow air space between the two that surrounded the inner building.  It was popular at that time for homes because of the use of passive solar to help heat the building.  During the first winter, our heating bill for the entire heating season was what many congregations were paying every month, about $700.

The construction was completed in fall of 1982. The major construction was done by contractors, but much of the finishing work— roofing, staining trim, plastering, finishing the basement, painting— was done by members of the congregation. The building was dedicated on October 21, 1982.

In 1990, we called an associate, Pastor Julia Shreve, for a three-year call.  Her full-time call was split evenly between Hope Lutheran and St. Peter’s Lutheran in Janesville.

In 1990, Pastor Carlson accepted a call to serve as Executive Director of Lutherdale Bible Camp, and Pastor Joel Olsen was called as our senior pastor.  He and his wife, LouAnn, and son, Christopher, came to Milton from Oregon, Wisconsin, in the fall of 1991.

In 1993, after the recommendation of a task force on Holy Communion, we began having Communion at every church service.  This practice has continued to today.

Our Youth and Christian Education programs were growing and we sent Janet Albert, our Youth Director, to Wartburg to become certified in Youth Ministries.

In 1995, we purchased a Rogers organ. and Barbara Saunders performed a dedicatory organ recital.  Some renovations of the sanctuary were done, particularly at the front, to accommodate the organ speakers.

In the fall of 1997, we began building the office addition, Benjamin Hall. A lot of the construction was done by volunteers led by Ken Holland, who also managed the project.

In 1997, we began our work with seminary interns, the first being Tom Meyer from Wartburg Seminary, who was ordained in August 1999 at Zion Lutheran Church in Fairwater, near Waupun.

Hope Lutheran Church grew tremendously between 1974 and 1999 (our 25th anniversary).  There were 104 members at the end of December of 1974. From 200 members in March 1975, with an annual budget of $26,000, by December we had 1,025 members and a budget of about $250,000.

We welcomed our second intern, Jane McChesney, from Wartburg in August 1999. In the fall of 1999, Pastor Olsen accepted a call to St John Lutheran Church in Oshkosh.  He left in January 2000.  Our intern, Jane McChesney became our interim pastor.  She served until October 2000, returning to Hope on weekends from Wartburg Seminary once her senior year began.  Her first call was to Calvary Lutheran Church in New Windsor, Illinois.

Pastor Ron Weber was called to be our pastor from a congregation in Texas.  He was installed in November 2000. In August 2001, we welcomed our third Intern, Mary Zupansic, from Lutheran School of Theology—Chicago.  She was ordained at Hope before her first call in Mauston, WI.

Pastor Weber resigned from his call in December 2004.  In January 2005 Pastor Jerry Wendt, a retired pastor from First English Lutheran Church in Whitewater, became our part-time interim pastor.

Pastor Matt Powell was called as senior pastor from First English Lutheran Church in Whitewater.  He was installed in May of 2006. Pastor Rachael Powell, from Grace Lutheran Church in Cambridge, was called as associate pastor at one-third time, in the spring of 2008.

We welcomed our fourth Intern, Josh Brecht, from Wartburg Seminary in July of 2011 with his wife, Gail, and three-year-old son, Elijah. He was called to serve Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Manchester, Missouri.

In September 2011, Barbara Saunders, our Director of Music, retired after nearly 30 years of ministry.  Over those years, she filled the roles of pianist and organist, directed the senior choir, Celebration Singers, and two hand bell choirs, and she was an integral part of worship planning.

Ondra Williams was hired as our director of music and pianist. Jayne Lubke was hired to direct the senior choir, bell choir, and Celebration Singers.

In September of 2012, Pastor Rachael accepted a call to an ELCA congregation in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Pastor Rich Collier became our interim pastor in October 2012. Pastor Garrett Struessel was called as our pastor in October 2013.  He, his wife, and two sons came from Lakewood, Colorado, in January 2014.

Ondra Williams resigned to accept a full-time music position in Oregon, Wisconsin, soon after Pastor Garrett came.  Mary Eckert was hired to part-time and became co-director of Music with Jayne Lubke and they would share playing for Thursday and Sunday services.

An ad hoc building committee was formed after Pastor Struessel had met with a representative from Groth Design Group in Cedarburg.  The committee continued to meet regularly discussing the building needs of the congregation.

In December 2016, Pastor Struessel accepted a call to First Lutheran Church, Longmont, Colorado.

Pastor Roger Black became our interim pastor in early April 2017.  His training, as an interim pastor, helped him assist congregations in their call process by helping them look at their structure and operations.  He formed a transition team to assist in this process.  The team made about twenty-five phone calls to a cross section of Hope membership to ask questions about their involvement, good things about Hope, and areas where we could improve.

Carleen Courtney was hired as our director of music in early June 2017.  Her duties include piano and organ playing during services, leading a contemporary service, directing the adult choir and bell and chime choirs, and leading music for the Sunday School children.

In September 2017, the congregation hired ADCI (Architectural Design Consultants, Inc) to solicit information from the congregation to develop the Master Plan.  ADCI developed a phased approach – Phase 1, a gathering space addition with basement and elevator, improving the traffic flow into the sanctuary, and administrative space on the south side of the building; Phase 2, a fellowship hall with a kitchen connected to the gathering space. Proposed floor plans and 3-D views of phases were developed.  The complete master plan was presented to the Congregation Council, accepted, and presented to the congregation.

In May 2018, the Call Committee completed its work and recommended that we call Pastor Collette Gould from Galilean Lutheran Church in Ocean Shores, Washington, to be our next pastor.  Their recommendation was accepted at a special congregational meeting on May 13th, and the vote to extend her a call was unanimous. Pastor Gould began her ministry at Hope on June 18, 2018.

In February 2020, the Congregation Council voted to combine the three weekly services (Thursday evening at 6:30, Sunday morning at 8:00 and 10:30) into one service Sunday morning at 9:00.  Sunday school classes would be from 9:15 to 10:15 Sundays, with the opening of the service to be a time with the children.  The changes were announced and discussed at a pot lunch luncheon.  The main reason for the consolidation was to become one congregation again.  This had been an important concern years ago when Hope began having two services, the breaking of a unified congregation into two separate congregations who seldom intermingled.

The first Sunday with a single service was on March 1st with an attendance of about 140 (roughly the total average attendance of the three normal weekly services).  The following Sunday had similar attendance.

Since January 2020, the country was hearing about the spreading of a novel corona virus that was spreading around the world.  The number of people infected and hospitalized with COVID-19 was increasing rapidly in Europe and spreading across the United States.  Because of this, the governor of Wisconsin instituted a “Safer at Home” policy, closing schools, most businesses, and any group gatherings greater than ten.  As a result of this, services at Hope were suspended on Sunday, March 15. Pastor Collette began live streaming her sermon on Facebook from her apartment for several weeks.  Her sermon was also available on phone for those who do not have a computer or are not on Facebook.  Later, she and our Music Director, Carleen Courtney, began live streaming a service from the sanctuary consisting of prayers, lessons, sermon, and hymns.

When Hope will be able to join together again and under what circumstances is under discussion by Hope’s council, the Synod, and the ELCA under the advice of medical experts.

Through our 46 years, we have been served faithfully and well by only three secretaries, Janet Ellefson, Janice Stone, and Kirsten Woodcock.

One of the things that has drawn people to Hope since our founding has been our strong emphasis and support for Christian education—in the elementary grades, Lutheran Religious Education (LRE) for 4th through 6th grades, and our confirmation program for 7th and 8th grades.

Our youth program has also been a hallmark of our congregation. From the beginning of our congregation, our youth have been visible and active in the congregation and community.  Our high school youth are known in the high school as Christians.