In Montana, German Lutheranism has roots that run deep into the history of eastern Montana and can be traced directly to Miles City. Trinity Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) first existed in 1906 in the heart of the Old Trail West Country.
Reverend Herman Glaess, a 25-year-old Concordia Seminary graduate, was commissioned in 1883 to travel to Eastern Montana and investigate the possibility of mission work. Wherever he should find German Lutherans, he would preach the word and administer the sacraments.
Reverend Glaess arrived in Miles City in March 1884. Miles City, MT, was populated by heavy-drinking cowboys and soldiers then. Not to mention places of "low repute," which may have outnumbered religious institutions and businesses almost twice. The Reverand Glaess could little know that one day, within earshot of the railroad platform he stepped on, Trinity Lutheran Church would stand as a testimony to another kind of life and another kind of world.
Through many struggles within the synod and the newly formed Montana-Dakota District, another missionary, Rev. Henry T. Rauh, came to Montana with a meaningful assignment. He established German-speaking congregations in eastern Montana.
In 1907, Reverend Rauh published a request for the names of German Lutherans living in the Miles City, MT, area. Despite his efforts, only two people responded: A.G. Birkholz of Shirley and Mrs. M. Wehinger of Miles City, MT. That proved enough interest for Rauh, who became known as the founder of Trinity Lutheran Church. He began holding regular church worship services. On March 13, 1907, Reverend Rauh started with an afternoon service at Pine Hills and an evening service at the Custer County Courthouse, with 24 people attending.
On September 6, 1908, Rev. J.F.M. Essig became the first pastor-in-residence in Miles City, Montana. Rev. Essig served Miles City, Pine Hills, and Beach, North Dakota, until 1912. He found the rough-and-tumble lifestyle of a "cow town" harsh. Rev. Essig moved eastward with his family. Many stalwarts, dedicated pastors, and missionaries have greatly helped our congregation over the past century. Presently, Reverend Howard Schreibeis is our leader.
One of those dedicated men was Reverend M.C. Kretzmann. In 1913, Kretzmann foresaw the need for the congregation to have a permanent worship facility. He was instrumental in the 1916 purchase of the former Presbyterian building for $2,000 in cash. The new Lutheran congregation officially incorporated on July 11, 1916, with their first order of business to complete the purchase of the old Presbyterian church. The Ladies Aid Society helped raise the initial $300 cash needed for the deposit. To the glory of God and the service of man, Trinity Lutheran Church was dedicated on October 8, 1916, by Rev. H.T. Rauh of Billings. The original worship structure still stands today at our present location, having survived fires in 1927 and 1991.
Early in 1987, survey work began to determine the possibility of opening a Christian school within the Miles City community. More than a year later, the congregation reviewed the survey results. The congregation voted to favor a Christian preschool at Trinity Lutheran Church in Miles City, MT. On October 3, 1988, Trinity Lutheran Preschool officially opened its doors under the direction of Linda Merritt, wife of the pastor at that time, Rev. Glenn F. Merritt.
Presently, Trinity Lutheran Classical School serves the congregation and community with a capacity of more than 70 students, offering both morning and afternoon classes on weekdays throughout the school year. Its motto, "Shepherding Jesus' Lambs," reflects the mission and ministry of the school since its inception and opening.
In January 2002, the congregation voted to build a new addition to the building to provide classrooms for a new school. Groundbreaking occurred on March 30, 2003, and the Laborers for Christ volunteers arrived in April of that same year, completing the building in October 2003. The dedication of the new wing took place on November 23, 2003.
By the spring of 2004, under the leadership of Rev. James Mavis, the congregation had prayerfully decided to begin the necessary work to determine the feasibility of the long-awaited elementary school. Further surveys indicated the demand for a Christian elementary school in Miles City, Montana. Trinity Lutheran Classical School first opened its doors in the 2008-2009 school year.
Since 2008, Trinity Lutheran Classical School has expanded its teaching curriculum through the 8th grade. This school's motto is: "Train up a child in the way he should go, and he will not depart from it." Our Lord Jesus Christ has blessed this congregation for over a century. Please join us for worship!
The Montana District is one of the 35 Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) districts. It comprises the entire state of Montana. It also includes one congregation in Idaho and one congregation in North Dakota. The Montana District consists of approximately 67 communities and missions. There are six circuits, 18 preschools, and seven elementary schools. Baptized membership in district congregations is estimated to be 15,000, making it one of the two smallest districts. The Wyoming District is roughly equal in size to the Montana District. In 2006, there was a proposal to merge the two districts.
The Montana District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) was formed in 1945 when the North Dakota and Montana Districts were divided. That also created the North Dakota District. Montana District headquarters are in Billings, Montana. Delegates from each congregation meet in a convention every three years to elect the district president, vice presidents, circuit counselors, a board of directors, and other officers. The Rev. Terry Forke became the district president in September 2006. Rev. Forke was re-elected for a second term in 2009. The 31st Regular Convention on June 15–18, 2009, in Billings, with the theme of "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful" (Hebrews 10:23).
On April 26, 1847, Dr. Carl Walther and several other ministers and 16 congregations founded the German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and other states at St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chicago, IL. Since then, much has happened to The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and North American Lutheranism.
First, the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw rapid growth due to a large influx of immigration from Germany and Scandinavian countries. The confirmed attendance of Evangelical Lutheran churches increased from 175,000 in 1850 to 2 million in 1910 over these 60 years.
Second, as railroads expanded, many settlers moved into the upper Midwest, the Northwest, and Western Canada. They developed communities with diverse ethnic flavors and transplanted much of their traditional culture and ways of life to the modern world. They started to speak in their native languages — German, Norwegian, etc.
During that time, the LCMS expanded from a few hundred congregations dispersed throughout Indiana, Illinois, and Eastern Missouri to approximately 350,000 baptized members in 1885. There were nearly 700,000 in 1900 and more than 1.2 million in 1935. The LCMS would have 1.5 million members by 1947, the centennial year. The LCMS reached 2.8 million members in North America by 1973.
As the organization's membership grew, so did its operations. For example, the synod has been active in education since its inception, when it inherited two seminaries, one in Fort Wayne, IN, and another in St. Louis, MO. The synod also quickly acquired a teacher's college, now known as Concordia College, in River Forest, IL. It first came into existence in 1885.
In 1894, a second teacher's college (Concordia Teachers College in Seward, NE) was founded. Over time, a network of 11 other colleges in North America has emerged. The Missouri Synod funded missionary work in India, China, Nigeria, Brazil, and Argentina by 1938. American Indians and blacks were present in the North American congregations. Special Lutheran ministries were made available to the deaf and the blind.
Today's Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) has approximately 2.7 million baptized members across the United States, Canada, and Argentina in over 6,000 congregations. Those in Brazil have become sisters in our denomination. The LCMS ministers to citizens in 29 countries globally through its missionaries and overseas employees, joyfully joining the apostle Paul in exclaiming, "Him we proclaim!"