Church History

Trinity Lutheran Church of Miles City, MT, the Montana District, and LCMS

Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) Logo

Early Beginnings in Miles City

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, LCMS was established in 1906 in the heart of 'Old Trail West Country'.

Rev. 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 was to preach the Word and administer the Sacraments.

When Rev. Glaess arrived in Miles City in March 1884, he was greeted by a town populated by heavy drinking cowboys and soldiers and teaming with places of "low repute" that may well have outnumbered the churches and other places of business almost two to one.  Missionary Glaess could little know that one day within earshot of the very railroad platform he stepped on to would stand Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church 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 special assignment.  He established German-speaking congregations in eastern Montana. 

It was in 1907 that Rev. Rauh published a request for the names of German Lutherans living in the Miles City area.  For all his efforts, he only received two names: Mr.A.G. Birkholz of Shirley and Mrs. M. Wehinger of Miles City. This proved to be enough interest and Rauh, who became known as the founder of Trinity," began holding regular worship services.  It was on March 13, 1907, that Rev. Rauh started with an afternoon service at Pine Hills and an evening service at the Custer County Courthouse with 24 souls in attendance. 

On September 6, 1908, Rev. J.F.M. Essig was installed as the first pastor-in-residence in Miles City.  Rev. Essig served Miles City, Pine Hills, and Beach, North Dakota until 1912 when he found the roughand-tumble lifestyle of a "cow town" to be too difficult and he moved eastward with his family.  Our congregation has been served by many other stalwart and dedicated pastors and missionaries over this past century and is presently led by Rev. Howard Schreibeis. 

One of those dedicated men, Rev. M.C. Kretzmann, who was installed in 1913 at Miles City, foresaw the need for the congregation to have a permanent worship facility.  He was instrumental in the 1916 purchase of the former Presbyterian church for $2,000 cash. The new Lutheran congregation was incorporated on July 11, 1916 with their first order of business being to complete the purchase 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 Evangelical Lutheran Church was dedicated on October 8, 1916, by Rev. H.T. Rauh of Billings.  The original worship structure still stands today at the same location having survived fires in 1927 and 1991.

1987 - Present

Early in 1987, survey work was begun to determine the possibility of opening a Christian School within the community. More than a year later the congregation reviewed the results of the survey and voted to open a Christian Preschool at Trinity.  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, 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 church for the purpose of providing classrooms for a new school. Groundbreaking took place on March 30, 2003 and the Laborers for Christ volunteers arrived in April that same year, completing the building in October 2003.  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 prayerfully decided to begin the necessary work to determine the feasibility of the long awaited elementary school.  After conducting surveys the congregation made plans to open Trinity Lutheran Classical School in the school year 2008-2009.

Since 2008, Trinity Lutheran Classical School has expanded its teaching curriculum up 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 truly blessed this congregation for more than a century. Come join us for worship!

About the Montana District

LCMS Montana District Logo

The Montana District is one of the 35 districts of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS), and comprises the state of Montana. It also includes one congregation in Idaho and one congregation in North Dakota. The Montana District includes approximately 67 congregations and missions, subdivided into 6 circuits, as well as 18 preschools and 7 elementary schools. Baptized membership in district congregations is approximately 15,000, making it one of the two smallest districts along with the Wyoming District, which is roughly equal in size; a merger of the two districts was proposed in 2006.

History of the Montana District

The Montana District was formed in 1945 when the North Dakota and Montana District was divided, also creating the North Dakota District. District offices are located in Billings, Montana. Delegates from each congregation meet in 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 and was re-elected to a second term in 2009. The 31st Regular Convention was held 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" (Heb. 10:23). The 31st Regular Convention will be held June 11–14, 2012 in Billings.

A Brief History of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS)

Lutheran Rose

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 to North American Lutheranism in general.

First, the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw a wave of rapid church growth due to a large influx of immigration from Germany and Scandinavian countries. Confirmed attendance of Lutheran churches increased from 175,000 in 1850 to 2 million in 1910 over this 60-year time frame.

Second, as railroads expanded, many of these settlers moved into the upper Midwest, the Northwest, and Western Canada. They developed communities with strong ethnic flavors and transplanted much of their traditional culture and way of life to the modern. They started to speak in their native languages — German, Norwegian, etc.

During this 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 Synod would rise to 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, which is now known as Concordia College, in River Forest, IL, which was founded 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 was funding missionary work in India, China, Nigeria, Brazil, and Argentina by 1938. American Indians and blacks were present in the North American church. Special ministries were made available to the deaf and the blind.

Today's Lutheran Church Missouri Synod has approximately 2.7 million baptized members spread across the United States, Canada, and Argentina in over 6,000 congregations (those in Brazil have become a sister church). 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!"