Our History


1941 - The church altar that was designed by Pastor Sandeen.

Our church was formally organized on April 25, 1898 more than110 years ago. This new congregation chose as its name, "The Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Gustaf Adolphus Church".

At their first annual meeting on January 2, 1899, the church membership included 35 adults and 20 children. Those first two years were challenging ones as this small group of Lutherans worshiped in five different locations. Finally, on Christmas 1900, the congregation was in their own church on the corner of Birch and Water Streets, which served as the location of this congregation for 97 years. During the first ten years, all of the services and activities of the congregation were conducted in Swedish. Then, beginning about 1910, the congregation adopted the English language.

In the 1930's, the depression brought many Midwesterners to Idaho Falls, bringing new members to the congregation. In January of 1939, the congregation filed new articles of incorporation and changed the name of the church to "First Evangelical Lutheran Church".

On June 5, 1939, the congregation voted to construct a new church building. The last service was held in the old building on September 19, 1940. It was then sold and moved off the property for $125.

One year later, on September 7 and 8, 1941, Dr. Carl V. Lund, President of the Columbia Conference of the Augustana Synod, conducted the dedication service for the new church building. The adult membership at that time totaled 115.

In February of 1948, the congregation began a drive to liquidate the indebtedness of the church building. On the 50th anniversary in April 1948, the congregation of First Evangelical Lutheran Church celebrated the burning of the mortgage. The membership stood at 135 confirmed adults and 80 baptized children. At last, after receiving funds from the Home Mission Board of the Augustana Synod for all of its fifty years, the congregation of First Evangelical Lutheran became self-sustaining.

As the nuclear industry became a part of the Idaho desert in the 40's and 50's, the membership continued to grow. An education wing was added in 1958 to serve the membership of 280 adults and 207 children.

The 75th Anniversary of First Evangelical Lutheran in 1973 brought special events every month. Burning of the mortgage for the education wing, the return of former pastors and interns, a banquet, a picnic, a harvest ball, and of course the Santa Lucia Festival. The theme of the year was "Because We Care" and the years celebration included raising a $7,500 Thank Offering fund.

During the 1980's thoughts were forming about building a new facility to house our growing congregation. In September 1990, a 5.5 acre parcel of land on Sunnyside Road was purchased and paid for by forward looking members.

In 1994, we embarked on a new fund-raising campaign "Building on our Heritage...Expanding our Horizons" and began a building program. Members of First Evangelical Lutheran Church responded enthusiastically. The church building was sold to Mision Bautista, a Hispanic Baptist mission church with a tremendous outreach program. Ground-breaking for our new building was held on June 2, 1996, and construction began. It has been a joy and a privilege for our current members to witness the building of a new house of worship for First Evangelical Lutheran Church. Our new location at the corner of Park and Sunnyside Road offers a beautiful setting for our new building. Memorial items from our old building accompanied us on the move, bringing our heritage with us and remembering generations of members. Our next chapter of congregational life at First Evangelical Lutheran is just unfolding. But it is with a strong faith in God that we carry on the traditions of our founding fathers and mothers of our church.

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