The three Pastors and their Wives who have served Holy Trinity. This picture was taken on December 1, 2002 as we celebrated the 40th Anniversary of the congregation. They are from the left: Rev. H.L. Bernthal and his wife Dolores; Rev. Eugene Pennekamp and his wife Ellen; and the current pastor, Rev. Gordon Besel and his wife Shirley.
The History of
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church
Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Rogers, Arkansas counts its official age from December 2, 1962. On that day a small and young congregation was officially organized. The service, commencing at 3:00 p.m. on the First Sunday in Advent, was held in the newly dedicated church on Highway 102, north of the city proper. The Rev. Paul Janke of Salem Lutheran Church in Springdale, Arkansas served as the interim pastor and conducted the service. Holy Trinity began with a membership of 60 communicants and 29 children for a total of 89 souls. These were officially received into membership as charter members at this organizational service.
But the real beginnings were even earlier.
It all began when Salem Lutheran in Springdale wanted to begin a daughter congregation in the Rogers area to serve people who were coming to church there from Rogers, Bentonville and outlying areas. The pastor at that time was the Rev. Louis F. Morgal. Plans were made to hold the first service on November 15, 1959. Thirty-eight people were present at this milestone service. The service was conducted in the upstairs locker room of the Rogers Bowl (bowling alley) located at the corner of Second and Chestnut Streets. Services were continued on a regular basis each Sunday. Rev. Morgal accepted a call in the spring of 1960 and left the area. The new pastor at Springdale was the Rev. Paul B. Janke and he continued as the interim pastor at the new mission in Rogers until it was officially organized in 1962 and the first resident pastor was called.
Pastor Janke, as spiritual spearhead of the Rogers Lutheran Mission, did not press forward alone in these dedicated efforts. The laymen and laywomen who were a part of this mission were energetic; and they were dedicated. Their sights were set on the future and that future included a church. The Lord’s work of building a new congregation in Rogers was well started, in good hands.
But to continue to grow and come together, the congregation required its own Pastor to tend to its multiplying, full-time needs. So, to nurture the mission project that Salem Lutheran Church had helped into being, calls were extended to other pastors by the congregation. While this process was continuing, a future church site was purchased on Highway 102, which was known as the Frederick property, and consisted of ten acres of ground.
In September of 1961 the Mission Board of the Western District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod granted a $50,000 loan to the Rogers Lutheran Mission for a building program, which was to include a new church with educational facilities. Groundbreaking for the new church was held on May 13, 1962. With the blessing of God, the new church and educational facilities were dedicated in a special service at 4:00 p.m. on October 28, 1962.
God blessed this young congregation with their first pastor, The Rev. Eugene F. Pennekamp. He and his wife Ellen came to Holy Trinity from Zion Lutheran Church in Poplar Bluff, Missouri with their six children to begin a long and fruitful ministry. He was installed on Sunday, July 21 1963, at a 4:00 p.m. service.
The joyful congregation responded to the impetus of enthusiasm and energy that Pastor Pennekamp brought to bear on its spiritual needs. Several groups were formed in the early years of the congregation. The Lutheran Women’s Missionary League was organized early on in the Rogers area in April of 1957. There was also a Walther League Chapter for young people begun in the fall of 1963 with thirteen in attendance. That same fall a choir was also started.
Steady progress continued to be made. The November 1, 1964 bulletin carried the joyful announcement that for the first time the attendance at a worship service exceeded 100 with 111 being in attendance.
The needs of the community and of the children in the congregation were answered with the beginning of a weekly school, which was to continue for many years. Twenty children were enrolled in four departments.
When Pastor Pennekamp arrived in Rogers, he lived in temporary quarters as the congregation took a six-month lease on a home located at 723 Elm Street in Rogers. During this time a parsonage was being built on the church property to house the present and future pastors.
The Western District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod approved a parsonage loan of $20,000 on September 24, 1963. Mr. C.B. Hall, a local builder, constructed the 2,072 square foot home with four bedrooms, living, family and dining rooms, kitchen and utility area, and two and one half baths. A two-car garage completed the structure. It was dedicated on a cold, snowy Sunday, January 12, 1964. However, it provided for the warm comfort of the minister and his family.
Many projects were initiated to enhance the beauty and worshipful atmosphere of the new church. Members contributed $750 to place beautiful colored art glass windows in the church. They were dedicated in September of 1966. The three windows on the west side of the church depict symbols of the Holy Trinity.
Looking to the future, the congregation purchased five additional acres immediately to the east of the church for $12,000 in April of 1969. The land also had a small house and garage, which was used as an educational cottage by the Sunday school. In later years this acreage was again sold to provide funds for the building of a new sanctuary in 1983.
Since Beaver Lake, adjacent to Rogers, had become a Mecca for campers, Holy Trinity joined other churches in the community to form a United Lake Ministry. Weekly services were held for the campers. This began in 1971 and Holy Trinity took its turn being in charge of some of these services.
Blessed with its own place of worship, a well equipped parish hall, the dedicated leadership from Pastor Pennekamp, and the solid membership of active laypeople, Holy Trinity grew in numbers from 108 souls and 74 communicants in 1964 to 310 souls and 240 communicants at the end of 1972. Thus on June 4, 1972 two services were begun on Sunday mornings to accommodate the increased attendance, which was averaging 140 per Sunday. Since the church could only comfortably accommodate about 140 people, this became a necessity with so many visitors in attendance. From January thru April of 1972 there were 469 visitors registered. By the end of the following year, 1973, attendance rose to 165 per Sunday.
In early December, 1972, news was received that the Board of Directors of the Mid-South District had approved a Church Extension Loan of up to $75,000 for the construction of the new church in Holiday Island.
Tenth anniversary services were held on December 3, 1972. The Rev. W.E. Griesse, President of the Mid-South District, preached at the morning service. The afternoon service was one of praise with the choir and organ being featured in a sacred concert of song.
In 1977, after long and prayerful consideration, Pastor Pennekamp accepted a call to serve Zion Lutheran Church in Pittsburg, Kansas. He announced his decision on October 2, 1977 and preached his farewell sermon on October 23, 1977.
The Rev. Herbert T. Bernthal, a retired pastor and faithful member of Holy Trinity, was asked to serve as the interim pastor. Rev. Bernthal ministered faithfully during fourteen months of the vacancy, during which several calls were issued to other pastors.
His nephew, the Rev. Hubert L. Bernthal, accepted the congregation’s call to minister to its spiritual needs. The call was issued on July 9, 1978 and on September 3, 1978 it was announced that he had accepted. He and his wife Dolores and five children took up residence in the parsonage in December, 1978. He was installed as the second pastor of Holy Trinity on December 10, 1978.
No stranger to Rogers, Pastor Bernthal had served as a pastor in the Fort Smith-Fayetteville Circuit for almost ten years at First Lutheran Church in Fort Smith. He had worked together with Pastor Pennekamp in the Circuit over those years. Born in Gillette, Wyoming as the son of a pastor, Pastor Bernthal went to grade school at Lusk, Wyoming, High School in Pilger, Nebraska and St. John’s Academy, Winfield Kansas. His college years were spent at St. John’s College, Winfield, Kansas. He attended Concordia Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri for the years 1951 to 1956.
Pastor Bernthal was ordained by his father, The Rev. Arnold I. Bernthal, at Trinity Lutheran Church in Callaway, Nebraska. He married Dolores Teaford at Jackson, Missouri on September 2, 1956.
With Pastor Bernthal at the spiritual helm, Holy Trinity continued its growth and influence within the community it serves. During 1979 and 1980 the congregation added pew cushions, new rugs, new Sunday school cabinets and a storage shed was built. All these items were provided by special offerings from the faithful and devoted members. The House of God was to be well equipped and inviting as the needs of the people were met.
Looking to the future, the congregation established a Building Fund in 1980 and began saving for the building of additional facilities. Two services were again begun on Sunday, May 4, 1980. At the end of the year the average attendance was 156 per Sunday. A special gift of $10,000 was given by Mr. and Mrs. Harold Reiber to allow the congregation to complete the installation of new carpet in the church entryway. The balance was placed into the building fund.
In July of 1980, a Building Planning Committee was appointed. This committee was “to study the future needs of the congregation and determine what new facilities are needed to accomplish its mission.”
At the annual voter’s meeting on July 12, 1981 the Planning Committee recommended we enter into an agreement with Goodman Church Builders of Joplin, Missouri to proceed with planning and building a new church facility and office space. This recommendation was accepted and a motion was made and carried that Holy Trinity enter into this agreement and work toward the construction of new facilities.
The Planning Committee continued its preliminary work and on November 11, 1982 bids were opened for the construction of Holy Trinity’s new church and office facility. The congregation pledged $69,000 toward this new building and the Lutheran Church Extension Fund granted the congregation a loan of $235,000 to begin the building program. Groundbreaking was held on Sunday, December 12, 1982 after the 10:30 a.m. service. Our plans and dreams for a new church to continue to meet the needs of an ever-expanding congregation and community were being fulfilled before our eyes as we watched the structure grow from day to day.
It was a day of great joy when the congregation dedicated the new church and office wing to the glory of God on Sunday, September 18, 1983.
In 1980, when the planning of the new church began in earnest, the average attendance was 156 per Sunday. At the end of 1983, a few months after the dedication of the new facility, the attendance had risen to an average of 180 per Sunday. This increase in attendance led the congregation to study the need for establishing better facilities for our Sunday school and fellowship activities.
The result of their study moved the congregation to vote on January 13, 1985 at the Voter’s Assembly to raise $50,000 to improve our Sunday School facilities, enlarge our kitchen and purchase a new organ.
The work of improving our facilities needed direction and a Church Renovation Committee was selected to complete this task. In October of 1985 the work was completed and the congregation began to use the newly improved facilities for a myriad of activities.
One more task remained – that of purchasing a new organ. An Organ Committee was selected to direct this effort. A fine instrument was placed into our new church in January of 1986 and has served our present needs to give glory and praise to a gracious God.
The congregation has continued to grow and serve Jesus Christ through both the ups and downs of life. The Rev. Hubert L. Bernthal retired in July, 1995 but was later invited to come back on staff part-time to help with visitations. On March 10, 1996 the Rev. Gordon Besel was installed as the current pastor of Holy Trinity.
Pastor Besel grew up in Ft. Collins, Colorado. He graduated from Poudre High School in 1971 and earned an Associate in Arts degree from St. John’s College in Winfield, Kansas in 1973. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Concordia Senior College, Ft. Wayne, Indiana in 1975, with an emphasis in Psychology/Sociology. Pastor Besel attended Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri from 1975 to 1979. His vicarage (internship) was spent at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Independence, Missouri from 1977 to 1978. He graduated from Concordia Seminary in 1979 with a Master of Divinity (M.Div) degree. He served as pastor of a dual parish (St. John’s Lutheran Church, Cordova, Nebraska and Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Goehner, Nebraska) from 1979 to 1986. He also earned a Master of Education (Parish Education) from Concordia Teachers College, Seward, Nebraska in 1985. Pastor Besel served as pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church and School in Omaha, Nebraska from 1986 to 1996.
Pastor Besel married his wife Shirley in 1978. They have 3 children. The mission of Rev. Gordon Besel is “to faithfully follow Jesus Christ each day in word and deed and to teach and encourage people in my family, church, community and world to know, love and serve Jesus so that on Judgment Day the Lord will be able to say to me “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
In 1998, the congregation began a Children’s Day Out program on Thursdays. Two years later, the program was expanded to offer “A Step-Up Pre-school” two mornings a week. The pre-school was closed in the summer of 2002. Children’s Day Out was suspended on December 1, 2002 while our new addition is being built.
Other workers faithfully helped the pastors in caring of the members of Holy Trinity. Mr. Rod Rodgers served as the Director of Christian Education from 1990 – 1995. During the 1998 - 1999 school year, Eric Trickey, a third year student from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, served his vicarage at Holy Trinity. The year 2001 saw the addition of Mr. Lance Klotz as our Director of Christian Outreach and of Mrs. Kathy Dickerson as Parish Nurse. The church office is staffed by Mary Girshner, Office Manager and Chrissy Dunlap, Secretary.
On January 24, 1999, Holy Trinity adopted a 5-year plan for the congregation, which included plans for the future expansion of our facilities. In February 2000, Goodman Architects of Joplin was again hired as a consultant for our future expansion. On January 21, 2001, the congregation approved the concept of our plans. Then, on November 11, 2001, Resource Services, Incorporated (RSI) was hired to lead us in our capital funding campaign – “Pray, Respond, Rejoice … to the Glory of God.” At the voter’s meeting on October 20, 2002, congregational approval was given for Crossland Construction Company to begin the building project. Even though dirt work began on October 31, we had our groundbreaking ceremony during a Unity Sunday service on November 17, 2002. During this project, the Life Center, office area and larger narthex were added to the North of the building. Classrooms and a choir room were added between the old and new sanctuaries. The old part of the building was remodeled and the parking lot was expanded. The new part of the building was dedicated to the glory of God on October 12, 2003.
On April 24, 2004, Holy Trinity called Ms. Lois Krohe, the principal of Concordia Academy in Jonesboro, Arkansas to be the Director of Holy Trinity Lutheran Preschool. She accepted our call and the Preschool opened on August 23, 2004.
Following completion of her graduate program in 2005 at Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield, Mo., the congregation hired Mrs. LeAnn Girshner to be our part-time Director of Music. She also is a public school choir director in Fayetteville.
On June 1, 2007, a thunderstorm blew off the eastern part of the Sanctuary’s roof, causing a great deal of water damage. (A similar thing happened in 1996 to the southern part of the roof.) Insurance paid for most of the repairs. As part of the repair project, the music area was remodeled to allow more flexibility for the choir, praise team, handbell choir and special music.
In April, 2010, Cristo Para Todos (Christ for All) Hispanic Ministry in Springdale began working with Hispanic people in the Rogers area through Mr. Eduardo Perales and his family here at Holy Trinity. They started with about 10 families meeting for a Bible Study twice a month. Using volunteers from Holy Trinity, they started ESL (English as a Second Language) classes. These grew to include citizenship classes and multi-cultural events. On November 27, 2011 Eduardo was commissioned as a deacon in the Mid-South District following his studies through the Hispanic Missionary Institute of El Paso, Texas. He also started occasional Spanish worship services at Holy Trinity that month.
On July 22, 2012, the Voters of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church decided to close Little Miracles Preschool on August 31 of this year because of low enrollment and financial difficulties. Lois Krohe decided to retire after 39 years of faithful service as a teacher in the Missouri Synod and 8 years at Holy Trinity.
During the 2010, 2011 school year, Mindy Bramlett, a student from Concordia University in Seward, Nebraska served as our Director of Christian Education Intern. Cameron Pullmann, a student at Concordia University in Irvine, California was assigned as our Director of Christian Education Intern for the 2011, 2012 school year. He accepted our call to be our Director of Christian Education and Youth and was commissioned and installed on July 29, 2012.
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church celebrated its Fiftieth Anniversary on December 2, 2012. Our theme was “Thankful for 50 Years of Blessings.” It was based on Psalm 107:1 – “Give Thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” The anniversary project was a new Utility Building north of the Life Center. Funds were raised, along with a substantial gift from charter members Marcella Smith and her son David, ground was broken on October 8, 2014. The building was finished and dedicated on May 31, 2015.
Our Charter Members at the 40th Anniversary Banquet (from left): Vernon Schmiegelow, Jo Schmiegelow, David Smith, Marcella Smith, Marcella Winkleman, Marcia Black, Laurie Martin
The flock of sheep that graze on the front lawn of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church were created by the late Henry Menke. Henry and his wife Ruth were faithful members of this congregation for many years. Henry was a sculptor who enjoyed working with wood, metal, stone, and glass. A profile of Henry published in Artcraft Magazine quoted Henry saying, "the whole story of my work is not told unless the viewer reaches forward impulsively and feels the area I have accented, and experiences the shape of the piece, and shares my pleasure in having brought it to completion." As a strong Christian, Henry often incorporated his faith in Jesus Christ into his work. He created his flock of sheep to graze on church lawns as a reminder that we are the sheep of God's pasture. Through our Savior Jesus, God provides the green pastures we need for life. He also defends us from danger and gives us eternal salvation. Henry's first flock of sheep were displayed at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville for about a month. He later donated that flock to the Sunshine School in Bentonville for their lawn. The flock that we have here at Holy Trinity is one of the last things Henry created before cancer forced him to give up his work. He died in June, 2005. It is a great honor that we have a flock of Henry's sheep grazing on our front lawn to remind us of our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
There is also a lone lamb in the flower bed by the entrance to our Life Center. It was also created by Henry Menke. This lamb was donated in memory of Julia Williams, a member of our congregation who was killed in an van accident shortly after she graduated from Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, Arkansas.