Mount Olive Lutheran Church has been serving the community of Rochester Minnesota since 1960. Below is a little bit about the mission of the congregation and the history of Mount Olive.
The Mission of Mount Olive Lutheran Church
The mission of Mount Olive Lutheran Church is that we are “Ambassadors for Christ, rooted to grow and serve”. This mission statement is based on the biblical imagery from 2 Corinthians 5:20 and Psalm 52:8. It is an active mission statement that reminds us that we are rooted in Christ Jesus through weekly worship and daily prayer, that we grow in faith through study of scripture and fellowship, and that the growth which God provides empowers us to serve all people in Jesus’ name.
The History of Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Mount Olive Lutheran Church has its roots in the Augustana Lutheran Synod, one of the many predecessor bodies of the current ELCA, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The Augustana Lutheran Synod’s roots are in the Swedish immigrant Church.
Mount Olive was a mission start of the Augustana Synod in 1960. The congregation chartered in March, 1961. In 2010 Mount Olive began a celebration of 50 years of ministry. The congregational values that have sustained the ministry and mission, and continue to do so today, are:
- Weekly worship with a deep love for the great hymns of the Church
- Hospitality and fellowship, welcoming and caring for one another
- Study of scripture and theology of the Church that is open and engaging
- Service to the poor, specifically centering on food and shelter
- Care for the vulnerable, specifically children
- Global mission, specifically with our sister congregation in Kijota, Tanzania
A Mount Olive Timeline (1960-2018)
- The Augustana Synod begins two mission starts in Rochester, Mount Olive on the northwest side of the growing city and Good Shepherd on the south side of the city. The Augustana Synod begins these mission starts after IBM builds a new production facility in Rochester and the Mayo Clinic continues to experience growth in its practice and research. Rev. Don Johnson was called by The Augustana Synod to serve as mission developer in the spring of 1960; early members begin worship in homes. The newly forming congregation begins worship at the local Covenant Church in the fall of 1960.
- March 12, 40 families officially sign the charter and begin the work to secure land and build the first worship space. The first worship on the current site is held on Christmas eve, 1961. The chartering families and new members process the 8 blocks from the Covenant Church to Mount Olive on Christmas eve.
- Rev. Don Johnson departs and Rev. Keith Beaver is called to serve as the new pastor. Pastor Beaver will serve Mount Olive for 29 years. During the 1960s a number of IBM families join Mount Olive, the IBM facility is located close to Mount Olive. IBM’s business model is to move engineers every few years, so many Mount Olive families come and go during these years. Often the families return to Rochester and rejoin Mount Olive.
- The people of Mount Olive develop and fund raise for a new sanctuary. The sanctuary is completed and dedicated in 1970, at the time it is a revolutionary design with the altar the central feature of the space, with the pulpit elevated behind the altar. The seating is also gathered around the altar, rather than a traditional nave. During the 1970s and 1980s the congregation is stable, reaching an average weekly worship of 180-200. The members of the congregation are very close, and share warm hospitality with one another. The members serve the community through the local food panty and monthly meal serving at a small homeless shelter.
- With the desire to energize the education program, the congregation calls Carole Joyce to serve as an Associate in Ministry to work with Sunday School and youth ministry.
- With growth in the educational program for children and youth, new space is needed. The people of Mount Olive develop and borrow for an education wing addition. The project is called “Branching out in Faith.” The addition is dedicated in 1992. The 1990s will be a time of educational development, with many foundational pieces put into place.
- Rev. Keith Beaver retires after 29 years of service; an interim follows as the congregation seeks a new pastor.
- Rev. Lynn Ronsberg is called to serve as the first woman pastor for the congregation. The congregation’s worship and educational life are stable, with an average weekly worship of 200-210. Pastor Lynn serves until 1998, departing for a new call in northern Minnesota. An interim follows as the congregation seeks a new pastor.
- After careful self study and planning the congregation decides to seek a clergy couple for a total of 1 ½ time service. Revs. Peter and Kathie Nycklemoe are called. Pastor Peter is called to serve full time and Pastor Kathie is called to serve ½ time.
- The people of Mount Olive help found the Interfaith Hospitality Network in Rochester, to care for homeless families with small children. Mount Olive serves as the day center for two years, and then supports the process for buying a home to serve as the day center. Mount Olive continues to serve as one of the host sites. In the summer of 1999 Mount Olive opens its doors for a partnership with Tri-Valley Migrant Head Start, hosting the infants through toddlers and staff for the migrant families from June – November. Also in the summer of 1999 Pastor Peter travels to Kijota, Tanzania to renew the sister congregation relationship and celebrate our companion Synod.
- As the new millennium arrives the people of Mount Olive grow in hospitality and care for one another and for those in need in the community and around the world. New goals are set for ELCA World Hunger and a renewal of work for Lutheran World Relief begins with key lay leadership. The education and youth ministry programs of the congregation expand. The congregation also spends considerable time discerning the role of worship and the style of worship. The congregation reaches consensus as a traditional worshiping community, with weekly Holy Communion, a table open to all and no age set for beginning communion for children.
- The congregation experiences significant growth in worship and in program, a renewal of the facility is needed. The people of Mount Olive develop, fund raise and borrow money for a “Building for Mission Project” for a complete renovation of the facility. The “Building For Mission Project” sees the original (1960) worship space torn down and a new gathering area, kitchen, fellowship hall, bathrooms and office wing are added. Following the addition, the congregation experiences another growth in worship and programming.
- The congregation’s second long range plan process leads the members to decide to call another ½ time pastor and ½ time director of music (cantor). Rev. Siri Strommen Campbell is called to serve as ½ time pastor for adult education. Her husband, Jon Strommen Campbell, who received his Master of Sacred Music from Luther Seminary, is called to serve as ½ time cantor.
- Pastor Peter and three IBM engineers (Larry Whitley, Al Trautman and Mark Masbruch) travel to Tanzania to complete a technology assessment for the diocese, on behalf of the SE Minnesota Synod. They also spend 4 days in Kijota for worship and fellowship at our sister congregation. While there they set up a new computer lab for the school at Kijota. Returning they develop a plan, which is approved by the Synod and Diocese. Plans are to return and continue the development work in 2010. Carole Joyce, who departed Mount Olive to study at Lutheran Seminary, returns to serve in a shared AIM call with Good Shepherd, Plainview. Mount Olive and Good Shepherd begin piloting the project of shared, specifically called leadership for children, youth, family and adult education.
- The people of Mount Olive move forward on a sanctuary renewal plan to update and restore the sanctuary space and pipe organ. Dr. Mons Teig serves as consultant. The new sanctuary is dedicated on the first Sunday in Advent, 2008. The organ project begins, with completion projected for Lent, 2010. On the first Sunday in Advent in 2008 the congregation reaches a quiet milestone, the first year to date weekly worship average of 400.
- The ministry of the congregation continues as we look with anticipation to the work God calls us to share here at Mount Olive, in our community and the world. The newest ministry is a partnership with Elton Hills Grade school. Mount Olive members work to support the children in need at Elton Hills with school supplies, boots, hats and coats, Christmas gifts, groceries and gift cards. We also participate in some of the school carnivals to support the staff and teachers. We are honored to be able to respond to the call to support the children and families in need in our neighborhood.
- The 50th Anniversary Countdown begins: January 10, with Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson our guest preacher. The organ is completed and a dedication concert is celebrated on February 28, 2010.
- In mid-year, Pastors Kathy and Peter Nycklemoe were called to new congregations in the Twin Cities. Rev. David Beckstrom began his service as the interim senior pastor.
- Transitions begin as Pastor Laura Sutherland is called to be senior pastor in August. New staff configurations are developed, as well as ministry teams for each key ministry area. A trip to Tanzania results in the gift of 20 laptops to our ministry companions in the Lutheran Church of Tanzania. The Endowment Fund is established for education, local and global outreach, and other initiatives. In the fall a Sound Proposal is approved to upgrade the sound system in the sanctuary and fellowship hall.
- Jon (Director of Worship and Music) and Rev. Siri Strommen-Campbell move to Fargo, ND for Jon to pursue graduate study. Pastor Paul Moody, a new seminary graduate, is called as associate pastor in September. The new sound system is first put into use on Easter Sunday.
- Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube social media is used for the first time, and video sermons can be accessed by computer. Brock Besse is called to the position of Director of Music and Worship in June. Pub Theology begins. Sara Hollander, our first full-time Director of Children, Youth and Family begins. In late December Pastor Laura resigns.
- Pastor Susan Li begins her work as interim Senior Pastor. Bill Hollander begins his work as Facilities Manager and Church Administrator. Mission Forward Team is formed as we begin to dream about what God is calling us to in the future. The newly-formed Rochester Pops Orchestra, under the direction of Brock Besse, leads our Thanksgiving Eve worship.
- Metamorphosis, our new confirmation program begins under the leadership of Pastor Paul and CYF Director, Sara Hollander. Youth attend the ELCA Youth Gathering in Detroit. Pastor Glenn Monson is called to be Senior Pastor in November.
- Youth travel to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, SD to accompany that ministry. Mt. Olive begins partnership with Next Chapter Ministries, an outreach to those recently incarcerated. God’s Work, Our Hands Day and monthly Service Sundays begin. Quilters celebrate 2000 quilts made and given away. Bolder Options begins its work at Mount Olive. Flood relief crew goes to Baton Rouge to do rebuilding.
- Inclusive Church Taskforce formed to explore becoming a Reconciling in Christ (RIC) congregation. Pastor Glenn and 12 Mount Olive members travel to Bogota, Colombia to meet our companions in ministry there. A covenant is formed and approved by the synod. Miriam Hanson becomes our second Beaver scholar. Brock Besse leaves in May for Bethel in Rochester. Deacon Travis Beck is called as Director of Worship, Music and Arts in September. Sherry Sanden Will begins as Director of Missions and Service. Carrie Fletcher begins as first Website Director.
- Mount Olive begins talks with Families First of MN about housing an all-day daycare for traumatized children and a training center for providers. Mount Olive exceeds $112,000 in giving to missions. Pastor Glenn and Mount Olive team visit Tanzania, renewing our ties with companions in Kijota and Kiomboi. In October, Mount Olive votes to become an RIC congregation. Pastor Paul Moody leaves in July for a new call in Cleveland, Ohio.
- Mount Olive calls clergy couple, Pastor Luke Hollander and Pastor Lisa Janke as Associate Pastor of Children, Youth, and Family Ministries and Associate Pastor Of Outreach, respectively. The congregation also commits itself to the formation of an alternative worshipping community, the Olive Branch Community.
- Amidst the ongoing global pandemic of COVID-19 in 2020-21, the congregation quietly celebrates it 60th Anniversary. The 60 for 60 Fund is created to gather $60,000 for Outreach, Mission, and Scholarships in honor of our 60th Anniversary.
- As part of our 60th anniversary celebration during Fall 2021, Mount Olive members helped create the “Wall of Wonder,” a visual timeline of the last 60 years, including key people and events from Rochester, Minnesota, the United States, and beyond. Download a PDF version here.