Pre-Trinity History

In the early 1900’s missionaries of the Oregon and Washington District (now Northwest District) of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, paid periodic visits to the Bellingham Bay country. Among these pioneer missionaries were E. DOERING, H. BOHL, and C. EBELING. In 1902 Gottlieb WASCHKE and the RAUCH brothers, Adam and Fred, petitioned the District for a resident pastor. H. C. HINZ, from Illinois, was ordained and installed as pastor of Peace Evangelical Lutheran Church in September 1902.  The church was located at the corner of Smith Rd. and Northwest Rd. in present day North Bellingham. The original seven voting members were: Adam RAUCH, Fred RAUCH, Gottlieb WASCHKE, John WASCHKE, REDA, and the two KAMMERZELLS, Henry and John.

After a short time, preaching stations were established in Blaine, Delta, Everson, Acme, and Whatcom (now Bellingham).  Rev. HINZ resigned his position due to ill health and in September 1903 F. M. L. NITZ took over the pastor duties and served for 44 years. Rev. F. M. L. NITZ was born in Pomerania, Germany, the son of a forester and professional hunter. He came to this country with his parents and settled in Ohio. He studied in the parochial school of Zion Lutheran Church in Akron, OH, at Concordia College in Ft. Wayne, IN, and finally at the seminary in St. Louis from which he graduated in 1903. He married Caroline HEITMUELLER of Akron, OH in August 1903 and arrived in Whatcom County, September 5, 1903.

The preaching station in Whatcom grew and requested a vicar. Student Hans ROSENWINKEL spent one year here, returning to the seminary in the fall of 1904 to finish his studies. In August 1904, Theodore GESSWEIN arrived and was then ordained and installed as missionary for the Bellingham area. His first service on August 21, 1904, was attended by 17 members of the early families: Mrs. O. STEIN and children, Mrs. LEITNER and her children, and the BAUKE family. At this time services were conducted in Zion Lutheran Church (Norwegian) on Grant Street near Gladstone. The rental fee was 50 cents per service.

In the spring of 1904 a piece of property was purchased at the corner of Gladstone and Franklin at a cost of $700.00. The building was started in the summer of 1905 and completed by September. The total cost of construction was $625.00. The dedication took place of September 17, 1905 and on October 3, Rev. GESSWEIN opened school with four pupils in attendance, the HOFFERBER children – Fred, Conrad, Adolf and Maria.

Rev. Theodore Gesswein


At a meeting held on Thanksgiving Day 1905, the decision was made to draw up a constitution. The organizational meeting took place January 1, 1906. Eight voting members met with the pastor and signed their names to the constitution: Henry KAMMERZELL, Sr., Jake KAMMERZELL, John WASCHKE, Conrad HOFFERBER, John BAUKE, Julius NEIMANN, Martin GESSWEIN, and Ludwig FITZ. The name given to the parish was Trinity German Evangelical Lutheran Church. Services were conducted in German.
Rev. Nitz

On July 7, 1907 Pastor GESSWEIN preached his farewell sermon. Rev. NITZ from North Bellingham was called to serve this congregation and he moved to town after the Christmas holidays in 1907. He continued to serve for the next 40 years, passing away Sunday, January 25, 1948. In addition to his regular parish duties, he continued the school begun in 1905 and taught for 15 years. The school was finally discontinued after the term of 1926. Other teachers had been A. GRABOW and O. WINTERSTEIN.

After the departure of Rev. NITZ to Bellingham, Peace Lutheran Church in North Bellingham was served first by Rev. C. H. WEBER from 1908 – 1910, and then by Rev. W. SCHMOOCK from 1910 – 1914. Finally in 1925 Peace Lutheran disbanded and the members were transferred to Trinity in Bellingham. Rev. NITZ served Peace Lutheran from 1914 until it disbanded.

In July of 1910 a building permit was issued with E. E. ZIEGLER of Seattle listed as the architect and Rev. NITZ as the contractor. The new building was to sit on the front corner of the existing church lot. Cornerstone laying took place in October 1910 and the building was completed in November 1910 at a cost of $2,497.64. Men from the congregation who donated labor were: Jake KAMMERZELL, Alex DIETZ, John HOFFERBER, J. WASCHKE and J. JASCHINIAK. C. LAUBE built the altar and pulpit.

During the early years the language was largely German, but in 1911 the congregation began to hold 2 English vesper services a month. Forty years later the situation was just reversed the 2 German services a month and all others in English.

Rev. Edward Bartell
Rev. Carl R. Eggers
The present church lots at the corner of Texas and Dean Streets were purchased during the pastorate of Rev. Edward BARTELL, a former Army Chaplin, who came in August of 1948, succeeding Rev. A. EICHMANN of Mt. Vernon. Rev. BARTELL accepted the call to Bellfield, North Dakota in 1952 and again Rev. EICHMANN served the congregation.
In May 1953, Rev. Carl R. EGGERS, also a former Army Chaplin, was installed. Construction on the new church parsonage commenced in October and by Easter Sunday, 1954, it was dedicated. The church building was begun under the direction of architect, Robert CHERVENACK of Seattle.
The construction of the church began in 1957 and was dedicated on January 20, 1958. Shortly after completion, Pastor EGGERS accepted a call in Seattle. It wasn’t until late1959 that Pastor Carl FISCHER accepted a call to Trinity where he remained as pastor for 28 years. During that tenure two satellite congregations were started. One in Blaine known as Peace Lutheran so named after the first church in North Bellingham. The second one was formed in North Bellingham known as Redeemer Lutheran about a mile from the original church.

 The above history sections were submitted by John L. Rauch

Rev. Carl O. Fischer
Rev. Carl FISCHER of Milwaukee, Wisconsin was installed on December 13, 1959. Carl and his wife, Eunice had served Congregations in North Dakota and Wisconsin before coming to Bellingham. Here they raised their family, son Jonathan (Laurie) Fischer, and daughter Martha (Tom) Bajema, and served Trinity Lutheran Church for 28 years, from 1959-1987. 
During Pastor FISCHER’s service God continued to bless the congregation with growth and mission challenges. From 1962 to 1963, Warren SCHUMACHER was called as vicar to Trinity to assist with establishing a church in Blaine. Three more vicars were called: Baldwin CAMIN from 1965 to 1966, Walter DEMOSS from 1966 to 1967, and Thomas DECKER from 1967 to 1968, to assist with the church in Blaine. In August of 1971, Trinity called Deaconess Sara (Doolen) BORMUTH. Sara continued to serve the congregation as Deaconess for many years. That same year, the school that was closed in 1926 opened as Trinity’s preschool and has been prospering ever since. In 1977, Arnold WASCHKE and Clarence ERDMAN canvassed the North Bellingham area to establish a new church. The first service was held in the North Bellingham Grange Hall with Vicar John AHOYT and later Vicar Richard HUSMAN. Arnold and Dorothy WASCHKE donated five acres of their land to the church and on Sunday morning, March 16, 1980, ground was broken for a new church. Redeemer Lutheran Church was dedicated November 9, 1980 near the site of Peace Lutheran Church, where the history of our church began. Trinity dedicated a new educational and administrative wing of the church in February of 1979. Director of Christian Education, Steve ENDICOTT, was called in August of 1981 and continued to serve until August of 1986.
Pastor FISCHER retired in August of 1987 after twenty-eight years of service to Trinity Lutheran Church. He continued in Pastoral work, including work at Trinity Lutheran Church in Mount Vernon, WA. In later years he returned to Trinity here in Bellingham as Pastor Emeritus. Pastor Carl Fischer went to be with his Lord on Thursday, October 6, 2016, at the age of 92. He left behind a lasting legacy at Trinity and continues to be missed.  
Rev. Donald Schats

On October 25, 1987, Rev. Donald SCHAT’Z was installed as pastor of Trinity. James LOHMAN was installed as Director of Christian Education on November 25, 1988. In April of 1991, the parsonage was converted into a community transitional housing facility. It served in this capacity until June of 1994 when it was converted into a home for unwed mothers. It is now known as Trinity House and is a meeting place for youth and adults. Also in 1991, the church purchased two adjoining lots at a cost of $173,800.00. James LOHMAN accepted a call to do church work in Missouri in August of 1992. On July 10, 1994 Amy VANDE VOORT was called and installed as Minister of Celebration and Youth. In November of 1994, Pastor SCHATZ accepted a call to Trinity Lutheran Church in Seattle. 

Rev. Albert Schudde
December 1994-June 1996
Pastor Al SCHUDDE served as pastor of Trinity from 1994 until the installation of Rev. Douglas IBEN from Hope Lutheran Church in Seattle, in July of 1996.
Rev. Dr. Douglas Iben

Rev. Douglas IBEN and his wife, Carole, came from Hope Lutheran Church in Seattle and he was installed as Trinity’s pastor in July of 1996. Under the leadership of Pastor IBEN the membership showed continual growth and the mortgage debt was eliminated. C. Joseph PHILLIS was hired in August of 2003 to minister to the youth of the congregation, through education and music. A Building Committee once again was called upon to determine the options within the present site. It was recommended that the front of the church be enclosed to provide more space for fellowship between the three Sunday services. This project was completed in May of 2005. Trinity’s Grace Center building was completed during Pastor IBEN’s service and dedicated on July 27, 2008. On Rally Day, Sunday 8th, 2013, Andrew Young was installed as Youth and Family Minister and served until 2019.

Rev. David Wagner

Pastor Dave WAGNER was installed as Senior Pastor at Trinity Lutheran on June 4, 2017. After serving more than 30 years as a pastor in North Dakota, he came to Trinity with his wife, Kim, knowing that they were placed here by God to serve the people of this community. Music continues to be a big part of their lives. They enjoy singing with one another as well as with other people. Kim serves as the Worship Team Leader. Pastor Dave and Kim consider it an honor to sing with others and to others about our amazing God.

The Wagners have four grown children who live in different states. All of them are married. They have five grandchildren. Pastor Dave and Kim relish the time they are able to spend with their family.
In August of 2022, Mady Pinn, joined Trinity as our Director of Christian Education Intern from Concordia Nebraska. Mady and her new husband Adam traveled from Minnesota and South Dakota to their new home here in Bellingham, WA. Mady accepted the call to continue officially in the position and will be installed on August 13, 2023.