Beginnings of a church school
St. Matthew’s history began in 1924, when residents of the West Lawn neighborhood contacted Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church in Omaha for help forming a church school.
The Reverend George Dorn, an assistant Pastor at Kountze came to organize a Mission Sunday School. Five officers and eight teachers came from Kountze to serve the Mission. They held their first meeting at the West Lawn schoolhouse at 63rd and Frances street with 36 students on July 6, 1924. Within 18 months, attendance had reached 100 students.
In 1925, two lots at the corner of 60th and Walnut street were purchased, and a church basement was dedicated on July 25, 1926. The church school continued to grow, although the onset of the Great Depression made building expansion impossible.
In 1946, a building fund was begun to erect a building on top of the basement structure. In 1951, the congregation of Kountze gifted the church property for the establishment of a new mission congregation. In October of that same year, the Reverend Gustav K Huf was sent by the Board of American Mission to develop a congregation.
The name St. Matthew Evangelical Lutheran Church was selected at a November 1951 meeting. On February 17, 1952, an organized congregation of 134 baptized and 97 communing members gathered for the first time and installed the first church council. Support from the Board of American Mission of the United Lutheran Church for the Pastor’s salary ended in 1959.
A new building
Groundbreaking for the new church was held on June 27, 1955. During construction, the congregation met at Bell Ryan Elementary School. Pastor Huf died suddenly in August, and the Reverend Hugo Welchert was called as the next Pastor and installed in March of 1956. The new church building was dedicated on May 16, 1956.
Expanding the building
Additions to the church have included purchases of adjacent property for expanded parking, addition of an education wing and a new bell tower in 1971 and 1972, and an elevator in 1999. The congregation also purchased a home next door to the church in 2001, which is used for Youth programs.
In 1997, 13 members of the Martin Luther class, a special ministry to serve disabled adults in our neighborhood, were confirmed and received as associate members.
Pastor Welchert retired in 1980, followed by Reverend David Ehline from 1981 to 1993 and Reverend Richard Mannel from 1994 to 2005. Our current Pastor, Reverend Glen Thomas began serving in December 2007. The congregation has also been served by several intern Pastors, an Associate in Ministry and a Deaconess, and a part-time Visitation Pastor. The Reverend Jody Wangness served as a part-time Pastor at St. Matthew, in addition to her duties as a Omaha area Campus Pastor, from 2001 to 2006.
St. Matthew celebrated the 75th Anniversary of the Sunday School Mission in 1999, and the 60th Anniversary of the Congregation in 2012.