History of the Church
First Lutheran was established in 1888 by Scandinavian and German ranchers who settled in the Eagle Valley.
The First 80 Years
The church struggled to keep pastors for most of its first 80 years. Many pastors did not stay for more than a few years or even a few months. At the time, before the ski resorts came in, it was a very remote area, far from almost everywhere. There were long periods of time when the church had no regular services and no pastor, once for as long as 19 years! The church persevered through those times because of the strength of it's people and groups like the "Lutheran Ladies Aid Society", which kept the building and grounds maintained over many years. This ecumenical group (despite the name) also raised funds to donate street lights to the town and lights for the high school football field as well as many other civic improvements.
The New Start
From 1968 through the early 1990's the church was revitalized through the influence of Pastor Don Simonton and the pastoral team that served High Country Parish with worshipping communities in Vail, Gypsum, Glenwood Springs, Snowmass and Rifle.
On of our former pastors, Daniel Tisdel, was baptized into the High Country Parish in Rifle and therefore was baptized into this congregation!
A period of great growth and transition followed this under Pastor Jeff Hansen.
In celebration of its 125th birthday, First Lutheran got a new paint job! Thanks to Michael Clarke (also known as Jazz the Clown!) for taking such great care. The building looks loved! The congregation celebrated with guest visitors Jazz the clown and Rev Stephanie Quick-Espinoza from the Office of the Bishop, Rocky Mountain Synod. Two cakes were eaten and the bell was rung. All in all, a good party for a 125 year old!
Building the Church
The church was built in 1890. At the time, the only buildings in this part of the valley were Skiff's Ranch (a small resort hotel located by the railroad) and First Lutheran Church. Unusual for the time, the church was a community center welcoming people and preachers from all denominations.
One morning the fog was thick over the town. The Greek railroad workers saw the golden cross from on top of the steeple shining above the clouds. They decided that this was a sign from God and they dropped their tools and stopped working. The foreman had to send away to Leadville to get a new crew of workers!
Once, when no pastor had shown up to lead worship, members decided to play baseball instead. Jake Borah made a deal with the members of the congregation that if they stayed for worship he would preach and then he would referee their baseball game. And he did.
Jake Borah and Addison Hockett were hunting guides in the area and early members of the church. One famous friend was President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt, who went on a guided hunting trip nearby with these two guides while he was president.
In 1997 with the leadership of Pastor Jeff Hanson the building was restored, the windows and steeple replaced and the building was put on the National Historic Register.
In 2000 an addition was built to the sanctuary building which effectively doubled the size of the worship space as well as adding bathrooms, a kitchen and fellowship space.