The Lutheran Church of the Ascension entered its formative stages in the early months of 1954.
In response to an appeal from one family in particular, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Pope, Jr., the Reverend O.S. McRee, Executive Secretary of the English District, and the Reverend C.E. Mehl, pastor of the Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity in Macon, met to discuss the possibility of establishing a mission in Northeast Atlanta.In a subsequent meeting an organization was effected with Walter Pope elected as president and William Mogk as Secretary. This step was taken so that a formal appeal for pastoral service and sponsorship by the English District might be made to its Mission Board. The English District reacted favorably to the appeal.The first worship service was held on the fourth Sunday after Trinity, July 11, 1954. Speaker for the service was Pastor Mehl serving as vacancy pastor. In a short while the Sunday school was organized with classes conducted in the Albert Gritzke home.
A few months after organization, the Reverend O.T. McRee and Mr. Charles Stade, architect, met with the congregation to discuss the purchase of property and plans for a new church and educational building. It was agreed at this meeting to purchase an eight-acre site located at Roswell Road near Piedmont Road. The transaction was completed later at a cost of $25,000, which was made possible through the efforts of two members of the congregation, Albert Gritzke and James Woolard, who purchased a tract of 26 acres and turned over the eight-acre tract to the Mission board at cost. Initial sketches for the first unit of a master plan were also developed as a result of this meeting.
The English District at its 1955 convention in River Forest, Illinois accepted the Constitution of the congregation. Its lay delegate P.J. Fitzsimmons signed the District’s constitution in the name of the congregation. Charter members included the following families:
- The Walter Pope’s
- The William Mogk’s
- The Albert Gritzke’s
- The Lawrence Colucci’s
- The Joe Goodman’s
- Mrs. Marion Simpson and children
- The W.S. Yunker’s
- The Edward Irwin’s
- The George Lake’s
- The James Woolard’s
- The P.J. Fitzsimmon’s
The following is written in the First Anniversary Bulletin:
During the past year a fine spirit of self-sacrifice and generosity has been in evidence in many ways. An attractive alter and set of candle holders were built by Walter Pope, an attractive matching lectern was designed and built by Don Gritzke, a linen faircloth was made and embroidered by Mr. Pope and Mrs. Goodman, a beautiful set of gold communion ware was presented by the Walter Pope family, communion linens and veils were presented by the Ladies’ Guild, alms basins were presented by the George Lake family, a set of three altar books by the Lawrence Colucci family hymnals by individual members, and many other evidences of love toward the Savior were shown.The Reverend Raymond Buck accepted the call to become Ascension’s first pastor in late 1955. He and his family arrived in January 1956. Under his leadership the congregation began developing a building program, which led to the groundbreaking of the present sanctuary on August 25, 1957. The conrnerstone was laid on January 5, 1958 and the church building was dedicated on June 15, 1958.
Our church was designed by Charles Stade, who is famous for the Valparaiso Chapel built in 1957. Members and visitors have expressed their pleasure over the inspiring and worshipful atmosphere created in the interior. A 30-foot high clear glass chancel wall, relieved by a random pattern of colored cathedral glass, rises behind the alter. Surmounting the altar before the glass wall is an eight-foot wood carving weighing 450 pounds. This statue of the ascending Christ was created by German sculptor Otto Flath of Bad Segeburg, Germany. Otto Flath is a renowned sculptor whose works can be found throughout the United States. In Atlanta his other works can be found in the High Museum of Art and at Agnes Scott College. The Atlanta Art Association listed this sculpture as a place art lovers should visit.
Complimenting the sanctuary is a Holtkamp Pipe Organ located in the balcony. Ascension’s two-manual instrument was included in the original architectural plan of building and sanctuary. The choice of the low-pressure, exposed pipe, basic organ well matched the musical need of liturgical service and hymn singing for a small congregation. In early 1980 additional pipes with replaced pedal pipes were included to obtain a blend of voices more suitable for expanded worship activities.
The seven voices with the mixture of now sound with 572 pipes. Dynamic levels are solely a result of voice selection and combination, in the classic Baroque manner. The Reverend Carl Geist was called to be Ascension’s second pastor and was installed in June 1967. He served until 1976 when he accepted a call to Florida.
The Reverend Philip R. Kuehnert was installed as the third pastor of Ascension in July 1976. He served until 1994 when he accepted a call to Alaska.
In 1985 Ascension’s long-range Planning Committee began to explore ways by which its now valuable property could be put to better use. In 1986 the committee recommended a two-fold mission plan to the congregation, to build a child development center adjacent to the church, and to explore purchasing property in North Fulton County for the purpose of establishing a new Lutheran congregation to serve the needs of this rapidly growing area.
The congregation approved the recommendation and set about a massive capital fund drive to accomplish these goals. In September 1989, Open Arms Lutheran Child Development Center opened to receive children. In October 1989, The Reverend Kevin Elseroad accepted Ascension’s call as Mission Developer and Pastor for Alpharetta. The first worship service was held on November 19, 1989 in a former Fulton County school building nearly adjacent to the newly acquired property. It was envisioned that a child care center be built there to provide the financial stability needed to establish a new congregation and enable it to have its own place of worship.
Since then Ascension’s daughter congregation, Christ the Shepherd Lutheran Church has become a large and flourishing congregation of the English District, LCMS, beginning with an Open Arms Lutheran Child Development Center established by Ascension.
The Reverend Mark A. Schudde was installed as the fourth pastor of Ascension in 1995. He served until 1997.
The Reverend David A. Kruse was called to serve as Ascension’s interim pastor from 1998 to 2001.
The Reverend W. Richard Willsea was ordained and installed as the fifth pastor of Ascension on June 17, 2001. He was called to serve at a church in Myrtle Beach, S.C in June of 2010.
The Reverend Doctor Joshua D. Genig, Ph.D. was installed as the sixth pastor of Ascension on November 27, 2011. He served until 2012.
The Reverend David V. Miller was installed as the seventh pastor of Ascension on October 13th, 2013.