A Brief History of Gloria Dei

The history of Gloria Dei Evangelical Lutheran Church began on September 25, 1960 when Rev. Robert O. Waldschmidt was installed as a missionary of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) to serve Santa Clara county.

Three years later, on June 9, 1963, the constitution of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church was formally signed and the new Lutheran congregation was established. The current Gloria Dei campus was purchased on January 2, 1964 for $95,000, which was the most that the WELS had spent to purchase land for a new church up to that point in its history.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the new church building took place the same year on December 20. The building project was formally completed with the cornerstone laying and church dedication service on October 17, 1965. The total cost for the church building project was $45,000.

In 1970, one decade after initial work began to establish the congregation, Gloria Dei opened its doors to establish a Lutheran elementary school. The school opened with eight students enrolled in its inaugural year. Classes were held in the downstairs fellowship hall of the church building.

Pastor Waldschmidt's service to the congregation concluded in 1971. During the pastoral vacancy, Rev. Robert Hochmuth served as vacancy pastor of the congregation. Pastor Hochmuth was pastor of Peace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Santa Clara, and had installed Pastor Waldschmidt in 1960 at the beginning of Gloria Dei's history. The congregation's vacancy ended on January 16, 1972, when Rev. Gerald E. Geiger was installed as the new pastor of the congregation. 

Gloria Dei Lutheran School opened doors to a new facility in 1978. Construction for the school building began in July of that year, and the school was formally dedicated in December. 

In March of 1981, the congregation installed a faceted glass window in the front of the chapel and remodeled the chancel. Visitors to the congregation today still comment about the beautiful stained glass window that adorns the front of the church building. The following year, 1982, Gloria Dei congregation became a fully self-supporting congregation, no longer receiving any subsidy from the WELS.

Gloria Dei Church called an assistant pastor in June of 1987. Rev. Mark Mammel, a recent graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, was extended the call to serve Gloria Dei through the WELS Assignment Committee.  He was installed and ordained on September 13, 1987. Pastor Mammel would serve the congregation through 1993, when he accepted a call to serve as pastor of Prince of Peace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Yucaipa, California. 

The congregation underwent a number of significant projects in the early 1990's. An extensive project to refurbish the sanctuary took place during March and April of 1990. The congregation purchased the new WELS hymnal, Christian Worship, in April 1993. In that same year, the congregation purchased a new digital Allen organ, which was dedicated as part of the church's 30th anniversary celebration that year.

After nearly 30 years of service to Gloria Dei congregation, Pastor Geiger accepted a call to serve as the development director of Great Plains Lutheran High School in Watertown, South Dakota. His final Sunday serving the congregation took place on June 3, 2001.

A few weeks later, on July 15, 2001, the Rev. Johnold J. Strey was ordained into the ministry and installed as the new pastor of Gloria Dei Evangelical Lutheran Church. Pastor Strey had been called to serve the congregation through the assignment committee of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod on May 22, 2001, one day prior to his graduation from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon, Wisconsin. 

The members of Gloria Dei undertook a major renovation project during the summer of 2002 in order to improve the appearance of the school facilities and the lower level of our church building. The renovated facilities were rededicated in a special service on September 8, 2002. That same month the congregation put the many musical talents of its members to use in a special hymn festival concert performed on September 29. This was the first of several hymn festivals that have taken place over the years.

The congregation celebrated its 40th anniversary with a special service and dinner on Sunday afternoon, June 8, 2003, one day before the actual anniversary date of the signing of the church constitution. Pastors Robert Hochmuth and Gerald Geiger were able to join the members of Gloria Dei for this important celebration and milestone. 

Pastor Strey served Gloria Dei until June 2011, when he began his service at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Citrus Heights, CA. After a nearly year-long vacancy, Rev. Timothy Shrimpton was installed as pastor of Gloria Dei on April 29, 2012. Pastor Shrimpton had previously served as Assistant to the District President of the Dakota-Montana District of the WELS in Mobridge, SD for four years following his graduation from the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in May, 2008.

In 2013, Gloria Dei celebrated her 50th anniversary with special services throughout the year in honor of Christian Education and God's grace to the congregation for half a century. Guest preachers throughout the year included Mark Zarling, President of Martin Luther College in New Ulm, MN, as well as former pastor Gerald Geiger and sons of the congregation pastors Stephen and Michael Geiger. Projects to celebrated the 50th Anniversary included new flooring for the Fellowship Hall and classrooms as well as a new sound system in the sanctuary.

On May 4, 2014, after a vacancy in the position for nearly seven years, Mr. Richard De Frain was installed at principal and teacher at Gloria Dei Lutheran School, having previously served schools in Wisconsin and Arizona.

For these and for the many other countless blessings God has given this congregation, especially the blessing of the gospel in Word and Sacraments, we give our gracious Lord humble praise and heartfelt thanks. To him be glory forever and ever!