Lutherans at UW-Madison Pioneered Campus Ministry
Some of the Lutheran Church’s earliest work with state university students took place at UW-Madison, and procedures begun here became patterns for other campus ministries and Lutheran student organizations around the country. A group of seven students began meeting in a home on State Street in 1905. They discussed the need for an English-language church in Madison. This church became Luther Memorial Church. At its first service, 12 of the 13 attendees were UW students.
In addition to the congregation, in 1925, a Lutheran Student Association was formed by students who were active on campus but wished to retain their home church affiliation. The robust student group in Madison sent a representative to the first regional conference that year. The second national convention of the Lutheran Student Association of America was held at Luther Memorial Church in 1926, with excellent local student leadership. Ministry among students at UW-Madison continued to flourish in the following decades.
In the 1930s, cooperation between churches of various National Lutheran Councils began, and in 1942, the Lutheran Student Foundation was formed and a building at 228 Langdon Street, which came to be known as the Allen House was purchased for student use. Larger student events continued to take place at Bethel and Luther Memorial church. In 1948, because of the growing ministry, a larger facility was needed. A new house was constructed at 228 Langdon, which came to be known as the Lutheran Student House.
In the 1960’s, Lutheran Campus Ministry began using two houses located at 1025 and 1039 University Avenue to be more centrally located to the expanding campus. In 1966, the Langdon center was sold and the Lutheran Campus Ministry was housed on University Avenue. In the late 1970’s, the current facility at 325 N. Mills was constructed in 1979 on the site of the two former University Avenue houses.
Throughout the decades, campus ministry in all its locales has touched many hearts and shaped many lives. It has been a continual presence in the lives of students, offering a sense of community, reminding them of God’s grace, and equipping them to live as followers of Christ.
Ministry Highlights by Decade
- University students began to worship together in the English language
- Rev. Howard Gold became a national leader in Lutheran Campus Ministry
- The Lutheran Student Association was formed for students who wished to retain membership in their home churches
- Interdenominational cooperation began through the many Lutheran bodies that predated the ELCA
- The focus of ministry was on fellowship and study, with worship continuing in local congregations
- Theologian Joseph Sittler spoke on campus for “Religious Emphasis Week”
- Progressive suppers we held between Luther Memorial, Central Lutheran (now Messiah Lutheran), St. John’s, and Bethel Lutheran churches
- Students gather for evening prayer at Luther Memorial in May 1945 as World War II draws to a close
- The Lutheran Student Choir performs on CBS’s broadcast, “Church of the Air”
- 1951 Student Study-Service trip to Norway & 1958 Students’ Tour of Europe (43 days, 7 countries, cost $995)
- Sunday Evening Club – supper, speaker, discussion, recreation
- Athletics – basketball, football leagues, swim parties, & bowling
- Dramas performed: “A sleep of prisoners” & “The sign of Jonah”
- “Dialog” created – an ecumenical organization that discussed issues of faith & science, education, psychology, and more
- Campus religious groups worked together to offer counseling services to students
- Interfaith dialogue began with UW Hillel
- New worship styles were explored, but regular student worship services were still not allowed
- Offering respite to student demonstrators, LCM was accused of harboring student demonstrators
- Lutheran Peace Fellowship organized a counter-protest and student strike at UW-Madison
- 350 high school students were welcomed to LCM to explore campus ministry and university life
- Good News Singers lead folk, blues, and rock masses
- Current facility is completed and dedicated in early 1980
- LCM creates its first endowment for ministry, with a campaign to raise $100,000
- Lutheran-Catholic dialogues on campus
- Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaks at UW Fieldhouse in celebration of the creation of the ELCA
- Students explore the Boundary Waters on summer trips
- The LCM Choir visits Norway
- Regular mid-week worship and “cost suppers” are center of student life
- Barbeques and banquets welcome students and end each semester
- LCM celebrates its Centennial at Monona Terrace
- “Girl Talk” gathers middle-school girls for weekend mentorship retreats that reflect on womanhood, body-image, empowerment, and feminine leadership in the church
- Service trips to New Orleans and the Rosebud Indian Reservation
- Taize worship during Lent