History of Ascension Lutheran Church

In the 1800’s the first settlers in Franklin Square were German farmers. Franklin Square was a small rural area consisting of a number of small numbers of farms. Hempstead Turnpike was only a dusty road used by stage coaches and horses to connect Jamaica and Hempstead. The Kalb hotel, also known as the Franklin Inn, on the corner of New Hyde Park Road and Hempstead Turnpike, was the scene of many gala events from all parts of Nassau and Suffolk Counties, including the annual “Farmers Turnout Ball.” In early 1923 the hotel burned to the ground. Father Lutz rang the church bells of St. Catherine’s Church as a warning to the people. At this time Franklin Square had only a bucket brigade. It was not until 1924, that the Fire Department was organized and combined with the Munson Fire Department.

The St. James Mission, built in 1915, had one room for Roman Catholics and another for Protestants. In 1923 Franklin Square consisted of many small farms, some of which had already been sold, starting a transition from a farming village to a residential suburb. There was an eight-room public school on Monroe Street built in l912. The only other churches in town were St. Catherine of Sienna Catholic Church built in 1908 and St James the Just Episcopal Church built in 1915.

A group of Lutherans, who had moved to Franklin Square with their families from Queens and Brooklyn, had moved here having read about life in a rural area. These Lutherans had no place in town to worship. This was difficult because very few families had cars at that time. They decided to start a Church of their own. So, a small group of Lutherans met with Rev. Berg a Superintendent of the Synod of New York and New England of the United Lutheran Church to organize a Lutheran Church in Franklin Square. Rev. Berg came to Franklin Square from Mount Vernon to meet a few of the people and make suggestions. Among those vitally interested in establishing a Lutheran Church was Mr. Herman Scheld raised and trained under the Rev. A.L. Benner, former pastor of St. John’s, Richmond Hill. Mr. Scheld and his wife Henrietta moved to Franklin Square in 1921. He stated that there were only about 40-50 homes in the area.

It was on Wednesday evening April 18th l923 that Mr. & Mrs. Scheld who gathered the people in their home on Hempstead Turnpike, to discuss and talk over matters of establishing a church. It was found in doing a survey of the area that there were about 60 people interested in this movement and about 30 children who would be interested in attending Sunday school. It was decided that Rev. Berg would return and meet the interested people at Mr. & Mrs. Scheld’s home on the eve of Ascension Day, May 9, 1923. ‘The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Ascension” of Franklin Square was organized. Thirty-nine persons were in attendance; therefore, we have thirty-nine charter members. On Sunday May 13, l923 the first service was held and conducted by Rev. James Berg. Since they didn’t have a Church building they met in the social room of the Munson Fire House, with twenty-six people in attendance of this historic service. The Sunday school started with eighteen children. Mr. Scheld became the Sunday School Superintendent. We believe that there is a glorious future for this new congregation and also for the community in which it was organized.

Rev. Theodore F. Moldenke Tenure
June 1, 1923 - June 7, 1925

Ascension received its first Field Missionary in June 1923, with the arrival of Rev. Theodore Moldenke, who had been a missionary in India. He took charge of this newly formed congregation. Services and the first confirmation classes were held in the firehouse. A constitution was adopted in 1923, and the first church council was elected. The Ladies Aid Society was formed with Mrs. Hubbell as the first President. Mr. George Graulich was the first President of the Men’s Club, and Boy Scout Troop 93 was organized and sponsored by Ascension Lutheran Church. Other church units included the Ladies Guild and the Young People’s society. Also, a Luther League was formed for the young people of the church. By the end of the year 1923 the congregation grew to 100 members. In June 1924, the congregation was admitted to Synod of New York and New England.

The men of God that followed Rev. Moldenke watched the growth in membership in what was then a small village. Soon after, these determined members decided to make plans for a church building. Pastor Moldenke presented a proposition to draw up plans to secure the necessary finances for purchasing a piece of land located to erect our first church building. This campaign was a success and the land located on the corner of Court House Road and Washington Street was purchased by the congregation. The congregation needed no longer to worship in the firehouse. On Sunday May 31, 1925, ground breaking services were held by members of Ascension Lutheran Church.

On Sunday, June 7, 1925, Pastor Moldenke preached his farewell sermon and officially turned the church over to Pastor Luther Gerhart who was the first resident pastor in charge of Ascension Lutheran Church.

Rev. Luther Gerhart’s Tenure
June 1, 1925 - December 12, 1926

“Into the New Church By November First” was the slogan of the past months. Placement of a cornerstone was on September 27, 1925. Pastor Gerhart said it was to signify to everyone who passes by that the building has been set apart to the preaching of the gospel. A stone to signify to all who enter for worship that in the building true faith, the fear of God and brotherly love abide. A stone that would cry out as it was, “Jesus Christ is our sure foundation.” The first regular service at Court House Road and Washington Street was held on Sunday, November 1, 1925 at 9:30am, attended by ninety people. This building was a vision and now became a reality.

The Chapel-Parsonage was dedicated on February 1, l926. Our church records show increasing enrollments in membership during this time and the church made good progress in all phases of activities. Pastor Gerhart resigned on December 12, 1926 and Rev. Paul B. Beard was called and became the pastor on January 29, l927.

Rev. Paul B. Beard’s Tenure
January 29, 1927 - December 1929

Reverend Paul B. Beard was called and became the Pastor on January 29, l927. During Pastor Beard’s time of service to Ascension, the stained-glass windows were installed in the Chapel and vestibule. In December 1929, Pastor Beard left the congregation and accepted a call to the Lutheran Church in Queens Village. Rev. John W. Schmitthenner was called and became the pastor in December 1929.

Rev. John W. Schmitthenner’s Tenure
December1929 - August 1931

Pastor Schmittenner was installed to serve Ascension in December 1929. He remained as Pastor until August 1931, when he accepted a call to become Headmaster at Hartwick Academy.

Pastor Lenz was to serve the congregation on November 1, 1931.

Rev. Harry H. Lenz’s Tenure
November 1, 1931 - December 1933
Pastor Lenz assumed the pastorate and encouraged a great deal of activities with the youth of the church. Ascension had its Tenth Anniversary Celebration on October 22, 1933 and Pastor Lenz stated that “our task here in Franklin Square in establishing a church has not been in vain and with good hard work within the next five years we may declare ourselves to be a self-supporting congregation. We can do it and each one of you who have a membership in Ascension Lutheran Church must do their part.” Pastor Lenz’s service to Ascension was interrupted because of his untimely death in December 1933. The passing of this beloved Pastor, who was only 28 years old, was a shock to the community.

Rev. Dorr R. Crounse’s Tenure
February 15, 1934 - 1948
Pastor Dorr R. Crounse was called and accepted to become Pastor of Ascension and was installed on February 15, 1934 and served Ascension for fourteen years. On October 26, Ascension’s Fifteenth Anniversary was celebrated.

Pastor Crounse and Mrs. Crounse were instrumental in organizing the Women’s Missionary Society and on January 30, 1935 they met with seven members present.

The farms, open lots and the dirt roads disappeared. It was with foresight however that the leaders of the church anticipated this growth.

January of 1942, the congregation voted to relocate to a more central location in Franklin Square, since a bigger church was needed at the time. In the meantime, upon suggestion of the Home Missions Committee of the Long Island Conference and with the co-operation of the Board of American Missions plans were considered for the relocation of our Church to a more central place in the community. This was voted at the Annual Congregational meeting in January 1942. The property on Plane and Franklin Avenues was purchased in May 1942 and due to war conditions, no building was allowed. The congregation now numbered several hundred adults in addition to a Sunday school of 275 young people. The school required the services of a larger staff of teachers under the direction of Mr. Scheld, Superintendent. However, the opportunity presented itself for our Congregation to purchase the Scheld house in which our Church was organized, to move it to our property and to renovate it for our use. This was voted at a Special Congregational meeting in April 1943. Ascension needed more space for Church and Sunday School Services; therefore, on June 6, 1943 the congregation acquired the Scheld house which moved to Plane Avenue on the present site of the Parish Hall. A bungalow on Washington Street was also purchased September 1943.

These buildings were used to accommodate Sunday school and extra Worship Services until the new church was erected. Our Sunday school attendance grew from an average of 180 in 1933 to a record attendance on April 1, 1943 of 334. On October 30, 1943 the Twentieth Anniversary was celebrated. By the summer of 1945 Ascension had pledges amounting to $38,000 for the new edifice. Rev. Crounse stated that “Ascension Lutheran Church can be no stronger than its members. Ascension Church cannot serve unless its members serve. Therefore, let us all see that we are doing our duty as our Lord and Savior would have us do.”

Pastor Crounse left in 1948 to serve the congregation in Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Sanger, California,

Rev. Albert T. Keyser’s Tenure
May 2, 1948 - October 1960
Pastor Keyser was installed and served Ascension for 12 years. In May of that year Mr. Herman C. Scheld begins his twenty-sixth year as Superintendent. On July 2nd of the same year, all mortgages held by the Lincoln Savings Bank and the American Missions were honored by a loan from the Building Fund Committee thereby making Ascension an independent, self-supporting and self-sustaining congregation. On May 19, 1948 the congregation voted to purchase the Connsonata Electronic Organ as an expression of gratitude to God for his blessings, during the past twenty-five years. On October 31, 1948 the 25th Anniversary of the organization of the church was celebrated. Easter Service April 17, 1949 Ascension held its service in the Franklin Movie Theatre. The theme of the message to be given by Pastor Keyser was “All Hail the Power of Jesus Name.” The service was a testimony to the power of Christ meeting the needs of our day.

January 1950, the first step in an $185,000 building program was undertaken, as the congregation voted to build our present church at Franklin and Plane Avenues. The ground breaking was held on August 29, 1950 and the cornerstone laying was November 19, 1950. When completed, the church will seat 350 people. Present quarters at Court House Road will be used for the Sunday school and for recreation purposes. The church was dedicated in 1951. On May 27, 1953 Ascension celebrated its Thirtieth Anniversary.

The ground-breaking for the new parsonage was March 1954 and the parsonage was dedicated September 19, 1954. During the expansion Ascension was not unmindful of its responsibility to spread the Gospel to others. Pastor Keyser and the congregation were instrumental in helping to establish Advent, Elmont, and St. Peter’s in Cornwall, Conn.

Another proud moment of our history was the commissioning of Erich and Vera Kraemer as Missionaries. The church was filled to capacity to send them on their way. It was Sunday, April 13, 1960. Shortly thereafter they left for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, giving up the luxuries of life in the United States to serve in a foreign country. Erich’s job was to help in the construction of a radio station, powerful to reach all of Africa and much of Asia. This is, indeed, spreading the Word. Vera, a trained nurse was called to serve in the mission hospital nearby.

May 4, 1958 Ascension celebrated its 35th Anniversary and the Parish Hall was dedicated.

Since becoming Minister of the Ascension Church Pastor Keyser succeeded in building a new brick church, an attractive parsonage, and a three-story brick parish house. During these great building years at Ascension Pastor Keyser had kept his flock mindful that, only as they dedicate to God’s Glory and His services that which he has given to them will his blessings rest upon them and their children.

Pastor Keyser left Ascension in 1960 and moved to Florida to serve as Pastor of Christ Lutheran Church, St. Petersburg, Florida.

Rev. Reed A. Greninger’s Tenure
October 1, 1961 - March 1, 1980
In 1961 the Reverend Reed Greninger received and accepted the call to minister to the congregation. Pastor Greninger was installed and served Ascension for over 18 years. During that time the 40th Anniversary of Ascension was celebrated. Pastor Greninger stated “The upward call of God in Christ Jesus” is one toward which all of us can be striving. To press for this goal on the part of all of us at Ascension is to put the emphasis where it belongs -- to serve Christ as our Lord. In so doing each of us will aid our Church to measure up to the responsibilities which God has placed upon it because His power will be ours.

With the growth of the congregation, an Assistant Pastor was needed. Rev. Brian Hinshaw was called. Just out of Seminary, we were proud to have him and he was installed August 23, 1964. Pastor Hinshaw devoted a large part of his ministry to the youth of Ascension. During this time and after his departure the youth group was called the Luther League. He resigned in 1967 to further his studies for a Doctorate in England.

On June 23, 1968 Rev. George Summers was called as Assistant Pastor. He was also active in the youth of Ascension and the format of the youth program changed from Luther League to a “Coffee House” format. He resigned to accept a call as Pastor of Advent Church in Mattituck, New York on February 8, 1970. Now without an Assistant Pastor the congregation voted to add a Business Administrator and a Youth Coordinator to the Church Staff.

On June 1, 1973 Ascension’s 50th Anniversary was celebrated. The theme was “Aflame with the Spirit. Pastor Greninger challenged us to be on fire for the Lord. He stated that we have discovered that being on fire, if it is to be more than mere words involves growth in the Spirit through such avenues as study of God’s Word prayer, and concern for others. “Key 73”, an evangelistic outreach on the part of all the churches, thus becomes as extra incentive for us a congregation to be reaching into our community and the world. I am glad that Ascension called me as its Pastor nearly twelve years ago. I am heartened that in this anniversary year, with many of our thought filled with gratitude for past accomplishments, there is also a forward look seeking God’s direction as we move ahead.

A new electronic Allen organ was dedicated on January 21, 1973, as an expression of gratitude by our congregation for the blessings which God has bestowed on us in our first 50 years.

On October 26, 1975 Ascension celebrated with Thanksgiving, the “burning of the mortgage.” On September 26, 1976 a service honoring Pastor Greninger’s 35th year of Ordination and 15th Anniversary of his Ascension ministry was held.

Our Fifty-Fifth Anniversary was celebrated on May 7, 1978. The message from Pastor Greninger was that he was certain that when the first organizers of Ascension got together they could not have foreseen the large number of people who have been served by Ascension down through the years. It has been by the power of God at work that Ascension has been able to minister to the sick, the sorrowing, those in need of Christian growth, and to the needs of others beyond our walls.

However, an anniversary is no time to rest on past accomplishments. Rather it is a time to realize that there is work out ahead to be done and that the means to accomplish this work is not in our own resources but in the power of God. Let our anniversary, and then be a time for celebration as we remember what God has done and will do for us as we seek to do His Will in the future.

During his pastorate in our church he also headed the Lutheran Charities Appeal for several years. At that time Pastor Greninger was also serving as the Coordinator of the West Nassau Cluster group of L.C.A. churches.

On February 24, 1980 a praise and Thanksgiving Service for Pastor Greninger on his retirement, at which time he was presented with the Pastor Emeritus Award. He continued to be a member of Ascension.

Rev. John C. Richter’s Tenure
October 5, 1980 - January 1993
On October 5, 1980 Reverend Richter was installed as Pastor of Ascension. He was ordained as a minister of the Lutheran Church in 1975. Before coming to Ascension, he served as pastor of Redeemer-St. John’s Church in Brooklyn, New York.

Pastor Richter has been a great influence in expanding activities. Our committees have become more active and productive since Pastor Richter started a joint monthly meeting for all committees.

He has inspired Ascension with:
An Outreach program for the needy
A Word and witness program
A Fellowship program
A Preschool - “Joyful Noise” which began in September 1983

Ascension celebrated its 60th Anniversary - May 20, 1983 “Aglow with the spirit’ with a year of outstanding programs and activities. With God’s continued direction we look forward to many more years of ministry in his name.

Pastor Richter stated that Ascension celebrates 60 years of ministry in the name of Christ in Franklin Square. So many things happened in those 60 years--so many people have been touched by hearing the good news, receiving God’s love and grace, and responding to the call of Christ to serve him.

But for all that has happened over those 60 years, we are both hopeful and confident that there are many more years of ministry in Ascension’s future. Part of our responsibilities as the present people of Ascension is to continue to create and mold a vibrant congregation that will minister to Franklin Square for many years.

With God’s direction and blessing, we are profoundly grateful for our congregation’s first 60 years. With His continued direction and blessing, we look forward too many more years of ministry in His name.

It was in 1989, that Ray Kissam was given the opportunity to serve as Congregational Advocate. His prime role has been to assist members and friends of Ascension, of all ages, with any and all health and social welfare problems and concerns.

Your Advocate visits those in nursing home, in hospitals and other alternate care facilities along with home visits. Special programs have been held on such things as health care proxy, catastrophic illness along with regular monthly health care discussion meetings to keep members and friends informed of health and social welfare benefits.

Pastor Richter ministered until January 1993 when he accepted a call to Atonement Lutheran Church in Wyomissing, PA.

Rev. John Richter Interns under his supervision:
Rev. John Trump 1985-86
Rev. Fredi Eckhardt 1987-88
Rev. Mary Gaebler 1988-89
Rev. Carol Lankes 1989-90
Rev. Robert Doll 1990-91
Rev. Lori Ruge-Jones 1992-93 Rev. Marilyn Lang, supervisor after Pr. Richter left

Rev. Charles R. Streich
January 1993-August 1993
Served as Interim Pastor until August 1993.
Ascension celebrated its 70th Anniversary on May 14, 1993.

Rev. Cherlyne Beck’s Tenure
September 1993-1997
Pastor Cherlyne V. Beck was called upon Pastor Richter’s departure and began her ministry at Ascension until her departure to Synod in 1997.

Introduced and trained Stephen Ministers Intern under her supervision: Rev. Craig Miller 1994-95 This was a year of learning for me - and learn I did. By giving me room to grow into the challenges of ministry, Pastor Beck and the congregation are a significant part of who I am as a pastor. At Ascension I learned from Pastor Beck how to lead in worship and I learned from the congregation to lead with confidence. I developed skills for preaching, teaching and pastoral care. Rev. Roseann Vita, Supervisor Pastor Hosmer, 1996-97 First Fair held November 1995 Moved Epiphany Pageant to Christmas Eve Pageant Introduced “With One Voice” into worship service on alternating weeks and services

Rev. Gregory Sutterlin’s Tenure
May 1998-2005
Pastor Sutterlin was called to Ascension on May 1, 1998, having served 3 congregations in Queens.

On May 1, 1998 Ascension celebrated its 75th Anniversary our “Diamond Jubilee” “Shining With The Spirit”. During this time in Franklin Square, he devoted much attention to adult study and musical matters. The deacons became much more involved in the congregation’s ministry during that time and took on various positions of leadership. Pastor Sutterlin was always very grateful for the support and graciousness of the congregation. He returned to ministry in Queens leaving Ascension on May 1, 2005. Commissioned Deacons to Ascension Mary Baraberio 6-16-1997 Rory Schoenfeld 9-16-2001 Joyce Saueracker 9-15-2001 Congregational Deacon Carole Brosnan 6-09-2010 Trained Eucharistic Ministers

Rev. White
2005 Served as Interim Pastor

Rev. T. Luper
2006-07 Served as Vice Pastor

Rev. Haiko Behrens Tenure
April 14, 2007-2012
Pastor Haiko Behrens is a native of Germany and a graduate of Christian Albrecht’s University in Kiel. He became pastor of Ascension on April 14, 2007 coming from Warren, Michigan, where he served his First Call at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church (November 9, 2003 until April 10, 2007). Pastor Behrens is currently trying to connect life at Ascension to life in the community and to strengthen ecumenical ties with congregations in the neighborhood. His tenure so far has resulted in the creation of a Midweek Contemporary Service (instead of the Sunday early worship), the addition of a German language service, the change of the council leadership structure, the process of a constitutional reform and a long-term planning process in order to equip Ascension’s ministry for the future in an increasingly culturally diverse sociological environment. On May 10, 2008 Ascension celebrates its 85th Anniversary. Pastor Haiko Behrens stated that Ascension started in a fire house. Who would have thought that the fire of faith in Christ in the Lutheran tradition would have been carried on from generation to generation, faithful yet changing, while being well rooted in the neighborhood -- and even becoming the largest church of a mainstream protestant denomination in our area for a while. The flame never went out, and has carried Ascension through history, making Ascension part of history. History that was sometimes calm, sometimes stormy, but the flame of faith in Christ, which created our church a long time ago in that firehouse was never extinguished. And I am sure that, God willing, it will continue burning within us -- faithful yet changing. After completing his call at Ascension, Pastor Haiko Behrens was called to be Pastor of St. Peter’s parish on the village of St. Peter and the surrounding communities in the county of Mittelschanfigg, Kanton (State) Graubunden, in Southeast Switzerland.

Pastor Mark Kiesel
January 1, 2013-2015
Pastor Kiesel was installed on March 3, 2013 as a Part-Time Pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church. He stated that it is with heartfelt gratitude and humility that I accept the Lord’s call to serve with you as we seek to advance God’s Kingdom of love, joy and peace in the world.

Rev. John Jurick
January 2016 - Present
Serving as Interim Pastor. On September 15, 2013 Ascension celebrates its 95th Anniversary. Former members of the Congregation who devoted their lives to the ministry: Missionaries to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in April 3, 1960 Erich and Vera Kraemer Hubert Burkart - ordained June 20, 1975 Steve Hartten - ordained September 14, 1991 Janice Calazzo - ordained July 12, 1998 Ann Noto - ordained February 22, 2003 Revised by Lois Altvater