The REV. EDWARD E. KEIM (B: 1922 –D: 2009) was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and was married to Margaret Aughbaugh. They were the parents of two boys and one girl. He attended Capital University and an Evangelical Lutheran Theology Seminary/ Pastor Keim served at Community Lutheran Church, 1948 to 1949, as it was being newly constructed. After his two years’ service at Community, Pastor Keim was ordained (1951) and went on to serve parishes in Wisconsin and Ohio. His last full assignment lasted three years (1967-1970) at St Martin’s Lutheran Church in Archbold, Ohio. Once retired, he became a faithful member of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in rural ‘Defiance, Ohio.
The REV. LUTHER ADAM SHERER (B: 1909 – D: 1983), a native of Ohio, attended Capital University and the Evangelical Lutheran Theological Seminary. He was ordained in 1935t and served congregations in Howell and Detroit, Michigan and in Vallejo, California. During World War II, he worked for the NLC’s War Housing Ministry. After the war, he and his wife, the former Lillian Baumgartner, began Christ’s mission (1946 – 1950) in Inglewood, California at First Lutheran. He acted as Interim Pastor at Community Lutheran, 1949 to 1950, during Community’s final construction phase. Later, he served congregations in Colorado and Kansas before taking his final assignment in Avoca, Nebraska, in 1960.
The REV. ROBERT TRYGSTAD (B: 1912 – D: 1962) was born in Shanghai, China, and at the age of twelve came to the United States with his parents. He married Ellen Margaretha (1937) after graduating from UCLA. He furthered his education at the University of Minnesota and Capital Seminary. During Seminary, Pastor Trygstad actively served as part-time Pastor at St. Phillip Lutheran Church, Columbus, Ohio, until his graduation. He was inducted by the District President to act as Interim Lay Missionary when a call was initiated by the Commission on Negro Missions to serve Community Lutheran Church. He remained two years at Community Lutheran (1950 to 1952). The last congregations he served were St. Philip Lutheran (1955 0 1957) and at Huron, Ohio’s Zion Lutheran Church (1957 – 1961).
The REV. ROBERT SYLVESTER GRAEZ, JR., a native of Clarksburg, West Virginia, attended Capital University and Evangelical Lutheran Theological Seminary (now called Trinity Lutheran Seminary). He married Jean Ellis of East Springfield, PA; they had four daughters and three sons. As a student intern, Pastor Graetz ministered (1952 to 1955) the first Western Region African American Descent Congregation at Community Lutheran Church of Los Angeles, CA. He accepted the call from Trinity Lutheran, Montgomery, Alabama, making it his second African American Descent Church to serve. Before long, he joined forces with close friends, the late Rosa Parks and the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., participating in the bus boycott. Pastor Graetz became a television and radio host, a Lobbyist for Ohio’s Council of Churches, and authored A White Preacher’s Memoir: The Montgomery Bus Boycott, recounting his life in Alabama. Pastor Graetz was the recipient of the National Negro Newspaper Publishers Association’s Rossum Award and received the degree of Doctor of Humanities, honoris causa, from Capital University, recognizing his leadership in race relations.
The REV. DR. NELSON WESLEY TROUT, BISHOP EMERITUS (B: 1920 – D: 1996) a native of Columbus, Ohio, met and married Jennie V. Foster; they had three children, Cassandra, Phillip and Paula. He attended Wilberforce University, Capital University, Ohio State University, Evangelical Lutheran Theological Seminary in Ohio, and the University of Southern California. Trout was ordained in 1952 and served his first congregation in Montgomery, Alabama (1952 – 1955). His second call was to fill the position at Community Lutheran, 1955 to 1962, vacated by Pastor Graetz. Trout’s presence as an outstanding orator, parent, scholar, friend, and teacher was immediately felt. He served his country as a U.S. Army Commissioned Officer and the Chaplain’s Corps. In 1970, he was awarded the Doctor of Divinity Degree, Wartburg College in Waverly, Ohio. He was, also, the past Director of Minority Ministry and held professorships at the Lutheran Theological Seminary (1975 – 1983) and the American Theological Institute of Higher Studies (1982), Buenos Aires, Argentina. Rev. Dr. Trout became the first African American Bishop in the United States, representing the American Lutheran Church’s South Pacific District (`1983 – 1988). In 1984, he was bestowed an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree by California Lutheran College, Thousand Oaks, California.
The REV. KENNETH B. SANDERS (B: 1910 – D: 1996) was ordained (1957) in Columbus, Ohio, upon completing studies at West Virginia State College Institute and Ohio State University in Columbus. Prior to serving as pastor at Martin Luther Church, Detroit, Michigan, he was employed by the Detroit Social Services Youth Programs Department. He was called to Community Lutheran Church, 1962 to 1983, where he served for twenty years. He and the congregation stewarded programs such as Operation Commitment which developed a rich summer program for youth, the acolyte corps, offered minority scholarships to college-bound youth, tutorial services, alcoholic anonymous classes, and psychological counseling. The South Pacific District of the American Lutheran Church (ALC) conferred upon Pastor Sanders the honorary title of Pastor Emeritus (1983). He was married to Kathleen for 57 years and was preceded in death by his only daughter, Annelle.
The REV. KENNETH W. WHEELER was a 1973 Rhodes Scholar Nominee. He attended Concordia College, Minnesota, Concordia Seminary, Missouri, and Ohio’s Trinity Lutheran Theological Seminary. His leadership skills led him to positions such as Director of Young Adult Christian Education (1974 – 1975) at Our Savior Lutheran Church, Denver, Colorado and Lay Pastor at St. Paul Lutheran (1977 – 1979) in his home state of Mississippi. Later on, he was called to Jacksonville, Florida’s Fellowship Lutheran (1982 – 1983). Pastor Wheeler accepted a bi-vocational position (1983) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin as a half-time Assistant to the Bishop and Pastor of Hephatha Lutheran . Soon afterwards, he received the call to Community Lutheran Church 1983 to 1986. He returned to Wisconsin serving as the full-time Assistant to the Bishop at the Greater Milwaukee Synod. While there, Pastor Wheeler successfully developed and directed programs ranging from Conflict Resolution, race relations, and the training for the urban pastor making a positive difference in the lives he touched. He is married to Cloria Lewis and has three children: Kenneth II, Eric John and Harrison Martin.
The REV. FRED J. WIMBERLY (B: 1936 – D: 2009) was born in Monroe, Louisiana. His family relocated to California in his pre-teen years. He was confirmed at Community Lutheran and from an early age participated in Bible studies, Luther league, served as an acolyte and liturgist under the tutelage of Pastors Trygstad, Graetz and Trout. He attended Compton High School, California State University Los Angeles, and honorably completed four years in the U.S. Air Force. Wimberly was employed as a California Youth Authority Supervisor before entering the Luther Theological Seminary, St Paul, Minnesota. He met and married Mary Francis Smith, together they raised three sons: Frederick, Jason and Brenton. Pastor Wimberly held several ALC executive positions; the first was Assistant to the Bishop, Michigan District and the Service Mission Director of the South Pacific District ALC in Los Angeles. In 1986, he was ordained in Los Angeles, prior to accepting the call from his home church, Community Lutheran. He diligently served Community for sixteen years, 1986 to 2002, and was awarded a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for his outstanding service to the community, November 2002, upon his retirement.
The REV. JOHN W. MILLER, a native of Pennsylvania, attended Wagner College in Staten Island, New York, Emory University – Crawford Long Hospital, Atlanta, Georgia and the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At Wagner College, he received the Academic Excellence Ministerial Prize and the Excellence in Religion Awards. In 2001, Miller became the Associate pastor at Hope Lutheran in Reading, Pennsylvania. Following Hope Lutheran, he took a position as Interim Pastor, at New Life Lutheran, Camden, New Jersey. Miller was called to serve at Community Lutheran, Los Angeles, 2002 to 2011. He has taught Deacons Training classes, led Bible Community Studies at the African American Lutheran Association’s Convention, conducted New City Parish Emersion Group classes for Pacific Lutheran Seminary, and has been a guest speaker at the Southwest California Synod Youth Assembly (2008). He and his wife reside in Los Angeles County, CA, and continue their commitment as Christ’s ambassadors at First Lutheran Church. Inglewood, California.
The REV. OSCAR DENNIS MIMS attended Los Angeles Unified School District’s John C. Fremont High School, California State University Fullerton and Pacific Seminary in Northern California He was ordained by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in 1988 and was the first
African American Descent pastor to serve First Lutheran Church in Inglewood, California. His vision to engage as many African Descent members and to build a substantial Latino Ministry was successful. Pastor Mims’ service to First Lutheran lasted 18 months before being called to True Vine Lutheran Church College in Georgia. He and his wife, Doris, and their children, Divina, Kelly and Jay made the journey to their new assignment. At True Vine (1991), Pastor Mims developed and administered to the ELCA Teaching Congregation Program.
Pastor Mims was called (1996) to St James Lutheran, Cleveland, Ohio. In thirteen years, St. James became the fastest growing African American Lutheran congregation in the mid-west, raising its membership of 120 to 540 by 2006. Pastor Mims’ love of sports led him to help re-develop Lutheran East High School’s athletic program. He served East High as vice principal, athletic director, teacher and parent. His teams won three conference championships and their first state playoff. Mims served three years as Northern Ohio Synod’s Mission Director; he was instrumental in developing the Synod’s only Latino congregation. He then formed the Cleveland Chapter of AALA, held the title of National President and CE
O of the National Board of Directors for AALA-ELCA.
Upon returning to the Southwest California Synod (2008) Mims became the Assistant to the Bishop for the African Descent Strategy. He held the Interim Pastor position at First Lutheran of Carson, California, working in a bi-vocational capacity as a synod staff member and pastor (2008 – 2011). Later in 2011, he accepted a positon as Mission Developer fulfilling his dream to establish and develop a Mission from its inception. The end product was Rejoice! Lutheran Church of Long Beach, California. Rejoice! Lutheran became the first African Descent congregation to be established in the Western United States in thirty-one years.
Pastor Mims began a new path as shepherd of Community Lutheran Church, February 3, 2013 to February 2014. He continued his dual role as the Director of African American Descent Ministry and tenth pastor, in sixty-five years to serve Community Lutheran Church, until his retirement in 2014 and subsequent move to Georgia.
The REV. DR. LINDA BOSTON is an alumnus of San Francisco City College, San Francisco State University, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Berkeley, CA, and of the United Theological Seminary in Dayton Ohio where she earned her Doctor of Ministry Degree. She primarily focuses on Black Church Leadership in the Post Modern Era and has also studied at the historical Interdenominational Theological Consortium in Atlanta, Georgia. She has served as Intern Chaplin at St Luke’s Medical Center, Contra Costs County Detention Facility, and UC Medical Center.
Before entering the ordained ministry she had a successful career in the financial and broadcasting industry in the Bay Area. She worked as a Promotional Sales Representative for Western State Bankcard Association and as a production assistant at the Westinghouse Broadcasting Association (KPIX-TV). Prior to her call to Community, Pastor Boston pastored Bethlehem Lutheran in Oakland, CA, served as mission developer at Trinity Lutheran Church, Jackson Mississippi, as Interim Pastor at Our Savior Lutheran Church in San Francisco, CA ; Grace Lutheran in San Jose; Chicago’s The Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit and at Faith Memorial Lutheran Church in Detroit, Michigan
After serving one year as Interim Pastor (May 2015 to May 2016), Pastor Boston returned to Richmond, California to be near her mother, sister, daughters and grandchildren
THELMA TOLLEFSON (B: July 22, 1915 D: May 25, 1991)
Dedicated ALC Missions Field Worker
On August 19, 1947, the American Lutheran Church (ALC), California District’s Newsletter reported, Miss Tollefson left Portland, Oregon to begin an extensive field work assignment in the early part of September in Los Angeles. Miss Tollefson of Minnesota was employed as a parish worker by the ALC’s Board of the American Mission’s Commission on Negro Missions. Her assignment was to conduct a comprehensive neighborhood feasibility study, based on detailed door to door canvassing efforts. The communities to be considered were Jefferson Park (a community in the west portion of Los Angeles City) and Carver Manor (a new post WWII community in the southern section of Los Angeles County).
Some months after the study was completed, in 1948, the first religious services were held in a garage at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Cleve Tyler, 13432 Towne Avenue (corner of 135th Street and Towne Avenue), Los Angeles, California 90061. There were 22 present for church services and 12 present at Sunday School. Over time, Tollefson and several pastors from the Lutheran Bible Institute conducted classes in adult instruction. She remained at Community Lutheran until 1950.
Consequently, Tollefson returned to Chicago, August 6, 1953, to spearhead another assignment in a different field of the Commission of Negro Missions. In April 1954, she returned to Los Angeles assisting Community, St. Mark’s and Bethany Lutheran congregations. Upon completing her role on the West Coast she became the NLC’s front-runner in working among migrant groups. These experiences led her to author “Report of the Lutheran Church and the Valley Migrant Mission in the Red River Valleys of Minnesota and North Dakota” (1956) and “The Parish approach to Migrants of Door County, Wisconsin” (1960).
In April 1961, in a NLC Division of American Missions article “Inter-Cultural Outreach”, Thelma Tollefson and another parish worker described the effects of rapid racial and cultural change which congregations faced. That same year, she held assignments in Lamont, California, Denver, Colorado, Dallas, Texas, Omaha, Nebraska, and Chicago, Illinois. The NLC Missions program ended on December 31, 1961, thereby, transferring its responsibilities to member church bodies. (Miss Tollefson’s whereabouts, after this time, was not available. Records are still being recorded by the Archives Unit.)
HISTORY OF THE CONGREGATION
Community Lutheran Church had its beginning in the garage of Mr. and Mrs. Cleve Tyler on 135th Street and Towne Avenue in early February 1948, as a result of a survey made by Miss Thelma Tollefson, field worker for the Mission Committee of the National Lutheran Council.
Under the direction of Miss Tollefson and help from students from the Lutheran Bible school, the church offered the Community a Sunday school, 11 o’clock Worship Service, Weekly Bible Study and a Tuesday Afternoon Bible Study for women.
Having completed her survey, Tollefson made a favorable report to the Mission Committee. The Committee recommended to the American Lutheran Church to establish a church in this area.
The Reverend Edward Keim was sent to serve as the first minister. Shortly after his arrival the church began its formal organization and adopted the name of Community Lutheran Church.
On December 26, 1948, the first nine confirmation class was confirmed. By January 1949, the first Church Council was elected with the following member’s serving: President: Edward Keim, Deacon: Cleve Tyler, Elder: Edward Scott, Jr., Trustee: Charlie Thomas, Sr., Recording Secretary: Doris Booker Holman, Financial Secretary: Melba Chatman, and Treasurer: Dan Watson.
Rev. Luther Adam Sherer, a native of Ohio acted as Interim Pastor from 1949 to 1950 during the final construction phase of this Mission Parish. Pastor Sherer and his wife, Lillian (Baumgartner) also supported Christ’s ministry and assisted at First Lutheran Church (1946 through 1950) in Inglewood, California
The congregation accepted a loan from the American Lutheran Church to erect a Church in this area. Land was purchased on the corner of 135th and Stanford Streets.
As the attendance and interests in the Church grew, a need for more space was evident. From January to October 1949, fifteen new members were confirmed. Construction of the church was begun in the spring of 1949 and completed by October 1949. Shortly after the dedication of the new facility, Rev. Keim accepted a call to shepherd another congregation. His replacement was Rev. Robert Trygstad.
During Rev. Trygstad’s tenure the congregation purchased a parsonage on Dern Avenue. A garage and an extra bedroom were added later to accommodate a growing family.
In 1951, at the request of the Mission Committee, it was decided that Rev. Trygstad return to Ohio for Theological Studies commencing in the fall term of 1952. In his place, Rev. Robert Graetz was to serve as Interim minister for one year.
Now, the congregation at Community had grown to one hundred adult members and two hundred fifty children, who attended one of the two Sunday school sessions.
Miss Tollefson recommended the following (a) starting another Sunday School class at the home of Mr. and Mrs. J. Strickland, 14123 Parmalee Avenue on November 2, 1952 (b) to have a weekly Bible Study Hour at 2020 Nestor Street and (c) to have an Adult Study Class at 1812 East 138th Street. These recommendations were accepted and approved by the Mission Committee.
On November 2, 1952, Mr. Septimus Silas, president of the Church Council, officially represented the church at the opening of the new Sunday School which was named Community Lutheran Annex. The Annex’ enrollment topped at 121 children as of September 20, 1953. It was moved, later, to the main Church campus with many of its participants becoming church members.
At the end of Rev. Graetz’ appointed year, Rev. Trygstad was not available to return. Rev, Graetz was able to remain serving Community until he was ready to return to the Seminary in Ohio.
Community’s first official call as a congregation went to Reverend Nelson Trout who was serving in Montgomery, Alabama, he accepted the second call. Trout and his family arrived in Los Angeles in March of 1955 to find a membership of 148 members.
During Trout’s first year at Community, many improvements were made. The general framework of the church was recognized and many souls were won for Christ. Within one year a second worship service was added, the church interior was painted, pews were installed, an organ was purchased, and the membership continued to soar.
In 1956, the Good Will Committee Organization was organized and, in June, the first Sunday School Teachers Annual Banquet was held. By January 1957, the Parish Board of Education was organized and the largest Daily Vacation Bible School began.
As of 1957, the congregation’s membership was three hundred and three strong, the congregation was self-supporting and its mortgage was paid in full in 1958.
With such outstanding leadership the membership continued growing. The congregation saw the need to build a parish hall and meeting facility. The Council and congregation approved this request and the hall was erected. By 1962, Kenneth Sanders served the congregation for twenty years. Under his leadership Operation Commitment was developed, the acolyte corps was revitalized, tutorial services, psychological counseling, self-help courses, and a pre-school and child care program was initiated. The Women’s Dorcus Fellowship group successfully ran through the late 1970’s and early 1980’s as it had from its first inception in the 1950’s. Renovations and upgrades of the sanctuary which included new stained glass windows donated by various congregation members, a marquee announcement sign, and upgrades to the heating/air conditioning system. Members of the congregation continued their participation and connections within the Synod’s. The Parish Hall was dedicated and some years later was renamed Trout Hall in honor of Rev. Nelson Wesley Trout.
Pastor Wheeler shepherded the congregation for a brief three years before Rev. Fred Wimberly was called. During Rev.Wimberly’s tenure the 40th year anniversary held November 12, 1988 with the keynote speaker being Dr. Nelson W. Trout and the 50th year anniversary with Bishop Dr. Paul Egertson, guest speaker was celebrated. By the 60th anniversary, a benefit concert for Trout Hall and Community’s Scholarship Fund was held October 17, 2008. The scholarship program is still supporting the youth in our Community.
A dear friend of Rev. Dr. Trout and Rev. Graetz often visited Community. However, on February 3, 1991, that guest and friend to Community Lutheran, Mrs. Rosa Parks, was welcomed and honored for her contribution to the Civil Rights Movement during the African American History Week Celebration .
Finally, well into the 21st Century, Community has forged onward hosting the Los Angeles Metro Conference Spring Assembly and other Synod functions; three of its female members completed Deacons Training and currently serve the congregation and the synod. Community Lutheran remains small in number but its members, Minister of Music, and youth continue to represent and or hold elected Synod seats. And, as a Community Lutheran member, Carolyn Foster, presides over the Los Angeles Chapter of the African American Descent Association’s; she has fervently served this organization over the last two years.