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the oslc story

generation to generation:

living in faith, serving in hope

Revealing a Vibrant Vision for Our Savior's Lutheran Church

Drawing on its 160 years of rich, shared history with the city of Milwaukee, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church is pivoting to an exciting new vision of its future.  Always a place of devout worship, the congregation is now awakening to an essential and unique role that God is calling it to play in our community.  Now, blessed with strong faith, a beautiful, spacious church building, and deep community connections, Our Savior’s looks to become not just a caring and steadfast observer of the future, but a robust and active builder of it – a church for the city.


The need is great.

The time is now.


As a result of years of neglect and disinvestment, the neighborhood we serve is home to many young families struggling with poverty, a lack of opportunity, and the scourges of substance abuse, crime and violence.  Even as the neighborhood changed from one of affluence to one of need, Our Savior’s stayed where God led it, recognizing that the changes it saw only gave the church greater relevance.   Today, our neighborhood shows tantalizing signs of resurgence, including an in-migration of businesses and young professionals, many of whom are starting new families.


At Our Savior’s, we envision a future where these disparate communities will meld their unique cultures and strengths to create an even stronger Milwaukee.  But that future depends on the presence of strong institutions that can bridge these groups and bring them together in mutual understanding, support and celebration.  In recent years, many community centers and churches in the area have closed, calling on Our Savior’s Lutheran Church to play this unique and essential role.  


We must be here for a resurgent community to build around.  


We believe that faith – and a shared vision of a stronger community -- can be the bridge that ends silos of division among Milwaukeeans.  With God’s guidance, we will live in faith, serve in hope, and reshape Our Savior’s Lutheran Church for this new role.


For such a time as this, we will be a church for the city.


As we transform, we are blessed with assets that will ensure our success:


The deep heritage of our past has prepared us for this future.  The wisdom of 159 years of change and adaptation has been carefully stewarded and today provides deep reserves of good will and commitment to share with our neighbors.  Today’s congregation is filled with members who have drawn sustenance from a lifetime of worship at the church, whose families have worshipped here for generations, who count Our Savior’s as a crucial aspect of their identity -- yet are also remarkably ready to adapt and change as their church evolves. With lives transformed by service to others, we are eager to share the pathways to spiritual abundance – both with a new generation of our church family, and beyond, with a city that seeks sustenance and support.


Our church is a cathedral of exceptional beauty and grandeur that causes souls to soar in inspiration; we will continue to steward these elements to attract generations of new worshippers.  But our building’s assets do not end at the sanctuary and nave – large and adaptable spaces throughout in the building beckon as places where in the future even more people can access education, sustenance and fellowship.  Our church is uniquely situated to attract and welcome these faithful, with a central location just off the highway, growing public transportation options that run past our front door, and a large parking lot that is unique among churches in the area.


With our surrounding community we have built genuine bonds of trust, relationships upon which to expand our work.  As the founding institution behind such vibrant Milwaukee nonprofits as the Hunger Task Force, Neighborhood House, Guest House and Next Door, Our Savior’s has long been a center of community outreach and a force for social justice.  Today, we anchor Central City Churches, an ecumenical organization of eight Wisconsin Avenue congregations that use our church to provide wholesome meals, a food pantry, employment skills, health support, literacy programs, outreach ministry and much more to the needy of our community.  You see it in the eyes of our neighbors:  Our Savior’s is seen not as a “do-gooder come-lately,” but integral to this neighborhood.  We are not just in, but of the community we serve – blessed with the trust essential to an organization that aspires to bridge disparate peoples.


As a long-time servant to the neighborhood, we are blessed to appeal to new residents and local entities that are increasingly concerned with this community’s fortunes.  Our area is becoming home to many young Millennial families, many of whom are on their own spiritual journeys and looking to explore and express their faith through community service.  Strong organizations -- such as Marquette University, Miller-Coors Brewing, Potawotomi Casino and Aurora Health Care – are quartered nearby and are increasing their neighborhood commitment, both out of a growing sense of social responsibility and a desire to make the area attractive to their own young employees.  The Siebert Lutheran Foundation moved its headquarters from Brookfield to 27th Street to add its strength to the resurgence.  For these entities, we will offer the energy and insight of a strong partner; for new residents seeking fellowship and service, we will furnish the welcome and warmth of spiritual home.


Such visions are not realized without dedicated church leadership.  Core guidance is being provided by Our Savior’s Visioning Team, a dozen individuals deeply engaged in developing and advancing the church’s strategic plan.  The Visioning Team has engaged the insight of experienced consultants who specialize in church revitalization initiatives.  Inspired by all this energy, a cadre of more than 80 church members have committed themselves to provide the heartfelt prayers, financial resources, thought leadership -- and sweat equity --  needed to deliver on Our Savior’s potential.  


With God’s help, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church will become renown as a joyful, enriching force for Milwaukee – ultimately, as the place where people of faith come together to take action for their neighborhood.  Together, united in our indispensable church for the city, we will build stronger families, stronger disciples, a stronger community, and a stronger faith.  


The rewards of our work together will be a fuller relationship with ourselves, our families, our community and with God.  Please join us!



The congregation of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church initiated services in their new building at 3022 W. Wisconsin Ave. on Easter morning, 1954. Incorporated in the construction are over 50 stained glass windows of various sizes designed by artist Karl Friedlemeier, a native of Munich, Germany. Made of imported antique glass, the windows were manufactured by the Gavin Glass and Mirror Company of Milwaukee.

Most of the nave and transept windows depict biblical stories and characters from both the Old and New Testaments, often symbolically. The stories culminate with the “ABIDING SAVIOR” window above the altar on the north wall. With a height of 22 feet, the richly colored figure represents the victorious and ascending Christ and immediately attracts the attention of all who enter the sanctuary.

The lower windows toward the rear of the nave are grouped in sets of three; the center window in each group shows an incident in the life of Jesus, suggesting an activity that is illustrated by the windows on either side.

Windows in the south wall featuring the guardian angels are now obscured by pipes of the organ installed in 1963. The lowest panels of these window are visible from the mother’s room and contain scenes appropriate for that location. Two smaller windows located on each side of the front entrance are titled “The Good Shepard” and “Christ Knocking at the Door”.

The windows on the east and west narthex walls are symbolic of the resurrection.


Images of the windows at Our Savior’s may be viewed from the links below. Thanks to volunteer Jose De Hoyos for his excellent photography.



Senior Choir, 1956. Music, both instrumental and choral has been predominant since the inception of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church.


Pastor Reuben Gornitzka (1944-1956) blessing new members to Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, 1946.


Ladies Aid Society, 1926. Women have played an important role in the life and growth of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church.

Our Savior’s Lutheran Church (ELCA) was founded by Norwegian immigrants on February 7, 1858 and was housed first on 12th and Scott, then 9th and Scott Streets on Milwaukee’s southside.

In the late 1940’s the congregation voted to build a new building to house its growing membership at the location of the Todd Wehr Estate in the 3000 block of West Wisconsin Avenue. The original architect, H.C. Haeuser, passed away in 1951 before work on the church could begin. The firm of Grassold and Johnson was hired to replace him and that firm finalized the design.


Ground breaking ceremonies took place on July 22, 1951. The new cornerstone for the building was laid in September 1952. Work slowed in 1951-1953 due to the steel shortage caused by the Korean conflict.

The original seating capacity was 1300. The 15 foot statue “The Inviting Christ” on the church façade was designed by Milwaukee sculptor Dick Wilken and is made from 40 tons of white stone. The final carving and finishing work was completed by master carver Adolph Raeger. 

The first service in the new building was held on Easter Sunday, 1954. Mayor Frank Ziedler took part in the services and over 4500 people worshiped that day in the new church.

The stained glass windows were designed by Karl Friedlemeier, a native of Munich, Germany and manufactured by Gavin Glass and Mirror Company of Milwaukee from imported antique glass. Upper windows on the west wall depict Old Testament stories; New Testament stories are shown on the upper east walls. The work of the church is illustrated in the lower windows of the Nave.


The organ is a five division, 68 rank, three manual Casavant and was dedicated in 1964. There are 51 stops and 3845 pipes. The organ is an example of the American Organ Reformed Movement and has served the congregation faithfully for over 50 years without alteration. Noted US and European organists have presented recitals on the instrument, which remains one of Milwaukee’s finest. 


Our Savior’s will celebrate its 160th anniversary in 2018.

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