Saint Olaf Lutheran Church gratefully acknowledges all the faithful pastors and dedicated members through the years who have shaped many lives and given the church so much of their time and talents.
In 1886, a small number of settlers from Norway built St Olafs Kirke (the “Rock Church”). Reverend J.K. Rystad was pastor at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church at the time, and he split his efforts between the two churches until a new pastor could be called.
G.G. Odegaard was called, as the first pastor in 1901 and served until 1912 when he died at the age of 37 of tuberculosis. The first parsonage was built during his tenure.
Reverend Herman Estrem was called as pastor in 1912 and served until 1920. The congregation continued to grow in a westerly direction; and when the township of Cranfills Gap became a thriving town, many members wanted a new and larger church there. A full city block in Cranfills Gap was purchased in 1914 and plans for the largest Lutheran church in rural Texas began. The laying of the corner stone for the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church was celebrated in March of 1917. The congregation continued to grow and by 1919 the total number of members was recorded as 693. It was 1927 before members voted to have all morning services in the English language in the Brick Church and afternoon services in Norwegian at the Rock Church.
Reverend J. A. Urnes was called in 1920 and served until his retirement in 1935. During his tenure, the Great Depression caused great hardship on the church and its members; and Pastor Urnes was asked to take a cut in salary, which he readily accepted. The church continued to serve the spiritual needs and the social life of the community.
Reverend Walter T. Maakestad and family of four boys and one girl moved into the parsonage in 1935. With this lively family, many young people’s programs were established. Church activities were the center of life in Cranfills Gap combining fun and games with Christian education, teaching social and leadership skills. Pastor Maakestad became ill in 1939 and passed away in 1940 and was buried in the Rock Church Cemetery.
Reverend Benjamin R. Maakestad, brother of Walter T. Maakestad, was installed in 1941. Both he and his wife, Sadie, were musically talented and organized a youth choir and many other organizations to further the ministry of St. Olaf. A memorial fund to build a Sunday school building was established. Pastor Maakestad received a call from another state and resigned in 1952.
Reverend Einar Jorgenson became the pastor in 1954 with the membership now totaling 550 confirmed members. Pastor Jorgenson resigned in February 1958.
Pastor Iver Haugen, his wife Ginny and their four children came in 1958. This energetic family brought several new programs to St. Olaf, reestablishing the Junior choir, a Mother’s circle, the 79ers and a Sunday School for parents. The constitution was changed to reflect the Name change from the Evangelical Lutheran Church to the American Lutheran Church in 1960. The 75th Anniversary was celebrated in 1963 and 34 members in attendance were members when the Rock Church was built. Pastor Haugen resigned in 1963.
Pastor Marvin Ottmers and family came in 1964 and served until 1977. Mrs. Ottmers was involved in many church activities, as well as tending the sick along with her nursing and teaching duties at Clifton Hospital. Their four children, Kathleen, Daniel, Elaine and Steven were an integral part of the school, church and community activities.
Pastor Howard Ollila was called in 1977 and remained until 1980. Mrs. Ollila took much of the responsibility of raising funds for the Day Care Center.
Pastor Dave Smith, wife and two sons came to St. Olaf in June of 1981. Mrs. Smith directed the choir and initiated the special banners for each new baptism. The basement kitchen received a complete face lift in 1985. Pastor Smith resigned in August 1985.
Retired Pastor Lawrence Jenson capably filled the duties from late 1985 until April 1986.
Pastor Mark Vinciguerra was installed in April 1986, when the membership numbered 378. In May 1986, the Rock Church’s 100th Anniversary celebration was a great success. Pastor Vinciguerra resigned in 1992.
Pastor Ken Schmidt and family came in July of 1992 and continued to serve Saint Olaf until 1997.
Pastor Terry Atkins was called in June of 1999. Terry Atkins resigned in November of 2008.
Between the years 2008 and 2011, several interim pastors served St. Olaf Lutheran Church, including Gordon Johnson, Marie Herrenschmidt, and Ann Koopman. Pastor Koopman presided over the 125-Year and Re-Dedication Ceremony of the Rock Church in June 2010.
Pastor Joan Iker was called in September 2011. Insufficient finances triggered the sharing of Pastor Iker between St. Olaf and Faith Lutheran in Meridian, as neither church could afford a full time pastor. The partnership continued until Pastor Iker’s departure in May of 2016 when Faith decided to hire a part time pastoral lay minister.
Since 2016, Pastor Ryan Pederson, while studying and teaching at Baylor University, has served as interim pastor. Pastor Pederson grew up in the Clifton area, has relatives living nearby, and counts many ancestors who are buried in the Rock Church Cemetery. We are grateful for his faithful service.