The history of Ascension Lutheran Church began on a summer day in 1951 when two devoted women, Mrs. Ella Day, a parish worker, and Mrs. Harlie Roberts, began a survey in the Scottsdale area to determine the interest and need for a Lutheran church. On December 13, 1951 the first organizational meeting was held in a rented house on Indian School Road. Seven confirmed members were present. Pastor Charles Schmitz, area mission director and pastor of American Lutheran church, conducted this meeting at which time the congregation received its name, Ascension. This rented house served as the place for services until the first sanctuary was erected.
On January 15, 1952 the congregation was officially organized with sixteen members. The property for the first church was purchased from Mrs. Ella Mae Foley for $5000 and the ground was broken for the first church building at 75th Street and Indian School Road February 10, 1952.
In 1953 the confirmed membership had reached 128 and by December of 1956 it was 160. 1957 brought the membership total to 227, by 1958 it had reached 300 and had passed 500 by 1960. At the time of the construction of the new church in Paradise Valley in 1964 the membership was 750. During the time Ascension was at the Indian School Road location they had supplied a substantial nucleus of members for four other congregations in the area.
In 1960, because of a lack of room for expansion at the Indian School location, the congregation voted to purchase a ten-acre site at 7100 North Mockingbird Lane in Paradise Valley. Ground was broken March 3, 1963 for the new church building.
Frank Lloyd Wright Associates at Taliesin West designed the new structure. William Wesley Peters was the architect of record, in conjunction with John Rattenbury and Charles Monthooth The worship center is constructed in the shape of a pentagon, which Mr. Wright considered to be a perfect geometric figure reflecting the perfection of God. The pentagon theme is carried out in the worship center in the lights, altar rail, door handles, and baptismal font.
The focal point of the sanctuary is the stunning cross rising 40 feet above the altar directing attention to the pentagon shaped stained glass window above the altar.
In its present configuration the combined seating capacity of the sanctuary and balcony is 800.
A four manual Möller pipe organ was purchased for $52,900 in 1961. In today’s market the estimated replacement cost of the organ would be over $500,000.
Ascension Lutheran Church 1964 – Present
One of the striking features of Ascension Lutheran Church is the 145 foot steeple. Its installation was quite a challenge and was accomplished with the aid of a helicopter.
The new church was dedicated on April 12, 1964. Paul L. Baumgartner was pastor of the Ascension congregation and R. C. Berendsen was president of the church council at the time of the dedication.
One of the earliest interior photographs of the new building:
Charter members of Ascension:
Mr. & Mrs. Ole Almhjell, Carol, Paul, and Marcene
Mr. & Mrs. Edwad Anderson, Edward III, and Richard
Mr. & Mrs. Harold Frank, Judy, Faith, Diane, and Susan
Mrs. Lorene Gibbons
Mrs. Rachel Williams
Mrs. Eva Holliday, Georgia, and Nancy
Mr. & Mrs. Harry Poppe, Kenneth and Donald
Mrs. Edwin H. Raney, Keith and James
Mrs. Marion Schultzman, Larry and Connie
Mr. Luther Wasbotten, Bill and Gail
Mrs. James Hutchins
Mr. & Mrs. Ted Hansen
Mr. and Mrs. Lee Roy Benson, Wanda and Kenny
Mrs. R. W. Routt, Dixie, Judy and David
Mr. & Mrs. Merle Valentine, John and Richard
Miss Jean Hansen, Patricia, Joy and Barbara
Pastor and Mrs. Arnold Schlueter, by acceptance of call
Pastors of Ascension
Arnold C. Schlueter, Senior Pastor May 1952 – June 1954
Harold T. Grabau, Senior Pastor April 1955 – August 1957
Paul L. Baumgartner, Senior Pastor October 1957 – August 1965
Conrad S. Braaten, Senior Pastor October 1965 – March 1987
David R. Kupka, Senior Pastor April 1987 – November 1998
Randall G. Olson, Senior Pastor August 1999 – May 2007
Ryan M. Hersch, Senior Pastor September 2008 – September 2017
Previous Ministry Associates of Ascension
Dan Bloomquist, Intern
Charles W. Sundry, Associate Pastor
Joel B. Erickson, Associate Pastor
Steven P. Bergeson, Associate Pastor
Robert T. Mooney, Associate Pastor
Thomas C. Stephens, Associate Pastor
Joel Bjerkestrand, Intern
Harold Usgaard, Intern
Brent Maxwell, Family Life Minister
Kate Adelman, Associate in Ministry
Charlie Van Dyke, Pastoral Associate
M. Jayne Baker, Deacon