The beginnings of Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, Rathdrum, go back to a mission survey of the Rathdrum area in 1975 by Emil Rogge and members of Christ the King Lutheran Church of Coeur d’Alene. The first worship service was conducted by Pastor Wm. B. Hemenway of Christ the King congregation on November 30, 1980, at 10:45 a.m. in St. Stanislaus Roman Catholic Church in Rathdrum. Pastor Carl Reiter, Pastor Wilfried Tensmeyer, and Director of Christian Ed., Rich Schmidt also conducted services during the early months, until Pastor Tensmeyer was designated as mission pastor.
The congregation was officially organized on April 5, 1981, when the name of the congregation was chosen, the constitution was adopted and the first officers were elected. Charter Sunday was June 14, 1981, with a total charter membership of 86 communicants. The congregation was accepted as a member of the Northwest District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod during the 1982 District Convention in Portland. Sunday School and congregational meetings were held at the Lion’s Club and American Legion Hall. Office space was in Fran’s Realty of Rathdrum. The ladies organized into the Rebecca and Eve Circles for Bible study, fellowship activities and service projects. The L.W.M.L. was organized November 8, 1982, with thirteen charter members and received its charter at the Spring Zone Rally in Pullman on April 21, 1983.
Planning for the church building was actually begun in 1978, when the N.W. District purchased an advance site parcel of land from the Sylte Ranch. This parcel was later exchanged for the present church property at the west junction of Highways 41 and 53 in Rathdrum. In October of 1981 a Building Committee was organized to begin the formal planning of the building. By May of 1982 the large outdoor cross was erected on the property.
Ground was broken for the building on March 13, 1983. Members of the congregation donated nearly half of the labor curing construction under the supervision of project superintendent Robert Karlgaard. Dedication of the building was on November 6, 1983.
One emphasis of the congregation’s life has been service to the community. The Pre-school has been operating continuously since August of 1984. Project Threshold, a training program for mentally handicapped adults, used several rooms during 1984-1985. Members of the congregation for many years have operated the Lakeland Area Blood Bank. CPR and Parent Effectiveness Training classes have been offered to the entire community. The Rathdrum Girl Scouts used the Fellowship Hall for meetings during 1988-89. The twin Lakes Friends Church used the church Sunday afternoons for its service. Area commuters have frequently used the parking lot. A local area TOPS group has met weekly in the Fireside Room. A den of Cub Scouts has met weekly in the Fellowship Hall. Yearly the congregation sponsors a major drive for the Rathdrum Area Food Bank. Twice a year the youth of the church join members in a nearby highway cleanup.
Pastor Wilber A. Rumsch, missionary from Caracus, Venezuela, became the first called pastor of the congregation. He was installed on August 5, 1982. He served as pastor here until September 15, 1985, when he accepted a call to the Hispanic ministry of Bethlehem in Vancouver, B.C. When Pastor Rumsch was called by Shepherd of the Hills, our church and First Lutheran in Spirit Lake were both being subsidized by the Northwest District. Therefore, the District required that Pastor Rumsch serve both congregations as a dual parish. A parish agreement between the two congregations was finally approved on August 12, 1985, formally establishing the Lakeland Lutheran Parish. The dual parish arrangement continued until 2000 when the District no longer subsidized Shepherd of the Hills.
Pastor Theodore E. Allwardt, Sr., became the second called pastor of the congregation. He was installed on March 9, 1986. Pastor Allwardt accepted a call to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, in September of 1989. We were then served by Interim Pastors Rev. Carl Gausman, Rev. Carl Reiter, Rev. Henry Henning, Rev. Bill Tensmeyer, and Rev. Leonard Glaser until Vicar Neil Bloom was installed as our spiritual leader on March 22, 1992. We subsequently called Rev. Neil Bloom and he was installed April 4, 1993, as our parish Pastor.
The new hymnal, Lutheran Worship, was purchased for the congregation with help from an AAL matching funds project in March of 1988. In December of 1988, just in time for the first Lakeland Area Joint Church Christmas Concert, the Chrismon tree was erected. This had been a long worked on project of the L.W.M.L. ladies with help from many other members. Shepherd of the Hills has hosted the Community Christmas Concert annually since 1988.
During the 1990’s Shepherd of the Hills continued to grow spiritually and in attendance. By 2002 the Baptized membership had increased to 237 with an average Sunday worship attendance of 107 including numerous visitors. During the late 1990’s the unused areas of our property were turned into softball fields by the community softball association in cooperation with the City of Rathdrum. In 1994 the church had underground sprinklers installed in the front lawn areas. A change in the highway entrance to the church was completed in August 1995, due to the need for stoplights at our nearby intersection. The preschool has continued to flourish and often has children participating in church programs. With the growth of the congregation and the preschool program, the congregation came together in 1998 to build a 1200 square foot addition to the Fellowship Hall to relieve the pressure of larger gatherings. Dedication of the new addition was on April 5 of that year.
In January 2006, the Church Council established the goal of developing a facilities master plan before the end of 2006. By March our needs had been assessed and prioritized into major workable goals for facilities expansion. On April 5, at the Congregational Meeting the Council’s recommendations for expansion of our facilities were presented to the congregation and approved by the voters. The Council was authorized to employ an architect to assist in the planning. A Building Committee was appointed by the Church Council on April 1, 2006, and the architectural firm of G.D. Longwell and Associates was selected on May 1. The Building Committee worked with the architects through August 2006 to develop a preliminary design based on the prioritized goals for expansion and established a preliminary cost estimate. On September 17, a special Congregational Meeting was called to give the members an update on the progress of the project and the architect presented preliminary schematic designs and cost estimates. At the Semi-Annual Congregational Meeting on November 12, theaters approved the outline for a pledge campaign to run from the November meeting until the April 2007 Congregational Meeting. During the pledge campaign, Elder small group meetings were held to explain and promote the pledge process. Council and the Building Committee met with an LCEF representative about financing options and also with a representative from Laborers for Christ to get information about using their services in the construction process. On April 15, 2007 voters approved the final design and application for LCEF loan financing. On May 5 the congregation was notified that Northwest District had approved our loan request. On June 17, a ground-breaking ceremony was held to signal the beginning of construction of the building expansion. From late June through the end of October we were blessed with the fellowship and assistance of fourteen workers from the Laborers for Christ program we were instrumental in helping us erect the new addition to the point of being weather tight. Because Shepherd of the Hills was acting as our own general contractor, it was up to the volunteers from the congregation to complete the project. Over the course of the months from June 2007, through the late spring of 2008, volunteers put in over 8000 hours to complete our building expansion. The project was completed within our budget at a cost of $1,102,000. Because of generous member contributions to the building fund, the new mortgage to LCEF was $998,000. The Lord blessed our project in many ways throughout the planning and construction periods. And finally a dedication of the expanded and remodeled church was held on April 20, 2008, with Pastor Neil Bloom officiating.
Already since 2008, we have experienced many new and expanded uses of our facilities by the congregation and by the community. In November 2009, we hosted Idaho Governor Butch Otter and his cabinet as he declared Rathdrum “Capital For A Day” and held an open forum with community citizens. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and youth basketball groups have made good use of our new multipurpose room. And the Rathdrum Area Chamber of Commerce holds its monthly luncheon meeting in our fellowship room. The pre-school continues to flourish under the guidance of teacher, Diane Klingaman and the pre-school serves as a welcome nursery for “under three” children during worship services. In November of 2010, we purchased new round tables and folding chairs to make more comfortable seating for fellowship activities our annual “Thanksgiving Dinner” and to provide needed tables to accommodate larger gatherings. The congregation continues to grow with average Sunday worship attendance of 157 souls during 2010. During 2010 SOTH launched a new modern website to facilitate a better communications network among members and with the community at large.
Shepherd of the Hills has truly had the Lord’s blessing in many varied ways over the life of the congregation.