Our History

Evangelical Lutheran Church
of Our Redeemer
Overland, MO

In 1912 a small group of Lutheran families living in the Overland, Missouri area prevailed upon the Rev. Karl Zoellner of Immanuel Church of Olivette, MO. to conduct services for them on Sunday afternoons in the Presbyterian Church at the corner of Woodson and Marlowe. On October 19 of that year the Mission was organized as a congregation with seventeen communicant members. Numbered among these charter communicants of Our Redeemer were members of the Ranft family, the Wibracht family and the Hecht family. Realizing the need for their own house of worship, the group purchased an acre of land on the corner of East Milton and Shelley Avenues at a cost of twenty-two hundred dollars. The members converted the three-room cottage on the corner into their first house of worship.

Rev. George Klattenhoff
Rev. George Klattenhoff

In August of 1914, the Rev. George Klattenhoff became the first resident pastor of the congregation. In addition to his duties as a pastor he organized a Lutheran Elementary School and served as its teacher. At this point in the life of the congregation everything was conducted in the German language. It was not until October of 1914 that English started to appear when the constitution was translated into English. By 1916, everything was conducted in English and this change was brought about because of WWI. Nevertheless, as the congregation grew, the need for a larger church building became apparent. In August of 1918 the cottage and a barn on the property were torn down and the materials from them were used in building a chapel at a cost of eight hundred dollars.

When Rev. Klattenhoff accepted a call elsewhere in 1918, the Rev. Herbert Kohn was installed as pastor of the congregation in November of that same year. In the fall of 1919 the congregation began construction of a new church. The new church was dedicated to the service of God on October 24, 1920.

Rev. Herbert Kohn
Rev. Herbert Kohn

The recession of 1921 brought financial difficulties to the congregation, and in September of that year they asked the Mission Board to take over the work in Overland to assure creditors of good faith. The Rev. Kohn was granted his requested release to the Ferguson congregation but continued to serve as a vacancy pastor until February of 1922. Because of the financial dilemma, at the advice of the Mission Board, an appeal was made to all St. Louis city congregations to aid Our Redeemer in meeting the most pressing obligations of the congregation. The city churches responded generously and the immediate needs were met.

Rev. William Dietze
Rev. William Dietze

The congregation called the Rev William F. Dietze, who was installed on October 19, 1922. The depression years, beginning in late 1929, produced another serious financial crisis for the congregation. The failure of the Overland State Bank and the insurance company in which the congregation had placed premiums, as well as the loss of equity when Farm and Home Loan Association was compelled to reorganize, were severe setbacks. By 1934, however, the congregation was once more self-supporting. In 1943 the congregation purchased more property for the purpose of expansion. In 1947 a new parish building was completed. In 1952 Pastor Dietze resigned after thirty years of service. During these thirty years of his ministry the membership increased ten-fold.

Rev. Franklin W. Ritthamel
Rev. Franklin W. Ritthamel

In the fall of 1952, the Rev. Franklin W. Ritthamel of Seattle, Washington accepted the call of the congregation and was installed as pastor on November 30th. The Lord's blessings were evident as the congregation continued to grow in spirit and numbers. It became necessary to conduct three services every Sunday morning to accommodate the congregation in the small 200-seat church. Even then over 400 people attended some services. The Rev. Prof. Edgar Krentz was called as assistant pastor to help in conducting the services and other areas of the ministry. He was ordained on January 20, 1957.

Early in 1956 the Board of Elders requested the Building Committee to make a study of the building needs of the congregation. A program was adopted that called for the razing of the old church and the building of a new church. Thus began the largest project every undertaken by the members of Our Redeemer.

New construction-1959
New construction-1959

The church's location on the site was wise because of its commanding location within a growing suburban neighborhood. The new structure was dedicated on October 11, 1959. The new facilities included a contemporary style church sanctuary and balcony for the choir with a total seating capacity of 575 people, a wide chancel, sacristy and Pastor's study, assistant and general office. To one side of the main entry was built a small chapel that could be expanded for seating into the entry/foyer area. Also included in this structure, at ground level, were five standard size classrooms. During the 60's and early 70's, the congregation grew to its largest size, with over 1500 members.

Rev. Larry Burgdorf
Rev. Larry Burgdorf

The Rev. Larry Burgdorf served as senior pastor for Our Redeemer for 21 years. He served during the years 1970 thru 1991 and so was very much aware of the problems that arose at the Concordia Seminary, St. Louis in the early 70's. Prior to the Synodical Convention to be held in New Orleans in July of 1973, Pastor Burgdorf and the congregation prepared an 'Overture to the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod' concerning the statement issued by the faculty of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis entitled "Faithful to Our Calling Faithful to Our Lord". The purpose of the Overture was to bring to the attention of the Synod the problems with this statement. The statement indicated that it was immaterial whether the text of Gen. 2-3 was considered a literal historical account of the lives of Adam and Eve or not. That Christians are misled when they demand absolute acceptance of each detail of the miracle accounts of the Scriptures and that it is a misunderstanding of the nature of the Gospel to insist on a public acceptance of the historicity of every detail of the life of Jesus as recorded by the evangelists as if it were a test of our faith. Thus the power of the Gospel and the infallibility of the Scriptures are placed in false opposition to each other. The Overture resolved that the Synod direct the administrators and professors of the St. Louis Seminary to adhere to the scriptural doctrine in regard to these matters and to desist from calling into question the factuality and historicity of the biblical accounts concerning them.

When Rev. Burgdorf arrived at Our Redeemer one thing he noticed about the congregation was that they had a solid core of biblical teachings. This fact comes into play in a big way in the aftermath of the walk out. Prior to the walk out he stated that he could see the writing on the wall, so to speak. While attending seminars, conferences, etc. and talking with other pastors and professors he noticed that there were several problems developing. Some of the things that alarmed him were statements made about the bible not being the inerrant Word of God and some doctrine being taught that was different from what he was taught and what is stated in the Book of Concord. Rev. Burgdorf then approached the president of the seminary about these matters and the president shrugged off the comments and indicated that there were no problems (writing on the wall). In the meantime, Rev. Burgdorf was keeping the congregation informed as to what was happening. When the walkout did happen it was not a surprise and there were only 2 members out of 1500 who left the congregation. According to Rev. Burgdorf these 2 members left because they had friends or family who were part of the walkout. Of the 4 seminary students assigned to Our Redeemer for field education only 1 was lost. Again, Rev. Burgdorf credits the fact that the congregation had a solid core foundation in the teachings of the Bible.

Rev. David Andrus
Rev. David Andrus

Pastor David Andrus joined the ministry staff when he was called as Assistant Pastor in 1985. Pastor Andrus brought a special understanding to the congregation of how the Lord specially blesses people, even through affliction. Pastor Andrus became blind at about 10 years of age. But Pastor Andrus never let this disability slow him down. Trusting in the Lord, he amazed everyone with the abilities with which God had blessed him (often scaring members by his use of power tools). Pastor became the Chairman of the Synod's Standing Committee for the Blind. During one of the conventions he was encouraged by the 'big wigs' of the synod to create Braille with a Christian emphasis in an attempt to minister to the blind. At this meeting Pastor Andrus brought to the attention of the congregation that he had a 'dream'. The 'dream' would be to take 3 years and create (write) a Christian Braille literary program catered for the blind along with a teacher's manual. For the congregation to support his 'dream', another pastor would have to be called so that he could dedicate some serious time to this project. The congregation sounded their support, but Pastor Andrus left the congregation taking another call before the project was finished. Now, Pastor Andrus heads the Lutheran Mission to the Blind for the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Our Redeemer continues to support Pastor Andrus by being one of the 4 congregations to partner with him in supporting the Lutheran Mission to the Blind.

Rev. Kevin Popp
Rev. Kevin Popp

In 1992, Rev. David McKnight was called as Senior Pastor. He instituted a contemporary worship service. Pastor McKnight remained for 4 years at Our Redeemer.

Following Pastor McKnight, the Rev. Kevin Popp was called as Senior Pastor. Pastor Popp came to Our Redeemer from Champaign, IL. He served for 4 years. In 2000, Pastor Popp resigned his call to Our Redeemer because of a severe back injury which forced him on to disability. We thank God that he has since recovered and now serves a congregation in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Rev. Rodney Wise
Rev. Rodney Wise

Rev. Rodney Wise was called as Associate Pastor in 1999. A new graduate from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Pastor Wise brought a unique perspective to the ministry. Prior to enrolling in the Seminary in 1995, Pastor Wise practiced law for 15 years, serving 8 years as a staff attorney for the Illinois State Legislature. As we like to say, Pastor Wise "traded the law for the Gospel." In 2000, when Pastor Popp resigned for health reasons, Pastor Wise accepted the call to become Senior Pastor and currently serves in that capacity. He is blessed with a wife, Julie, and 2 sons, Clark and Evan.

In 2010, Our Redeemer has approximately 1000 members and maintains a preschool and elementary school with over 180 students, combined. In 2002 the congregation started a day care program for toddlers which has met with great success. In looking to the future, we are confident in the Lord's promises to bless and preserve us as we carry out our mission to make disciples for Jesus.

Pastor Feliz Tovar
Rev. Feliz Regino Tovar

Rev. Feliz Regino Tovar was called to Our Redeemer in August of 2011 and serves as Associate Pastor/Pastor for Hispanic Outreach. He studied at Luther College in Decorah, IA where he had several areas of concentration: Biology, Music, English, and Philosophy. After four years he graduated in May of 2001 with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy with a minor in Spanish. In August 2001 he moved to St. Louis where he studied at Concordia Seminary.

He served as Vicar at Beautiful Savior in Bridgeton, MO from August 2004 to August 2005. He graduated Concordia Seminary in May of 2006. On April 27, 2007 he was ordained and installed as part-time Pastor at Immanuel Lutheran church in Pilot Knob, MO.

He served as Vicar at Beautiful Savior in Bridgeton, MO from August 2004 to August 2005. He graduated Concordia Seminary in May of 2006. On April 27, 2007 he was ordained and installed as part-time Pastor at Immanuel Lutheran church in Pilot Knob, MO.

Our Pastors Through the Years

Rev. Karl Zoellner     1912 - 1914
Rev. George Klattenhoff     1914 - 1918
Rev. Herbert Kohn     1918 - 1922
Rev. William F. Dietze     1922 - 1952
Rev. Dr. Franklin W. Ritthamel
   (Senior Pastor)     1952 - 1968
Rev. Prof. Edgar Krentz
   (part-time Asst. Pastor)     1957 - 1961
Rev. Carl E. Cunningham
   (Asst. Pastor)     1961 - 1966
Rev. Carl F. Petering
   (Asst. Pastor)     1967 - 1968
   (Senior Pastor)     1968 - 1970
Rev. Larry Burgdorf     
   (Senior Pastor)     1970 - 1991
Rev. Charles Connor     
   (Asst, Part-time)     1969 - 1972
Rev. Edward Fleer     
   (Asst, Part-time)     1973 - 1978
Rev. Keith Boheim
   (Asst. Pastor)     1979 - 1985
Rev. David Andrus
   (Asst. Pastor)     1985 - 1998
Rev. Dave McKnight     
   (Senior Pastor)     1992 - 1996
Rev. Kevin Popp     
   (Senior Pastor)     1996 - 2000
Rev. Rodney Wise
   (Asst. Pastor)     1999 - 2000
   (Senior Pastor)     2000 - 2013
Rev. Feliz Tovar
   (Asst. Pastor)     2011 - 2013

Read more about Our Redeemer's current pastors.