Detailed History

Emmanuel Lutheran Church
March, 2015

On December 15, 2014 dozens of people in Northwest Arkansas who all had a Lutheran background were contacted to see if there was interest in starting a new church plant.   There was substantial interest in the concept of a new Lutheran Church plant. Travel plans prohibited meeting over the Christmas holidays, so dozens of people spent the next week or so in email correspondence that quickly became burdensome.   On January 1, 2015, Kathy Calaway and Tiff Wimberly established a Facebook page for the church plant.   It quickly had a significant following and allowed people to have discussions in a convenient forum.     One of the true blessings occurred shortly after the beginning of the year when Beth Olejniczak decided to join our group giving us a deaconess and a leader that we needed.

There was a desire to give the project a name, so before the first organizational meeting, there was a Facebook discussion and vote to provide a name for our new church.   The name Emmanuel Lutheran Church was selected on January 7, 2015, from several suggestions that were included in the vote. The entity Emmanuel Lutheran Church of Northwest Arkansas was formed by filing with the secretary of state of the State of Arkansas on January 8, 2015.   Some initial donations were made and bank accounts opened to handle expenses incurred over the next few weeks.

The first organizational meeting occurred on January 12, 2015, at the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce and by this time it was a foregone conclusion that there would be a church plant.   Pastor Bill White who is the dean of the mid-south district of the North American Lutheran Church (NALC) and the Pastor of Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Memphis Tennessee presented information on the NALC at the meeting.   A small task force had reviewed the various Lutheran denominations in an attempt to find a place where we could keep our Lutheran identity that would be a good fit for our new congregation.   There had been no decision made but it was a chance to become familiar with the NALC.   Although there was no decision on which denomination our church would settle, it was even clearer that the plant would happen in some form.   There were 80 people in attendance at that meeting and the organizers presented sign-up sheets so people could become involved in committees.   The other main action taken was the appointment of temporary officers.   The temporary officers were President, Tiff Wimberly, Vice President Kraig Olejniczak, Secretary Tom Stockland, and Treasurer Kathy Calloway.   Pastor White left the church a gift of 30 LBWs that were very much appreciated.

The discussion regarding affiliation with a specific denomination continued for the next nine days until we had our second meeting on January 21, 2015, at Butterfield Trail School. There were 84 people in attendance at this meeting. The most significant item on the agenda was where to affiliate.   Kraig Olejniczak presented the options that had been reviewed by the task force and led a discussion of available choices.   From discussions between the meetings, it was apparent that the three denominations to be considered were the ELCA, the NALC and LCMC.   ELCA took itself out of the equation when it notified the task force that it would not support the new church plant as a separate ELCA church.   After extensive discussion, it was decided to affiliate with the NALC and so the NALC was contacted to get that ball rolling.   The other primary business was the building committee chaired by Jim Stockland had found a facility that they believed would be ideal for the church at a price they thought made sense.   The group unanimously decided to empower the committee to rent the facility and take actions necessary to make it a church. The lease was executed the next day.  The decision was made we would like to have our first worship service on Ash Wednesday, February 18, 2015, so the building committee would be busy.

Throughout the next two weeks, the committees were very busy.   The worship and music committee co-chaired by Donna Scanlan and Paula Johnson was busy preparing services to meet the Ash Wednesday deadline.   Not only did the service have to be prepared but almost everything for the worship service had to be purchased.   Over the next two weeks, the church lead by the worship and music committee acquired things essential to worship.   Among other things, the church acquired chairs, an altar, a lectern, candles, processional cross, communion ware, additional hymnals, sound system, piano, sacristy refrigerator, sacristy cabinet, flower stands, banners, projector and computer, and other items needed to have a worship service.   Through fundraising, this was accomplished efficiently with little money coming out of the unreserved church funds.

During this same time frame, the building committee was busy making our facility into a church.   There were countless hours of physical labor spent by volunteers.   Volunteers did things including tearing down walls, taking up the carpet, taking up tile, taking trash to the dump, and taking out interior windows and doors.   Bob Brisiel made this project a full-time job and spent most of his time supervising some volunteers then helping the professionals where he could while putting together shelves, refinishing the altar and lectern, and many other tasks.   The building committee had new floors installed and had much of the repair and carpentry work done by Mike Pennington who had his guys work nights and weekends at his costs to help the church get into the facility.

During this time the constitution committee of Jerry Musick, Don Cantanzaro, Tiff Wimberly and Bart Stockland worked to put together a Constitution for our church.   There are not the required provisions required by the NALC that some denominations have so much of their work was developing the constitution they thought appropriate without restrictions and requirements.   While this sounds great that the congregation is in charge, it is much more work to put together the constitution without a required framework.

The social committee chaired by Pam Stockland was also hard at work getting the kitchen ready for a pancake dinner we hoped to have in the fellowship hall on February 17, 2015. They had to acquire tables and chairs for the fellowship hall along with equipment and storage for the kitchen.   There were a stove and refrigerator donated almost immediately and the shelving was added later to make the kitchen functional.   Linda Eichman and Lynne Martin put together a list of supply items and made sure the kitchen was properly stocked.   Ashley Stockland registered at Target to give people a place to purchase plates, serving pieces, utensils, and other items for the use of the church.

Also hard at work was the education committee.   The education committee has a great deal of experience.   Kathy Calaway is the chair of the committee and loosely speaking she will focus primarily on pre-middle-school-age education.   Carleen Ringgenberg is looking to lead the confirmation class and first communion class and is working on those age groups.   Tom Hollopeter is working on leading the adult education while Betty Metcalf and others are looking to work with junior and senior high ages.   The education program is scheduled to start after Easter and the committee is working to assure it is successful.     A special thanks to Leslie Harvey for guidance, leadership, and curriculum which she so graciously provided to the committee.

Finally, there is a tremendous ministry working through our Parish Nurses Beth Olejniczak and Lynne Martin.     These two women are truly an example of Christian love and caring and will be a tremendous asset for ELC for years to come.

Much of the work culminated with the official organizational meeting which took place on February 9, 2015. The charter was signed and all who signed were allowed to vote at this meeting.   The congregation voted to accept the Constitution and Bylaws of Emmanuel Lutheran Church of Northwest Arkansas.   Shortly thereafter a resolution was adopted to accept the Constitution of the North American Lutheran Church and take all actions to become affiliated.     Following that the first council was elected by ELC.   The council consisted of President Marilyn Hoke, President Elect Kraig Olejniczak, Past President Curt Calaway, Secretary Susan Fox and the four council positions that were not officers were Shana Kasparek, Jerry Musick, Jim Stockland and Tiff Wimberly.   Although there was a great deal of business accomplished, the meeting had a very festive atmosphere with a very meaningful sharing of The Peace.   At the end of the night, we had 118 people on our roster but decided to keep the roster open for a limited time knowing that some people couldn’t make that meeting.   The meeting had 125 people in attendance.

At the first council meeting, it rounded out the initial officers of the church by appointing Tom Stockland financial secretary and Tom Hollopeter as treasurer.  A special thanks to Lu Indorf for constructing the mailboxes and the book stand for the altar.

On February 16, 2015, ELC was notified that it had been received as a congregation of the NALC.   On February 17, 2015, the church had the very first fellowship opportunity where it fed over 80 people at its pancake supper.   The church successfully met its Ash Wednesday goal for a first service and had a service with 133 people in attendance.   A special thanks to Pastor Jim Shears from Memphis Tennessee who presided Pastor at the Ash Wednesday service as well as the first two Sunday Services of ELC.

By  closing of Charter the number of people who had become charter members and had signed the roster had ballooned to 172. God has blessed this congregation by calling quality faithful people to be a part of our church, its mission, and God’s family in Northwest Arkansas.

In April 2017, Pastor Jeffrey Carpenter was selected as the first pastor at Emmanuel.