50 years In Christ

A Brief History of Ascension Lutheran Church

In July of 1965, then Rev. Harry Sorenson, regional director for American Missions of the American Lutheran Church, together with Dr. R.A. Daehlin, president of the Rocky Mountain District of the ALC, commissioned the Rev. Orvin Bilstad to begin the work of developing a new congregation in north Cheyenne. This initiative would become Ascension Lutheran Church. By the end of September, the church building was sufficiently completed to accommodate worship services in the Sunday School wing. The first worship service was set for the last Sunday in September, but it was postponed because of an early season storm. On the first Sunday in October, 59 people attended the first service. The furnace was not yet installed, and the wall studdings and trussed rafters were visible. The congregation worshiped in these temporary quarters until January of 1966, when they moved into the church proper. On February 15, 1966, Dr. Daehlin officially declared that the congregation be recognized as ASCENSION LUTHERAN CHURCH.

Ascension celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2016. At the time, several of its charter members were still members of the congregation: Ed Bauer, Dee Bauer, and Lois Gren. Ed Bauer was Ascension’s first congregational president. Ascension has evolved throughout the years. In 1993, the church sanctuary was enlarged. An altar, pulpit, and baptismal font were constructed by Dr. Donald Iverson and Neil Cusick. The congregation affirmed its commitment to music ministry by commissioning the building of a tracker pipe organ, completed in 2005. Martin Ott, of St. Louis, was the builder. This project was a very positive experience for both the congregation and Mr. Ott. Ascension has enjoyed a rich history of musical expression and is especially indebted to its leadership of choir director and organist, Dr. Jane Iverson. Ascension is also grateful for the contributions of Carol Moler, Gaela Young, and many other instrumentalists and vocalists.

The following pastors, spouses, and families have come to live among and serve the people of Ascension throughout the years:

Rev. Bilstad came to Cheyenne from Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Great Falls, Montana, with his wife, Judy, and three sons. He retired after serving Ascension for 10 years.

Ascension’s second pastor was the Rev. Donald Melchert, who came from Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Billings, Montana. He and his wife, Pam, arrived in 1975 with their daughter and two sons and served for eight years.

The Rev. Duane Ferchen, Ascension’s third pastor, came to Cheyenne from Missoula, Montana, with his wife, Karen, and their son and daughter, in 1983. Rev. Ferchen served for 20 years before retiring. He and Karen still reside in Cheyenne.

The Rev. Paul Everett also came to Cheyenne from Montana, after serving at Zion in Glendive. Paul and his wife, Karen, arrived here in 2005. They have three grown sons. Rev. Everett retired in 2014; he and Karen continue to reside in Cheyenne.

The Rev. Wesley Aardahl arrived in May 2016. In a departure from Ascension’s longstanding pattern, he moved here from Bismarck, North Dakota, rather than from Montana! He was, however, born and raised in Montana and served as a pastor there for six years. Pastor Wes is married to Rebecca, who was pastor of Christ Lutheran in Cheyenne until the church closed in 2019. They have two sons. Pastor Wes retired in the summer of 2019.

The Rev. Rebecca Aardahl accepted a one-year call from August 2019 to September 2020. More recently before coming to Cheyenne, she had been chaplain/director of pastoral care at Missouri Slope Lutheran Care Center and Valley View Heights Assisted Living in Bismarck.

This history is a “work in progress” and will be augmented, especially in the areas of Christian education, the women of the church, and seminary interns. Thanks are due to Janet Dull, for her work on the 50th anniversary history page, and to Rev. Bilstad, for his work on the 10th anniversary history pamphlet.

J.S. Bach signed his compositions with “S.D.G” for “Soli Deo Gloria” (To God Alone the Glory). Our own choir director often closes her communiqués with these same words. “Soli Deo Gloria” is surely an apt closing for this provisional and inconclusive history of a congregation that continues to live into the future at God’s bidding.

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