“On May 4, 1962, the Board of American Missions of the United Lutheran Church in America extended a call to senior seminarian C. Wesley Hayes to become a missionary and begin a congregation in Salem. From the beginning the congregation has had an ecumenical thrust with the Rev. Mr. Hayes and the Rev. Robert Elliott of the Pleasant Street Methodist Church sharing in a joint effort to contact every home in the Salem area for the purpose of a religious census.
“From these contacts a steering committee of Dr. and Mrs. Everett Parhiala, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Olson, Mr. and Mrs. Alan Benger, Mr. and Mrs. William Heidenreich, Jr. and Mr. and Mrs. William Schmidlin was formed to chart the direction of the emerging congregation. It was this group that selected the name Triumphant Cross and made plans for the first worship service held on September 9 in the new Soule Elementary School on South Policy Street. C. Baird Lentz started a choir. William Heidenreich, Jr., built the altar, and Robert Olson made the lectern. One hundred fifty persons attended. “On March 17, 1963 the organizational charter was signed by 70 members.
A congregational dinner and meeting followed the service at which the first church council was elected and Missionary Hayes was called as Pastor. Alan Benger, Aarne Harju, Everett Parhiala, Gary Dreger, Robert Olson, George Simpson, William Heidenreich, Jr., Carl Johnson and William Schmidlin were elected as the first council, with Louise Olson elected as congregational secretary.
“The present three-acre site on North Broadway was selected in February, 1962. Building plans were formulated, and ground breaking was held March 29, 1965. In the rush to get everyone to the service on the site of the new building, the ushers forgot the offering plates and had to pass someone’s hat. The present structure was completed in May, 1966.
“In the meantime, Pastor Hayes had resigned in January, 1966, and a second pastor, the Rev. Keith M. Mckay was called. His installation and the dedication of the new building occurred on July 10, 1966. A new organist at Triumphant Cross, Leigh Thaeler, began the Salem Inter-faith Choir which sang at the dedication, and has presented concerts of sacred music at Christmas and during the Lenten season each year since.
“In December, 1966, Triumphant Cross introduced to New Hampshire the first Christmas tree. It is a Christmas tree decorated with special handmade ornaments which symbolically tell the meaning of the life of Christ. Louise Akselsen directed the congregation in this effort.
“The new congregation lived on faith as it faced financial pressures in 1967 and 1968. Without a pastor for a year, the Rev. Earl Okerlund was called in July, 1969. His personality gave new hope and courage to the task of building the church. During this time many needed improvements “were made to the building and grounds. The custom of a Good Friday-to-Easter prayer vigil was introduced to the community. A taped ministry worship for the Beaconcrest Hospital for the chronically ill in Lowell, Mass., was begun by George Simpson.
A food co-op, Scout troop, and other community organizations used the building for their activities. “The present Pastor, the Rev. Gary Miller, was called in 1972, and has brought an emphasis on Christian Education and greater lay involvement in the pastoral ministry. A Koinonia program of Fellowship and Christian Care, a modular Confirmation program, parent-effectiveness program, and the North East School of Religion have all had an impact on the community. The first Ecumenical Christmas School in New Hampshire was begun in December, 1972, by Juanita Kashulines, and has continued each year.
“The congregation begins its second decade with a commitment to share God’s Love through its “witness of care and concern for all members of the community.”
171 Zion Hill Road, Salem, New Hampshire 03079, United States
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