Trinity Lutheran History

The seed that has grown into Trinity Lutheran Church of Athens, Georgia, was planted on November 12, 1939 by the Rev. Theodore Ahrendt of Grace Lutheran Church in Atlanta and of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. He shared his vision in a sermon to six Christian Lutherans of the Athens and University of Georgia communities. Services were conducted at the Emmanuel Episcopal Church. World War II brought in a wave of veterans as students and faculty who wished to continue their Christianity in their new home.

By April 5, 1953, 16 Lutherans chartered Trinity Lutheran Church and began the Lord's work by establishing a Sunday School first. The school met in the Lustrat House on the campus of the University. The congregation eventually also met there with Sunday worship services. Other public sites used by the fledgling congregation were the Athens City Hall and Clarke County Courthouse. The founders had visions for a permanent ministry in both the town and gown locales and so provided service to the City of Athens and the students at the University of Georgia. They foresaw that growth would result in a separation into a campus congregation and an urban one. Their first building was at 1010 S. Lumpkin Street, which was known as the Trinity Lutheran Church and Student Center . The first pastor was Richard P. Deffner who was also missionary-at-large for the Athens-Gainesville area and coordinator of campus work for the Florida-Georgia District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and chairman of the District Commission on College and University Work. He served Trinity from 1953 to 1965.

In 1966, the congregation decided to separate the Town congregation from the Gown, a situation which was enhanced by the donation of 10 acres of wooded land on Jefferson Road by Mrs. Lorenzo Moss. The student work was continued by our second pastor, the Rev. Ed Ralph. Pastor Ralph has since retired and the student congregation has been renamed Christus Victor Lutheran Church and Student Center. Christus Victor is currently a town and gown congregation under the leadership of the Rev. Gregory C. Michael.

The Rev. Wyatt Kimberley became the third pastor of Trinity in 1970. As a missions official in the Florida-Georgia District, he was on the ground floor in 1953 when Trinity was chartered. A Parish Hall and Education Building were erected on the Moss tract in November of 1971 and from this site Trinity has ministered to Athens through the efforts of a preschool beginning in 1987. Pastor Kimberley served Trinity from 1970 to 1984, leaving to become District's Director of "His Love, Our Response," a stewardship emphasis. Our fourth pastor, the Rev. Dr. David Bernthal, accepted Trinity's call in August of 1985 and led Trinity's ministry by overseeing the erection of the present sanctuary, an administration building, and a day care and preschool mission, Trinity Lutheran Academy, until September 2000. Vacancy Pastor Thomas Artelt lead our church until the congregation Called Pastor Scott Heitshusen in November, 2001. Pastor Scott brought the celebration of the Sacrament of Holy Communion to all services each Sunday, initiated a mid-week blended style worship service, organized Trinity's administration and updated our technology. Pastor Heitshusen was called to another congregation in July 2006.

Pastor David Heller accepted Trinity's Call in November, 2007. Coming from service as a military chaplain, he brings a unique, compassionate perspective to his ministry. His goal is to grow the congregation to better serve the Athens area through God's Word.

Trinity began God's work with six Christians in 1939 and today has over 200 baptized members.

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