We are an Evangelical Free Church. It can truthfully be said, however, that our church has long been one of mixed ecclesiology, not just among members, but also ministers. We would like to think this results in a certain hybrid vigor.
How far back do we go? By one reckoning, 1863. That is when the building that served as our first meeting place was built at the junction of what are now county trunks T and TT, the site of what would become Weiser Cemetery. A German Evangelical Church, it became later in the 19th century the largest within the Wisconsin Evangelical Association. (Remember that, back then, most churches in the state were Lutheran and Catholic, with sizable numbers of Methodist, Baptist, and Reformed.)
In the 20th century, the church merged into the Evangelical United Brethren, and it continued its rural ministry until World War 2, when the gas rationing imposed on citizens made attendance difficult. Congregants chose churches within surrounding municipalities, and the little church in the vale closed.
Easter, 1954. The Reverend and Mrs. Erwin C. Westhause reopen the building under the name Pleasant Valley Community Church. Erwin was Congregationalist, and Ruth was Presbyterian, but this new communion of saints was organized as a nondenominational church of conservative Christian credentials generally matching those of Moody Bible Institute. People who had come in bygone days resumed attendance. The church grew. By the end of the decade, it had outgrown the antique, one-room building.
The Dodge family was in the process of founding a new lakeshore development called White Sails near the southwest corner of Green Lake. They wanted a good church within what they anticipated would become a thriving, even if unincorporated, community. Mrs. Margaret Dodge donated a lakefront lot to the Pleasant Valley congregation in 1960. Come Easter of 1963, Terrace Shores Community Church commenced ministry in a new chapel-style building.
Things went well until 1968. Then a church schism resulted in at least half the congregation departing. Thereafter, growth in numbers and finances stalled, but dedicated disciple-making continued. A hallmark of the Westhause ministry was sharing the pulpit with a goodly number of Godly guest professors, evangelists, teachers, musicians, pastors, missionaries, and artists, as well as former alcoholics and addicts. Male and female, they represented a variety of conservative perspectives: Baptist, Methodist, Reformed, even charismatic. Names some people may today yet recognize: Eugenia Price, Jack Odell, Warner Sallman, E. Merrill Dunlop, Ford Philpot, Bruce Porterfield, and Ray Mossholder.
The Westhauses retired at the end of 1980. Sadly, the congregation then numbered less than a couple dozen people. Even so, the church would not close.
In the course of seeking a new pastor, the congregation decided in 1981 to affiliate with the Evangelical Free Church of America. The church’s first E-Free pastor, Paul Hansen, came with his wife, Nancy, and daughter, Elizabeth, directly from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, even before he had graduated. A former staffer with Campus Crusade for Christ International (now Cru), Paul’s zeal helped quickly to turn things around. By 1984, the church neared a need to expand. Pastor Hansen wanted to launch a new building project; many people objected to abandoning picturesque and valuable real estate. Pastor Hansen acquiesced, but then took a post at a larger church outside Washington, DC.
Enter Art and Sue Volkmann, with their two children, Amy and Dan. Art has Methodist and Baptist background, Sue has Baptist. Both helped plant a Plymouth Brethren congregation in Illinois. He has been to Moody Bible Institute, Wheaton College, and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, both as a student and as an employee. He has ministered to international students. Both have served as missionaries with SIM in Ethiopia.
It is 1986, and the church must again consider expansion. The decision acceptable to everyone is launching a new church in Ripon, which came to be called Trinity EFC. Pastor Volkmann did the Methodist circuit-riding thing and served both congregations until mid-1988, when…
Mark and Sue Townsend, with their children Blair and Quinn, come to Terrace Shores EFC. Mark, though more or less of the Covenant persuasion, was also a graduate of Trinity seminary and had a background in law and finance. Expansion again became an issue. This time – 1989 and 1990 – the existing chapel got enlarged both above and below ground to provide more classroom space, a larger lobby, and a better kitchen. The Townsends took a post at a Covenant church in Minnesota in 1991.
Gary Zacharias has been the pastor of Terrace Shores EFC since 1991. Prior to that, he and his family served two other churches in the pastoral ministry, one Wesleyan and the other Lutheran (Missouri Synod). They served for a time as EFCA missionaries to the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. Gary graduated from Moody Bible Institute with a double major in Bible Theology and Evangelism, attended the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh to earn a degree in history, and then attended Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where he received Master of Divinity and Master of Theology degrees.
Church expansion projects can be hard on ministers. During the Zacharias tenure, different strategies have been employed that have minimized wear-and-tear:
· In 1997 and 1998, the church cooperated with Waushara Community Church in the planting of an E-Free church in Montello. Terrace Shores EFC contributed congregants and money.
· In 2002, the church bought what is now the Turning Point, putting a strip joint out of business and providing needed space for youth ministry and other meetings.
· In 2005, the church building was again enlarged to provide a library and two more offices.
· In 2009, the church opened a second campus in Berlin called River Shores, where complete worship services and children’s Bible schools are conducted. This extension puts the entire county within the Terrace Shores/River Shores sphere of influence.
-compiled by Donn Wright