To all who mourn and need comfort To all who feel lonely and need companionship To all who pray To all who love to sing God’s praise, To all who sin and need a Saviour THIS CHURCH OPENS WIDE HER DOOR, And in the name of Jesus Christ Bids you welcome!!
These words appeared on the bulletin cover of Ascension’s first worship service on March 10, 1957. This service was the culmination of the desire of Lutherans in the Allied Gardens area, with the help of the National Lutheran Council, to provide a much needed church home. The goal was not only to find Lutherans in the area, but to find all those who wanted a community church.
Initial meetings had begun in October 1956, a parsonage on Waring Road was purchased in December, and by January of 1957, the first pastor, Ralph Carlson, was introduced. Part of Pastor Carlson’s initial tasks was to find a site for worship services. Eventually, the Sparkletts Warehouse, 5939 Mission Gorge Road, was secured for Sunday morning services.
Bottles of water were moved around every Sunday and a collapsible altar was set up. This warehouse was the location of that first March 10 worship service. Fifty adults and 49 children were received into charter membership on Sunday, May 26, 1957, bringing into fruition the plans, dreams and hopes of many who welcomed the day with a deep sense of satisfaction and humble gratitude to God. Ascension was then a part of the Augustana Synod.
There followed several years of searching for appropriate property in Allied Gardens. Then, as a gesture of interdenominational cooperation, the First Baptist Church agreed to lease a portion of their property, at 4871 Greenbrier Avenue, for $1.00 per year. (Houses now occupy this space.)
A unique new twist in church construction then began: a completely demountable “A-frame structure was designed by architect, Robert E. DesLauriers, A.I.A. This design became the solution to the complex problem of building a church that would have to be relocated in three to five years. Groundbreaking on the Greenbrier Avenue site occurred on November 8, 1959. With the sanctuary constructed on a level area dug into the steep hillside, an off-street parking lot for 43 cars was provided at a lower level. Dedication of the new structure was on Sunday, February 28, 1960.
During the ensuing nearly three years, finding suitable property for permanent buildings remained one of Ascension’s goals. In June of 1962 it was possible to negotiate with the City of San Diego to purchase land at the corner of 51st Street and Zion Avenue. The church purchased 3.38 acres on this corner for $40,000. Another groundbreaking occurred February 24,1963, and in the interim, services were held at the Firestone Store, then at the corner of Waring Road and Orcutt Street.
The movers indicated they could move the church intact from Greenbrier Avenue for a cost less than that of dismantling the building, and with less damage to the structure. Moving day for the A-frame sanctuary, amid much media attention, was scheduled for March 13, 1963. Educational and administrative units were added on, and dedication of the permanent site took place June 1963.
Pastor Carlson and his family remained at Ascension until September of 1964, when he accepted a call to St. John’s Lutheran Church, Kailua, Hawaii. Then followed : Pastor Robert Freistedt, Pastor Harold Nilsson, Pastor Harold Banks, Pastor James Kniseley, Pastor Donald Helsel, Pastor David Kieffer, Pastor Laurie Line, Pastor Richard Zuber, and the current interim, Pastor Karin Boye.
Ascension has a history and a calling to serve its people and those of its community, both near and far. These activities include ministries such food distribution, community outreach (with a Christmas and Easter meal for the community), music programs, Christian Education, a quilting group, a Healing Touch Ministry, a Children’s Center, meeting space available to various support groups as well as the Allied Gardens Community Group and the San Diego Children’s Choir, a prayer ministry, various Bible study opportunities, and
Since 2006, members of Ascension have participated in a rebuilding ministry in New Orleans as a result of Hurricane Katrina. (Bethlehem Lutheran in New Orleans has become a sister parish). That ministry participation continues today.
In 2008, a “Sounds of Ascension” program was launched. Much needed renovations were made to the church, and to enhance the worship and outreach to the community a new organ and baby grand piano were acquired. This allows for regular musical events (choir concerts, guest musicians, organ concerts and the like) to be offered to the community. The bell choir has grown and is an integral part of the musical worship as well.
Ascension Lutheran seeks to continue serving the Lord through its active members and numerous and varied programs for many years to come!