Church History

Church History

    History of 

Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church and 

Northdale Lutheran Church and School


1957 -  2007



FORWARD - The founding of a new Wisconsin Synod Lutheran Church can only take place within a finite number of ways; the most common being as a mission or “exploratory” congregation.  If a congregation is well situated it may spawn a daughter congregation and help that new congregation through the formative years.  In either case it is a difficult task that is faced by the new church as it builds its foundation, and is looked back on as “it was a good experience but I would not care to do it again.”  Almost every congregation would agree that once is enough.


In the past fifty years Northdale Lutheran Church has twice gone through the trying experience of moving from mission status in a rented building, to a building program and finally to being self sufficient.




THE BEGINNING – Northdale Lutheran Church was originally known as Mt. Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church and has its origin, as most every church does, as a missionary congregation.  Mr. Charles White approached Pastor William Steih, a missionary from the Michigan District Mission Board  (MDMB) of the Wisconsin Synod in 1955 to inquire about the possibility of starting a mission in Tampa .  Mr. White undertook a canvass of potential members in the Tampa area and came up with 19 souls.  With this information, the MDMB decided to open a mission station in Tampa under the supervision of Pastor Steih.  The first order of business was to find a place of worship, and through the City of Tampa Recreation Department the Sulfur Springs Hall was made available at a sum of $7.00 per service.  The first service was held on December 18, 1955 with Pastor Steih officiating.


The Charter Members were:


            Charles White


            Gladys White


            August Tessmer


            Ethel Tessmer


            Ernest Rau


            Andrew Ontkno (?)


            Emilie Ontko (?)


            Susanna Vogt


            Frieda Vogt



Three members, Mr. White, Mr. Tessmer and Mr. Rau, offered to secure two and one half acres of land on Bougainvillea between 19th and 29th Streets under a land contract in their name for the church property.  This was approved by the MDMB, and the contract executed on February 6, 1956.  During 1956 the MDMB recognized the workload on Pastor Steih and called another missionary to the Tampa area.  Pastor Vogt conducted his first service at Mt. Calvary on November 11, 1956.  In March of 1957 services were moved to Meyers Trailer Village Park and on July 10, 1957 Mt. Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized and a constitution adopted.


During this period, Pastor Vogt was also serving the Bradenton area plus founding what is now Bay Pines Lutheran Church .  The MDMB decided to call Pastor Howard Kaiser to serve both the Seminole and Tampa missions.  He conducted his first service at Mt. Calvary on October 12, 1958.  About this time the MDMB directed Mr. Calvary to concentrate their mission work in the Northwest are of Tampa .  In January 1959 the place of worship was changed to the North Rome Civic Club.


On September 13, 1959 Mt. Calvary installed its first resident pastor, Pastor E. C. Renz.  In the next year the property on Bougainvillea was sold and on June 1, 1960 five acres on

In January of 1960 the Ladies Aid Society of Mt. Calvary was organized.  The founding members were:


            Ruth Renz


            Gladys White


            Anna Ruddat


            Linda Panter


            Norma Barringer


They were later joined by current members of Northdale, Jean Schofer in June of 1960 and Vida Curtis in March 1961.


On December 4, 1960 the parsonage was dedicated and on April 29, 1962 the church was dedicated.  By the 10th anniversary, which was celebrated on April 10, 1967, the congregation had grown to 108 communicant members.


In December of 1963, the LWMS was formed and the first LWMS gathering was held at Mt. Calvary .


In July 1972 Pastor Renz celebrated his 25th year in the ministry.  In 1973 Pastor Renz accepted a call and held his last service at Mt. Calvary on February 25, 1973.


The pulpit remained empty until July 15, 1973 when Pastor Carlton Klemp was installed.  In May of 1974 Pastor Klemp resigned and the vacancy existed until October of 1974 when Pastor Karl Molkentin was installed and served Mr. Calvary until April of 1977.  At that time he accepted a call to Van Dyne, Wisconsin .  Pastor Molkentin was replaced by Pastor Donald Burch who was installed on July 17, 1977 and subsequently resigned on July 11, 1978 to join the Missouri Synod.


The pulpit was once again vacant until March of 1979 when Pastor Norman Pommeranz assumed the pastorship having been called from Hemlock, Michigan .  During the early tenure of Pastor Pommeranz a decision was made to concentrate the mission of the church in the booming Carrollwood/Northdale section of Tampa .  In 1981 the existing church property and parsonage were sold and Mr. Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church ceased to exist.




The church was renamed Northdale Lutheran Church and began its second passage through the trial of being a mission congregation.  For a brief period, services were held in a school cafeteria and subsequently at The Dance Studio in the Northdale Shipping Center until May of 1983.  Membership waned during this period to a low in the twenties and gradually the church rebuilt both in membership and physical facilities.  In 1982 the parsonage was purchased in the Northdale area and the land for the current church was purchased. 


The current home of Northdale Lutheran Church was dedicated on May 22, 1983 and a major addition occurred in 1991 when the current Fellowship Hall was added.  It was dedicated in May of 1991.


During the tenure of Pastor Pommeranz, he celebrated his 25th year in the ministry on October 16, 1988.  In November of 1993, Pastor Pommeranz accepted a call to Munising, Michigan and the pulpit remained vacant until June of 1994 when Pastor Roger  Rockhoff, who was serving in Hawaii, accepted the call to Northdale Lutheran Church .


In the ensuing years after Pastor Rockhoff’s arrival, Northdale once again experienced a renewed growth in the membership with the communicant membership approaching 100 at the time of the church’s 40th Anniversary on June 8, 1997.  The church was no longer on mission status at this time.


Pastor Renz, the church’s first resident pastor was the guest speaker at the 40th anniversary celebration attended by 100 members and friends of Northdale.  In November of the same year, the church celebrated the 100th birthday of Edna Mallon, mother of member Harriet Busse.


In the 10 years following, Northdale has continued to grow.  Shortly before the turn of century, discussions began to add a Christian Day School .  The Fellowship hall was remodeled to make two classrooms; one for the lower grades and one for the upper grades.  Eric Brown was called in 2000 as the first Northdale Lutheran School Principal and teacher.  His wife Janell began teaching the following year and they remained at the school for 4 years.  During that time the number of students ranged from 10 to 22.  In 2003, the name of the church was changed to Northdale Lutheran Church and School.


Construction began on a new school building in 2003 and the facility was dedicated on February 29, 2004.  At that time, the Browns accepted a call to open the Southern Lutheran Academy near Lakeland, Florida and left following the 2003-2004 school year.  Aimee Hardman accepted the call to teach the lower grades.  She moved from Williamston, Michigan in the summer of 2004 and began teaching at Northdale Lutheran School in the fall of 2004.  Because no one had accepted the call to serve as principal or upper grades teacher, the congregation extended a one year emergency call to Martin Lutheran College senior, Paul Huebner.  Paul, who took a leave from his training at MLC, taught the upper grades for the school year.  During that year, Pastor Rockhoff served as the principal.


In June 2005, Al Meihak accepted a call to become Principal and upper grade teacher at Northdale Lutheran School .  Al and his wife Katie moved from Nebraska with their daughter Molly and their daughter Hannah was born in Tampa .


In November 2005, Pastor Rockhoff resigned from the ministry.  The president of the congregation David Hartwig, Al Meihak and retired Pastor Verne Voss faithfully filled the vacancy until June 2006 when Pastor Charles Vannieuwenhoven (Pastor Vann) was installed as the 10th pastor in the church’s history.  Pastor Vann, his wife Amy and children Tabitha, Elyse and son Micah moved from North Mankato, Minnesota, to serve at Northdale Lutheran Church and School.


A decision was made in March 2007 to sell the parsonage.  As of the writing of this document prior to the anniversary, the parsonage is still on the market and we are awaiting its sale.  As of our anniversary, our current membership stands at 124 communicant members and 166 baptized members.  Northdale Lutheran School finished the 2006-2007 school year with 16 students.  Twenty-five have already signed up for the 2007-2008 school year.


FELLOWSHIP  – Members at Northdale have the opportunity to share in fellowship with one another through various organization, committees and gatherings.


The Ladies Circle, now renamed in 2007 to Women of Northdale, share their time and talents by sponsoring the coffee hour after services on Sunday morning, have published and sold recipe books, and hold their annual craft and bake sale every November.  They have graciously supported the church by donating their funds to purchase new tables for the Fellowship hall and contributed to the new major carpet purchase in June 2005.


The Northdale Winners, which consists of member 55 and older, provides an opportunity for Christ centered fellowship through such events as cruises, luncheons and tours of nearby attractions.


Sunday School and Bible Class are held every Sunday throughout the year for the spiritual benefit of members and guests.  Vacation Bible School is hosted for a week each summer to share the Word with Jesus little lambs. 



(We thank Kathie Ward and Vida Curtis for helping to update this history that was written for the 40th Anniversary of our congregation with information from the past 10 years.)





          Pastor Steih                                    1955 - 1956


          Pastor Vogt                                     1956 - 1958


          Pastor Kaiser                                  1958 - 1959


          Pastor Renz                                    1959 - 1973


          Pastor Klemp                                 1973 - 1974


          Pastor Molkentin                          1974 - 1977


          Pastor Burch                                   1977 - 1978


          Pastor Pommeranz                        1979 - 1993                  


          Pastor Rockhoff                                       1994 - 2006         


          Pastor Vannieuwenhoven           2006 – Present






          Eric Brown         (Principal/Upper grades)    2000-2004


          Janelle Brown  (Lower grades)                       2001-2004


          Paul Huebner  (Emergency Upper grades)  2004-2005


          Aimee Hardman (Lower grades)                   2004-Present


          Al Meihak (Principal/Upper grades)             2005-Present





Kirby Street

was purchased for a church site.