St. Paul Lutheran

Our History


St. Paul Lutheran Church has a rich history in the Sanford area that dates back to 1892. It was in that year that the German Lutheran Emanuel Society of Sanford began building a German Lutheran church for families in the surrounding area. This church was located in a wooded area, about a half mile east of the corner of Neiner and Nielsen Roads, and was often referred to as “The Little Church in the Wildwood.” The road back to the church was often impassable by vehicles so members often walked to church.

The ministers who preached here were either from Clare or the Lutheran Seminary in Saginaw and most came by train on Saturday, stayed at the home of a member and returned on Monday. There were times it was impossible to get to Sanford so services were often held once a month.

A photo of the original church house.


On May 24, 1947, Pastor W. A. Rook and nineteen people held an organizational meeting to discuss the formation of a new Lutheran church in Sanford. In 1949, two acres were purchased on Saginaw Road for $1,132 and plans were drawn up. On April 9, 1950, the groundbreaking was held and on October 8, 1950, Sanford Lutheran Church was dedicated, with Pastor Rook serving as a part-time Pastor until 1955.

In 1955, Pastor Norbert Mueller accepted a call and served as Pastor until 1958 when Pastor Allen Peck was installed and served until 1966.

In 1965, the Adam’s property, which was located behind the church, was purchased and became our new parsonage.

The ministers who preached here were either from Clare or the Lutheran Seminary in Saginaw and most came by train on Saturday, stayed at the home of a member and returned on Monday. There were times it was impossible to get to Sanford so services were often held once a month.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony? A wedding? Honestly, I can't tell what's going on in this picture, and I'm not even blind!


On January 16, 1966, Pastor Leonard Newman was installed. The church was growing and it became evident that in the next few years our church would be too small so a building project was discussed and started. It was of great concern how we would raise $200,000 for the new building, but on April 17, 1971, Pastor Newman turned over the first shovelful of dirt for the groundbreaking of St. Paul Lutheran Church of Sanford.

A photo of the new church building.


Many of you may have seen or heard the bell in the free-standing bell tower that graces the front of our church. This bell was purchased by our Sunday School in 1971 from the old St. John Lutheran Church in Midland. It can be heard during each church service as well as pealing for happy couples at each wedding and tolling in due respect for members of our congregation that have been called home.

As our church was being completed, it was of great interest to members and friends to see the accomplishment of each week’s work. We were all eager for the day when we could have our church and organ dedication. Finally, on May 7, 1972, our dreams were fulfilled and the dedication of St. Paul Lutheran Church of Sanford took place.

A photo of the bell tower, consisting of three crosses with a bell suspended between them.


In May of 1978, the building that had served as the Sanford Lutheran Church was remodeled and became our Sunday School Building. It still serves that purpose today. Through the years, many new projects have been accomplished and improvements have been made to the church, Sunday School Building and parsonage.

A photo of the church-turned-Sunday school.


On May 21, 1989, Pastor Newman retired after 36 years in the ministry and having served St. Paul for 23 of those years. On September 6, 1989, Pastor Peter Preus was installed as our Pastor and served until 1999.


In 1992, the old pews, altar, lectern and pulpit from the Sanford Lutheran Church building were given to Redeemer/DeTour Lutheran Church in the Upper Peninsula and, since they did not need all the pews, some were also given to the Drummond Island Lutheran Church.


St. Paul celebrated its 50th anniversary in recognition of all that had been accomplished and in gratitude for the many blessings our church has received.


Rev. Paul Young was installed and served our congregation until his retirement in July of 2013. Once Pastor Young announced his retirement, a Call Committee was formed and the search for a new Pastor began.


After worship was led by substitute pastors for a number of weeks, Rev. Leslie Tyvela, a retired pastor who had served Immanuel Lutheran Church in Bay City for many years, agreed to become our Vacancy Pastor and served until his death in 2014. Rev. Curt Adams became the new Vacancy Pastor at that time.


At that time, Rev. Curt Adams became our Vacancy Pastor and served until 2015 when Rev. Samuel Reith, who had been serving Zion Lutheran Church in Mount Pleasant, was called and, after several weeks of prayerful consideration, accepted. Pastor Reith was installed on Sunday, January 11, 2015. He and his wife, Ann, have been a wonderful blessing to our church and our congregation.


On January 6, 2019, Don Barnard, a long-term member of St. Paul, was installed as a Deacon in our congregation after successfully completing his course of study in the Michigan District Deacon Program. Don has served as a member of the Board of Elders for many years and, as a Deacon in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, would be taking on additional responsibilities at St. Paul.

The summer of 2019 saw several physical changes to our church. It had previously been determined that, although our roof had weathered many storms, it would soon need to be replaced. After two years of planning along with vigorous fundraising activities and many generous donations, we had accumulated more than $200,000 and it was time for the season of construction to begin. On June 17, B&B Builders of Midland, began the replacement of St. Paul’s roof and, at that time, the construction of a vertical lift was also underway. By the end of August, both projects had been completed and were serving our congregation well.

On October 20, it was time for thanksgiving and the congregation gathered together for a Dedication and ribbon cutting service to thank the Lord for the countless blessings He had bestowed on us.

As always, Christmas, 2019, was a blessed time for the members of St. Paul. The church had been festively decorated, the children shared their joy during the Christmas program and our members and visitors joined together to celebrate the birth of Christ. Unfortunately, Pastor Reith, who had been experiencing severe health problems for the past several months, also announced that due to his health, he would be retiring as our Pastor at the end of May.


At that time no one realized that 2020 would bring about the global COVID-19 health crisis. On March 24, in concern for the safety of the members of our congregation and in compliance with the Governor’s guidelines, all church services and activities were suspended. Since this was during the blessed season of Lent and Easter, it was agreed that Easter would be celebrated whenever the church could resume services.

On May 19, another unforeseen disaster occurred. Torrential rains hit the area and, in a matter of hours, thousands of residents were evacuated, the Edenville Dam had collapsed and the Sanford Dam failed, bridges and roadways were washed away, thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed and, with the failure of the Edenville and Sanford Dams, came the loss of Wixom and Sanford Lakes. By the grace of God, no lives were lost.

Although St. Paul lost electrical power and phone service, our beloved church had been spared the devastating destruction experienced by most of the residents andbusinesses in the village of Sanford and the surrounding area.

On May 31, after more that two months, St. Paul opened its doors once again and, while abiding by recommended safety precautions, celebrated Easter and the re-opening of our church. However, it was also bittersweet since this was Pastor Reith’s last service as our Pastor.

As a Call Committee was formed and we began the process of searching for a new Pastor, Rev. Larry Wright became our Vacancy Pastor and conducted services for the following year.


After much deliberation and prayer, on April 11, 2021, a call was extended to Rev. Christopher Vossler, who had served the congregation of Trinity Lutheran Church in McFarland, Kansas, for the past eight years.

Rev. Vossler accepted St. Paul’s call and, on July 25, 2021, our congregation bid a grateful farewell to Rev. Wright and held a Service of Installation for Rev. Vossler. This joyful occasion was attended by our members and visitors along with clergy from the surrounding area and Pastor Vossler’s family including his father, Rev. Rick Vossler from New Jersey. We were confident that God had once more blessed our church and sent another faithful servant to lead us in the future.


In 2022, by God’s grace, St. Paul celebrated its 75th congregational anniversary. Rev. Peter Preus returned for the weekend as our guest preacher, and our Band and Choir both prepared special music for the service. With the Lord’s blessing, St. Paul will remain an active part of this community and continue to serve God here for another 75 years.