Holy Cross, Saginaw Celebrates 175th Anniversary3 min read

Holy Cross, Saginaw, has set aside the first 175 days of 2024 in celebration of its 175th anniversary. The theme for Holy Cross’ anniversary is Jesus’ words recorded in John 12:32: “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” The anniversary hymn is Drawn to the Cross, Which Thou Hast Blessed (LSB 560).

The commemoration will begin at 10:30 a.m. with a festival worship service on Sunday, January 28, 2024, the date closest to its founding on January 29, 1849. Rev. Dr. Richard J. Wolfram, pastor of Holy Cross from 1989–1999, will preach the anniversary sermon. A catered dinner will follow the service. Commemorative displays recounting Holy Cross’ history will be on display. Throughout 2024, the congregation will continue its celebration via service and educational activities to benefit the church and its community.  The 175th day of 2024 will be Sunday, June 23. A special time of worship is also planned for that date.

Rev. Ferdinand Sievers regularly made trips from St. Paul, Frankenlust, to minister to a small group of Lutherans in the rowdy, raucous neighboring lumber-town of Saginaw. On Monday, January 29, 1849, Pastor Sievers made his way along the Saginaw River to the home of Gardner Williams where he met with six individuals. Thus, Holy Cross Evangelical Lutheran Church of Saginaw was launched in the name of God, securely anchored in the Word of God and the confessions of the Lutheran Church.[1]

On October 17, 1849, ten Holy Cross’ voters extended a divine Call to theological candidate Ottomar Cloeter of nearby Frankenmuth. After receiving a colloquium with Pastor Sievers, Candidate Cloeter accepted the Call and was subsequently installed as the first of what would be twenty-two resident pastors of Holy Cross. Due to the flourishing lumber industry, Saginaw experienced significant growth which was subsequently reflected in the growth of the young congregation, which by 1865 had expanded to ninety voting members.

In 1851, Holy Cross established a Christian Day School in keeping with the Lord’s exhortation to “Train up a child in the way he should go: And when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Through the following years, 109 individuals have taught in one capacity or another at the school. Today, the school continues to fulfill its mission of “Helping Children Grow in Faith, Knowledge, and Service.” Holy Cross played a significant role in organizing and helping with the initial funding of Saginaw’s Valley Lutheran High School, which opened in 1977. Today, the congregation supplies VLHS with students, is active in the school’s association, and has a member sit on Valley’s governing Board.

Holy Cross is regarded as the “Mother Church” of Saginaw, having provided members and monetary funds to help establish several Lutheran congregations in the Saginaw Valley: Trinity Lutheran Church, founded in 1885 (Trinity hassince merged with another congregation); Bethlehem in 1914; Redeemer in 1930; Peace in 1941; Faith, Bridgeport in 1948; Good Shepherd in 1955; and Carrollton’s Lutheran Church of the Messiah in 1964, which completed a merger with Redeemer Lutheran Church.

The Lord of the Church has richly blessed Holy Cross during its 175 years of providing Word and Sacrament ministry. Not desiring merely to take pride in their rich past, the members of Holy Cross are determined, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to look ahead and be Christ’s witnesses by fulfilling the church’s mission statement, “As we Grow in Christ’s Love and the Word, We Will Share Christ’s Love with the World.”

For further information on Holy Cross’ anniversary activities, contact the church office at 989.793.9723 or

Photos courtesy of Holy Cross, Saginaw

[1] Emil H. Voss, Holy Cross Evangelical Lutheran Church U. A. C. Saginaw, Michigan 1849-1949, 10.

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