Our History

Calvary Lutheran Chapel on State and Lake Streets
Calvary Lutheran Chapel on State and Lake Streets

Since 1920 the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) has been serving students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with Word and sacraments. A successful joint-ministry was experienced with the then-existing Synodical Conference from 1920-1964 at Calvary Lutheran Chapel on State and Lake Streets.

In 1964 the WELS began an independent campus ministry near State and Gilman Streets. Our first campus pastor was Richard Balge who served during the riot years of 1964-1971 and who oversaw the construction of our 1966 Chapel-Student Center at 220 West Gilman Street. Dr. Wayne Schmidt, an accomplished musician, pastored the Chapel from 1971-1975. Paul Kelm, who became a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran College, ministered to students from 1976-1979. Thomas Trapp is the current campus pastor and came in October, 1979.

1966 Chapel-Student Center on 220 West Gilman Street, circa the 1990s
1966 Chapel-Student Center on 220 West Gilman Street, circa the 1990s

In 1982 we began a summer International Vacation Bible School that gave us the opportunity to share Jesus (in our “backyard”) with over 100 children and parents from around the world. Our international ministry has grown into a seven-days-a-week ministry.

In the late 1980s and 1990s there were several part and full time pastors who faithfully and skillfully served the Chapel. Then in 1994 Judith Metzger was called as our first full-time Student Outreach Coordinator. In 1996 Pastor John Chworowsky began serving as our first full-time International Outreach Coordinator. God used their ministries to set the stage for an increase in activity in our home and world mission work on campus.

Artist's rendition of the new Chapel-Student Center on 220 West Gilman Street
Artist’s rendition of the new Chapel-Student Center on 220 West Gilman Street

Then in the 1990s bold planning began to expand and ensure the impact of this world-wide ministry. God (who is “able to do more than we ask or imagine” —Ephesians 3) blessed our planning and prayers with a new 26,000 sq-ft. Chapel-Student Center dedicated on February 26, 2006. Our God of grace touched the hearts of our members, alumni, parents and friends to make this possible.

Our attendance, outreach to the neighborhood, and student involvement has greatly increased since that time. The Lord used our very dedicated and increased staff along with our new community-building facility to bring about these ministry blessings.

Life has changed at UW-Madison since 1920. In 1920 its enrollment was 7,000. Today 41,000 students walk the campus. Now a world-class university, UW-Madison has the most alumni serving as CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.

Our new 26,000 sq-ft. Chapel-Student Center was dedicated on February 26, 2006.
Our new 26,000 sq-ft. Chapel-Student Center was dedicated on February 26, 2006.

Things have changed since 1920, but one thing has not changed. In the midst of all this lofty human wisdom stands God’s wisdom—“the foolishness of the cross” as Paul calls it in 1 Corinthians 1. Christ-crucified for the sins of the world is the power of God and the wisdom of God and the way to peace with God. It continues to be the unchanging message of Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel.