Enduring Bequest

A campus ministry closes its doors, but ensures its legacy.

After more than 70 years of service to Cheney and the university community, Emmanuel Lutheran Church announced this spring that it is closing its doors.

This unhappy outcome was the result of a shrinking congregation, financial pressures and the loss, earlier this year, of Emmanuel Lutheran’s half-time pastor. Nevertheless, church officials say, the congregation is determined to ensure that its long legacy of involvement with EWU will continue.

As part of this year’s Giving Joy Day events, Emmanuel Lutheran pledged to Eastern a portion of the proceeds from the sale of its campus-adjacent church building. The gift, totaling more than $130,000, will create a named nursing scholarship endowment, bolster general scholarship funding and help EWU’s new Emergency Medical Services certificate program purchase equipment.

Jake Rehm, president of Emmanuel Lutheran’s church council, acknowledged the situation is bittersweet.

“Emmanuel Lutheran, much like EWU, has served the Cheney community, as well as the entire region, for many decades,” Rehm says. “While it was painful to close our doors, we are thankful to be able to continue to bless Cheney and EWU through our gifts.”

Rehm, a senior lecturer and director of the Fitness Center for the Department of Wellness and Movement Sciences at EWU, is one of many university faculty and staff members who’ve belonged to the church over the years. Charlie Mutschler, for example, a beloved archivist and historian, was among the church’s congregants. Mutschler died suddenly in 2019, and Emmanuel Lutheran’s leadership is working with the university to create a memorial on campus.

Since the early 1970s, the church has also helped support a Lutheran Campus Ministry at EWU with the goal of providing a welcoming and inclusive community for students, faculty and staff. That ministry will continue.

“Many of the members witnessed, firsthand, the positive impact Eastern Washington University has had on the students and people in our community and in our region,” the church council said in a statement. “We hope that this gift will allow EWU and Emmanuel to continue to help serve the community for years to come.”