August 3, 2023: Capital Campaign Update

This week we took another step toward making our congregation’s buildings more beautiful, accessible, and useful for creative, courageous, and compassionate ministry. 

On Tuesday, Pastor Mike Wilker met with Chris Baier from Joseph Construction and Lee Anderson from Kueny Architects to open the bids on the sanctuary reconstruction project. The approximate cost of the project is $827,000. 

This total includes demolition, concrete, steel fabrication, steel installation, carpentry, drywall around the posts, flooring repair where the old posts were, painting, plumbing (radiators along west wall), and some electrical work near where the posts will be installed. It does not include reshingling the roof holes where the steel rafters will be inserted. 

Roughly, that leaves $3.6 million for the Gathering Hall and possible geothermal and solar expansion from the $4.4 million construction budget. In addition indirect/soft costs are about $1 million and include architect and engineer fees, contingency (about 10%) sanctuary furnishings, livestream, AV, etc. 

Next Steps:

  1. The construction manager will work to get a bid for shingling. 
  2. The construction manager and architect will review the bids in more detail. The construction manager will put together a full bid report for the Pre Construction Team. 
  3. Pastor Mike will call a Pre Construction Team meeting within the next week so the construction manager and architect can review the bids with the Team and they can make a recommendation to the Council.
  4. Council will receive and act on the Pre Construction Team recommendation. The next regular Council meeting is Tuesday, August 8. We doubt that the Pre Construction Team will be able to meet in time for them to have a recommendation by Tuesday’s meeting (maybe?). So, this may need to be a special Council meeting.
  5. If the Council approves the contracts, then the steel fabricator needs six weeks to create shop drawings.
  6. Then the construction manager and architects review and approve the shop drawings. 
  7. Once the shop drawings are approved, it will take 4-6 weeks to fabricate the rafters and posts.
  8. Then construction can begin. Although this technically could begin mid-December, Pastor Mike, the architect and construction manager think it’s better to begin sanctuary construction after January 1.
  9. So for the first part of 2024 we will worship either in the Fellowship Hall or Fireside Room, depending on the stage of construction.

Other steps and some questions:

  1. Kueny Architects is currently working on revised drawings of the large Gathering Hall. That project will be ready to be released for bids around August 18-21. The bids will be due around September 19-21. Then we’ll go through a similar process to above. The big decision will be whether the large Gathering Hall can be built for $3.6 million. The Pre Construction Team and the Council will probably be able to decide on the Gathering Hall construction by mid-October. To see the revised scheme for the Gathering Hall, you can view a recording of last week’s Pre Construction Team meeting by clicking on this Zoom link. Passcode: #zA2FAm+
  2. Pastor Mike recommends that the Council and Preconstruction Team host congregation information sessions in August about the Sanctuary and in October about the Gathering Hall.
  3. In later August or early September, Pastor Mike would like to convene a meeting of the Fundraising and Finance Team to prepare for and to begin implementing the Roof Raising and Ground Breaking phase of the Campaign in the Fall and Winter.
  4. We will formally apply for the Mission Investment Fund loan at least six weeks before construction begins. We have a pre-approval now. Once we have a construction budget and form a building contract(s) then we can lock in a loan rate. Although we are pre-approved for up to $1.7 million, we only withdraw what we need as we need it. We only need to pay interest during the construction; once construction is complete we pay principal and interest.
  5. Pastor Mike will contact contractors regarding the sanctuary furnishings, AV, and livestream systems. The architect and construction manager will coordinate with those contractors. That work will be done after most of the construction work is completed.
  6. The construction manager said that one of the first construction steps of the Gathering Hall project will be excavating for the elevator. That will probably need to wait until April 2024 (Easter is March 31, 2024). So most of the Gathering Hall construction will be Spring-Fall 2024, it appears.

Thank you! We are getting closer to having a building that reduces barriers so more people can welcome and gather together to praise God, care for one another, grow in faith, and serve the world God so dearly loves.

Peace be with you,

Pastor Mike

June 29, 2023: Capital Campaign Update

Capital Campaign Update
June 29, 2023
Pastor Mike Wilker 

The For Generations to Come Capital Campaign The Preconstruction Team, architects, and construction manager have been working in the past four months to craft an updated construction plan. We are working hard to balance the construction expenses and income. This week the team decided to separate the plan into four bid projects: 1) Sanctuary steel structure, 2) Sanctuary finishes, 3) Gathering Space, and 4) Elevator and small entry. This will help the team and Council determine which parts of the project we will be able to accomplish and how much each component will cost. The new bids will be due later this summer.

Projected Income
We have already received $3 million in gifts and pledges! If we have the financial capacity to build the large Gathering Hall, there may be an additional possibility of $600,000 for geothermal and expanded solar. Thank you! As we enter the groundbreaking phase, we will ask for another $700,000 in gifts. In addition, we’ll use the undesignated bequests of $112,000 for sanctuary furnishings, AV, and livestream equipment. Plus, we plan to have a $1 million loan to finance up to 30 years. This makes the total estimated campaign income $5.4 million.

On the expense side, the indirect costs like fees for architects, engineers, sanctuary furnishings, permit fees, and contingency funds will be about $1 million. That leaves $4.4 million for actual construction and remodeling costs.

Bids and Revisions
The base bid for the Sanctuary restructuring, addition of the Gathering Hall, remodeling of the first floor of the office/education wing, and geothermal wells was $6.5 million. We selected Joseph Company from Austin, MN, to help us reduce the costs of the base bid to get us to $4.4 construction.

At the end of May, the architects and construction manager presented their proposal to cut the construction costs from $6.5 million to $4.4 million. Among many smaller reductions that seemed achievable, the biggest cut they recommended was to postpone the remodeling of the office and education wing until a later phase. Even with that cut, the project would cost $5.9 million, $1.5 million more than our estimated gifts and loan.

The Preconstruction Team gave the architects and construction manager more time to rework their drawings and recommendations. 

On Tuesday, June 27, the Preconstruction Team met with the architect and construction manager to receive updated concepts and timelines for bidding and construction. We accepted the following:

Bid Package #01 – Sanctuary Steel Bid July 2023

  • Install new Sanctuary structural steel truss frames.
  • Install new Sanctuary steel columns–Chase down through lower level.
  • Patchwork associated with new steel Sanctuary level.
  • Patch work associated with new column install main and lower level.
  • Replace steel cat walk in attic space of Sanctuary.
  • Rework affected baseboard heat for Sanctuary.


Bid Package #02 – Sanctuary Finishes Bid dates TBD (Fall/Winter 2023)

  • New paint work in Sanctuary.
  • Painting of existing chair rail.
  • New sanctuary lighting package–revised design 2023.
  • Platform alterations and North Sanctuary ramp.
  • Sanctuary flooring and wall base.


Bid Package #03 – Gathering Space Bid dates TBD (Fall/Winter 2023)     

  • Gathering Space and West Entrance construction.
  • New Gathering Space Restrooms. Minimum (4) restrooms.
  • New elevator construction.
  • Installation of Sanctuary door from elevator landing.
  • Lower level elevator landing to Fellowship Hall.
  • Reduce Gathering Space kitchenette to a beverage counter.
  • Existing first floor offices and Fireside Room remain unchanged.


Bid Package #04 – Elevator and Small Entry Design Bid dates TBD (Fall/Winter 2023)

  • Sanctuary Entrance Construction (Design Option“02”–Entrance on existing grade).
  • New Sanctuary Entrance Exterior Sitework.
  • Elevator Construction.
  • West Office Entry and Vestibule Construction –wayfinding signage in hallway.
  • West ADA sidewalk from parking lot.
  • Installation of Sanctuary door from elevator landing.
  • Lower level elevator landing to Fellowship Hall.
  • Existing first floor offices and Fireside Room remain unchanged.

Sanctuary A/V, livestream, and furnishings will be bid separately and are paid from the indirect costs budget.

First Lutheran Church Grants $39,500

The First Lutheran Church Trust Fund granted $39,500 for local ministries and scholarships. The largest single grant was $10,000 given to Camp EWALU in Strawberry Point to help remodel and expand. Another $6,400 was donated for 24 “camperships.”

The Decorah Community Food Pantry was granted $5,400. Some of the food pantry founders, including First Lutheran Church members Carolyn Flaskerud, Marlene Sorenson, and Jane Tollefson, celebrated the Food Pantry’s work at the annual meeting in January.

The congregation established the Trust Fund in 1995 to steward planned gifts and bequests to support ministries beyond the congregation’s usual operating budget. A Trust Fund Board elected by the congregation oversees the assets and decides where to grant the proceeds. The Rev. Dr. Jim Martin-Schramm is the current chairperson.

“We are blessed by the generosity of our ancestors to be a blessing to the community,” said Pastor Mike Wilker.

The Trust Fund also gave $10,000 of scholarships to students at Lutheran colleges and seminaries, including four Luther College students: Aiden Hunter, Lars Marquardt, Lily McGohan, and Ella Runestad. Conner Freeman and Laurie Iuden-Nelson, both of Decorah, also received scholarships to attend Wartburg Seminary.

Aase Haugen, Lutheran Services in Iowa, and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service also received grants. The final award was made to a joint ministry of Prairie Lakes, Decorah Lutheran, and First Lutheran Church to support and encourage mothers of preschoolers and school-aged children in Winneshiek County.

In addition, the Trust Fund manages the Weston Noble Music Ministry Endowment which supports the congregation’s music ministry. 

Anyone can contribute to the Trust Fund by including the FLC Trust Fund as a beneficiary in their will, trust, life insurance, or retirement plan. Consult an attorney, financial planner or call the church office to speak with Pastor Mike Wilker for more information.

Contact: Pastor Mike Wilker, 563-419-4488,

Give Today! FLC & LSI Refugee Project

Almost a year ago, many of us took the opportunity to welcome new refugees (mostly Ukrainian) to Iowa by donating items for kits (bath, kitchen, bedding, cleaning, etc.) which were taken to Lutheran Services in Iowa (LSI) in Des Moines for distribution. Thank you all for your generous hearts and gifts.

LSI is now giving us another opportunity to help refugees with some urgently needed items. In visiting with LSI’s Community Engagement Specialist Natalie Estrem, I learned that these items leave their offices almost as quickly as they come in, so there is almost always an urgent need. Please consider giving a gift of money toward these needs to First Lutheran Church – please mark your check or cash ‘Refugees’.  Our Ministry Support Coordinator Megan Pitz and I hope to order items from Walmart and have them delivered to the LSI Office in Des Moines so that no one from Decorah needs to drive them down. Walmart has free shipping with a minimum order. Please note with your gift if you would like it towards a specific item as listed below:

  • Twin sheets for adults         $19.97 Cotton Percale set at Walmart
  • Twin/King comforters for adults  $25+ bed in a bag comforter sets at Walmart
  • Laundry detergent  $19.24 Tide in an Eco-Box 105 loads at Walmart
  • Dish soap     approximately $3 per container at Walmart
  • Large kitchen trash cans      $20 at Walmart
  • Large frying pans     $12 at Walmart
  • Large pots    $8.94 at Walmart
  • any amount to help with sales taxes or price increases

Please donate by MARCH 31. NO FOOLING, Megan and I will take care of this at the beginning of April! God’s peace and blessing be with you all, Nancy Solomonson

FLC Considers Calling The Rev. David Severtson As Associate Pastor

Dear Congregational Members and Friends,

On behalf of the Congregation Council, we are pleased to introduce you to the Rev. David Severtson, the candidate to serve as associate pastor. He is recommended by the Associate Pastor Call Committee and the Council.

We invite active members* of the congregation to attend the Congregational Meeting this Sunday, March 5, at 11:15 AM in-person or via Zoom. At the meeting we have two items on the agenda: 1) vote to call Pastor Severtson to begin work on June 1, 2) vote on compensation for Pastor Severtson. The Rev. Steve Brackett, assistant to the bishop, will represent the synod to facilitate the call process and votes.

Pastor David is currently serving as the associate pastor of Calvary Lutheran Church in Willmar, MN, where he leads faith formation and congregational care ministries. He grew up in Clear Lake, IA. He graduated from Luther College in 2001, and Luther Seminary in 2020. He also earned his Doctor of Music degree in piano performance from the University of Minnesota in 2007.

Please read the attached/linked documents. Paper copies are also available in the church office and sanctuary.

Recommendation of the Call Committee, which explains the call process and rationale for calling Pastor Severtson.
Associate Pastor Position Description, which was approved by the Council last October.
Pastor David Severtson Biography, which narrates his faith and vocational journey.
Compensation Agreement, recommended by the Council in accord with the Synod Compensation Guidelines.

Deep thanks to the Call Committee members who have been serving faithfully and diligently since elected by the congregation in June 2022: Laura Storlie, Melinda Hanson, Evan Neubauer, Ruth Caldwell, Doug Van Sloten, Jenna Mockler-Gjerde, and Pastor Mike Wilker.


Troy Whitehill               Rev. Michael Wilker
Council President        Senior Pastor

*According to the congregation constitution, Active Members are those who have shared in Holy Communion and contributed at least $1.00 in the past year.

February Council Member of the Month: Johanna Bergan

Hi FLC! I’m Johanna Bergan (she/hers) and am currently serving my 3rd year on Council and just completed one year as Vice President. I live in downtown Decorah with my husband Joel Zook and children Margret (15) and James (11). Our family are long-time Decorahians and are glad to call FLC our church home. I’ve worked the last dozen years in nonprofit mental health advocacy spaces and am celebrating a few months of rest between my last career and what comes next. Days are full with middle and high school activities (all things theatre and music for Margret and basketball for James). My creative pursuits include yoga, knitting, weaving, lots of reading, and leading indoor cycling classes at T’d Up Fitness. At First I’m excited to support the newest small group for parents of teens and invite you to join me in a reading plan to read the Bible in one year.