Glenwood Moravian Church History

From the earliest of times, our neighborhood has drawn people to it.  Twelve thousand years ago, Paleo-Indians chose this place.  Attracted by the springs which still feed Lake Wingra, they built their villages here, fishing and harvesting wild rice from the lake, burning the undergrowth to clear the area for hunting and planting corn.  They found it good for their everyday needs.  Later Indians built effigy mounds because the land met their spiritual needs.  Most of the mounds were built between 300 A.D. and 1220 A.D. and some are still visible in the Forest Hill Cemetery.  Their fires left standing only the white burr oaks, fire resistant because of the cork-like layer under their bark.  These oak openings with prairie grasses and flowers growing beneath the trees were described by an Englishman, who came through here in 1837, as resembling well-manicured English gardens.  The botanists called it an oak savanna, open land that was excellent for farming.  So, as it was a place for growth so many years before, it remained as such for the city of Madison as the years went on.

Stores and apartments along Monroe Street were built in the 1920's.  It wasn't until 1927 that this neighborhood got its own school when Dudgeon was built as a single story building. About this time Otto Heise, a former Moravian pastor turned insurance salesman, moved from Green Bay to Madison when his oldest child began attending UW-Madison.  Heise's concern was for his son to continue to grow in his faith so moved the family to Madison.  He contacted the Moravians in the area and they began meeting in his home to worship God, study scripture, and grow in their faith as well.   Shortly thereafter, they looked for a neighborhood that needed a church.  In 1928, they began meeting in Dudgeon School.  In 1929, membership grew to about 50 and the congregation was formed and a pastor was called.  We built "the chapel" on Gilmore Street which was designed to look like a house.  That house is now our coffee fellowship room and the area in the sanctuary behind the pews.

During the depression years of the 1930's, the church struggled. Love for God and each other kept the church going.  Our Ladies Auxiliary was strong, active and devoted.  Doughnut making was a big fund raiser.  Membership grew to about 100.  The neighborhood was growing too, and in 1939, a second floor was added to Dudgeon School.

The economy turned around when World War II brought full employment.  Our new pastor was Frederick Wolff who did house to house calling to invite neighbors to join them in their faith walks.  Due to gasoline rationing, which forced people to look for churches nearer their homes, the congregation more than tripled in size, growing to 350 communicant members.  Our Sunday School was big, active and growing.  We had outgrown our small building and in 1948, after the wartime restrictions on building were lifted, we built the present sanctuary and Heise Fellowship Hall to the north.  A very large white oak tree was cut down to make space for the new addition.  At the suggestion of a member, the wood from that tree was recycled to build a pulpit, lectern, and worship center which are in our sanctuary, the very area which was once shaded by that great oak.
Our membership peaked from 1956 to 1965, the "baby boom" years. In the early 1960's, a three story Christian Education wing was built onto the south side of the "original" chapel.  This included a large space for a co-op nursery which continues in operation today, drawing moms with young children from all over the city.

Presently, our members come from many different churches such as Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Catholic and the United Church of Christ. Many were always members here at Glenwood but we also have members who were raised in other Moravian Churches. Some trace their Moravian heritage back several hundred years. All now feel at home.

You are always welcome at Glenwood.  Bring a friend and make new friends.  Perhaps you will find a spiritual home in our faith community just as the Effigy Mound Builders found a spiritual home in our neighborhood so long ago.