The History of Desert Hills Lutheran Church

♦ When Organized:

The first service was held on December 4, 1984. Charter Sunday was November 24, 1985. Ninety-eight individuals became Charter Members. Of that number, 35 were Associate Members. As of 2015 only four people from that group are still living.

♦ First Building:

The first worship service of DHLC was attended by 50 people in 1984, and by the time the congregation officially organized in March 1986, there were 98 members. The first building was completed in 1989: sanctuary, fellowship hall, kitchen and two offices. (Loan $1.5 million with 200 people). The first worship service in the building was Sunday, January 14, 1990, with the dedication of the building held on February 11, 1990.  

♦ Pastors:

Rev. Willis Erickson was the founding Pastor (1984-1987).

Rev. Melvin Briere was interim (1988).

Rev. Duane Lokken (1988 to 2000).

Rev. Dr. Richard LInd (October 1999-2015 [October-May]) part-time.

Rev. Kenneth R. Ahlstrand, interim (November 2001 to January 2003).

Rev. Dr. Martin Overson (February 2003 to present).

♦ Renovation of West Side:

In 2005 members of the congregation removed a wall and took out two offices to make room for more seating in the west side of the sanctuary. 

♦  Corona de Tucson Mission:

In May of 2008 we launched a second site mission to Corona de Tucson. After one year we realized that mistakes were made in the planning and implementation, and on April 25, 2009 it was shut down. However, they were all excellent mistakes and we learned and believed God was calling us to expand our own property.

♦  Second Building Project:

On March 25, 2012 we dedicated two additional buildings on our site, effectively doubling the size of our building. The cost was approximately $2.6 million, not including furnishings and equipment.

 New Organ:

On April 21, 2013 the congregation approved raising funds for a new organ. The total cost was $215,000 and was raised in two months Installation was December 2013.

♦  Attendance:

Average attendance for the year in 2003 was 458. Average attendance in 2014 was 935 per week.

♦  Size of Desert Hills Lutheran:

There are approximately 40 congregations in the Evangelical Lutheran Church with an average attendance between 750-1,000 per weekend. Desert Hills Lutheran is in the top 0.4% of all ELCA in the United States in size. This just means we are a large Lutheran congregation.

 History of Stained Glass Windows:

The Rose (round) window was the first to be installed shortly after the completion of the building. It depicts creation with Christ coming back into the world. The rose window begins in grand natural beauty, a scene of creation. God is represented by the loving and powerful hands that control and shape the vortex of living light. When looked at symbolically, God the Father can be seen in the hands, God the Son in the radiant star and God the Holy Spirit in the seven flames. Jean Aspen, Aspen-Iron Studio, was the artist.


The triple window is titled “The Means of Grace” and places emphasis upon the Word of God and the Sacraments. There are a variety of symbols interwoven through the three panels on the south side of the sanctuary tying them together. There is the light coming from an unseen source, the grapes representing communion. In the left panel is the cross and crown, of Jesus as King. Through this symbol flows the spiritual water, down and into the Baptismal Shell. The fish represents Christians and the butterfly, a universal symbol of spiritual transformation. The central panel holds the trinity figure with the light shining down through this symbol, illuminating the Word and touching the top of the mountain, which also represents spiritual truth. The right panel shows the descending dove of the Holy Spirit, surrounded by a golden radiance. The stalks of wheat at the bottom together with the grapes and chalice depicts communion. The windows in the office area/Sunday School rooms after September 2001 use the butterfly, lily and lamp which are Christian symbols. The etched windows surrounding the entrance to the Narthex and office area repeat the use of the Chalice, Baptismal shell, lily, butterfly and lamp. The window between the Narthex and Nave is titled “The Vine of Life” with additional themes of the southwest and Holy Communion. The stained glass windows over the doors to the Nave repeat the theme of grape vines which is found in both the triple window and the etched window below it.