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 four people from that group were still living. Today, only one Charter Member is still worshiping at Desert Hills Lutheran Church.

♦ 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. A loan of $1.5 million was borrowed on behalf of the 200 members. 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 to 1987).

Rev. Melvin Briere was Interim Pastor (1988).

Rev. Duane Lokken was Pastor (1988 to 2000).

Rev. Dr. Richard LInd was part-time (October-May) Pastor (October 1999 to 2015).

Rev. Kenneth R. Ahlstrand was  Interim Pastor (November 2001 to January 2003).

Rev. Dr. Martin Overson was Senior Pastor (February 2003 to May 31, 2021).

Rev. Ron Glusenkamp is Interim Pastor (June 2021 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 on the west side of the sanctuary. 

♦  Corona de Tucson Mission:

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

♦  Second Building Project:

On March 25, 2012, DHLC 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 in 2003 was 458 per week. Average attendance in 2014 was 935 per week. Average attendance in 2019, including online, was 1281 per week.

♦  Size of Desert Hills Lutheran:

There are approximately 40 congregations in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America 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. There are approximately 1500 active, associate, and winter members as of May 2021. 

 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 and 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.