History of our Senior Ministers

A number of Associate Ministers, Directors of Christian Education, Ministers of Visitation, and other full-time and part-time staff have served the church throughout the years. Without them, the ministries of the people listed below would not have been as fruitful.

William C. Hoglund, 2010-2015: A graduate of Elmhurst College and Andover Newton Theological School, with a Certificate in Gerontology Studies from Benedictine University, Rev. Bill became our Senior Minister after two stints as pastor at the First Congregational UCC of Downers Grove, Illinois, where he served with his clergy spouse, Rev. Laura, during her 34 year pastorate. He had an extensive background in pastoral care and Clinical Pastoral Education, having served as a chaplain and Vice President of Religion and Health in hospitals of Advocate Health Care in Chicago for 17 years. During Hoglund’s ministry, video and multimedia were regularly incorporated into worship and the church became an Open and Affirming congregation with increased support and involvement with Crossroads/ United Campus Ministry at UW-LaCrosse, where Rev. Laura Hoglund served as Campus Minister. Ordained in 1978, the Hoglunds retired from active ministry on their Fortieth Wedding Anniversary.

Joan E. Sulser, 2001-2008: Sulser was the first female senior minister in the La Crosse Congregational Church. Prior to coming to La Crosse, Sulser served churches in Massachusetts and Platteville, WI. She was the Association Minister for the Northeast WI Association for six years. A graduate of Marycrest College, Davenport, IA; the University of Illinois; and Yale Divinity School, she was ordained by the United Church of Christ in 1988. She began her ministry with the La Crosse congregation in December 2001, concluding in October 2008 and moving to Washington.

Jerry M. Jordan, 1988-2000: A graduate of Oklahoma City University, Union Seminary and Eden Seminary, from which he earned a doctorate, Dr. Jordan served churches in Missouri and Colorado prior to coming to La Crosse. Author of books of children’s sermons, eh expanded the children’s sermon as part of the Sunday services. During his tenure, the church library was established, and major renovations of the building took place. He served on several Conference and Association committees in addition to local committees such as Friends of the La Crosse Public Library and the Jail Ministry. He retired in June 2000 and moved to Colorado.

Kendall Baker, 1979-1987: A native of Iowa, a graduate of the University of Iowa, Union Theological Seminary and Princeton Theological Seminary, from which he earned a doctorate, Baker came to La Crosse in December 1979. An effective speaker and organizer, he led the congregation in a period of growing membership. He resigned the position of senior minister to accept a call from Plymouth Congregational Church in Lawrence, KS. Later, he served churches in California.

Robert E. Duff, 1972-1978: A graduate of Michigan State University and Oberlin School of Theology, Duff came to La Crosse in 1972 after serving churches in Ohio. During his tenure, Jazz Sunday – the Sunday following Easter – was introduced. The first long-range planning study was conducted during the years he was in La Crosse. In 1976, he was appointed to the Public Affairs Board of television station WKBT. He was also appointed to the Board of Advisors of Viterbo College. He introduced several social activities: the Senior High Discussion Group, an adult discussion group called The Barley Loafers, and a gourmet dining group. On July 4, 1976, the church children, with his direction, planted an oak tree on the north lawn in commemoration of the nation’s bicentennial. He accepted a call to Arizona in 1978.

Melvin L. Frank, 1956-1972: Credit for the introduction of several programs go to Dr. Frank: the Congregational Nursery School in 1962, the United Campus Ministry in 1960, the position of church moderator from periodic leadership to a year-long term, the inclusion of women as moderators, the cooperative education program with the Chicago Theological Seminary, and other programs. He led the congregation along a steady path in the turbulent 1960s. A graduate of the University of Minnesota and Chicago Theological Seminary, he received an honorary doctorate from Northland College. He died in March 2000.

Frederick W. Hyslop, 1944-1956: The 12 years that Hyslop served the La Crosse congregation were years of challenges locally, nationally and internationally. In 1950, the 7th and Main Streets church was razed; in the 1950s the merger of the Congregational-Christian and the Evangelical and Reformed Churches in the United Church of Christ was accepted by most congregations, and in the early 1950s the question of primacy between Protestant and Catholic traditions created disharmony nationally and internationally. The congregation was fortunate to have Hyslop’s leadership in this question as well as leadership in building the present Main and Losey church. In 1956 Hyslop accepted a call from the Greeley, CO Congregational Church. He died in 1992.

Homer V. Yinger, 1940-1944: During Yinger’s leadership, the La Crosse Congregational Church grew to become the 8th largest Congregational Church in WI. Born into a family where his father, mother and three brothers were ministers, Yinger attended Albion College, DePauw University and Chicago Theological Seminary. His first church was in his home state of Michigan. He came to La Crosse in 1940 and soon established a reputation for his nonsectarian leadership. He supported the growing ecumenical movement and was a representative to the National Council of Christians and Jews. During World War II, the church provided a lounge and recreation rooms for soldiers stationed at Camp McCoy. In 1944, he went to California. He died in 1972 and was buried in Akron, OH.

G. Paul Stowell, 1930-1940: Born in Nebraska in 1896, educated at Oberlin College and Oberlin Theological Seminary, Stowell at age 34 was the youngest minister to be hired by the La Crosse congregation. Not only was he the church’s spiritual leader but he was also an active administrator. The church trustees called him "a high-class manager." During his tenure, the education wing was added to the east end of the church on 7th and Main Streets in 1931. He led the congregation through the trying depression years of the 1930s and managed to reduce the building debt. Church school and numerous activities, such as the University of Life, were developed for youth and young adults. He accepted a call to Aurora, IL in 1940. He died in 1964 and was buried in Illinois.

Charles Leon Mears, 1924-1930: Mears was a graduate of Olivet College and Chicago Theological Seminary. He became minister to the La Crosse congregation in 1924. He was the first minister of this congregation to have his sermons broadcast on the radio. His preaching style was relaxed and conversational; he was more of a spiritual counselor than a moral arbiter. He and his family were the first to live in the Cass Street parsonage. He left La Crosse in 1930 to accept a call to California where he died in 1946.

Carlos C. Rowlison, 1913-1924: Educated at Eureka College, Harvard University and Hartford Theological Seminary, Rowlison was ordained in 1895 as a minister in the Christian Church. After serving briefly as president of Hiram College in Ohio, Rowlison came to La Crosse in 1913. His 10 years in La Crosse were tumultuous years in the nation’s history: prohibition, World War I, growing economy. He supported prohibition and the Anti-Saloon League. A man of firm principles, he was respected by his congregation in spite of his aloof demeanor. He left La Crosse in 1924 to serve a church in Connecticut. He died in 1926.

Henry Faville, 1888-1913: A WI native, Faville was educated at Lawrence University and Boston University from which he received a doctorate in 1893. Both his twin brother, John, and he entered the ministry. A man ahead of his time, he promoted Darwinism and ecumenism when both were highly controversial. He organized a church men’s group in 1890 (one of the first groups in the Midwest.) Mrs. Faville took an active role in church activities by teaching women’s Bible classes and consolidating four women’s groups into the Woman’s Union, the forerunner of the Women’s Fellowship. His ministry of 25 years is the longest tenure to date. Beloved by his congregation, he retried to his boyhood home at Lake Mills in 1913, where he died in 1926. Burial was at Lake Mills.

Thomas M. Boss, 1884-1888: Boss was a graduate of Amherst and Andover Newton Theological College. He came to La Crosse in 1884. The presentation of Bibles to children on Children’s Sunday began during his ministry. Children were also expected to attend Sunday service and record the text and subject of the sermon in notebooks. During his tenures, the sanctuary floor was raked downward to the chancel and the pipe organ was moved from the balcony to the chancel. The church assumed financial responsibility for Bethany and Olivet Chapels in La Crosse. He resigned in 1888 and moved to Leavenworth, KS where he served a church. He died in 1897 and was buried in his home state of Connecticut.

Robert Nourse, 1880-1883: A native of England where he served Congregational Churches near London, he came to America in 1868 and served churches in Indiana and Illinois before coming to La Crosse in 1880. He was remembered by his congregation for his dramatic pulpit style. He was also an able administrator and reduced the church debt significantly. He was the first minister to include women in church governance. After leaving La Crosse in 1883, he became a motivational speaker on the Chautauqua circuit. He died in Virginia in 1902 and was buried in Falls Church.

Edwin Y. Garrette, 1872-1880: Garrette, a graduate of Amherst College, began his La Crosse ministry in 1872. During his eight-year pastorate, the congregation experienced the spirit of revivalism and evangelism. He led the congregation in opposition to the sale and consumption of alcohol and to the eradication of vice centered on the river front. The 1870 depression presented a problem for Garrette and the congregation in paying the debt incurred in building the new church. He left La Crosse in 1880 for California where he served a Presbyterian Church in Almeda. He died in California in 1902.

Nathan C. Chapin, 1857-1872: After graduation from Yale and Union Theological Seminary in 1849, Chapin came to Wisconsin where he served churches in Milwaukee, Watertown and Kenosha. During his pastorate in La Crosse, the second church was built on the corner of Main and Seventh Streets. A Presbyterian church was organized in 1866 and the Plan-of-Union agreement was dissolved. Chapin was also superintendent of schools 1861-1871. He left La Crosse in 1872 and served churches in Minnesota until shortly before his death in 1892. He was buried in Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.

John C. Sherwin, 1852-1857: Sherwin led the original congregation of twelve members in the organization of the Plan-of-Union Church of Congregationalists and Presbyterians. During his tenure as the first ministry, the church on the corner of Jay and Fourth Streets was built. He was a graduate of Huron Institute and Western Reserve University. He left La Crosse in 1857 to become superintendent of the American Home Missionary Society. He also served churches in West Salem, Rice Lake and Menomonie. He died in 1892 and was buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Menomonie.

Live by faith, embody love, proclaim hope, and seek justice.