In 1958, a group of concerned Lutheran clergy and lay-folks met at the Starlight Terrace Restaurant in Billings, Montana to discuss the need to develop a home for seniors that would be grounded in the Christian faith. There was much debate… would it be a retirement home… a nursing home… even a hospital was discussed. Where would it be located, what would it look like, how would it be financed, would the people of faith donate needed resources to make it happen?
These visionary people felt called to live out the Christian ministry of caring for one’s neighbors, especially those neighbors who most needed a place to call home and where their needs in later years would be met in Christian love and dignity. This group, led by Pastor John Mason of the former National American Lutheran Church, planned the project; had meticulous budgets which were approved (March 20, 1960 minutes… “MSC that $25 be given Pastor Mason to help defray his expenses.”), selected architects and builders, and the first HUD sponsored loan for a senior project in Montana was secured. In 1998, Mission Ridge was opened in partnership with St. Vincent Healthcare, the largest hospital system in Montana, and St. John’s Lutheran Ministries. Mission Ridge consists of 122 independent living apartments and 59 assisted living apartments and is the first full service Continuing Care Retirement Community in Montana.
Today, St. John’s is a social ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Incorporated in 1960, it is owned by 22 ELCA congregations and governed by a 13 person Board of Directors who must be an active member of one of those congregations.