What: 50th anniversary celebration
When: March 7: 4 p.m. service, 5 p.m. dinner
Where: Good Shepherd Lutheran, 600 S. Enota Dr., Gainesville
More info: 770-532-2428
When Good Shepherd Lutheran was chartered in 1960, there were around 40 members.
Today, in time for the church’s 50th anniversary, there are a record 259 members to help celebrate the milestone.
And many from the congregation have been involved in the anniversary celebration. Take Mary Lou Berghel, who spent five months writing a 55-page history booklet, of local folk artists Linda Anderson and Sarah Samsel. Anderson created a folk painting of Good Shepherd for the front cover of the history booklet and Samsel designed corn-husk shepherds and sheep for table decorations at the celebratory dinner.
“It was quite an experience,” Berghel said of the history booklet. “I started with big storage boxes of bulletins that went back 55 years. I read every bulletin, every newsletter, every council minute, every elders’ minute.”
The booklet also includes lists of baptisms, confirmations, marriages, funerals, pastors, organists and members who came through the church’s doors in the last half century.
All these efforts will be part of the church’s anniversary at 4 p.m. on March 7, with a service and a dinner at the American Legion Post 7 in Gainesville.
The Rev. Michael Gerhard, past president of the Florida-Georgia District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, will be the guest preacher at the service, according to Good Shepherd’s pastor, the Rev. Ben Haupt.
Bob and Dianna Jones have been members since 1977 and said the draw to the church over the years has been the people, just like all the volunteers who gave their time for the anniversary.
“There have been a lot of good people that have moved in and out,” Bob Jones said. “Some have stayed, some have come and gone or whatever — just a lot of good people in a caring church.”
Through the years, though, the core members helped keep the church strong, he said.
“It’s not so huge that you don’t know everybody,” he added. “Just like any church, the membership has kind of roller coasted up and down and we are on a good upswing right now — and any church that happens ... There’s a good nucleus of people that have been here through the ups and downs, so to speak.”
The congregation started meeting on Sunday evenings in 1955 at Grace Episcopal Church. At that time, the church was called Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd.
“Very shortly after that, in the early part 1956, they started meeting at Ward’s Funeral Chapel where they could have Sunday morning services and they started publication of a weekly bulletin,” Berghel said.
It wasn’t until March 6, 1960, when the church was officially chartered.
“The first five years were incredible,” Berghel said. “They established their first Sunday School on Feb. 3, 1957. They had an entire staff — all of the classes were listed — they had five or six different levels for toddlers on up to the adult Bible class. They even had a substitute teacher. I thought that was incredible.”
The first pastor at Good Shepherd after the church was chartered was the Rev. Charles Litterer, followed by the Rev. Ralph Weinrich in 1962. That year also saw the construction of the building that today houses Good Shepherd, although it was smaller then.
“When we took our children out for misbehaving, we really took them outside,” Dianna said. “... The addition to the church was around the early ’80s.”
The expansion included the fellowship hall and a welcome area.
The Rev. Walter Holzheimer served from 1967 to 1969, and then the Rev. Wayne C. Schroeder from 1969 to 1981.
The name of the church was changed from the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd to Good Shepherd Lutheran church during the service of the Rev. Rodney Pasch, who served from 1981 to 1986.
Following Pasch was the Rev. Thomas Artelt, and then the longest serving pastor, the Rev. William Womer, from 1991 to 2006.
Haupt has been at the church for a couple years now and Dianna Jones said she can’t wait to see where the church goes from here.
“There were 180 people in one of the services recently,” she said. “That’s the most that I can remember that wasn’t an Easter or a Christmas ... We are really growing now. I hope we continue to grow and be an outreach to the community.”