Good Shepherd Lutheran Church celebrated its 50th year Sunday with a lighted cake, the congregation singing “Happy Birthday” and the return of former pastors.
And the Rev. Gerhard Michael, past president of the Florida-Georgia District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, gave the special sermon in place of the pastor, the Rev. Ben Haupt.
“Let’s celebrate the goodness of our shepherd,” Michael said, instructing the church. “Do this and, in another 50 years, you’ll still be here.”
Worshippers packed the church off South Enota Drive for the service, which was followed by a celebration dinner.
The church actually dates beyond 50 years. Area members of the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd started meeting on Sunday evenings in 1955 at Grace Episcopal Church.
The group then started meeting at Ward’s Funeral Chapel.
It wasn’t until March 6, 1960, when the church was officially chartered.
The Rev. Charles Litterer, who read from the Gospel of John Sunday night, was the church’s first pastor, serving for two years.
In 1962, the church on South Enota was built. A later expansion included the fellowship hall and a welcome area.
The name of the church was changed to Good Shepherd Lutheran church under the Rev. Rodney Pasch, who served from 1981 to 1986.
Haupt has been at the church for a couple of years.
The church has grown from 40 members in 1960 to nearly 260 today.
But it wasn’t always a smooth ride, as membership numbers fluctuated over the years, Michael said in his sermon.
“It’s not an automatic thing that if you’re going to start a church that it’s going to prosper and grow,” he said.
Michael said he had read over the church’s history, which has been documented by one of the members, Mary Lou Berghel.
A 55-page booklet she put together also includes lists of baptisms, confirmations, marriages, funerals, pastors, organists and members who came through the church’s doors in the last half-century.
“I sense that ... you are here to stay because of the effort and dedication that you folks have put into this congregation under, most importantly, the blessings of God,” Michael said.