By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
Redeemer Lutheran Church will celebrate a milestone Sunday when the congregation dedicates its new building at 1009 Blanchard Ave.
The 2,400-square-foot structure includes a sanctuary with seating for 103, restrooms, pastor’s office and kitchen/fellowship room. The building is completely wheelchair and handicap accessible.
“We really need to let people know we’re open for business and we’re a welcoming place in every way,” said Pastor Bill Geiger.
Regular Sunday services will be held at 10:30 a.m. This weekend’s dedication is scheduled at 2 p.m., with an open house following from 2:30-4.
The congregation, which held its inaugural worship service in May 2010, previously met in the community room at the Masonic Lodge for six and a half years.
Geiger said the church broke away from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States, over issues involving the interpretation of Scripture.
“It sounds like we’re just splitting hairs over Scripture, but really it was more than that,” he said. “We’re conservatively brought together around Scripture, being more literal.”
Members from three or four different Lutheran churches joined together to form Redeemer Lutheran Church, Geiger said. The church is affiliated with Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, an organization of Lutheran congregations based in Michigan which is rooted in the Scriptures.
“We aren’t a hierarchical approach, that is, we don’t have a bishop and sub-bishops and things like that that would be the case in the Catholic Church and the Presbyterian Church and the Methodist Church and all those,” said Geiger.
“We’re sort of self-contained in each congregation,” he continued. “It’s sort of like states’ rights as opposed to big government. We’re still responsible to one another and to the main church body, but we don’t have someone overseeing us like that, which everybody likes.”
Since its founding, members hoped to someday have their own church building.
“We had to set up chairs (at the Masonic Lodge), take down chairs. All that kind of stuff for six and a half years got kind of old,” said Geiger. “Lots of churches have done that. It’s just part of the phase you go through getting ready for this. But it sure is nice just to come and have everything set up.”
He said the Blanchard Avenue building was formerly a TV repair shop.
“It was completely empty, no partitions or rooms or anything,” he said. “We looked it over and realized, especially our architect, David Roth, he saw the potential of it and pretty quickly drew up complete church plans.”
The property was purchased in May 2015, and the congregation has spent the past year and a half turning the single-floor building into a church home.
The sanctuary includes pews, pulpit, lectern and altar area given by St. Andrews United Methodist Church, said Geiger.
“It was in their chapel area and they needed that space for a Sunday school room, and so they wanted to do something with this,” he said. “So they basically said if we take them out, we can have them.”
The talents of several members can also be seen in the church. The large cross behind the altar, the altar cross and baptismal font were all made by church members. Members also completed simulated stonework around the windows and railings in the chancel area.
“We were really very lucky and gifted to have those kinds of resources,” said Geiger.
“Even though we’re only about 25 people, more or less, we still had all the gifts we needed to put this together. Isn’t it amazing how God seems to pull together just what you need when you need it? And that’s exactly the way it turned out.”
Geiger admitted the church is small, measuring 100 feet by 24 feet.
“It’s sort of a scaled down, pocket-sized church,” he laughed. “Even though we’re small, I always say we’re Jesus strong, so that’s the part that counts.”
A parking lot to the side of the church can accommodate 20-23 vehicles. However, extra parking is available in a lot behind the church, near the abandoned Findlay City Schools bus garage.
The cost of the church is about $300,000; Geiger said members provided the funds.
“God gave us the gift of generous giving, I mean, beyond what we thought was actually possible for 20-25 people. Had that not happened, we couldn’t have done this, of course,” he said.
Since they’re an aging congregation, he said, having to pay back a large mortgage would have been a hardship.
The first service in the new building was held the first Sunday of Advent in 2016.
Geiger has been pastor of the church since its formation. He was an ELCA pastor and served in the church for about 10 years, but left in 1990 to become a full-time, professional counselor.
“Then when this happened, when the breakaway happened from the main body Lutheran Church, they needed someone to do this,” he said. “So I came out of retirement so to speak and have really loved every minute of it. It’s been a real joy to do this, to be part of this journey together.”
Now 74, Geiger continues to do mental health counseling two days a week, then oversees church duties the rest of the week.
“To us, a traditional retirement is not something we ever really looked forward to,” he said. “This is what we want to do.”
Although the church is completed, Geiger said there’s still more for the congregation to accomplish.
“Of course the challenge now is for people not to consider this to be an end in itself, the church, just to come here and be comfortable,” he said. “The mindset we need to hold is that this is more like a way station, a place to come, but then go out and share what it is we’re about. There’s lots of need for that all over the place, particularly in our neighborhood, too.
“If we don’t reach out, we will just age out, dry up and die out in about 10 years.”
He said the youngest member of the congregation is 50.
“Eventually, as members get added, they really need a younger pastor. So at some point in time we’ll begin to look at that,” he said.
“In the meantime we need, boy, we need to grow. So we’re praying and hopeful that this will be kind of a kickoff to that, with the dedication service.”
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