By LINDA M. LINONIS
Hope has figured prominently in the faithful of Emmanuel Lutheran Church.
In 1912, hope inspired 20 members of St. John’s Church in Townline to take a leap of faith by founding Emmanuel Lutheran Church. Their hope in the future was confirmed — the church is marking its 100th anniversary.
Hope to nuture and grow a congregation of faithful motivated its pastors and lay leaders through the years. Hoping to help people directed the church’s social outreach.
In 2010, Emmanuel Lutheran became a member of Hope Lutheran Parish; evidencing faith and foresight in a new form of ministry. Other members are Messiah Lutheran Church in Newton Falls, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Warren and Trinity Lutheran Church in Niles.
The Rev. Dee Emmert, lead pastor, heads a pastoral team of the Rev. David Conrad and the Rev. David Genszler, interim pastor. The ministers rotate among the churches.
“The parish is a cooperative ministry,” said Pastor Emmert, who has been at Emmanuel for four years. “It’s probably been evolving to this in the last 13 years.” It became official in July 2010.
Rick Thompson Jr., president of Emmanuel council, added, “We did it to create better ministries, not for survival. Together, we have more energy and synergy. Ministries are stronger.”
He noted that unduplicated ministries better serve participants and the community. The churches remain autonomous; each contributes toward the pastors’ salaries.
Hope Parish has joint worship services for Advent, Lent and Holy Week and one confirmation class. In the collaborative ministry, the churches and congregrants support one another’s strengths and shore up weaknesses.
This weekend, the churches will join in the centennial observance of Emmanuel Lutheran Church. “It’s the celebration of the congregation ... the people who came before and the ones after,” Pastor Emmert said.
Pastor Conrad views the cooperative ministry as a “model of the future church.” “Cooperation is the way it’s supposed to be,” he said.
He also noted he sees the cooperative ministry as the continuing fulfillment of Pentecost, which is described as the “birthday of the church.”
Pastor Emmert added that “each minister has different gifts” and that benefits the parish.
Thompson added that because each minister has a unique delivery of the message, services have a fresh element.
Pastor Conrad noted that the “challenge is to know members at each church, but it’s a happy challenge.” That prompts more interaction.
Thompson said this ministry “helps people grow in faith and church participation.”
Pastor Emmert noted that, for example, when a committee of eight is needed for a project, it’s easier to get two volunteers from each church than cajole the whole number from one. That eases the pressure on each of the congregations.
Emmanuel Lutheran is known for its social outreach. Last year, the church hosted a justice revival event.
Pastor Emmert said the clothes closet is supported by some 50 Valley congregations. It’s open from 9 to 11:45 a.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays and visitors may take up to 30 articles of clothing with some restrictions applying. “It’s a shopping experience,” Pastor Emmert said. Some clothing also is donated to relief efforts in Haiti, Appalachia and Native American reservations.
The church also provides a free meal at 11:30 a.m. the next- to-last Friday of the month.
Church members also warm the bodies and souls of others by making lap robes for Hospice of the Valley. Last year, the Fiber Group, which makes the handicrafts, distributed some 300 lap robes.
Emmanuel, along with other Lutheran churches, contributes toward Lutheran World Relief Services and Lutheran Social Services.
Emmanuel remains dutiful in attending to the spiritual needs of its members.
Bible studies for adults and youth engage the membership, Thompson said.
When congregants celebrate the church centennial, they will worship in the sanctuary where three stained-glass windows — on Gethsame, Jesus as shepherd and the Resurrection — figure prominently. Thompson said they “smile loudly” through the music ministry led by organist D.J. Raisley.
The church also displays a 1877 Bible in German open to the 23rd Psalm.
Centennial celebrants will receive crosses crafted by member Randy Engler, who used wood from a pew.