By LINDA M. LINONIS
When Lord of Life Lutheran Church marks its 50th anniversary next weekend, it will celebrate faith and family.
It was religious faith that prompted 23 families to assume the challenge of forming a mission church where no Lutheran congregation existed, and faith in the fortitude of charter members. The congregation evolved into a church family, joyful in its golden year.
Recently, members gathered to discuss the church. They were Betty, historian, and Chuck Dysert, photographer and sound system; Lorinda Oakley Moucha, charter member, and her husband, Danny E.; Jayne Duffett Boucherle, chairwoman of 50th; Woody Gingery, church council president; Sheila Massie, public relations for the church; Bernadette Beler; Daryl “Jim” Duffett, oldest charter member who will be 92 on June 7; and the Rev. Rebecca “Becky” Richie, pastor.
Boucherle said the celebration will include Holden Evening Prayer at 6:30 p.m. next Saturday with special music. The church commissioned a new hymn by Thomas Pavlechko, cantor and composer-in-residence at St. Martin’s Lutheran Church in Austin, Texas, who was Lord of Life director of music and organist from 1979-80.
“Most High, O Holy God” will be featured at the prayer service. Massie said the melody has the name “Broad Street,” in recognition of the church’s location, and the words are from a Lutheran poet. The choir will sing the anthem version at 10 a.m. May 18; Tim Elder is director of music ministry.
An ongoing effort, Boucherle said, is collecting pages from members for a “memory album.”
The church has a tradition of being community-minded in its projects, past and present.
In partnership with Victory Lutheran Church in Youngstown, Lord of Life volunteers serve breakfast at the inner-city church on the fourth Saturday of the month and distribute clothing.
Operation Learning, an afterschool program started by member Judith Lobaugh, was organized at Victory Lutheran and now is at Christ Church Presybterian, Boucherle said.
Operation Blessing is a joint food pantry supported by Canfield churches including Lord of Life.
A program for senior citizens, “The Gathering Place,” was organized in October 2013. “The church saw a need ... there is no senior center in Canfield,” Beler said. The group meets at 11 a.m. the second Monday of the month. “It’s a way to reach out to the community and address community needs,” said the Rev. Ms. Richie, who was ordained and installed as the sixth pastor Oct. 10, 2009.
Betty Dysert noted the church has a prayer chain, started in 1996, to pray for ill members, friends and the community. “We pass along information by phone,” she said, and members pray at home.
She added that members also pack health kits for Lutheran World Relief for victims of disasters in America and worldwide. School kits also are assembled. “Anywhere there is a need, that’s where they go,” said Ms. Richie.
Various members also are involved in making quilts for the LWR and prayer shawls for the ill and baby blankets for newborns.
The pastor noted that church members also participate in a day of service in the community.
Danny Moucha said the church also provides space for community groups to meet.
The members said the congregation has fond memories of its participation in Canfield Fair when it joined with other churches in 1974 to provide free water. Lorinda Moucha said the church also had a “spaghetti house” and also sold apple dumplings. For some 30 years, members went to the fair until 2012 when participation ended.
The church also is known for its Election Day spaghetti dinner, which continues.
Spiritually, Ms. Richie said she “likes to try different things” for Advent and Lent worship and study opportunities. “That keeps us on our toes,” said Duffett.
In the sanctuary, a stained-glass window dominates and is complemented by a large wooden cross handmade by Greg Duby, member, and commissioned by Vangie McDorman in honor of her parents. The window was a bequest of the late Susan Susko, who also donated nativities from her travels.
Members also shared why Lord of Life is so vital to their lives. Duffett, who admits a “gift of gab,” said, “I want to make people welcome.”
“The people are friendly and caring. We’ve all grown spiritually,” said Betty Dysert. “This is part of my life ... my family.” Her husband, Chuck, added, “Nobody is a stranger.”
“We’re not a large congregation,” said Massie. “It’s a church family.”
“Members are caring and genuine,” said Boucherle.
“It’s camaraderie,” said Danny Moucha. “It’s a close-knit Christian family,” added Gingery.
Lorinda Moucha, who lived elsewhere in Ohio with her husband before returning to Canfield, said, “It felt like coming home, coming here.”