LIVING WORD LUTHERAN CHURCH
Living Word was officially chartered in November, 1981. We celebrated our 25th anniversary in 2006, inviting all of our full-time and interim pastors and previous members for a special worship service and dinner. At that time, we printed a booklet with our history which we have reprinted below.
Living Word was born from a gift. Its humble beginnings sprang from the benevolence of a local farmer, who, by the mere act of donating a piece of property, planted the seeds of sharing that thrive in the congregation today. We are a Christ-centered family: living by grace and sharing our faith.
Otto H. Meyers started it all in February of 1972 when he donated a piece of land – bounded by Hamilton, Hamlin and Foskett Roads – to Capital University with the proviso that five acres be reserved to build a Lutheran church or serve another Lutheran ministry facility at the discretion of the American Lutheran Church. Meyers’ grandson, Jonathan Steingass would later serve Living Word as an interim pastor.
Capital sold its portion of the land and the Mission Director of the American Lutheran Church envisioned a mission church on the five-acre site. He approached Pastor Bill Lucht of St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Medina about forming a new church. Pastor Lucht put out the word and subsequently, several St. Matthew parishioners and other local Lutherans formed a Mission Task Force to pursue the idea.
The property was deeded to the American Lutheran Church in December of 1981 and subsequently to Living Word in May of 1984. The church was a go. The American Lutheran Church called the Rev. H. Michael Sayre in February, 1981, as the mission development pastor. A parsonage was purchased for the Sayre family on Falling Oaks Drive. Surveys of the area were done, visits made, meetings of the Task Force held, a core of members gathered and the first worship service was held on Pentecost Sunday, June 7, 1981, in the Medina Township Hall.
Part of the Task Forces’ challenge was to suggest a name for the new mission. The congregation was also invited to submit suggestions, which were considered at their meeting on May 20, 1981. The discussion that evening focused on the Word of God as the “heart and core of all we do.” The name Living Word emerged from that discussion. The congregation voted on the proposed name during the coffee hour before the first worship service.
Living Word was officially chartered and Pastor Sayre installed on Sunday, November 29, 1981. Thirty-nine members were received by Affirmation of Faith, two were confirmed that day, and twenty-three baptized, but not yet confirmed, members were received. Living Word Lutheran Church had a total of 64 charter members.
The following current members were charter members: Jim and Becky Matyas, Ruth and Dick Miller, Judy Schuster, Amy Conrad and Lori Cagle. At this service, forty-eight congregations from Ohio, Pennsylvania and Kentucky were listed as Mission Partner congregations, meaning that in some way they contributed either money or goods to Living Word. For example, St. Matthew Lutheran, Medina, gave altar ware, including a brass cross, vases, candlelabras and offering plates. Living Lord Lutheran, Warren, Ohio, gave communion trays, a paten and chalice. Zion Lutheran in Valley City loaned us chairs for worship until we could purchase our own. Over the years many congregations have helped support Living Word financially.
The congregation originally met for worship at the Medina Township Hall paying $15 per Sunday to use the facility. Every Saturday, two families “set up” the hall for worship: They cleaned, set up an altar table and chairs. At one point this was quite a job because the hall was undergoing renovation: table saws needed to be moved, drywall had to be stacked and floors swept and mopped before worship could be held. Whether out of tradition or necessity, families still take turns cleaning up in preparation for worship each week. After the worship service, the two families were responsible for “tearing down” the hall, although most everybody pitched in to tear it down.
One long-term member observed that Living Word members are still good at setting up and tearing down in quick fashion as evidenced by church dinners and picnics.In addition to the cleaning and setting up, worship in the Township Hall had its adventures. In good weather, the high school Sunday School class met outside sitting on huge sewer pipes stored in the back. The only bathroom was in the back of the room used for worship and it was not uncommon that worship was interrupted with a loud “flush.” It has been said the bathroom line was long before service because no one wanted to have to “flush” during the sermon.
One Sunday power to the organ was disrupted and one of the members removed his car battery and hooked it up to the organ so the service could proceed. One of the men sat close by the organist, Judy Schuster, just in case the battery exploded.
Many a church meeting and catechism class took place in the parsonage during those Township Hall years. The basement housed the church office and business machines.
Groundbreaking for the new church took place on Pentecost Sunday, June 10, 1984. It was a very hot and windy day which prompted some to observe that “we could truly feel the hot, fiery wind that we read about in the Bible describing the first Pentecost.” Ground was broken with an old plow pulled by congregation members in one direction and mission partners in a perpendicular direction to create a cross where the altar would be located. An honored guest on that occasion was Lila Meyers, widow of Otto H. Meyers who had donated the property. The youth of the church outlined the proposed building with a white cord and carried balloons. When the building site was completely circumscribed, the youth released the balloons in celebration of the joy of the congregation. When the church was framed, but before the drywall was installed, members wrote their names and favorite Bible verses on the walls.
A pulpit and baptismal font were obtained from a used church furniture store in Columbus, Ohio. Charter member, Dick Miller then made an altar and lectern to match and the large cross which hangs behind the altar. Subsequently he made the hymn boards, the processional cross, the bookshelves in the pastor’s office, the mailboxes in the entry and the display cases in the narthex.
The congregation worshipped for the first time in their new building on Thanksgiving Eve, November 21,1984. The building was officially dedicated on Sunday, April 28, 1985.
Financial struggle has been part of the Living Word experience for many years. Gratefully, many mission partner congregations have made financial gifts over the years which certainly helped, but there are stories of burning candles only on communion Sundays to save money, prayer vigils to help pay the utility bills and “Wanted Posters” put up for basic items that the budget couldn’t accommodate.
Mission partner help has dwindled to only one church, but thanks to the generous support of Living Word members, the financial corner seems to have been turned. We burn the candles every week and haven’t had a utility prayer vigil in years. The turn-around came in 1998-2000 when major renovations to the building and property became necessary. We needed to replace the organ, the parking lot had become weeds and ruts, the front yard sign was deteriorating and all three heat pumps died.
And then came the miracle. Despite budget deficits and having to short the pastor’s pay checks a few times (we paid him by forgiving some of the housing loan), people started giving gifts and the gift giving became contagious. The organ was replaced, new front yard signs were donated, the parking lot paved and three new furnace/air conditioning units were purchased. Stewardship giving continued to increase. And there was more.
Once this miracle of generous gift giving occurred, a new piano, new carpeting, expansion of the parking lot, re-staining the exterior of the church and a new roof were realized in quick succession over the next few years.
While improving our property, we also continued to increase our benevolence and outreach projects near and far by supporting the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Community Services Center, the Battered Women’s Shelter, The Oakes Family Center, Lutheran World Relief, the Moll Cancer Center and more.
In the twenty-five year history of Living Word, seven pastors have served the congregation: H. Michael Sayre (February 1981-November 1989), Jonathan Steingass (interim: December 1989-June 1990), Marshal Begley (June 1990-December 1993), deceased; Harold Krull (interim: January 1993-July 1994), deceased; Fredrick Wiese (July 1994-August 1996), Judy Wozniak (interim: August 1996-June 1997), James Lutz (June 1997- June 2007).
The stained glass window in the front of the church reflects our call to the people of God in this place. The blue field of the central cross is the Advent color for hope. Living Word was born in “hope” on the first Sunday in Advent in 1981. Imposed on the blue cross is the Greek “Chi Rho” which are the first two letters in the name Christ (in Greek).
The staff of the “Chi Rho” extends to the bottom of the window and forms the roots of the vine, which is Jesus Christ. The roots remind us that we are rooted and grounded in the Living Word of God, Christ Jesus.
The four green leaves symbolize our life in Christ in the world. Four is the Biblical number for the world and green is the color of life. Christ is the vine and we are the branches. Together in Him, we bear the fruits of faith. The window stands as a symbol of Christ, the Living Word, in the world.
The chancel cross hangs above the altar as a reminder of the sacrifice which our Lord made for us. The cross design is known as the Celtic Cross and its circle or orb around the intersection of the arms of the cross is a symbol of eternal life in Christ. The circle around the cross reminds us of the world and our congregation’s mission of proclaiming the Gospel to all. The circle and the orb also remind us of our unity and partnership in the Gospel. They symbolize the interdependence of our members as we bear one another’s burdens and share one another’s joys.
The cross reminds us of our oneness as we have labored for these 25 years to build and sustain this church to the honor and glory of God.
P.S. Pastors since our 25th anniversary: Jeff Steele-Steeber (July 2008 – December 2012), David Craig (interim: January 2013-June 2013), Christopher Bartholomew (interim: July 2013 – January 2014). We welcomed Pastor Loranell Breyley on February 9, 2014.