A half-century is a milestone for any place of worship, and an unusual endeavor at Lutheran Church of Our Saviour honors every member in its 50-year history.
Some of the congregation’s 180 members created a huge mobile suspended from the cathedral’s ceiling, its dangling lines holding 2,450 “doves” cut from white card stock. Each dove bears the name of a person who joined the church since its founding.
The elaborate anniversary project was inspired by member Debby Kruger, who long ago saw such a mobile at a small church in Iowa. She provided experience and instructions, having overseen the assembly of a similar mobile at Tampa’s St. Paul Lutheran Church in 2002.
“We didn’t have any tangles this time,” she said, referring to the thin, virtually invisible monofilament fishing line to which the doves are attached. The lines of varying lengths are attached to a six-piece wood frame. “It’s much heavier than it looks,” Kruger said.
The doves were imprinted and cut by computer, but researching the members required poring over handwritten church records. “We really didn’t know how many we’ve had over the years,” said Barbara Beauregard, the church archivist and historian who created the member database.
The unique creation that debuted at a Sunday, Jan. 6, service symbolizes the church’s continued community service, said the Rev. Jon N. Keiser, the congregation’s pastor since 1996.
“Those doves represent the efforts of people in serving the gospel in this part of Tampa, how it’s evolved and how the ministry of the church has evolved,” he said. “And yet we still have a continuum; there are things in our history that are still going strong and, according to the needs of the community, will continue. So our mission has remained the same,” he said.
The church’s two major outreach ministries are its oldest.
Originally, food was taken to the needy, including migrant families in Ruskin. The effort has grown through the decades and today the food bank pantry is in the church for thrice-weekly distributions to the 100 families that visit weekly.
“We have nearly doubled from this time last year,” due to the economy and word of food availability spreading, said food bank Director Marilyn Ruggiero. With 250 registered families, the bank distributed 191,000 pounds of food last year to needy local families.
Beauregard said she hopes the community and early members of the church will attend the May 5 “Homecoming Sunday.” The church has two surviving charter members, Beauregard said.
One, Pat Sohl, was there at the beginning. She and her late husband, George, were married by Royall A. Yount, then bishop of the Florida/Bahamas Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. “The bishop came to our house and asked if we would help start a church” in Town ’n Country, she recalled.
The couple and the first pastor, the Rev. J. Richard Gantt, went door to door recruiting members for the initial 1963 service, held at what is now Pierce Middle School.