Evan Gaertner| January 4, 2021
Recently I read a commentary by a pastor that identified American Christianity in a stage of pruning, of winter...
Our Shepherd Lutheran Church • School • Childcare became a congregation in October of 1949. Since then we have remained committed to bringing the good news of Jesus Christ into this community of Birmingham, Royal Oak, Troy, and surrounding communities.
God's Beautiful Blessings In Our Early Years
The story began when E. T. Bernthal, pastor at Epiphany Lutheran Church in Detroit, told young Pastor Howard Allwardt to go for a drive north of Woodward Avenue to a growing area. He said it would be a region ready for harvest and growth. Howard drove to farmlands at 14 Mile Road and Woodward. Howard and Audrey, his wife, saw a little mission church come to reality and experienced the thrill of starting a mission church. Throughout the summer of 1949 a group of 25 pastors and vicars canvassed the Royal Oak-Birmingham community east of Woodward Avenue. Survey results revealed the need for a church and Sunday school. The nucleus of the church in that first year was 14 communicant members from Epiphany.
Membership increased by the end of 1950 to 16 and 228 within three years, with almost half entering via adult membership classes instead of simply transfers from other Lutheran congregations. The first permanent building was dedicated in 1951. A great deal of effort was undertaken to grow the Sunday school which soon had close to 600 members. In 1956 we opened a Christian day school with three teachers and 55 students. By 1959 the congregation had swelled to 800 communicant members and 700 plus Sunday school children.
In 1961 a building committee began work with Glen Paulsen and Associates to produce plans for future expansion. In 1964 the congregation celebrated its 15th anniversary with clear signs of the new sanctuary and school becoming more visible. The new sanctuary was dedicated on January 21, 1966, along with classrooms, and offices. The church celebrated its 20th anniversary in 1969, numbers were growing in the community and in the congregation.
A number of social endeavors began in this era. The congregation joined the high school association and supported the Lutheran School for the Deaf. new artwork began to adorn the sanctuary. During the 25th anniversary of the congregation a collection was taken to support new mission work in India. By 1979 the school served 222 children, and daily the message of salvation was being shared in our community.
Members considered onsite expansion to handle the projected church growth. God had other plans. In 1982 the church bought Torrey Elementary School property on E. Lincoln. In 1982 we began the preschool. This was a decade when many of the people involved in the beginning of the congregation successfully mentored new people into positions of leadership. The Rev. Howard Allwardt served the congregation from its beginning until his retirement on December 31, 1987. He was called to his eternal home on November 30, 1988.
The school gym was constructed and dedicated in 1996. Childcare and Latch Key Programs began to be offered. Seniors and Singles both had groups develop to support their needs. A contemporary worship service on Saturday evenings began in 1995. This decade was defined by the congregation developing the resources to meet each individual with their unique needs.
The congregation expanded the Narthex to support the friendships and conversations that take place between services. The school, community service, facilities, family life and congregation activities all find a regular rhythm of openly sharing the love of Jesus Christ.
The congregation continues to focus on reaching out to the community with central focus that Our Shepherd gathers, nurtures, and serves because Jesus loves.