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HERITAGE CORNER

 

Born it Crisis - Firm in Doctrine

 

In the beginning...in the early 1950's the Michigan District of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod canvassed the young city of Livonia and decided to plant three new churches: Faith Lutheran, Holy Trinity Lutheran, and All Saints Lutheran with the hope that they would take root and flourish.  Two of the churches, Faith and Holy Trinity, were greatly blessed and grew quickly while All Saints remained small.  By the mid 1970's, controversy and chaos within the Synod concerning interpretation of the Bible from a theological viewpoint threatened to destroy not only the three Lutheran churches in Livonia, but also the two LC-MS congregations in Farmington.  The two Farmington churches remained firms in their convictions and stayed within the LC-MS.  However, by late 1976, all three LC-MS congregations in Livonia decided to leave the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod and join the newly formed Association of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (AELC), the English District.  On November 21, 1976, the last Missouri Synod Lutheran church in Livonia voted to join the ALEC.  This left Livonia, a community of 100,000 without a Missouri Synod congregation.

The decision to leave the Missouri Synod and join the new English Synod was not greeted warmly by all the members of the congregations.  Those who would not accept the new Synod were left without a church.  Christ Our Savior was born out of this crisis...

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In the fall of 1976, when all three Lutheran congregations in Livonia decided to leave the Missouri Synod and join the new English Synod (AELC), several members of those congregations wished to remain with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

Those people who wished to remain with the Missouri Synod and who would ultimately lay the foundation of Christ Our Savior Evangelical Lutheran Church, held their first worship service on November 28, 1976 at Holy Trinity Lutheran in Livonia with 137 people in attendance, followed by a directional meeting.  The Rev. Ralph Schmidt of St. Paul (Northville) led the service with Rev. Bornemann, Rev. Pranschke, and Rev. Schlecht in attendance.

Because of doctrinal differences between the two Synods, those present at the directional meeting wished to remain with the Missouri Synod and establish a new Missouri Synod mission church in Livonia rather than being affiliated with the English Synod.  A steering committee composed of Gary Witt, Gerry Eggers, Jerry Taliaferro, Marv Moser, Gerry List, Alan Drake, Jerry French, Ed Routzahn, Ted Streit, and Suann Dibble was formed to study the direction in which the young mission church should take.

The Rev. Bornemann commended those present for supporting the Missouri Synod and encouraged them to put their faith in God.  Pastor Schmidt consented to let the new Livonia Mission Church use St. Paul (Northville) the following Sunday, December 5, 1976 at 7:30pm for worship services.

 

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In the fall of 1976, the Holy Spirit was actively at work in and through a small group of dedicated Missouri Synod Lutherans, as they took a strong doctrinal stance not to follow the multitude in their home congregations and become members of the new English District, ALEC.

On Sunday evening, December 5, 1976, this handful of Lutherans, determined with the help of God, to establish a new congregation (the Livonia Mission Church) which would adhere to the Missouri Synod's doctrinal and evangelical stance, met for the second time at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Northville.

During the early months of organization, the Rev. Ralph Schmidt, assistant pastor at St. Paul's, together with Rev. Roy Pranschke, pastor at Hosanna-Tabor in Redford, were instrumental in giving counseling and guidance to the young mission church as it took steps to become a full fledged chartered Missouri Synod Lutheran Church.  The new mission church was now firmly planted in the Word and began to take root and grow as God blessed and directed their efforts.

A regular meeting place needed to be established as soon as possible.  The Steering Committee's request for permission to hold regular evening worship services using Holy Trinity's facilities was denied.  Wanting to remain in Livonia, the new choice was the Senior's Center on Farmington Road and it was not available.  On December 9, 1976, a cold and icy Thursday evening, Jerry List, Marv Moser, and Suann Dibble meet with Harry Will at the H.J. Will Funeral Home on Six Mile in Livonia to ask permission to worship in one of the Chapels in the Funeral Home.  Harry Will positively replied, "I've been waiting to be asked!"  Worship services began the following Sunday in the southeast Chapel.

 

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On Sunday, December 12, 1976, at 9:00am, the young congregation now called the Livonia Mission Church held its first worship service in the spacious southeast Parlor of the Harry J. Will Funeral Home, affectionately called "St. Will's on the Hill."  One hundred and fifty people were led by Rev. Ralph Schmidt in a joyful Advent Service of Expectation and Prayer.  Mrs. Lois Drake, the Mission's new Director of Music, conducted an eighteen-voice choir in uplifting selections especially chosen for the Advent season.  It was announced that a special Christmas Eve Communion Celebration of Christ's Birth, praising God in word, song, and prayer would be held at midnight on December 24, 1976 at the funeral home.

Trusting in the Lord's guidance, the young Mission Church met weekly in worship at the funeral home with the fervent desire to form a new LC-MS congregation which would reach out into the community with the Gospel message.  For the next two years, through the kindness and generosity of the Will family, the young Mission Church was granted a temporary home at the H. J. Will Funeral Home on Six Mile in Livonia.

Early each Sunday morning the portable organ was moved into the parlor of the funeral home, an altar was set up, and chairs were brought in and arranged for services.  Some Sundays the parlor was adorned with a multitude of beautiful flowers, and other Sundays, not a single bud was seen.  Some Sundays the entire parlor was used for services and other times, only half the room was available.  The fish pond leading down to the basement was always an added delight for young children.  It has been said, that a few children have actually fallen into the pond a time or two.  A nursery was always available for families with young children.  After the service, the chairs were taken down, the organ moved back, and the floors vacuumed.  Usually, it was the responsibility of the Youth Group to take care of the clean-up duties after each worship service.      

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As the new Mission Church, barely a month old, began the new year, 1977, they expressed their fervent desire in a prayer of purpose and expectation: As We, a people of Christ, residing in and about the city of Livonia, step fourth in faith, into the future, We pray God's added blessings upon us, that we may continue to be strong and vibrant nad have a history filled with His Spirit at work among us.  Amen.

The Lord certainly smiled upon and found favor with the young Mission Church.  Exciting things began to happen very quickly.  In no time at all, education classes (adult and children's) were being held at both the Will Funeral Home and Randolph Elementary School.  Mid-week Adult Bible Study met in the home of Ed & Gloria Routzahn, while Confirmation classes were held in the home of Gudi & Jerry French, with Pastor Schmidt instructing.  By January 16, 1977, 46 children were enrolled in Sunday School and Youth & Adult Choirs, Confirmation Class, Adult Bible Study, a Ladies Parish Service Guild, an Altar Guild, Junior & Senior High Youth Groups, and a Pre-School were established.

The Building & Property Committee, Marv Moser (chairman), Larry Dibble, Phyllis Stutzman, and Bob List began looking for suitable property to build a permanent structure in the Livonia area.

The Worship Committee, Gerry List (chairman), Bill Lindholm, Lois Drake, and Gerry Eggers suggested communion be served at every service for the time being since new worshippers would be joining the new Mission Church each week.

The Education Committee, Suann Dibble (chairman), Kitty Witt, Alice Brendel, Irene Nurmi, Lynn Hillard, Gudi French, and Doni Cavicchioli began working on establishing a mid-week Tiny Tot program for preschoolers.  

The Lord continued to bless the new Mission Church, barely two months old, as their numbers began to grow rapidly.  The need to purchase land to erect a permanent structure was of the utmost importance.

The Finance Committee, Ted Streit (chairman), Charlotte Proulx, Bert Nietzel, Don Moesta, and Bob Mai gifted guest pastors with $35.00 each week and the remainder of the offerings collected were donated to the Michigan District LC-MS earmarked for the Livonia Mission.

The Litigation Committee, Gary Witt (chairman), Alan Drake, Tom Martin, Larry Dibble, Don Billiar, Carol Bird, and Ed Priebe contacted two lawyers and a judge concerning the reorganization of a LC-MS congregation in Livonia.

By the grace of God and the dedicated hard work of their members, the Livonia Mission Church began to take the final steps in becoming a full-fledged chartered Missouri Synod Lutheran Church.

"Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it."     - Psalm 127:1

Following God's Word, a statement of Purpose and Expectation in planting a new LC-MS congregation was prepared by the Mission Church:

Section 1.

"Because we are a congregation called to serve Jesus Christ, there are purposes that our congregation has for its existence which are not decided by themselves, but rather by Him.  The chief reason why we gather as a congregation is that we might gather together for corporate worship of our gracious God.  This mutual praise honors Him as He ought to be honored and lifts our spirits that we feel the presence of the Almighty among us."      

Just as we joyfully anticipate and prepare for the celebration of Jesus' birth, much in the same way, the young Mission Church anxiously prepared to give birth to a new LC-MS congregation in Livonia.

In early February 1977, the Livonia Mission Church stepped forth in faith, trusting in God to guide them in planting a new full-fledged chartered LC-MS congregation.  In preparation of signing the charter, a statement of Purpose and Expectation was prepared.

Section 2:

"As we hear His Word preached we also understand more and more the purpose which He has for His church on earth, that we preach the Gospel in its truth and purity, that we proclaim that message to those who have not yet heard it, that we edify those who are already within the church by various programs of Christian education for all age levels, that we observe the sacraments as He desires, and that we in love serve one another in all needs that are present.

We have certain expectations of all who join our congregation.  We "beseech you that ye walk worthy of all vocation wherewith ye are called." (Ephesians 4"1)  First of all, we expect faithful, regular attendance of our members.  The writer to the Hebrews said, "Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together as the manner of some is."  (Hebrews 10:25)  Worship is the lifeblood of the Christian.  It is in worship that we receive the mutual support and encouragement of our fellow Christians as we walk through life together.  He who neglects services of divine worship, neglects the care of his soul and denies by his absence the Lord who bought him."      

As we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, it is most fitting that we also remember the birth or planting of Christ Our Savior Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Thirty years ago the three LCMS congregations in Livonia left the Missouri Synod and joined the new English District, ALEC.  A small group of dedicated Missouri Synod Lutherans took a firm doctrinal stance not to follow the multitude in their home congregations and join the ALEC.  Together and with the help of God, they decided to plant a new Missouri Synod Lutheran Church in Livonia with the desire to take the Gospel message out into the community.

By the grace of God, the young Mission Church (less than three months old) prepared to sign the charter establishing it as a full-fledged, independently supported Missouri Synod congregation, and following the teachings of Christ, prepared a Statement of Purpose and Expectation.

Section 3:

"We expect that our members will be diligent in the use of the means of grace, that as children are born, they bring them to Holy Baptism, that they nurture them through Christian education, that each member may grow in grace.  Christ said, "Do this as oft as ye drink it in remembrance of me."  Likewise, the study of God's Holy Word is imperative for the Christian.  This is where we hear God speak to us.  To neglect it is to cut off  a rich source of spiritual food."

To God be the Glory!

The Lord continued to bless and guide the members of the newly formed Livonia Mission Church.  Their numbers grew quickly.  In less than three months, 65 families met weekly for worship services in the front parlor of the Harry Will Funeral Home on Six Mile.

As they prepared to sign the Charter, establishing them as a full-fledged Missouri Synod congregation, and following what Christ has ordained, the congregation established a Statement of Purpose and Expectation.

Section 4:

"We expect that our members will pray for our church, for our members, for our Pastor, for all the enriching programs for our congregation.  This is our communication to God and is a vital lifeline.

We expect the service of our members to one another.  There are many opportunities for service.  When one has been claimed by Christ as His own child and heir, he cannot help but want to serve the needs of people with whatever talents he has, whether by teaching the young, or simply driving the elderly to worship services.  There is an opportunity for everyone to assist, if only they are willing.

During the first week in February (1977), the members of the young Mission Church pledged to be faithful to the Bible and agreed to govern themselves in accordance with the Missouri Synod constitution.

Following God's Word and in preparation of planting a new Missouri Synod congregation in Livonia, a statement of Purpose and Expectation was prepared.

Section 5:

"Finally, we expect the financial support of our members.  Stewardship of treasure is truly a joy to the Christian.  It reminds us that all blessings are from the Lord.  True Christian giving is never based on what the church needs, but rather on what God has given us.  The Christian who truly feels the blessing of God in his life gives thankfully, sacrificially, regularly, joyfully, and proportionately as God has blessed him.  The Old Testament principle of returning the tithe (10%) to God still remains a good starting point for any Christian who desires a guide.  Those who are blessed with much, of course, will wish to do far more.

"Every man according as he purposed in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly , or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver."  -

II Corinthians 9:7

In the beginning...in the mid 1970's all three Missouri Synod Lutheran Churches in Livonia decided to leave the Missouri Synod and join the newly formed Association of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Those who would not accept the new Synod were left without a church.  Christ Our Savior was born out of this crisis.

Those people who wished to remain steadfast in the teachings and doctrinal stance of the Missouri Synod came together and formed the Livonia Mission Church.  And ultimately, they would become the founding fathers of Christ Our Savior Evangelical Lutheran Church.

On Sunday morning, February 6, 1977, the Rev. Paul Foust, Stewardship and Evangelism Counselor of the Michigan District, led the young mission church in worship, preaching, "Peace is Better Than War."  The choir sang the anthem, "Stand Up, and Bless the Lord."  The Communion Service concluded with the singing of the "Blest Be the Tie That Binds."

That afternoon, the members of the Mission Church would gather in the basement of Hosanna-Tabor with the fervent desire to sign the Charter establishing the young congregation as an incorporated Missouri Synod Lutheran Church.

On February 6, 1977 members of the Livonia Mission Church (155 Souls, 118 Communicants strong) and barely three months old, gathered in the basement of Hosanna-Tabor to declare their solemn intent to establish a new Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod congregation in Livonia, under the direction of the Rev. Paul Heinecke, Executive Secretary, Board of Missions.

That afternoon, 108 Communicant members signed the Charter (Declaration of Solemn Intent and Overture) establishing the young Mission Church as a full-fledged, incorporated, self-supporting Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod congregation.

 

Declaration of Solemn Intent and Overture

"We, a people of Christ, residing in and about the City of Livonia, Wayne County, Michigan do hereby record our solemn intent to establish in our midst a Christian congregation for the preaching of the Word of God, the administration of the sacraments, the exercise of mutual love and concern, and all other religious activities contributing to the glory of God.

We declare our trusting acceptance of the Holy Scriptures as the only source and reliable guide for congregational and individual faith and life.  We state our adherence to the confessional standard of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod and to its constitution.

 Wherefore, in the fear of God and trusting in His guidance, we declare ourselves to be a Christian congregation with all associated rights, privileges, and responsibilities and beseech acknowledgment of this status from all other faiths."

Signed this 6th day of February, in the year of our Lord, 1977