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Good Shepherd celebrates 50 years in Claremont

Ten years ago, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church celebrated the 40th anniversary of its founding. While the theme was “40 Years in Grace,” the discourse was about growth and development. The growth, development and faith has continued since then, and since the church’s founding in 1962. This weekend, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church will celebrate its 50th year.

On April 8, 1962, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church was formally organized with 61 charter members and 59 child members. The 3.5-acre property at 1700 N. Towne Ave. on which the church stands today was acquired by the Lutheran Synod in 1958, and ground was first broken to build the church sanctuary on January 30, 1966 under the supervision of Rev. Peter Knowles.

Three of the original charter members are still in Claremont—Alice Trask, Ginny Blackwell and Anna Petrovich—and have been part of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church’s community for half a century, during which time the church has become an integral part of Claremont’s community.

“If you have been raised in a church, and have raised your children in a church as I have, then it becomes very meaningful to celebrate that your church is still alive—that it is still meaningful. It has always been a home where we can worship,” said Denise Trask Free, one of the church’s original child members.  

Longtime member Anne Brower has attended Good Shepherd for 38 years.

“It has always been a very friendly church; we have always encouraged new people to come. For me, personally, it has been an anchor,” she said. Ms. Brower has served in Good Shepherd’s altar guild.

Good Shepherd has offered a home for families hailing from much farther than neighboring communities.

“The congregation took in a Vietnamese family in 1975 during the Vietnam War,” Shirley Rude recalls. “We sponsored a family in 1975 and in 1980. I remember Pastor Jacobson said, ‘We need to do this.’ There was no debate about it. He was a missionary from Guatemala so he understood very well the situations of refugees and stood up for them. They are still a part of our community. It was a very rewarding, growing experience for the congregation.”

The women have witnessed many developments in Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. They have seen changes in the church’s practices: Sunday service has diverged into 2 different services, and a contemporary service, which has come to include a live praise band, was introduced between the late 1980s and early 1990s. The church still offers a traditional Lutheran service in addition to the contemporary service. The Lutheran Church has come to ordain women and recognize same-sex relationships and same-sex ordination. Good Shepherd’s youth program has grown immensely over the years, and now attracts over 60 high school kids to the church, many from Claremont High School.

“We consider ourselves a ‘do-it-yourself’ church. We have been very blessed that many of our members have been contractors, and we could just decide to build a new shed or expand the buildings,” said Mrs. Trask Free when describing the process of change and development Good Shepherd has undergone.  She highlighted the importance of the development of the church’s music program: “Lutherans sing, and eat, and drink coffee together, and we build music as a form of worship into everything we do!”

On Saturday, April 28, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church will host “A Walk Through History” from 2  to 5 p.m. in the Church’s fellowship hall. Community members are invited to explore the church’s history and trace its fellowship and construction, and to enjoy refreshments.

On Sunday morning, April 29, there will be a grand service, a combination of Good Shepherd’s contemporary service which includes a live praise band and a traditional Lutheran service. Two of the church’s former ministers will also be returning. Community members are welcome to the service, which begins at 9:30 a.m, and will be lead by Good Shepherd’s current pastor, Kenneth Davis.

In the words of Mrs. Trask Free, “it will be a celebration of our fellowship, our history, and all of the blessings that we feel as a family.”

—Sasha Rindisbach

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