By JUDY A. TOTTS
HOMER TWP. â€” Two local Lutheran churches will celebrate a new beginning as one congregation with an open house on June 29 at New Horizons Lutheran Church, 8439 River Corners Road.
The event will open with a song fest at 9:50 a.m., followed by worship at 10 and Sunday school for adults and children at 11. The congregation and guests are invited to a meal and refreshments after worship.
In December 2007, Mt. Zion Lutheran Church of Spencer and Zion Lutheran Church of Homer Township decided to unite. The congregations voted on a new name and the location of the new ministry in January 2008.
Historically speaking, the two churches shared common roots. Mt. Zion started as an offshoot of Zion Lutheran 85 years ago, sharing a pastor but each self sufficient. After a series of meetings, members decided their strength lay in unity.
Zion Lutheran closed its ministry in February, and Mt. Zion Lutheran closed in March, with both emerging as New Horizons. The metamorphosis began late in 2005, when the two churches signed a covenant of transformation and entered a spiritual transformation process together.
Transformation team members Dennis Morlock, Amber Risner, Jeff Mennell, Margie Beran and Steve Hisey trained in Chicago, and after recruiting Greg and Brandon Trill for the team, started to lay the groundwork for the new church vision.
Hisey, who grew up in the Homer Township church, will lead the church as a synodically authorized lay minister. Hisey, who served as transformation developer for two years and was installed as the full time lay minister in July 2007, is work on his ordination process.
The group released a statement Hisey said summed up their effort: â€œWe didnâ€™t merge together to become a brand new congregation simply to survive. We did it to thrive. We knew that we were stronger when united together in body and spirit. We have some big goals and dreams, and as long as we walk by faith, we know that nothing is impossible.â€
The transformation process, they indicated, must begin with the individual in order to transform the church: â€œTransformed churches can change the world. Both churches began an intense focus on spiritual transformation. As people began to pray and apply the lessons from spiritual transformation, slowly but surely the church started to transform. We used to be a religious club that only focused on ourselves, and we had no vision for ministry. We are no longer a religious club, but a real ministry that has seen many lives impacted because of its work.â€
â€œThatâ€™s something weâ€™ve been pushing, something weâ€™ve been working toward,â€ Hisey said in a phone interview.
The church will continue to worship at the Homer Township location.
Although a new church building may be in the congregationâ€™s future, it doesnâ€™t mean theyâ€™re waiting to start new programs and ministries. Members initiated a food pantry, two womenâ€™s ministries, a menâ€™s ministry and a youth ministry for junior high and senior high students.
The church has embraced a wider view, and Hisey said the members said it best: â€œOur vision for ministry is not about us. Our church is not just for us. Our ministry and our church is for others.â€
For more information about New Horizons Lutheran Church, call 330-625-3192.
Totts may be reached at 330-721-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.