THE HISTORY OF
LAMB OF GOD LUTHERAN FELLOWSHIP
Simpsonville, South Carolina
On September 30, 2015, about two dozen people met at a home near Greenville, South Carolina, two weeks after their dual-affiliated congregation voted to discontinue its affiliation with the North American Lutheran Church (NALC) and to remain affiliated only with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Those of us who felt more closely aligned with the NALC, and not knowing what the future would hold, were saddened and confused, and felt cast out by the ELCA members and somewhat adrift. We had been invited that September evening to worship, enjoy fellowship, and meet with a few members of another Lutheran church and a pastor who had experienced a similar situation.
As we began to explore possibilities and options for "Life After Messiah," we found some were not quite ready to leave the old congregation, some had plans to do so in the near future, and some had already left. Did we want to remain together as just a group of friends? As a Bible study? Continue meeting for worship? Visit other churches individually? Form a new church? Most expressed the desire to meet again and continue discussions, inviting others who they felt were of like mind. The continuing reference to Life After Messiah led to the acronym LAM, and then even further to the obvious, LAMB, as we determined that Life After Messiah Begins. LAMB met bi-weekly at a Masonic Lodge during October and November, moving ever closer to the realization that the NALC was indeed more in tune with our ideology than any other denomination. This was reinforced by a visit from the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Assistant to the Bishop of the NALC, in mid-November.
But a few days later, on November 18th, the auspicious day that Rev. Dr. Nathan Yoder, Dean of the Carolinas District of the NALC, was scheduled to come from North Carolina to speak to our group, the devil intervened. It was pouring rain and we were under flood and tornado warnings. At noon, we received a call from the Masonic Lodge that they were not allowing us to use their facilities that night because they had realized we were not covered by insurance. No amount of pleading could change their minds. The desperate search began for an alternate location, but Wednesday night is a popular night for meetings and worship. We were at the point of canceling the gathering. At last we reached the pastor of a small Presbyterian church in a convenient location and he most graciously offered us one of their classrooms for our dinner and meeting that evening.
But our testing was not yet over. We had ordered a barbecue dinner for the occasion, but found the restaurant had no record of the order. They were able to produce it on time and it was picked up during a storm, in rush hour traffic in the driving rain; however, the person who was to bring the rolls for the barbecue had an ailing horse and she could not leave him! Somehow they arrived at the church on time for dinner–but Pastor Yoder did not. He was stuck in the rain and traffic behind a stalled semi-truck on Interstate 85.
When he finally arrived, he found 19 people who firmly believed that the devil had thrown every obstacle he could at us that day, but we had surmounted them all. After dinner, Pastor Yoder's talk, and further discussion, those present voted to pursue affiliation with the NALC and become a mission church. Shortly thereafter, we decided to call our fledgling group "Lamb of God Lutheran Fellowship."
That meeting at the First Presbyterian Church in Simpsonville, SC, was the beginning of a wonderful symbiotic relationship that continues today. Since their sanctuary was not in use on Wednesday evenings, we began with Advent services on December 2nd, and Pastor Yoder returned to lead our "Eve of Christmas Eve" service on December 23rd. We found that the Fellowship Hall located behind the church was quite conducive to serving as a place for worship and Lamb of God Lutheran Fellowship held its first official Sunday morning worship service on January 3, 2016.
Shortly thereafter, an agreement was reached with First Presbyterian to use the room on Sunday mornings at a very modest rental. We have had many meals and fellowship with their congregation, and joint worship on occasions such as Ash Wednesday, World Communion Sunday, and during Lent and Advent. In addition, we have use of their classrooms for occasional meetings and Bible study. It has worked out very well, allowing us to accumulate funds for the day when we will be able to have our own facility.
Our first church council, which we prefer to call our Leadership Team, was all volunteer and met twice monthly until most of the necessary administrative work of forming a congregation was accomplished. Aspiring to the core values of the NALC, we wanted to be congregationally focused, and to that end, our constitution requires quarterly congregational meetings. At the first annual meeting in January 2017, balloting was held for the first congregationally-elected Leadership Team to replace the volunteers who had held the offices for 16 months.
When we began, we used supply pastors and seminarians until April 2016. At that time, we made a contractual arrangement with the former associate pastor from our previous church to act as a consultant and lead our services. He was on a parallel track with the congregation, applying to transfer his ministerial affiliation to the NALC as we applied to become a mission church. We were accepted as an official NALC mission church in July 2016. Our pastoral consultant, who is in the Air Force Reserve, is assigned to active duty in the Charleston area until summer 2018. We contracted temporarily with an interim pastor who left in mid-January, so are currently again using supply pastors.
We have recently begun the call process for a permanent pastor, as the original 19 congregants have grown to 35-45 attending Sunday worship.
We feel very strongly that God put us on the right path on that very stormy and hectic autumn day and night over two years ago, His grace sustains us, and He is surely with us in all we do.