As one local church celebrates its centennial anniversary, its parishioners are focused firmly on the future.
The Light of Christ Lutheran Church isn’t just looking backward in its 100th year – the growing congregation is hard at work renovating their grounds and adding long-awaited amenities.
The church celebrated 100 years on April 29, with a celebration featuring previous pastors, churchgoers from the olden days, and area Bishop Mark Holmerud.
“The whole ceremony was moving from the old traditions and ending up more contemporary,” Rev. Sylvia Mueller said.
The service kicked off with a church song in Swedish – a nod to the church’s 1912 roots as the Swedish Lutheran Church. But as things progressed, song choices became more modern, reflecting the church’s evolution over time.
And Light of Christ has evolved from its origin in a small church building at the corner of S. Broadway and D Street, built for the princely sum of $1,605.59.
In 1927, the renamed Nazareth Lutheran Church moved to a new building at the corner of Orange and Columbia streets – this time at a cost of $17,004.31. That building would be home to a strong congregation for nearly 70 years, mothering new churches in Modesto and San Lorenzo.
The building changed some as time went on, adding an educational wing and social hall in the 1950s, becoming the victim of arson in 1984, and undergoing a subsequent reconstruction. But the congregation remained strong through this challenge and others.
In 1995, seven acres of North Turlock land were donated to the church. In 1999, the congregation decided to move to the new site.
And in 2005, the congregation officially changed its name to Light of Christ Lutheran Church as it moved into its new digs at 4510 Crowell Rd.
Today, the church is home to about 80 parishioners, with the average Sunday service welcoming about 35. Though a small congregation, those parishioners remain extremely active.
“Everything is possible with God,” Mueller said. “We have a small group, but the people we have are really dedicated.”
The tight-knit family works to make a difference, Mueller said. They raised more than $3,700 for the American Cancer Society through Relay For Life, make sandwiches for the homeless each Monday, make blankets for children’s hospitals, gather school supplies for local schools, and knit prayer shawls for those in need. Each year, the church holds animal blessings in honor of St. Francis of Assisi.
Today, Light of Christ operates services out of its youth building, with a larger sanctuary still in planning. Outside of the youth building, a parking lot, and a public soccer field, the church site has remained largely undeveloped since its opening.
But now, Light of Christ is undergoing one of the biggest building booms in the church’s 100 year history.
The youth building is growing, adding two classrooms, a narthex, and room for additional seating. That will give Light of Christ additional room for children’s classes, group meetings, and just about anything they can imagine.
And the newest addition comes in the form of a prayer labyrinth – the first in Turlock.
“It’s a vehicle to prayer,” Mueller explained.
The stone labyrinth consists of a one-way path. Visitors are suggested to enter the path with a question, a problem, or a prayer in mind, and then work through the situation as they walk through the labyrinth.
“Anybody can go, anytime of the day, and walk the labyrinth,” Mueller said.
Mueller expects to officially open the labyrinth later this month, with the youth building work finishing later this year.
And who knows what the next 100 years will bring?