Our Savior#039;s prepares to celebrate anniversary

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 10, 2002

A church is not a building. It is a group of people, such as the 400 who 50 years ago formed a congregation, adopted the name Our Savior's Lutheran Church and called Pastor and Mrs. Glennys Knutson to hold services in the Sterling Theater in Austin.

On Sept. 6, 1953, after seven months of planning and praying for a more appropriate meeting place, ground-breaking for their own church building took place.

Later that same month, Jordan Builders began construction of the building at 1600 W. Oakland Ave., Austin. The church was ready for the first worship service on Palm Sunday, April 11, 1954, and May 16 the same year, it was dedicated. Six years after Our Savior's first service, the joyful congregation had a service of mortgage burning.

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For 34 years (1953-1987), Pastor Knutson ministered to Our Savior's Lutheran Church. During that time, the church grew and additions were built. On Nov. 26, 1961, the new sanctuary was ready for service, and on Palm Sunday 1962, it was dedicated. Part of the ceremony was the laying of their cornerstone "to the glory of God and the extension of His Kingdom in our midst," as Glennys Knutson phrased it. The cornerstone can still be seen in the narthex area of the church.

In 1973, the purchase of a Casavant pipe organ further enhanced the sights and sounds in this house of worship.

The anniversary celebrations began Sept. 4, 2002 with the women of the ELCA's 50th Anniversary Observance, and Sunday Sept. 8, the 50th Anniversary Commemorative Calendar went on sale. The front cover of the calendar shows a picture of the church, and the inside has the months from October 2002 through December 2003, complete with historic data of Our Savior's Lutheran Church. There is also a listing of past and present pastors with families, staff, missionaries, and other information concerning the various programs of interest.

When Knutson retired 15 years ago, Pastor Don Deines was called to replace him and moved to Austin with his family.

"It has worked out very well. We have enjoyed our ministry here very much," Deines said. "We followed Pastor Glennys Knutson, who was here for 34 years. I didn't know I was going to be here this long, following after a man with that kind of tincture."

Smiling, he relates that Glennys Knutson was the push behind the process of getting Our Savior's church started. "He is our George Washington, you know."

"Obviously, the most important thing about any church is the people, and their commitment to do what the Church is all about," Deines said. "You can have a huge facility, but if you don't have people with the heart, the desire to see it work out, it's nothing. So, the real mission of mine is that we have people coming to church and enjoying the worship and joining in the mission and working with the church."

That explains the growth of the church. People enjoy the worship and other programs because they take part. In addition to Sunday school, Our Savior's offers two Sunday worship services. The staff consists of pastors Don Deines, Glenn Monson and Dan Kahl (Monson and Kahl came on board in 1996), secretarial and janitorial staff. Along with those there are vocal and instrumental music directors and Sunday school teachers and many volunteers. According to Deines, they all work hard and have a lot of fun doing it because they make up a group of friends who get along splendidly.

The taste in worship music varies; some prefer the contemporary, while others favor the classics. In an effort to please everyone, the 9 a.m. service usually offers the traditional hymns while the 10:30 a.m. one leans toward the contemporary, but sometimes overlap.

Musical groups, directed by excellent leaders, give even the youngest opportunity to offer special music and accompany or lead the congregation in singing. This is a great way to express themselves and prepare them for leadership. For instance, this summer some teens helped with Vacation Bible School in Mexico and some took their musical talents on tour. Having youth involved in worship and leadership makes a big difference in the way they feel about coming to church. The youngsters bring such spontaneity that it's hard not to get caught up in their enthusiasm.

There are plans for interesting events in observance of the 50th anniversary, from an Oct. 26 Choir Reunion Concert to the day of the jubilee -- April 13, 2003, the actual half-century birthday of Our Savior's in Austin.