Peace: The Early Years. For Rejoicing Spirits May 18, 2014
Our Bible lesson for today tells us to go and bring people to Jesus and the church and that God will be with us at all times. In 1964 there was no church in this place, only an open bare field. Then the American Lutheran church decided that is was a good place to build one of the 70 new churches they were planning to start across the country. This was part of their program of “package missions”. A pastor would be called and a building erected and then a congregation started. And so it began. The building was raised and Pastor Peter Wuebbens and his family came. Some informational meetings were held and it seemed that maybe there would be an interest in starting a church here although there weren’t many (almost none) Lutherans around.( Nobody seemed to know what a Lutheran was; sort of like the Jehovah’s Witnesses? someone asked me.) We had lots of meetings, always with coffee and cookies, of course. I said to my friend, Doty Renner, that I didn’t know that it took so many cookies to start a church!
Plans were made for a first service and the beginning of a Sunday School. The national church had rovided plans for the chancel furnishings, the altar, lectern, and baptismal font. Several of our men were good woodworkers and so they set about making those things. It was getting closer to time for the first service and the altar was just finished the night before.The varnish was barely dry. I wasn’t there, but I heard afterward that the altar was so big they had a very hard time getting it out of Art Metzger’s basement. I know there was a large cross which my friend said she and her husband struggled with, too. The altar was so high that the pastor looked rather small behind it! However, the first service was held on August 16, 1954 and the church was filled. The altar flowers must have been really beautiful because those of us who were there particularly remember the blue delphiniums. Ray Renner called the pastor the night before the service to ask what the pastor would preach on Sunday and was told, “the gospel, of course”.
And how did we get our name? One evening in the summer Pastor Wuebbens dropped by my house . (since we were the only Lutherans he knew in Wayland at that time, he often dropped in) and said “ we need a name for this church” so we sat at my kitchen table to think about it. There were already a Faith Lutheran, Grace Lutheran, Our Savior’s, Christ Lutheran, Trinity, Church of the Holy Spirit (Episcopal), etc. and we finally settled on Peace as there didn’t seem to be one of those anywhere close by. It is a name that has served us well through the years.
There was still quite a bit of finishing to be done to the building and the prospective members pitched in. One of the things we didn’t have was a paved parking lot; it was a sea of mud out there. One evening one of the women lost her shoe in the mud! The kitchen was only one little alcove with sink, stove and refrigerator combined in one unit. For years when we had pot luck suppers we brought our own dishes from home.
Services were held every Sunday and in December 90 people signed the charter as members of the new congregation of Peace Lutheran Church. We had a busy Sunday School and it soon became apparent that we needed more room. We were using the parish hall with dividers set up between classes. It was very noisy and crowded, and we kept falling over the feet of the dividers! One of our members drew up the plans for the educational wing and with the exception of digging the foundation hole (which promptly filled with water. It was a wet summer and that delayed the work for a whole year) and hoisting the trusses for the roof, members did all the work themselves. Every Saturday was a work day, many came and worked: I have pictures of the kids- my son, Jim, was about ten- up shingling the roof. Doty Renner and I made lunch every Saturday for the whole crew all summer.
One thing different in the new congregation was that we had almost no older people, no senior citizens. In fact, only one man in his late eighties and one couple in their 70’s. Fred Wagner had been a pastry baker in New York City until he came to live with his daughter in Wayland and he was a faithful member of Peace. He was the greeter who stood at the door and welcomed people in but you had to be careful shaking his hand as those pastry making muscles could mash your fingers! The dog wood tree you see on the lawn is in Fred’s memory. The rest of us were mostly families with school age children, not many of even high school age. Don Alstad was a senior and he became our choir director. We had various organists for our little electronic organ (which occasionally picked up the ham radio from across the road) . Some were ok and some barely adequate. It was also a great improvement when we got the organ which Ron Riggert disassembled in Boston and reassembled here.
In January of 1969 Pastor Paul Lindstrom came with his family. Under his leadership Peace began to realize that there were opportunities within the congregation to care for members. He scolded us for not helping a family in the congregation who were experiencing a bad time with four little children and an ill father. Our eyes were opened and this emphasis has only grown through the years so that Peace is now a place where we support each other in many ways through joys and trials. At the same time we have a strong outreach into the community beyond our membership. Rejoicing Spirits and Family Promise are some of the ways we do that.
After 9 years Pastor Randy Wilburn came and the strong community ministry continued as well as a connection to the wider church organization and its activities. We had a number of people who served on Synod and churchwide committees and boards and a very strong connection to Lutheran Social Services here in New England and its work with refugees, the elderly, and adoption services.
Another difficulty in carrying on a consistent ministry is the transient nature of the New England population. People and families have cycled through this church as their employment took them to other parts of the country. If you were to add up all the members that have been a part of Peace through these 50 years it would be well over a thousand. People who are now members do not know or remember those who were here 25 or even ten years ago. There are only a few of us who remember the early years. It has been a great blessing to have the long ministry of Pastor Jeff who has been our leader for over 20 years. I think Peace is at its most stable condition at the present time. There were times in the past, particularly in the early years when it seemed uncertain whether we would survive but with a strong commitment to the gospel, and Jesus’ command to go and make disciples, and by the grace of God, we are here and although I will not be, I hope some of you will gather in 2064 to celebrate Peace’s 100th anniversary. Keep on spreading seeds of Peace!