The founding of Faith Lutheran Church is really the story of two churches joining together to create Faith. Even as Faith nears its 30th anniversary, many long-time members recall their time with the two young churches, Advent Lutheran Church and Messiah Lutheran Church, and remember how the two congregations joined together.
In the beginning …
Advent began as a mission church of the American Lutheran Church with door-to-door canvassing in June 1976. It was formally established when 40 families became charter members on December 4, 1976, and quickly grew to 250 members.
The first Christmas service was held at Living History Farms. Regular Sunday services were held at Valley III Theater in Valley West Mall, with Sunday School classes conducted in the mall atrium.
Built at 104th Street and University Avenue, Advent was the first church in the city of Clive, according to “A Celebration of Memories,” which was written for Faith’s 10th anniversary. On September 25, 1977, Advent dedicated its new church building.
Many of the families who started Advent were about the same age, according to charter member Twila Haviland. “It was great to have that camaraderie and having the kids growing up together in the church.” Her family has stayed with Faith all the years since then and now is able to worship with three generations together.
That fall and winter brought challenging times for Lutheran churches across the country. In Des Moines, members of Trinity Lutheran voted to remain with the Missouri Synod by a majority of three votes. After that, 35 families left Trinity and in 1978 formed a new congregation, named Messiah,affiliated with the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches.
The new congregation worshipped in various church buildings before buying and renovating two office condominium units near 86th Street and Hickman Road, complete with moveable walls for Sunday School. Adult Bible classes met at the Village Inn, near 22nd Street and University Avenue.
Then the two think about becoming one …
According to the written history, it was April 4, 1984, when leaders from both Advent and Messiah met for breakfast at Village Inn to discuss the possibility of merging their two congregations. The choir directors of each church, Dr. David Herman ofMessiah, and his wife, Lauri Herman of Advent, encouraged the union.By August both congregations had voted overwhelmingly to approve the merger. At the time of the merger, Advent had about 580 members and Messiah 250.
Charter members Jeannette and Kent Babcock remember one of the symbolic events of the merger happened on a Sunday morning when a group of Advent members and a group of Messiah members gathered separately on the sidewalk near 50th Street in West Des Moines, walked toward Crossroads Elementary School, met at the front door, and entered together for worship service.
In a “Name the Church” contest held that October, the winning name was determined: Faith. A married couple from each of the merging congregations had submitted the winning name and were rewarded with a dinner with the ALC Bishop.
As anticipated, the Advent facility could not accommodate the rapidly growing membership and plans were started for building a new church. In the meantime, Sunday School classes had to be held at nearby Indian Hills Junior High School.
Building a new church
On March 19, 1987, members held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Faith Lutheran Church. After the morning worship, the congregation went outside and formed the outline of the new building. That first construction project built what is now the Commons, the sanctuary, St. Michael’s Hall, a library and meeting room (current choir room) upstairs and Hannah Hall, a youth room and choir room downstairs.
Bishop Paul Werger presided at the dedication of Faith Lutheran Church on June 12, 1988.
To the east of the new church was a farm, according to several longtime members. Shaunda (Beck) Murphy, who grew up as a member of Messiah and then Faith remembers seeing sheep in the field that is now the Kmart parking lot.
The baptismal font in the center of the Commons was installed in November 1989. The Eternal Light above the baptismal font was dedicated in 1990.
The Dobson Pipe Organ Opus 61 was dedicated on June 6, 1993.
On Oct. 2, 1994, the Memory Garden was dedicated as a living memorial to loved ones.
A recent major construction projectwas the two-story addition to the eastern side of St. Michael’s Hall and Hannah Hall. This allowed much-needed additional space for the growing children and youth education programs on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. This addition, though our latest, honors our church’s earliest history. The first floor is named Advent Hall; the second floor is Messiah Hall.
Charter members Jeannette and Kent Babcock said, “We lived through a lot of changes, some trials and tribulations, many joys and friendships, but learned that everything works out for the best in the long run.”
One member’s story —Mary Ellison
Our family joined in the fall of 1985. Having moved into a house at 97th Street and Clark Street, we looked for a church close to home. We soon found out that we could meet our neighbors while attending church. Win/win.
The building was small, the people were many, space was an issue. Having a Christmas or Easter service meant you could be seated in what is now the office area, with the large coffee pots brewing during the service.
We have been members throughout the many decisions to build, add-on, pipe organ addition and add a preschool. We have experienced many transitions of pastors and other staff members. None of these changes or transitions went without some stress and strain on the congregation. There were times of being discouraged, frustrated, and confused as to processes, procedures, decisions and leadership.
Our nearly 28 years of membership has always been one of being taken care of, embraced, uplifted and feeling spiritually grounded in a family of Faith; for these reasons, we have always considered Faith our home and family. Our children were raised here—even though they come and go, it is home for them. Never once have we considered the need to go elsewhere. Life doesn’t have many consistencies these days—this is one we choose to keep.
It has been a fascinating experience to be a part of the physical change and growth of the building, but the real miracle is being a part of the spiritual growth of Faith’s family. The history is the history—it has an influence, but what is yet to come and the process of becoming is why I would never leave Faith.
Faith is rich in the tradition of worship, proclaiming the Gospel and celebration—some of it stays the same, but there is always the ability and desire to expand, shake it up a bit, and be inclusive.
The people of Faith are the most valuable resource—everyone brings their faith to the “table;” they are committed, dedicated and as sincere about serving their Lord as I am.
Faith is totally like family—it isn’t perfect, but it is home and it is mine. That is God’s grace in action I believe. So whether our building was large or small, pipe organ or an electric, adequate rooms for Sunday School or driving kids and supplies to Indian Hills—God’s people worshiped, heard His word and celebrated the sacraments. Some of us can just look back with better 20/20 vision, but all of us can be thankful for God’s grace that has moved us this far.