Onward to 70
Hugh and Ramona Matter. Oscar and Helen Collins. John and Mary Ellen Schulze. Robert and DeEtte Holland. Paul and Dawn Taff. Howard and Jane Nestlerode. Donald and Evelyn Spindler. Charles and Terry (Theresa) Bruening. Elva Harton.
These and others gathered in a basement on the corner across from the present day Hallelujah Temple and signed a charter requesting recognition as a Lutheran congregation. They were mostly young people, in their 20s and 30s. They were among the first citizens of Park Forest, and they were forming the first organized church in Park Forest.
Some stayed, it seems, for only a short time. Others stayed longer. One is still with us, Elva Harton. The Hartons were joined by Tony and Lucille Wagener and others within months. We recently celebrated Lucille’s 100th birthday at Trinity!
From these earliest members, Trinity grew as Park Forest grew through the 1950s and 60s. This growth was mirrored in churches and towns through the nation. The “baby boom” truly created a population explosion, and Trinity’s Sunday school filled with hundreds of children and youth. Some families had 4, 5, 6, or 7 kids or more! Others had fewer. But they all went to church.
I often hear the question “Why do people not go to church anymore?” This is a complicated question, and its answer lies not only in belief in God, but also in how our communities relate to each other, how we make our money, when we take leisure, where we find those who are our “second families.”
Yet, through all these changes in our society, the need for community remains, and the spiritual thirst for God can, in the words of Jeremiah, become “something like a fire shut up in my bones.” For so many, this spiritual thirst goes unquenched. Trinity still has ministry to do for those who need to let this fire out and receive back the love of God.
In 2 years, Trinity will celebrate its 70th anniversary. I am starting to do my own historical research into Trinity and Park Forest, and would welcome your contributions of remembrances, oral history interviews (let me know if you’re interested and I’ll come with my recorder!), pictures (we have tons in the office), as well as your hopes for the future. Because we exist not only in the past, but also, and more importantly, for those who are yet to come.
Through our history we can see how a love for community and an openness for other people is in our spiritual “DNA” here at Trinity. We exist now as always to welcome people in the name of Jesus, and in the time to come we will find new and perhaps novel ways to do that.
I’m excited to be with you in ministry at Trinity at this time. We still have important gifts to share with our wider communities. Together with you, dear denizen of Trinity Lutheran Church, I look forward to our future together!
May God bless you every day!