Redeemer Lutheran Church, 30003 Jefferson Ave., is celebrating 100 years this year.

Redeemer Lutheran Church, 30003 Jefferson Ave., is celebrating 100 years this year.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske


Redeemer Lutheran Church celebrates 100 years

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published October 27, 2021

 The current church sanctuary, pictured here, was dedicated in 1963.

The current church sanctuary, pictured here, was dedicated in 1963.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — It was 1919 when Carl Hoffman decided to do something about the fact that there were no Lutheran churches in the area of St. Clair Shores, which was predominantly Roman Catholic.

He took it upon himself to build a summer home for a Lutheran minister, the Rev. Schatz, at 29930 Jefferson Ave., and meetings and church services for Redeemer Lutheran Church were first held at that home. The church was named after Redeemer Lutheran Church in Mount Clemens, which had helped Schatz and Hoffman form a congregation.

A visiting pastor, the Rev. Wissmueller, called a meeting April 13, 1921, to draft a constitution, making Redeemer Lutheran Church of St. Clair Shores an official church, and the rest is history.

The church is celebrating its 100th anniversary Nov. 7 with a short program and a dinner for current and past members.

“We’re looking forward to seeing some folks,” said Phyllis McCullen, a member of the 100th anniversary committee. She and her husband have been members of Redeemer Lutheran Church for about 25 years, she said, but she’s looking forward to meeting members who attended the church before they did.

In 1921, Hoffman purchased two lots for the congregation that were subdivided from his farm and the Whitmore farm, located about where Dorian Street and Lake Shore High School are now. Hoffman and his two sons built the first church, completing it later that year. The Rev. Dorn was ordained as the church’s first pastor, and church services were held in English and German.

“One hundred years is a long time,” McCullen said. “It’s gone through several versions.”

Now located at 30003 Jefferson Ave., the second church building was dedicated Jan. 25, 1953, but services were held in what is now the fellowship hall. The present sanctuary was dedicated Oct. 20, 1963, when plans for a Lutheran school were developed. The congregation grew to 1,488 people, including more than 500 children, by 1968.

The church is now led by the Rev. Todd Seaver with part-time assistance from the Rev. Oliver Washington.

“Throughout the years, there’s been a strong men’s club, ladies societies, and we had, years back, we had a good youth group going,” McCullen said.

Like other churches, she said membership is declining and Redeemer Lutheran Church doesn’t have many young members. The church has around 80 members currently, and about half that number regularly attend Sunday services.

Longtime member Don Rutter, who has belonged to Redeemer Lutheran Church for the past 57 years with his wife, Elaine, said when they joined, membership was booming.

“It seemed like every house on the street had three kids and the church was booming; as far as church attendance, (there were) 500-some-odd people every Sunday, and Sunday School (had) 200,” he said. “It continued for some time.”

He said the church has stayed true to its roots through the years, which he thinks contributed to its longevity.

“The reason has always been, we (Redeemer Lutheran) faithfully preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have faithful pastors, and it’s continuing,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll continue for another 100 years. It’s smaller in number but still faithful to the Gospel, and the members continue to support that.”

Church secretary Patty McSwain said the congregation is very generous and tries to support the surrounding community in any way it can.

“They’re very willing to help with whatever is in need, and they are the most giving parish I’ve ever worked at,” she said. “They’ve been here forever, their children and their grandchildren — that’s something you don’t see anymore.”

The church opened Redeemer Lutheran Preschool in 1990 and constructed a new wing in 1993 for Redeemer Lutheran Kindergarten. A second addition was constructed in 1995 as enrollment increased. The director and staff of the preschool departed in May 2019 to move to another location in St. Clair Shores, but the church reopened the center with a new director and staff, adding daycare facilities in February 2020 in what is now called Redeemer Lutheran Early Childcare and Learning Center. About 27 children are currently enrolled.

Redeemer Lutheran also offers a summer Vacation Bible School and a Trunk or Treat program in October, and it opens its lawn for spectators to watch the St. Clair Shores Fireworks in June.

To celebrate the anniversary, the church has also gathered pictures of each year’s confirmation class, dating back to 1938.

“We’re getting some pictures from the St. Clair Shores website, I hope, to display about what was happening in that decade in the city,” McCullen said. “We’ll have other things on display. People can look through and say, ‘I remember that person.’”

Like other local churches, Redeemer Lutheran has faced its challenges, including the absence of a pastor, but McCullen said she has high hopes for the future with the recent hiring of Seaver.

“We’re just looking forward to, hopefully, getting some new members and getting the church up and running to where we would like it,” she said. “We’re looking forward to another 100 years.”

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