Our Lord’s Church marks 10th anniversary
SOLON– In 2004, a small group of residents gathered at the Solon Public Library for the first service of a new church community.
Two years later, the new church had its own building and had established a record of community service that it continues today.
Our Lord’s Church will mark the first decade of its existence Sunday, July 13, with a public celebration at its 131 N. Market St. location, serving brats, burgers and hot dogs after its weekly service. Potato salad, baked beans, lemonade and cake will also be served.
“Picnic in the parking lot,” said current pastor Dennis Arnold. “Although the air conditioning will be on. I’m sure it’s going to be hot.”
Recalling the first organizational meeting of about a dozen people held at the library 10 years ago, also in the heat of July, founding member Sharon Brogan said, “We wanted something different.”
“It was just a group of people that wanted more than they were receiving from the churches they were attending,” Brogan said. “We wanted it to be that everybody was welcome, regardless of anything.”
The group reached out to Reneé Lunemann, former associate pastor at the Solon United Methodist Church, who agreed to serve as the first minister of Our Lord’s Church.
By July, the church was holding its own worship services at the library.
“That’s fairly typical of church starts,” said Arnold. “I’ve seen churches in Iowa City meet in a theatre. My daughter goes to a church that meets in a school gymnasium.”
The fledgling church applied for non-profit status with the state, started looking for a permanent location, and started thinking of ways to work within the community.
In August 2004, the church hosted its first wedding and, two months later, its first fundraiser, an Octoberfest fall festival.
“What I love about the church,” Brogan said, “is that the money doesn’t go to a regional office or somebody in the middle. Anything that we make in this church goes into the community and stays here.”
That desire to make a local impact immediately became a centerpiece of the church’s structure, and stayed that way in the years to come.
“Another thing that I like is that we’re guided,” said Pat Huber, another founding member of the church. “We’re not told what to do.”
In that spirit, on its own initiative, Our Lord’s started its Saturday Soup ministry within months of its formation.
Initially developed to supplement the local Monday through Friday home-delivered congregate meals, the program originally targeted seniors and shut-ins. The program has grown to include anyone in need of a hot, nourishing meal and some fellowship on the weekend.
Now, each Saturday, one family in the congregation makes approximately 40 servings of a favorite soup along with bread and fruit, and delivers the meals rain or shine to people in Solon and the surrounding area. By the end of 2012, the church had served over 16,000 meals through the program.
Building on the success of the Saturday Soup program, Our Lord’s Church soon introduced community-wide holiday meals for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Typically, the church serves 60-70 free meals at the event, including deliveries to shut-ins.
“We’ve been blessed with a lot of volunteers,” Huber said.
“The community has actually embraced it and chipped in,” Arnold added. “It’s great. There are a lot of people who look forward to it.”
The Christmas meal in 2006 was served at the Solon American Legion, but every year since has been at the church’s permanent location on Market Street.
“We had quite a time finding this church,” said Huber. “To me, I think it was a miracle.” The building had housed a number of businesses over the years, but it had most recently been The Perfect Present, which Brogan took as prescient.
“We looked at a house, we looked at property to buy, we looked at someone who was going to buy the property and build, and none of those things panned out,” Huber said. “And then we found this.”
Mark Pattison owned the building and it was listed for sale.
“Sweet guy,” Brogan said, “and he gave us a good deal.”
The church borrowed the money for the purchase of the building from its members, and paid it off within eight years.
For Arnold, Our Lord’s is the very definition of a non-denominational church.
“We don’t affiliate with any mainline denomination and the congregation is made up a variety of Christian traditions among the membership,” Arnold said.
Our Lord’s conducts a traditional Christian worship service, which includes communion, a time for children, and music by Pastor Arnold’s wife, Patricia, at 9 a.m. each Sunday morning, followed by a time of fellowship over coffee and baked goods.
“This church is big on fellowship,” said Huber.
“I call it church after church,” Arnold said.
Our Lord’s has somewhere 25 and 45 members, depending on how the term is defined. “Membership is kind of an ethereal concept in most churches,” said Arnold.
“Johnson County is 65 percent un-churched,” Arnold said, recounting some historical numbers. “It may be more now. When you think about that, it’s really a rich mission field.”
And like many churches, Our Lord’s would love to see more people participating in the faith journey. Many of the members of Our Lord’s Church are older, with grown children.
“The question always becomes, in any church, how do you reach those people?” Arnold said. “There’s no magic wand. You just have to try stuff.”
“We’re little, but we have a really nice community, and we’re not in financial trouble in any way, and we can do things in the community that we want to do,” Brogan said.