Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church of Coloma, Michigan, came into existence when forces of religious liberalism challenged the truth of God’s eternal Word. By God’s grace, about eighty communicants and their pastor, Ralph Schaller, chose to remain faithful to God’s Word and separated from their former congregation. Armed with the Sword of the Spirit and faith in the Lord’s promise, the group gathered in the pastor’s home on Mother’s Day, May 10, 1959, for their first service. In the following weeks the group gathered around Word and sacraments at the Coloma Township Hall. The following year, the Lord provided encouragement through Faith’s affiliation with like-minded believers in forming the new Church of the Lutheran Confession.
In 1960 the congregation obtained a parsonage with nearly ten acres of land. On March 19, 1961, Faith dedicated its house of worship—constructed and furnished in four and a half months almost entirely by the congregation. In 1966 a wing was added to accommodate a growing Sunday school and various church organizations and activities. Pastor Schaller served the congregation faithfully for twenty years, until he was called to serve CLC groups in New Mexico. Faith was then served by Pastor James Sandeen, who was installed in 1976. He was followed by Pastors Matthew Gurath, Thomas Schuetze, and (from 2014 to present) Pastor Jay Hartmann.
In 1974 the Lord enabled Faith to start a Christian day school with one teacher, Shirley Wendland, and seven students in grades K-3. The school experienced the Lord’s blessing as the enrollment eventually grew to sixty-six in the 1981-1982 school year. The school was given faithful servants over the years, including Tim Koch, Susan Lueck, Jan Stockman, Barbara Mueller, Ted Quade, Carol Sandeen, Alvin Sieg, Susan Pelzl, Renee Sieg, Grace Meyer, Pam Schulz, Collette Sieg, David Bernthal, Wendy Greve, and James Arndt. Eventually, the school had to close its doors because of low enrollment and smaller membership, but we still hope the Lord will provide a way for the school to open again. The Lord’s will be done.
Faith remains steadfast to its purpose: to proclaim, preserve, and share the saving Gospel of Christ crucified for the sins of the world. Faith has numerous outreach efforts in the community and surrounding area and has recently been blessed with growth in its membership. It’s truly amazing to see “the power of God to salvation” (Romans 1:16) working in the hearts of those He has called.
The people at Faith are committed to reaching out with the Gospel. The congregation has tried some unique ways of meeting and witnessing to others. One that has been of particular interest to the community is our Harvest Festival, held on the second Saturday in October each year. Along with many activities for all ages (hay rides, kids’ games, grilling, a bonfire—all at no cost to our guests), Faith has added an annual hotrod and classic car show. Oddly enough, it has proven to be a very effective way of meeting people in the community, acquainting them with our church, inviting them to our service, and sharing with them the Gospel. Around Easter, Faith has had an Easter Tomb Hunt. The children of the community are invited and roam around the nearly 10 acres looking for plastic containers. Inside each container is a small tomb to point them to their Savior and the reason for Easter. We have been very surprised to see how many children have no understanding of what Easter truly is. Faith also continues its tradition of entering a religiously themed float in the local parades. Last year the float’s theme was The Parting of the Red Sea. Members worked successfully to design a way to part the waters. When Moses raised his hands, the large crowd could see the waters parting and enjoy a cool spray on a hot day. Common interests among members and the community have provided new ways for us to share the Gospel. The Lord has blessed the willingness of members to “go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in.” (Luke 14:23).
Through the years the people of Faith have been strengthened and preserved in the Christian faith through the means of grace. While there are always trials in life, they have experienced firsthand the faithful care of the Lord. They are certain of the Lord’s continued presence and strength. This year Faith will celebrate its sixtieth anniversary. Ponder what a miracle of God’s grace that truly is! Over those sixty years, religious liberalism—which first led the members of Faith to separate from their former congregation—has crept into and taken over whole church bodies. Praise God for His grace in preserving His Word in its truth and purity here at Faith, and in our synod! What greater blessing could we ask for? “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” (Romans 10:17 NIV) At Faith we eagerly look forward to the future, rejoicing in our Lord’s continued presence and blessing, “surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20 NIV)
Jay Hartmann is pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Coloma, Michigan.