Twenty is the special number for Community Lutheran Church, just outside of Frankford. This weekend, the church celebrates its 20th anniversary, still located next to the blinking traffic light at the intersection of Route 20 and Omar Road.
After the worship service on Sunday, Sept. 27, at 10:30 a.m., guests can enjoy lunch at noon in the church hall, catered by Jimmy’s Grille. The luncheon will include guest speakers and presentations.
“We’re a welcoming community of disciples that are dedicated to doing God’s work with our hands,” said member Sophia Riehl, who joined in 2003.
Lutherans are based in the Protestant Reformation and named for Martin Luther, known for pinning his “95 Theses” to the door of the Castle Church in Germany, criticizing the Catholic Church on “selling” forgiveness of sins. He emphasized the forgiveness of sins through faith, not through payment.
Fast-forward to the 1990s, when the nearest ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) option was St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Ocean City, Md.
“My husband had always been Lutheran his whole life,” said Beverly Stalnaker of her spouse and church co-founder Bob Orem, so when they moved from Baltimore to the Eastern Shore, they attended church in Ocean City.
That could be a hike for inland Delawareans, so a group of parishioners began planning a more local version.
By 1992, Ocean View Presbyterian Church (under Rev. Kerry Shull) was allowing the Lutherans to use their sanctuary for Sunday services, sponsored by the Rev. John Ranney of Milford’s Reformation Lutheran Church.
Ready for their own space, the Lutherans fundraised to build the present-day site in Omar. According to Stalnaker, some of the original founders were even willing to part with their personal retirement savings to make that happen, but they got official financing instead.
Their first Omar service was in May of 1994, and they officially signed their charter 20 years ago, on Sept. 25, 1995.
“We never gave up. The original ‘12’ had a dream and sacrificed a lot to reach that goal,” Stalnaker wrote.
The small building began with the square-shaped “Luther Hall.” Today, it functions as a social hall, but originally, Luther Hall was the sanctuary. Later, CLC unfurled its wings to build offices in the south and a sanctuary in the north.
Many people looking to retire to the area bring their religion with them. They find a Lutheran congregation and decide to visit in person. That’s how CLC grew over the years.
“I think it’s fantastic. We’ve come a long way,” said Stalnaker, who documented CLC’s history for an upcoming CLC newsletter, called “Grapevine.”
Today, CLC has lay visitation, children’s Sunday-school, adult Bible study, fellowship, free summer camps and more.
Armed with needle and thread, CLC seamstresses create quilts year-round, most of which go to Lutheran World Relief, which sends them to disaster zones.
Two CLC members were recently set apart as deacons, which involved more than a year of religious training to better serve the church.
“That’s a big accomplishment,” Riehl said. “We’re very proud of them. They’re a big asset to the pastor.”
The church gives holiday food baskets to those in need, and they visit several assisted living homes to lead worship once monthly.
Services on Wednesdays during Lent and Advent have an added attraction when people get together for potluck meals after the mid-week service.
“Our doors are open to everybody,” Reihl said.
“All races, creeds and colors,” added Stalnaker.
“We truly feel that these are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We truly feel kinship together,” Riehl said. “In the work we do, we feel kinship.”
Stalnaker would agree, having heard plenty of parishioners say the same.
Regular services are at 30897 Omar Road on Sundays at 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., with Bible study at 9 a.m.
The church also hosted a remembrance service earlier in September, with special music and recognition of the CLC founders.