Early in 1968, a number of Lutheran families living in the rapidly developing area of South Laurel, Maryland were introduced to each other through the efforts of Pastor Kenneth Beachboard of Bowie and Pastor Edward Birner of Greenbelt.Â The Christian and geographic bond resulted in regular Bible classes being held at the Montpelier Elementary School on Muirkirk Road in the southern part of Laurel.Â Officials of the American Lutheran Church and Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod studied the mission potential of the area and entrusted the development to the Southeastern District of the Missouri Synod.
Having no regular meeting place except for Sunday mornings did not interfere with the growth and activities of the congregation.Â All of the business, congregation, council meetings, as well as the weekday Bible study, adult fellowship group and Vacation Bible School were held in the memberâ€™s homes.Â On February 18, 1969 our congregation celebrated its first Holy Communion service and in June of that same year the nameÂ Our Savior Lutheran ChurchÂ was chosen.Â A Sunday school was established with eleven children enrolled and in February 1970 the new congregation officially received its charter members.
The early years of the congregationâ€™s history were focused on establishing the congregation.Â At first Our Savior was served by a succession of part-time pastors, most notably the Reverend James Rath and Reverend Alan Hartfield.Â As the Lord kept adding to the membership, the congregation recognized its need for the spiritual guidance of a resident pastor. A Call was extended to the Reverend Gary Rueter who was installed as Our Saviorâ€™s first full-time pastor on July 23, 1972.
A very active music program was evident from the begining staffed only with volunteers. Early on the Cherub Choir was organized with the Sunday School Children. In 1976 an Adult Choir began meeting in memberâ€™s homes. In the choirâ€™s early years robes and music were borrowed. Much was accomplished with a small, dedicated group that grew into our vibrant music program of today.
Looking ahead, the congregation could see the rapid growth continuing in the South Laurel area and in April 1974 we decided to purchase the current property on Route 197 for a permanent place of worship.Â Various temporary facilities including Deerfield Run Elementary School and a prefabricated metal building (The Butler building) were used for worship in the meantime.Â In 1978 we were able to break ground and on November 18, 1979 we dedicated our new worship home.Â We were soon able to be taken off district subsidy and have maintained substantial LCMS-SED contributions each year.Â Having a permanent facility enabled us to open the building to community use.Â For a number of years, the South Laurel Cooperative Nursery used the building for five mornings a week.Â The Laurel Music Teachers Association also used the facility on a regular basis for piano competitions and recitals.
From July 1982 to July 1988 the Reverend David Kasischke served the congregation, during which time we continued to grow.Â Among the ministries begun under Pastor Kasischke is the prayer ministry that started with a prayer chain.Â Today the prayer ministry includes one prayer group that meets at the church.Â In 1987, Ann Kasischke, the daughter of Lutheran school teachers who served in India and grew up there, led the congregation to help establish Bethania, a mission in India for orphaned children and destitute elderly.Â Congregational support for Bethania, as well as a host of other human care ministries continues to this day.
During this time it was already recognized that the multipurpose worship center would soon be inadequate to meet the needs of the growing community of believers.Â The Reverend David Heino who served as Interim Pastor helped the congregation move toward the fulfillment of its development dream for a permanent sanctuary and other facilities.Â In September 1989 Reverend Mark Hricko was installed.Â The following summer, the congregation established the part-time position of a Music Director and began expanding the music ministry.Â Today, the music ministry leadership is composed of Music Director, Adult Bell Choir Director, Praise Team Director, Church Orchestra and Brass ensemble, as well as several small groups that sing or play occasionally.
Meanwhile, plans were drawn up and a contractor was hired and on the Epiphany of our Lord 1991 the groundbreaking Service for the new sanctuary was held.Â On July 13, 1991 a cornerstone bearing the inscription “To God be all the Glory” was laid on the northwest corner of the new sanctuary.Â The following Palm Sunday the congregation gave thanks to God at the disposition of the former sanctuary and processed into its new house of prayer and worship.Â On May 3, 1992, the new sanctuary was dedicated to the glory and service of the Triune God.Â The added space allowed us to open our facilities to the community for groups such as Girl Scouts, Narcotics Anonymous and Winterhaven (housing for homeless men & women for one week each for group during the winter months).Â In addition, a wonderful opportunity for outreach led us into the opening of Our Savior Preschool which served three and four year olds.
In June 1992 the Reverend Gregory Alms was ordained into the holy ministry and installed as our first Associate Pastor.Â During the pastorate of Pastors Hricko and Alms the congregation added a contemporary worship service, a mid-week worship service, book discussion group, menâ€™s breakfast, adult Bible study and home Bible study groups.
In the Spring of 1994, the congregation welcomed our new neighbors. The Park View Apartments, a senior housing community, built through a partnership of the Prince Georgeâ€™s County Housing Authority, the Shelter Development Corporation, and Our Savior Lutheran Church.Â Many of the Park View residents have become members of our congregation and even more participate in the prayer groups, Bible studies, and social events that Our Savior sponsors and holds at Park View.
In December 1997 Reverend Doctor Jon Diefenthaler was installed as the senior pastor.Â Under Dr. Diefenthalerâ€™s leadership our HOME Bible Study groups, prayer groups, youth ministries, and outreach programs were expanded.Â Further, because of the expanded youth ministry opportunities we were able to call a part-time Youth Director.
In the summer of 2001 Pastor Peter DeMik was called from the St. Louis seminary, to serve Our Savior Lutheran Church as an Associate Pastor. Pastor DeMik has used his many gifts to enhance the confirmation curriculum by introducing Faith Incubators (FINK), expand the small group ministries and enhance the contemporary worship service. In the spring of 2004 we welcomed Pastor Michael L. Flannery as our senior pastor. Pastor Flannery began his tenure during the further expansion of our facilities and has helped Our Savior refocus its vision on discipleship, intentional outreach, and faith sharing.
Under Pastor Michael’s leadership, the Open Arms Christian Child Development Center opened in September 2005. In addition to increased space for our Sunday educational classes, music, and youth programs, it provides New Hope Lutheran Church (an African-Immigrant congregation supported by OSLC) facilities for their Friday evening Bible Studies and Sunday morning worship.
Open Arms provides a nurturing and safe environment for the development of children and families in our community through a loving, Christ-centered, Bible-based child care center. Our Director, Cynthia Tillman, accepted the position of Director of Open Arms in November 2006. With an enrollment between 150-180 and a full and part-time staff of 35, Open Arms is a state-licensed and nationally accredited Lutheran Child Development Center serving children aged 6 weeks through twelve years.
The milestones mentioned above merely scratch the surface of those blessings and of the countless expressions of Christian love, dedicated service, and faithful witness to the grace of God which have been offered in Jesusâ€™ name throughout the years. As we give thanks and praise to God for the fellowship we share in Christ at Our Savior Lutheran church, our prayer is that we continue to grow in our witness to the community so that more people may come and receive with us their promised inheritance in Jesus Christ.