When Pastor Seth Davidson accepted the call to shepherd St. John Lutheran Church, he found a salt-of-the-earth community that needed a little TLC. Housed in Athens – a town of 12,000 a little more than an hour southeast of Dallas – the congregation as a whole was aging and had facilities badly in need of repair.
Flooding in May 2015 had wreaked havoc on the all-purpose facility connected to the main church building. A full repair would have cost $65,000, seemingly more than a small congregation could handle. However, through their generosity and willingness to pitch in their considerable construction skills, the St. John’s community managed to strip the building all the way back to its studs, rebuild the plumbing, upgrade the kitchen and flooring, and truly create a beautiful, functional space for church events, confirmation classes, and other community activities. The Frank Rose Center was dedicated in October of 2016 and sees near-constant use.
Having felt the blessings of this success, the congregation then turned its eye to building a space even more welcoming to younger families. They decided to take out a few offices in the main church building, lay down new flooring, and brought in child-sized furniture and toys to create a nursery that now serves 10–20 children each week. Most incredibly, the congregation again managed the entire project on donations – several members who had construction experience donated their materials and time to complete a $4,900 construction job at no cost to the church.
Pastor Davidson says he’s delighted but not entirely surprised by the wonders this community has achieved. “These people love the Lord in a very honest way. They might be a bit more colorful, but with my congregation what you see is what you get.” As a case in point, he mentioned the Women at the Winery Bible Study group that meets every Sunday afternoon at the Vine Winery in Athens.
Pastor Davidson is thankful for the spirit moving at St. John’s. “We’re out in the community seeing where we can help and what we can do,” he added. “Our proclaiming of The Gospel is in our actions not our words.”
Eileen Wood – the church treasurer who has been attending St. John’s with her husband, Ron, since they moved to Athens seven years ago – agreed with this assessment of the congregation’s strengths: “We love the way this church has worked together for the good of our community and God’s family.” She said the new nursery already seems to be a huge help to the youngest members of the congregation. “We hope it brings more people with children to our church family,” she said.