History of Our Redeemer
On January 22, 1958, a small group met at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Sheldon Gilblom. This was to be the beginning of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church. Those present were Sheldon Gilblom, Howard Quetsch, Clarence Kral, William Kuntz, and Adolph Czack. The Rev. R. J. Leege had been asked by the Ohio District Mission Board to start a mission church in Solon, and so services were begun at Roxbury School and continued for three years.
During that time a 5.5 acre tract of land was purchased by the Central Mission Board, where the church now stands. In July of 1958 the first resident pastor—Rev. D. Marshall Begley—was installed. There were about thirty people present for his first sermon. Soon after his arrival, a parsonage was purchased on Linden Drive in Solon.
By the end of 1958 Our Redeemer numbered ninety-two souls and forty-seven adult members. In April of 1959 a Building Committee was formed, architects were engaged, financing was secured, a contract was let and a new church was raised up. It was dedicated on June 17, 1962. In 1963, Pastor Begley accepted another call and the Rev. Robert Dorow was called to Our Redeemer. In 1965, Pastor Dorow accepted another call and Rev. James Lareva arrived. By this time the church numbered 319 souls and 216 communicants. In mid 1968, Pastor Lareva accepted a call to California and in November of that same year, Rev. Herb Borchelt arrived. In the following years, the church saw vigorous growth, attracting many non-Lutheran families.
In 1971, the congregation voted in favor of building a new sanctuary. A building committee was appointed, chaired by Clarence Hanson. A building campaign followed with the goal of reaching $100,000 in three years. On September 4, 1974, a resolution was passed to proceed with the building of the sanctuary. It was dedicated on January 25th, 1976.
The next major event at Our Redeemer was the starting up of a preschool in September, 1976. June Licht was the first teacher. By 1984, the preschool had grown to the point where a new classroom needed to be added. By 1987 the school had two three year old classes and two four-year-old classes and enrollment had doubled.
In 1979 a new Allen organ was anonymously donated to the church, greatly enhancing our worship services. By 1983, our congregation numbered 482 souls and 371 communicants. The preschool had grown to the point where more room was needed, and in 1984 two new classrooms were added to the building. In 1987, Paula Stumph joined the preschool staff and in 1988 two four-year-old classes were added, doubling the enrollment.
In 1986, Rev. Paul Jentz was called as assistant pastor. Shortly thereafter, he launched the Bethel Bible Study Course which drew over sixty participants. In 1991, Pastor Jentz accepted a call to Texas and Rev. Charles Minetree was called as assistant pastor. In 1993, Pastor Minetree accepted a call to Louisiana, and Powell Woods, a former member who had entered seminary in 1991, was called as a vicar. In 1994, after being ordained, he was called as associate pastor.
In 1994, a new small group ministry called “ChristCare” was launched at Our Redeemer. ChristCare groups were formed for Bible study, fellowship and mission outreach into our community. Today we have several ChristCare groups.
In 1994, a new executive office wing was dedicated which contained offices, a new conference room, and a library. In 1996, a new narthex was added along with a new kitchen. In 1998, Pastor Borchelt retired after serving the congregation for thirty years. Pastor Woods was called as senior pastor and Rev. Mark Matzke was called as assistant pastor. In 1999, Chris Rennison was called to be our first director of Christian education.
In 2000 the congregation voted to build a new sanctuary and educational wing, and to convert the old sanctuary into a fellowship hall. Construction was begun in 2001 with the help of Laborers for Christ. As part of our agreement with Laborers for Christ, we promised to contribute at least 2000 hours of volunteer labor. We ended up contributing over 4500 hours. In 2002 the new sanctuary was dedicated.
In 2003 Pastor Matzke accepted a call to St. Paul Lutheran Church in Painesville, Ohio, and Rev. Phil Alexander was called as associate pastor. In 2005 Pastor Alexander accepted a call to Florida, and a search was begun for a new associate pastor. In 2007, Pastor Matthew Garred was called as associate pastor. In 2006, DCE Chris Rennison left our church to pursue a career in teaching and consulting, and Ms. Sally Reemsnyder came on board as director of youth ministry. After completing her masters degree in Christian education at Concordia University, St. Paul, she was called as a DCE in 2007.
In 2005 our congregation mobilized to help renew the ministry of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church on the west side of Cleveland. The congregation of St. Luke’s had been dwindling and the church facility itself was badly in need of refurbishing. Over one hundred volunteers from Our Redeemer dedicated hundreds of hours to restoring the fellowship hall and kitchen, running a “kid’s church” on Saturday mornings, and staffing a vacation Bible school.
There are many people in addition to those mentioned here who have contributed significantly to the growth of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church. Our custodian/maintenance man, Steve Gibby; our preschool directors, Paula Stumph and Patti Berger and their staffs; our secretary, Margie Bosiacki; our music director, Kimi Nose; our choir directors, Carol Holub and Jim Holthus; our officers and elders—all these and many others have worked enthusiastically and tirelessly over the years to ensure that the Lord would always find us faithful.
From the original group of five souls who met in 1958, Our Redeemer has grown into a congregation of 871 baptized souls and 646 confirmed members. In 2007, an average of 335 people attended worship services each Sunday.
Our Redeemer is blessed with a rare and beautiful fellowship. As one of our members once said: “Nobody in this congregation cares about what anyone else does for a living. We just care about serving each other and the Lord.”