Christ Lutheran Church members and visitors celebrate in worship on September 29.
By David Richards
Just as its vision states, Christ Lutheran Church in Byron has been "Making Christ's Love Known" for 50 years.
The official anniversary of the church, which features a sanctuary highlighted with a pulpit, altar and lectern all made of walnut and set in a backdrop of two stained-glass windows, was Feb. 10 to commemorate its first worship service.
A complete celebration was held Sept. 29.
"It was exciting for me to see the gratitude of the church for how God has been at work here," said The Rev. Steve Rheingans, who has been with the church for two years.
"They're proud of how many families in Byron have found a spiritual home here and how many children found out about God's love through our ministry." Construction began on the church in 1962, after five acres were purchased by the American Lutheran Church, and it was The Rev. Larry Kocha who gave the first worship service with 412 chartered baptized members.
In 1995, a new sanctuary, narthex and office space was built and today, the church features a total membership of 1,175, with an average Sunday attendance of 231.
Rheingans said there's a good mix of both young and older members of the church.
Christ Lutheran has 100 kids on average in its River of Life Sunday School program, for instance, 38 kids in confirmation and features an adult choir, both adult and youth bell choirs and a contemporary youth band that plays roughly once a month.
"There's a good mix," Rheingans said. "We have all ages. That's one of our strengths. We reflect the Byron community in that sense."
The church is also actively involved in both mission trips and community outreach.
The youth of the church just returned from its latest mission trip, while its also a member of the Interfaith Hospitality Network, which provides temporary shelter for homeless families.
In addition, it supports two missionaries, Heath Nielsen in Guatemala, and Kristi and Matt Florek in Ethiopia. Both Nielsen and Kristi (Brodhun) Florek are originally from Byron.
"I think we're becoming more mission centered, and we're trying to grow our youth community," Rheingans said.
Christine Kunz, who is the church's administrator, but is not a member and doesn't live in Byron, said she has enjoyed working with the members of the congregation.
"I treasure the friendships I've made working here," she said.