My first question upon arriving … where am I going to park? Messiah Lutheran Church is one of the fastest growing congregations in Upstate NY! It was a full house on this bright and sunny Sunday morning. Dustin Wright has served as Senior Pastor here since August of 2014. He is an avid hiker and runner, bringing this same youthful energy to the church … and it’s contagious.
The doors were open, a welcoming sign, and many were present to greet the people as they entered in. Laughter and conversation filled the lobby and sanctuary as I made my way to find a seat. The church organist, Doug Chilton, was playing the old hymn “Shall We Gather at the River”. This was a precursor of what was to come … the baptism of a young girl, Haileigh. Pastor Dustin began by sharing how he recently was part of a fundraising effort to raise money to send kids to Camp Calumet in New Hampshire. Once a young camper and then a staff member, Pastor Dustin shared how this camp played a vital role in helping him develop a strong relationship with God. In total, the race raised over $81,000!
Organ music filled the room along with an angelic choir singing from above. The balcony donned a beautiful banner saying, “make a joyful noise”, and joyful it was. Amazing Grace, a song we’ve all heard countless times, was so eloquently presented in what I would consider one of the best renditions I have ever heard. This diverse congregation had such a nice “family” blend of age groups present. In the rear of the sanctuary I noticed bags for the young children which contained quiet activities to keep them occupied during the service. The order of service was nicely laid out in the weekly bulletin, making it easy to follow along. The format was liturgical in nature with a relaxed feel, reflecting the warm personality of Pastor Dustin. His message was entitled, “Real Life”. In Matthew 16:25 Jesus states, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it”. We must lose all those things that the world tells us are important in this life – achievement, fortune, fame. We need to turn to the face of God and see it looking back at us in the face of another.
In 1927 the “Second English Lutheran Church” was formed, changing its name to the “Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Messiah” in 1954. For over 90 years, Messiah Lutheran has been ministering and worshiping together. One of the things that really stood out to me was how so many in the congregation were serving in some capacity. There was a plethora of greeters, choir members, along with different people involved in scripture readings and other portions of the service. In looking at their monthly newsletter, the list of names serving in various church functions and activities was quite lengthy. This is a clear sign of a church working together in unity. In 1963, former Rev. Richard Rieger stated, “If the church is truly to fulfil its mission, it must be a church where all members realize their vital part”, and this still holds true today.
They are training a new generation of leaders through various mission trips and programs. They realize the importance of equipping disciples. Those I spoke with individually all shared with me how much their church family means to them. There is pure joy in this house of God. No wonder it’s growing! Attendance has increased by 50% over the past five years.
Sunday School is at 9 am, with worship service following at 10:15 am. There is such an array of events happening here including “Blessing of the Animals”, healing services, coffeehouse concerts, family fun days, book clubs, movie nights, crafting classes and various meetings for youth of all ages. WELCA (Women Enriching Lives Caring Always) is a group of women who work together to help those in need. They also have the “Bread of Life Food Pantry” that operates twice a month by appointment, serving roughly 130 meals a month.
Messiah Lutheran Church is growing in number, helping them to reach more people in their community. They are running the race set before them and they invite you to join them.
Church Website – http://www.messiahschenectady.org
By Donna Hansen Munafo