United Lutheran Church - 1974
The Consolidation Model.

     The  model, known as the "consolidation model," was the name which was applied to the Cripple Creek Parish. This parish consisted of four congregations: Zion, Rosenbaum Chapel, St. Peter's, and Bethany. The Cripple Creek Parish had been without a full-time pastor for about five years and was served by the intern program during much of that time. In 1970 the pastor of the Rural Retreat Parish was enlisted by Synod to assist the Cripple Creek Parish in working toward a new parish arrangement and the calling of a pastor. After many hours of study and exploring the possibility of merging the four congregations, the Rev. Henning Pearson accepted the call to be the pastor of the Cripple Creek Parish in 1972.

      After several years in the parish, and building on the foundation already laid, Pastor Pearson, working with LCA staff person, Carroll Wessinger, informed the Synod Executive Board that the congregations were ready to consolidate themselves into a single congregation. It was soon learned, however, that Zion Church would not be part of the merger but would remain a part of the parish as a single congregation.  The other three churches proceeded with the merger.

     Consolidation of Bethany, St Peter's, and Rosenbaum Chapel was not an easy task. Originally all congregations involved were reluctant to sacrifice their historical identity and peculiar heritage by merging into a single congregation. It took a lot of patience, forbearance, love and all the other gifts that St. Paul commended, to arrive at the point of bringing the three parish congregations into one. Much credit is due to the pastor and lay people of these congregations for their willingness to join forces and to embark on a new historical era. The merged congregation adopted the name of "United Lutheran  Church" and for a while used the old facilities of Bethany Church as the site of their worship, education, and fellowship programs. Pastor Pearson retired in 1977 and in November of that same year the parish was successful in calling Seminarian Alan Traher, from the Washington, D.C. area as their new pastor. In August of 1978 the United congregation voted to purchase a site on Route 21 South of Wytheville near the Four Way Crossroads. Under the leadership of Pastor Traher, a new church building was constructed at the site in 1981.

      Soon after the construction of the new church, Pastor Traher accepted a call to Maryland, and the second Lutheran Lay Minister to serve in Wythe County, Gary Kelly of the Floyd-Willis Parish, was called to be its new pastor. Pastor Kelly continued to serve quite ably in that capacity until his untimely death on January 1, 1997. The merged congregation of United Lutheran Church has worked well under the leadership of Pastor Kelly, and the merger of these congregations serves as a model for the consolidation of smaller congregations into a more central and viable base for ministry. The three merging congregations had served a vital role in the history of Wythe County Lutherans, a heritage that continues in the new union.

Above from Beside the Still Waters 1998 author, Roger S. Kluttz pp. 279-280

Pastors, United Lutheran Church 1974

  Kenning B. Pearson     1974-1977
  Alan D. Traher             1977-1983
  Gary E. Kelly (Lay)      1984-1997
    Martin F. Saarinen (Interim) 1997-


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