Faith Lutheran turns 40

When Faith Lutheran Church began serving the community, Farragut was not yet a town.

Subdivisions were just being planned and Tennessee Valley Authority and Oak Ridge National Laboratories were still booming.

Forty years later, a little more than 400 current and former church members reminisced about the church’s beginnings at a 40th anniversary celebration of its first service. They gathered in the church at 225 Jamestowne Blvd., Farragut, Dec. 11, for two services and to open a time capsule.

“We wanted to celebrate the past but also look to the future,” charter member Mildred Fenske said.

“We sang the same hymns, which was nice,” Dr. Bob Stelter, current pastor of Faith Lutheran Church, said. He added Farragut Mayor Ralph McGill presented a proclamation in honor of the church’s milestone.

“Mildred searched for former members on the Internet,” Faith Lutheran charter member Eric Johnson said. “We had people come from South Carolina, from Georgia, Kingsport and Nashville who were charter members. People who were original charter members thought it was important to come.”

Attendees also included Margaret Freyermuth, the wife of the first pastor, the Rev. Robert Freyermuth. Fenske said seeing people from that first service was “kind of neat. We hadn’t changed a bit, but we have.”

“Some of the people had only left two or three years ago but some we hadn’t seen for 35 or 40 years,” Johnson said. “One thing, some of the charter members were not around so their children came.”

“Dec. 11 was the closest [date] we could find to the 40th anniversary of our very first worship service,” Stelter said.

According to written church history, The Lutheran Church of America initially discussed starting a Concord-Farragut mission church in 1970 because the population in the West Knox area was increasing as a result of TVA, ORNL and The University of Tennessee, but discussions came to a halt in 1973 after the Arab oil embargo and recession that followed.

When the economy improved in 1976 and West Knoxville’s economy was booming again, developers began planning subdivisions, such as Village Green, in the area, which would later be town of Farragut, so LCA resumed plans for a church, Johnson said.

“The first services started in the old Farragut Primary School building,” Stelter said.

Members had the opportunity to build a church on Jamestowne Boulevard, next door to its present facility, which previously housed St. John Neumann Catholic Church. Pastor Freyermuth and Clarence Weaver, the builder, selected the land. That church was dedicated Feb. 21, 1980.

“When we did the groundbreaking, Pastor Freyermuth broke ground rather uniquely,” Johnson said.

“He used a bulldozer.”

Money to build that church was a loan from its members. It was built on “faith and a shoestring,” Johnson said.

With 604 current members, Faith Lutheran has always been a mission church, Stelter said. Its members helped start a church in Tellico Village.

Faith Lutheran also operates Shepherd of Hope food pantry. It partners with Farragut Presbyterian and Concord United Methodist churches to help feed the hungry in the area.