Religion Today: Good Shepherd celebrates 60th anniversary

Denise Higuera

The congregation of Gilroy’s Lutheran Church of the Good
Shepherd (1735 Hecker Pass Highway) welcomes local residents to a
special event at 9:30 a.m. Sunday. A worship service will be held
to celebrate the church’s 60th anniversary. This will be followed
by a festive barbecue luncheon featuring tri-tip, chicken and other
traditional picnic dishes.
The congregation of Gilroy’s Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd (1735 Hecker Pass Highway) welcomes local residents to a special event at 9:30 a.m. Sunday. A worship service will be held to celebrate the church’s 60th anniversary. This will be followed by a festive barbecue luncheon featuring tri-tip, chicken and other traditional picnic dishes. Friends of the church, visitors and former members are invited to attend; reservations for the free luncheon can be made by calling 842-2713 in order to help with the meal planning.

The event will also celebrate the 37th anniversary of The Vineyard Christian Preschool, which the church has operated as a ministry to the children of Gilroy. Alumni and their parents are invited to attend. They also are asked to RSVP by calling the number above.

The theme of the day is “God’s Rich Blessings,” and Pastor Ron Koch’s sermon will refer back to the congregation’s rich history in Gilroy, telling stories from the past and suggesting challenges for the future. The liturgy will include music performed by the church’s handbell choir as well as a special anthem sung by the students of the Vineyard.

Denise Higuera, the school’s new director, will be officially installed in her new position. She was formerly director of a church-operated preschool program in San Jose and brings experience and new ideas to Gilroy. Just this month, an additional classroom building was opened to increase its capacity. Students and staff of the school who are in attendance will also be recognized.

Back in 1951 – when Harry S. Truman was president, the U.S. flag had 48 stars and chips were something to eat (not put in electronic devices) – Gilroy’s first Lutheran worship service was held. A chapel was purchased from the Habing Family Funeral Home and renovated to serve as the first worship facility, now the location of Tasso’s Old House Restaurant.

In 1969, the congregation moved to its present location on Hecker Pass Highway, then the western edge of Gilroy. In 1975, it established the Vineyard Christian Preschool to meet the community’s need for quality early childhood education. Then in 1982 a classroom complex was added to better house these students as well as a growing Sunday School program.

The church’s current pastor, the Rev. Ron Koch, was called in 1978. In reflecting on the anniversary observance, he said, “We trust that God’s love, shown in the past to our ancestors in this faith, is enough for us as well. May we be renewed in our energy to be God’s people in ministry in this place, cherishing the legacy not only of our congregation’s 60-year history, but also the entire holy history of God’s compassion for all people and God’s calling to us to be agents of justice in our world.”

Good Shepherd has a tradition of being an inclusive church, welcoming all people regardless of previous religious affiliation, age, ethnicity or sexual orientation. It also has an important tradition of serving the larger Gilroy community in numerous ways.

– Hosting Narcotics Anonymous meetings every day of the year

– Providing meeting space for the Girl Scouts

– Making available to the public an outdoor labyrinth for meditation and spiritual pilgrimage

– Presenting quality musical programs to local residents

– Supporting the homeless at the National Guard Armory

– Being one of the sponsoring churches of St. Joseph’s Family Center, Gilroy’s local social service agency.

Pastor Koch invites the community to “join us in this opportunity to appreciate where God has brought us and to focus more on needs outside of ourselves.”

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