Faith Lutheran Church
Ministry is like gardening; first you plant seeds and water, yet God gives the growth. This can take time and require a great deal of patience. The seed of Faith began its existence on February 14, 1956 when Dr. Paul A. Weldley first came to North Tampa. He moved into a parsonage at 804 Country Club Drive and, together with eight prospective members, formed a steering committee: Mr. and Mrs. Foster Monk and Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Wilson. This was the very beginning of the vision that became Faith Lutheran Church.
Our first service was held on May 6, 1956 in the old Forest Hills Riding Academy. It was not unusual during services to hear the chickens cackle, the rooster crowing and the horses neighing, the way it may have been when our Savior was born long ago in a manger. The congregation was formally organized one year later on May 5, 1957 with 86 Charter Members. The Articles of Incorporation for Faith Lutheran Church were filed with the Circuit Court of Hillsborough County on June 3, 1957.
The seeds began to grow and the present plot of land was purchased. This included a house on the corner of Florida and 127th Avenue, which was remodeled and refurbished to become our first permanent place of worship. Dr. Weidley had been called and was installed as the first pastor of Faith Lutheran Church on July 21, 1957, the same day the first worship service was held on the property. A building committee was formed in August of 1959 to begin drawing up plans and raising funds for a larger facility.
Dr. Weidley’s health forced him to retire on January 1, 1960 and the Reverend John C. Cooper was called to be our second pastor on June 1, 1960. On September 1, 1961 Pastor Cooper resigned to accept a teaching position at Newberry College. The Reverend George E. Dressler was called to become our third pastor and was installed on December 10, 1961.
After more than five years of prayer, work and hope by the Building Committee and the entire congregation, the sprout of Faith was ready to transplant. The groundbreaking ceremony for our present sanctuary and three Sunday School Rooms was held, and soon our church began to take its present shape. The new facilities were built with the help of the Florida Synod and the Board of American Missions and were dedicated on June 13, 1965.
Reverend Dressler served our congregation faithfully until his retirement of April 30, 1975. The Reverend Thomas B. Smith was installed as our fourth pastor on July 1, 1975.
It wasn’t long before Faith needed more space to grow. On February 3, 1980 Project Faith was begun, which led to an expansion of the Sunday School building to include our present kitchen and four additional Sunday School rooms which could be converted into a Fellowship Hall. The entire Project Faith took place in 1980 with groundbreaking in June and dedication in October.
Reverend Smith resigned on February 7, 1982 to accept a call in Concord, North Carolina. The Reverend Robert G. Wiley was called to become our fifth pastor and was installed on June 3, 1982. Reverend Wiley resigned on January 1, 1986 to accept a call to Tampa General Hospital as Director of Pastoral Care. The Reverend Jeffery L. Gainsley was called to become our sixth pastor and was installed on June 8, 1986.
As a result of growth, we were able to install pews and carpeting in the sanctuary, and some remodeling for security reasons. The sanctuary windows were etched with the Stations of the Cross. A Day Care Center and a Retirement Apartment Complex were proposed by the congregation as an appropriate use of our property.
Reverend Gainsley resigned on October 15, 1989 to accept a position as Counselor in the Volusia County School District. The Reverend Ronald H. Heinz was called on April 31, 1990 and was installed on July 1, 1990 to become our seventh pastor.
With Pastor Heinz as our source of encouragement and faith, we opened a day care program, which became Luther Village Developmental Day Care to meet special needs of children. Portable classrooms and an office were soon added.
The original “Mission Statement” remained unchanged, even as Pastor Heinz led the congregation in refocusing its mission under the theme: “To proclaim The Word through Loving, Caring and Sharing.” After faithfully guiding us for fifteen years, Pastor Heinz retired on September 1, 2005.
Faith welcomed The Reverend Richard Hans in 2005 to be our interim pastor and he remained with us until 2008 and was an integral part of our ministry.
A Two Point Parish Agreement between Faith Lutheran Church and St. Paul Lutheran Church was approved by the Florida-Bahamas Synod and congregations in February 2007. New Parish Tampa believes that “God had called us to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ and we believe we can accomplish this through closer cooperation and a joint ministry in the churches.”
New Parish Tampa called the Reverend Stanley Leas (eighth Faith Pastor), in July of 2008, he was installed in August but became seriously ill and died in September of 2008.
The Luther Village Developmental Day Care was renamed the Tampa Early Childhood Center, and provided loving care and growth to numerous children over the years. Regretfully, due to revenue limitations, the Center closed in May, 2009.
The Florida-Bahamas Synod appointed the Reverend Howard Nielson to be the Interim Pastor of New Tampa Parish in 2008 before our ninth pastor was called.
The Reverend Raymond E. Strawn Jr. was called by New Parish Tampa in June of 2009, he was installed in August and resigned in October 2013. Under Pastor Strawn’s guidance the members of Faith developed Faith’s Purpose and Guiding Principles. We began our “Touch of Love” ministry to the homeless children at Metropolitan Ministries.
In January of 2014 The Reverend Dr. Jeannine Sweet was appointed by the Synod as Interim Pastor of New Parish of Tampa. Pastor Sweet had the prescribed list of what Faith and St. Paul needed to accomplish before our next pastor could be called. It was a full 12 months of work!
The Reverend Dr. Russell L. Meyer was called to be our 10th and current pastor as Pastor of New Parish Tampa in January 2015 and is continuing to challenge us to be disciples of Christ, following in the footsteps of Jesus in our community today. After spending a summer of eating, fellowship and discussion, both churches confirmed ministries that we wanted to embark upon. One of Faith’s ministries was a new non-profit daycare on our property, the Unique Tender Anointed Hands Academy (UTAH) under the ownership and directorship of Ms. LeKeesha Lattin.
Faith members established as our second ministry the GIFT Community Garden. The Gardening in Faith Together Center envisions becoming a family development support center in our community. The garden was planted in October 2016 and we have already harvested vegetables for a food bank in Wesley Chapel as well as all of us experiencing having garden fresh produce. Children from UTAH are involved in learning about God’s gifts via the garden products and helping to care for their “bed”. We have now planted a new crop and are looking forward to sharing the fruits of God’s blessings and our labors.
The original seeds of Faith thankfully continue to grow and we continue to thank God for the 60 years of a foundation built by the many lives called by the Holy Spirit who have been a part of Faith Lutheran Church since 1957 to the present. THANKS BE TO GOD!