The first seed for Redeemer Lutheran Church was sown in a Damascus real estate office in June 1957 when Mrs. Ruth Harris of Resurrection Lutheran Church in Wheaton expressed her desire for a Lutheran church in the Damascus Community. Henry Heine overheard the discussion and offered to help start a church. With Heine’s support, the Harrises asked their pastor Ross Forcey for advice and assistance. On September 8, 1957, Pastor Forcey from Resurrection Lutheran Church conducted a worship service in the Heines’ living room for all persons interested in establishing a church in the Damascus area. After the first service, 3 families agreed to meet on Sunday afternoons for worship services led by Pastor Forcey.
In November 1957, the Heine family, who held the first service in the living room of their farmhouse, granted the small group the use of their tenant house for worship. Appointing the house with homemade church furnishings, they worshipped there for 2 years. Growth was slow, but the Maryland Synod, Pastor Forcey and his Resurrection Church Congregation provided constant encouragement and support to the young church. On February 20, 1959, the church held its first Sunday school classes with 5 children and 8 adults. The founding families were: Mr. and Mrs. Henry Heine, Mr. and Mrs. William Harris, Mr. and Mrs. William Rae, Mrs. Amelia Pleitchwait, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Dove, and William and Susan Deubell.
In 1959, the synod officially accepted the tiny congregation, and encouraged the church to move closer to Damascus, where it might have a better chance to grow. On May 2, 1959, the group relocated to the Damascus Elementary School, and in August they held their first vacation Bible school in a parishioner’s home. The group welcomed Pastor Thomas Sinn who accepted the call to become the mission developer. The mission church grew, and within weeks he encouraged the congregation to adopt a name. The believers decided to call themselves “The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer.” They set Organization Day for February 5, 1961, but a blizzard forced a delay until March 5. Thirty-seven families are listed as charter members. Once organized, the mission called Thomas Sinn to be its first pastor. Under his tenure, the church bought 9 acres of property on which to build. Pastor Sinn led the congregation until his resignation in June of 1963. Charter members of that first congregation who are still with us today are Harold and Ermalyn Crowder, and Joanne Kessler. Todd Tomlinson’s parents, James and Jacqueline Tomlinson, were also charter members.
In October 1963 Richard F. Batman accepted a call to become Redeemer’s second pastor. Continued growth stimulated the congregation to build, and on November 7, 1965, Pastor Batman conducted ground-breaking services for a new building at Redeemer’s present location. In July 1966 after their last morning services at the school, the members moved into the new building. That afternoon, Pastor Batman led a dedication service and 70 families celebrated with a reception. By 1965, the congregation had decided to sell an existing parsonage on Sugarloaf Drive so that proceeds could be used to finish the church basement and help retire the church’s debt. The year 1965 brought independence from the Board of Missions.
Pastor Batman resigned in June 1970 to accept another call, and in June 1971 Pastor Irvin Stapf accepted Redeemer’s call as its third pastor. In 1975 there was a struggle within the church and Pastor Stapf departed as part of the congregation split to go with him and begin a new church.
In February 1977, Pastor Raymond Scheck accepted Re- deemer’s call to become its fourth pastor. During the years under the leadership of “Pastor Ray” the Redeemer congregation has been blessed with increased membership and a congregational life that has been characterized by outreach and ministering to those experiencing hurts in life. The congregation grew steadily until it became clear that the building would no longer adequately serve the needs of the growing congregation. On Palm Sunday 1990, the Redeemer congregation worshipped for the first time in its new sanctuary, after many long years of planning and working on a new building.
A significant milestone under Pastor Ray’s leadership was the establishment of a relationship with Sister Parish, Fe Y Esperanza. Since 1990, Redeemer’s congregation has sent many delegations of its members to Nicaragua for ten-day mission trips to live with the Christian community of Fe Y Esperanza in Nicaragua. Redeemer has also hosted delegations from Fe Y Esperanza. Developing a sister relationship with Christians in Nicaragua awakened a renewed interest in sharing Christ’s work throughout the world and In our local community.
From 1990-2000 Redeemer Lutheran Church saw much growth in membership and in ministries. Redeemer’s first Associate Pastor was hired in 1992. Pastor Arlene Nasembeni joined the Redeemer family and helped to expand women’s and outreach ministries until her departure to a new call in 1995. Pastor Joe Hess was called as Redeemer’s second Associate Pastor in 2002 after serving as Vicar for two years. While at Redeemer, Pastor Joe helped to expand youth ministries and contemporary music and worship styles. Pastor Hess served as Associate Pastor from 2002-2003.
In addition to Associate Pastors, Redeemer began to expand its staff. Up until the 1990’s, Redeemer’s staff had always been a Senior Pastor, the Worship Director, an Organist and a part-time secretary. From 1990-2000 a Director of Youth and Families, Director of Children and Families, Facility Coordinator, an Accounting Manager, and a second secretary were hired. Key to the growth and expansion of the church and its ministries has been the study of the Word of God.
The 1990s saw adult Bible studies expand from one study to five or six studies during the Sunday school hour. Two fellowship groups expanded to five, which also began to incorporate Bible study into their gathering time. The study of God’s Word prepared and challenged Redeemer’s members to reach beyond themselves to the hurting, lost world around them. Men, women and children began serving meals and collecting needed items for a Baltimore homeless shelter and teens began serving the poor for a week at Work Camp in the summers. Men’s and women’s groups began to see increased activity and the Sunday school classrooms began to bulge at the seams. With dreams of expanding and serving an unchurched and hurting world, it was time to expand the facilities once again.
In September 2000, Redeemer Lutheran Church completed its second addition to the original building. The Family Life Center houses a multipurpose gymnasium in which the congregation worships, a commercial kitchen and additional classrooms. This addition has made it possible to continue growing and serving the community. During 2000-2010, church membership continued to grow and additional staff was hired to the positions of Property Management, Evangelism, Contemporary Music, and Assistant to the Pastors, Pastor Randy Neubauer. The teams of Children and Youth ministries were expanded. Redeemer Lutheran Church continued to focus its study on the Word of God and allow it to shape its ministry work of reaching out to love and serve others with the love of Jesus Christ. Men, women, children and teens began to go on more mission trips to Nicaragua, Mexico, Mississippi, work camp and Africa to experience and share the love of Christ with others. Outreach expanded locally with serving meals at the Frederick Homeless Shelter and Rainbow Place in Rockville, and serving our local poor through Healthy Choices. The youth and children became equally involved in supporting these same outreach ministries through service projects. Through loving and serving others, Christ has expanded the capacity of hearts to love and serve and deepened the faith of His body, the church.
Bible studies have been the cornerstone for the growth and expansion of ministries at Redeemer Lutheran Church, nurturing and spurring faith into action that loves and serves others. The years 2000-2010 saw increased studies offered not only on weekdays and evenings but also in homes and in locations outside of the church building. Teens and adults alike have taken to studying and applying the Word of God to their lives. Currently in 2010 there are 20 small group studies and 23 on-site Bible studies.
The year 2009 marked another significant ministry at Redeemer Lutheran Church with Celebrate Recovery, a non-denominational, ecumenical ministry which serves to reach out and help bring healing and the love of Christ to those with hurts, addictions and hang-ups.
Redeemer Lutheran Church called Pastor John Bromhal to become its third Associate Pastor in 2004. Pastor John has faithfully served the entire community and worked in partnership with Pastor Ray to grow and guide the Redeemer congregation in following Jesus Christ faithfully. In June 2010, Pastor Ray Scheck and Pastor John Bromhal officially exchanged positions of leadership as Senior and Associate pastors.
The year 2010 also marks an official change in the life of Redeemer Lutheran Church as it voted to dissolve its membership with the ELCA and become a member of LCMC, Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ. LCMC is rooted and grounded in the scriptures and Lutheran confessions and has one primary mission: that of sharing the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ. As a member of LCMC, Redeemer Lutheran Church will be committed to knowing Jesus and to making Jesus known.
As we look back at our church history, we are grateful to God for all of the faithful Christians whose lives make up the true history of Redeemer. We are truly grateful and thankful for their faithful service to Jesus Christ, and for generations yet to come, we pray that Christ will make us faithful servants of His at this present moment.
To God alone be the Glory!