BY LAURA LIERA Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
A colorful hot air balloon will give St. John's Lutheran Church members a view of the past 10 years through a ride in the sky Sunday.
The church's 2003 move from New Stine Road to 4500 Buena Vista Road was made to consolidate the church and school campuses and provide a base of outreach and service to growing southwest Bakersfield, church members said.
Pastor Dennis Hilken, 53, who's been with St. John's for 12 years, knew his job was going to consist of leading St. John's church through a move when he interviewed for the job. He said yes to the job because the move was going to be a great opportunity and it was happening for the right reason.
"This anniversary forces you to slow down and look back at what you have done for the past 10 years," Hilken said.
Although the move cost about $11 million, Hilken has joyful pride that the "family" is expanding.
"The continual message through this expansion has been that the buildings are simply tools to build a kingdom to bring people together in our community," he said.
The church is built on 35 acres and its calendar is consistently booked with community organizations renting out space in the church for their own events. Organizations include the Girl and Boy scouts and the Bakersfield College Choir, which has held choir concerts in the sanctuary, according to Vicky Marlow, 59, communications director.
The church's faithful people who have worshipped at the church for years have reached out to the community and invited more people to join the church, thus expanding the number of worshippers.
"We have around 700 worshipers every weekend and it's a very transitional community that we have here and I am truly blessed to be here," Hilken said.
On Sunday, after the services at 9:45 a.m. and 10 a.m., all worshipers will have a chance to gather and enjoy some food and games along with a hot air balloon ride that will take them up in the sky to show them what the church looks like from above.
"We want everyone to see our campus, neighborhood and see how much we have grown but also point out the neighborhood we need to reach out to as well," Marlow said.
Attending St. John's for the past seven years, Lorraine Davis, 38, children's ministry team director, enjoys working with the youth and has had the opportunity to talk to them about God on various occasions.
"I feel proud that I can be a part of this anniversary and I just look forward to the next 10 because although times change, I love that our church is still true to what we believe, which is anchoring in Christ and learning about him," Davis said.