Columbus church launches $1.5M expansion while marking its 60th year

Dana Vogt wanted to get one thing straight right at the top of any discussion about Faith Lutheran Church’s $1.5 million capital campaign that’s part of marking its 60th anniversary celebration in Columbus.

The marketing concept is titled “Faith On the Move,” and Vogt, a part of the church’s long-range planning council, was moved to declare one statement passionately.

“This isn’t just a slogan,” he said.

No. The Christian body of believers already is moving to grow, even before construction begins on its 13-acres on Columbus’ west side for a new narthex, multipurpose room, kitchen and restrooms at 6000 State Road 46.

In recent months, its weekly in-person worship attendance has grown from 70 people up to 85 to 90 people. And yes, growth, particularly in a smaller local church amid pandemic challenges is unusual, according to interviews with local pastors the past two years.

Plus, Faith’s preschool frequently has seen a waiting list for new students.

Faith’s Pastor Todd Riordan, its leader since 2005, surmises one reason for such overall growth.

“There is a DNA of warmth of this congregation,” Riordan said. “And to me, it’s most evident during snack time. There are some days where there has been so much talking that I haven’t been able to start our Bible study (after the service). And I have to get them to pipe down.”

He acknowledged that such socializing and fellowship is a good thing — and he and others link it partly to the outgoing and loving nature of Dolores Tremaine, the now-late wife of longtime Pastor Dick Tremain, who is still a member decades after his leadership.

“Their care for people really built that DNA of the congregation,” Riordan said.

He and others emphasized that Faith is a family welcoming people of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and even beliefs at a preschool that includes a good number of non-Christians among its international students.

“Nice people,” wrote one Hindu on a Google review of the church.

Among its own congregation, Faith members prize an overall sense of caring. A recent congregational questionnaire asked people to list the church’s greatest strength.

“The people who make the extra effort to reach out,” one wrote.

Halstead Architects of Indianapolis has designed the expansion and the local Force Construction will be the builder.

One of the more challenging aspects of the expansion’s planning and actual construction have been wildly fluctuating prices for building materials amid the pandemic, according to church construction manager Bill Schnackel.

“None of us have ever lived through anything quite like this when it comes to controlling costs,” Schnackel said, adding that some estimates have changed every two weeks.

But one thing is certain: Faith Lutheran’s people hardly are waiting for all circumstances to line up perfectly before stepping boldly into the future.

“As Martin Luther once said, ‘If I knew the world would end tomorrow, I would still plant a tree today,’” Riordan said.

But Faith is planting its faith that its members can reach more people with God’s love and grace — especially at a time when pandemic fear has tried to plant itself firmly into the middle of society. Leaders have highlighted that the expansion is “a gift to the next 60 years and to future generations,” as Riordan put it.

Longtime member Laurel Weddle, chairwoman of Faith’s board of education and preschool, believes a Christian assembly must step confidently into the future. She thought back to Faith’s original members who originally met for worship in a tool shop — and then began building the church figuratively and literally while uncertain of the precise future.

“We can simply look back at them, and clearly see how brave they were,” Weddle said. “Now, here we are today doing pretty much the same thing.”