Three years ago, Dan Oberer had a lot of uncertainty in front of him. The pastor of the brand-new Hope Lutheran Church had a congregation of three -- his wife and their two children -- and a lot of work to do.
Three years later, that gamble appears to have paid off. Hope Lutheran has grown steadily over the years, and on Sunday the church will celebrate its incorporation with a special ceremony and an open house at their new worship center, 319 Fourth St., at which they'll serve lunch to the community. We talked with Oberer Tuesday to find out what the last three years have been like.
You are three years old now?
Yeah, three years old. We started in 2007. We started just with a grass roots, from-nothing congregation. I had my daughter, my wife and my son. Three years later charter Sunday is when, like any company, if you want to make the comparison, you take a moment just to see where you've come. We're in the 60s, 70s amount of people. And now we're into the incorporation. There's a few milestones we're taking a moment just to stop and celebrate.
What was it like for you three years ago. Was it a little bit frightening stepping out there and doing this?
Yeah. Before I was a pastor I was in the business world. I was part of a small business. A family-owned business. So I know what it's like stepping out there. I only had three people. You just meet people and you gain an audience and you gain people who want to be part of it. And before you know it you have 12. Before you know it you have 20 and 30 and things like that. And then you take a moment three years later, you look back and say, my goodness. You've traveled a long distance. Kind of like running. You think, I could never do that. You look back and you think, my goodness, look at how far I actually came.
How do you do that? How do you go from three people to the 60 or 70 you've got now?
It's making relationships and making friends and earning people's trust. I think in this day and age people have been turned off by church and so we just wanted to show them we're a friendly face and whatever we can do to help them, whether it's a church thing or not a church thing, we want to be there for them. We try to welcome. We have a little program here that we try to welcome all the people who are moving into Farmington. Giving them a welcome letter or sometimes even some cookies just to show a friendly face. In this day and age it sometimes can be an unfriendly world out there, so just to have a little splash of smile can maybe make a difference.
Back in those early days was it literally just going door to door and saying, 'This is who we are, come check us out sometime'?
Pretty much. It seemed a lot easier because people trusted church and in many ways church has lost the trust of people, and rightfully so. People had more of a feeling of a need to go to church. And I think that's one of the things in this society. We have so much and it can come to us so easily that we feel like we don't need God. We're doing just fine on our own. You just start with a relationship and try to break down barriers. Hope people will give church a second chance.
Has it been a pretty steady growth over the years?
I would say so. About 20 people or so a year. You lose some. People move away. But a lot of people come. Over the time the lord has increased our growth a little bit at a time. A family at a time.
You talked about your next milestone, the incorporation. What does that mean for the church?
It will mean, literally, that we're now standing on our own two feet, much like incorporating a business. Back when I was in the business world it was, 50 percent of all businesses fail in the first one or two years. To make it past those two years it's almost like, wow, we made it. When we started we didn't know if Farmington would welcome us. We didn't know if Farmington would want a more conservative-style church. Three years later it seems like it has. We've been welcomed. We've been able to do things for the community and it's just a moment to say we're here, we're established. We're looking forward to the future. We're looking at land. We're going to be looking at buildings.
Do you sort of breathe a big sigh of relief now?
In a way, yeah. It's a time to rejoice, for a lot of things. Looking at what the lord has given us, but also seeing how far we've come and realizing we're heading up he mountain and it's not unfathomable like we might have thought.
How will you celebrate on Sunday?
We're going to have a special worship service at 10. We're going to have a children's choir come in. We're going to have a special worship service but not so much different so if you were to come to it it would be totally different than usual. Then afterward we're going to have an open house here where we're going to have lunch served for anyone who wants to come. Just an open house to show the new place. Just have a good time to celebrate in worship and out.
Has it been everything you thought it would be three years ago?
I think it's been better. I didn't think that the fit would be as well as it has been. We fit well in Farmington, Farmington fits well in us. We've been able to do things we never thought we'd be able to do for the community. I think it's been better. Three years down, I can't wait to see what the next three years brings.