In early 2005, a consolidation task force began meeting to discuss the possible consolidation of the congregations of Holy Comforter on Bees Ferry Road West of the Ashley and St. Andrews on Wentworth Street in downtown Charleston. There were at the time seven active Lutheran Churches in downtown Charleston. St. Andrews had suffered for several years from diminishing attendance and Holy Comforter’s growth had begun to wane. Both churches faced the continued prospect of aging congregations. Prayer, lively discussion, guidance from pastors Ron Brown and Roy Butler, and Bishop David Donges, as well as a recognition that both churches might benefit from consolidation led to a vote on September 10, 2006. Both churches voted in favor of the consolidation. The combining of two churches was not without conflict. St. Andrews had a 153 year old history of traditions and Holy Comforter had been a mainstay in West Ashley since 1959. St. Andrews parishioners missed their beautiful sanctuary in Historic Ansonborough which was leased to a young Presbyterian church. Holy Comforter members worried that their traditions would be overshadowed by St. Andrews’ traditions. Several people moved memberships before the new congregation was chartered. On December 3, 2006, both churches held services for closing their congregations at the 11:00 worship hour. At 3:00 that same afternoon, Holy Spirit Evangelical Lutheran Church came into being with 95 members signing the charter. Roy Butler moved to Columbia to serve with the South Carolina Army National Guard. Ron Brown served as pastor until early 2007 when he moved to Columbia as well. Rev. Seminarian Melinda Jones, a daughter of St. Andrews stepped in to serve as worship leader until she was called by Advent Lutheran Church where she was ordained. Pastor Cliff Riis, a member of Holy Spirit, became the interim pastor. Thomas Gardner served as the first President of the congregation. There were budget issues due to extensive maintenance required at the Wentworth Street Property. An Easter program, Vacation Bible School, Rally Day, the Fall Festival, and a This Little Light Puppet Ministry Christmas Program were all part of the new church outreach. Ministry was active, and the process of combining the inventories of the two former churches began. The St. Andrews parsonage and the History House were sold. Pastor Elizabeth Wilder Platts was called to serve and came in late June of 2008. She was charged with increasing attendance and serving our youth. The church was busy tightening its belt while continuing to serve the community. Crafters hosted a Crafts Fair, a game night, and a dinner. They contributed to HALOS and the TLC Fund, helped with the engraved bricks fundraiser, and provided funds for upgrading the gutters on the Bees Ferry Road property. Lutheran Men were active, WELCA published a new cookbook, and five Sunday School classes met each week. The youth group was organized. The church established its mission statement. 2009 saw several leadership changes but giving surpassed expectations. The church began discussions about its position on the social statements approved at the 2009 ELCA Synod Assembly. WELCA shared Chrismons with Redeemer Presbyterian Church. Pastor Elizabeth challenged the congregation to grow in its knowledge of scripture. WELCA continued their brick fundraiser and sold enough bricks in honor and memory of loved ones to complete a Celebration Walkway from the Parish Hall to the cross located on the church property. The walkway constructed by Bobby Colson and Bill Ruperd was completed on January 1, 2012. The women of the church presented a brick in honor or memory of each of the pastors who had served St. Andrews, Holy Comforter, and Holy Spirit. These brick are now being incorporated into the new Prayer Garden. The next year was truly a blending of the two churches and their cultures. There was stability in leadership and a restructuring of committees. Pastor Sig Decker, a member of the congregation, celebrated his 50th year of ordination and the church added a picnic shelter donated by Wofford Francis in memory of his wife Rosa Francis. The gift of a bell tower was announced by the Theiling family. The church also added an additional storage shed built by church members Bobby Colson, Tom Dority, and Bill Ruperd. Holy Spirit continued to lease the downtown property to Redeemer Presbyterian rent free; Redeemer contributed half of the cost of the insurance. At this point there were adjustments made to the lease to make it easier to find a buyer for the property. A strip of the West Ashley property was sold for the Bees Ferry Road Widening project and the proceeds were used to upgrade the parsonage, land preparation, and seeding the Good Samaritan Fund, Sanctuary Building Fund, and the Operating Reserve. A Child Life policy was instituted and the congregation voted not to call a pastor in a homosexual relationship or to bless any same sex unions. The Evangelism Committee created car magnets and advertised on pharmacy bags at the local BiLo. The History and Records Committee began a major scrapbooking project. The congregation was still dreaming of a new sanctuary. To remind the congregation that each is a steward of God’s House, keys were carried throughout the following year. The Bell Tower was dedicated on Palm Sunday in memory of Henry Theiling by his wife Virginia and his family. It chimes the hour and plays hymns for all to enjoy. After spending a year in prayer and contemplation, the congregation voted to remain a part of the ELCA- to be a conservative voice within the state and national church body. The congregation met with several conservative Lutheran groups and weighed the consequences of remaining with the ELCA. After the vote, the congregation lost nine members. Redeemer Presbyterian purchased 43 and 45 Wentworth Street on October 31, 2012 for 1.6 million dollars following a year of difficult negotiations. Two previous offers on the property had been blocked by the Historic Ansonborough Neighborhood Association. When an individual approached the church with an offer to purchase the property and convert it into an office and residence, this, too, was met with opposition. Church leaders from Redeemer Presbyterian challenged the zoning of the property which was already listed as residential. Holy Spirit church leaders were pressured by the Mayor’s office as well as the Bishop’s office to go as far as donating the property to Redeemer Presbyterian rather than have it cease to exist as a church building. There were attacks throughout the news media against our church and the individual who wanted to purchase the property. This issue came before the Charleston City Council. Redeemer Presbyterian had to meet the individual’s offer within a set amount of time or the sale was to be completed. The Presbyterian Church was able to meet the challenge and they continue to occupy the space. This involved extensive attorneys’ fees to complete the sale but there was at last a resolution to the issue. The congregation on Bees Ferry Road needed to sell the downtown property which had been on the market for six years in order to continue their ministry West of the Ashley. Throughout this difficult time Holy Spirit chose not to answer any of the negative comments. There had been much prayer and listening for guidance. Holy Spirit knew at that point that the church was being called to be a greater presence on Bees Ferry Road. This brought the entire church family closer together. There was growth in Sunday School classes as Tom Bryce joined the church and began co-teaching the adult class with Pastor Elizabeth. A major book donation was held as items were cleared from the downtown property. A Silent Auction in October raised approximately $4000.00 for the church. WELCA was renamed the Women of Holy Spirit. Straightening out leases and property issues, resolving past IRS issues, and financial clean-up was the first order of business for the following year. The church wanted a clean slate before beginning construction on a new sanctuary. Walker Gunn retired as organist/ choir director and Roy Burbage was hired as the new music director for the church. Sunday School classes were active. The Beloved Ministry that serves our shut-ins began. Contact from church members and to include each of our committees during the year lets them know they are thought of and loved. Social Ministry distributed $13000.00 to benevolences. Blessed coats, items for the animal shelter, socks, pajamas, food items for the Little Red Wagon- all bore witness to the congregation’s desire to serve the “least of these.” Each of these projects continues today. The History and Records Committee began the multi-year task of sorting through boxes, record books, and files of historical artifacts from St. Andrews Lutheran Church and Holy Comforter Lutheran Church. The goal is to organize, distribute, and preserve the histories of our predecessors as well as the records of Holy Spirit. In January, 2013, the Sanctuary Building Committee, a group of twenty members representing every group in the church, began meeting to plan for a new sanctuary. This group is opinionated and vocal but throughout the process has found compromise and problem solving to be effective. At the first meeting the Sanctuary Building chairperson Jenny McCulloch stated that her goal was at the end of the project that all of the committee members would still be friends. That goal was met and exceeded. They retained Teamway Builders and LS3P Architectural Firm from Greenville, SC to oversee construction and design the building. The Helping Hands ministry was started in 2014 to assist church members with health and safety needs. The Discipleship Committee led the church through the process of making faith promises rather than filling out pledge cards as the true meaning of stewardship was examined. They updated the church website, sponsored Souper Bowl Sunday and designed a new members’ kit. Fellowship opportunities were available at the Oyster Roast, Fourth of July Picnic, Thankful Feast, Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper and Lenten Meals, and the ever popular Birthday Cake on the first Sunday of each month. The Mason Jar Ministry was started by the Christian Education Committee. Members save their change throughout the year for TriCounty Family Ministries. This organization provides food, clothing, medical assistance, and other help for those in need. The Sanctuary Building Committee selected a design for the Heffron Stained Glass Window, the congregation approved the concept drawings for the sanctuary and a Noehren pipe organ was purchased from the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago and was restored by Buzard Pipe Organ Builders in Champaign, Illinois. The groundbreaking was held on Pentecost- June 6th. Assistant to the Bishop Mel Amundsen officiated and as he placed his hands on the earth marking the location of the altar, the wind of the Holy Spirit blew through those gathered as witnesses. An additional $150,000.00 was approved foray the 2.1 million dollar budget for construction at the November congregational meeting. After being mired in the design approval and permitting process for several months, construction began on March 9, 2015. The cornerstone dedication was held on September 13, 2015. Members used permanent markers to sign the concrete slab and walls and to add the names of those friends and relatives who have guided their spiritual journey. They added Bible verses, notes, and prayers as well. The new worship space was completed in October 2016. The sanctuary was dedicated to the glory of God on January 15, 2017. It is home to our antique Steinway piano and a choir that has tripled in size over the past two years. The Sanctuary Building Committee prayed for guidance at each step of the process. Only ten years old, but built on a combined 200 years of Lutheran tradition in Charleston, Holy Spirit continues to make its mark on the community and the world. Our Renewal Committee and our congregation have set their sights on what God has in store for us next as we plan for the upcoming celebration of the 500th anniversary of Lutheranism in 2017 and our future. Welcoming all, worshiping God, witnessing to the teachings of Jesus Christ, and working together in love makes this truly a congregation and a family growing their relationships with the Lord and each other.
Sunday School 9:45 AM Holy Communion 11:00 AM
Holy Spirit Evangelical Lutheran Church 3075 Bees Ferry Road Charleston, South Carolina 29414 843 766-2602