These last two weeks I’ve had the pleasure of being with two young congregations. Last Sunday I was at Lakeside Lutheran in League City, near the Space Center, for LL’s 20th anniversary.

Today I was at Angel of Joy Lutheran Church in Lufkin, the northernmost congregation in our synod, also for their 20th. See photos below of Pastor Paul Geye, his Wartburg class of ’85 and the congregation.

AOJ is straight up 59, 120 miles out of Houston. Turn left on College Drive (FM 819). The church is on the left, right across from Angelina College.

For quite some time the only Lutheran presence in Lufkin was First Lutheran Church, LCMS. The pastor during the 1970’s and 80’s was ecumenical, allowing Lutherans from other church bodies (LCA, ALC, etc) to worship and even receive Holy Communion. By the time of the merger in 1988, he began to be under pressure to hold to strict LCMS guidelines and the non-Missouri Synod Lutherans consequently began to seek a church of their own.

The Rev. Charlie Treptow was sent to Lufkin by the Gulf Coast Synod to start an ELCA congregation. With lots of legwork and boundless energy, he began AOJ with the blessing of Pr. Frank Starr, the local LCMS pastor.

For several years they met at the old Days Inn motel for worship. The first formal worship service was at the Day’s Inn on February 10, 1991. The congregation was officially organized on January 31, 1993.

When Pastor Treptow accepted a call in Brenham, David Chancellor began his pastorate at Angel of Joy, late in 1997. During his tenure AOJ built a their first unit, for the church’s worship and activities. The first worship service in the new building was on May 2, 1999. Feeling that a “Lutheran” style of worship and theology would not “sell” in East Texas, members say Chancellor initiated a more “generic” form of worship, with a music program led by his wife, but during this time there was some attrition in membership. Chancellor accepted a call in Kerrville in early 2002, leading that congregation out of the ELCA. He was gone a year later, eventually leaving ordained ministry.

The Rev. Tom Darr began his pastorate at AOJ in December of 2002. Congregational members say he worked hard and successfully to bring AOJ back to its Lutheran roots and worship. He accepted a call in Pennsylvania, his home state, in May of 2006.

The Rev. Paul Geye, whose mother and sister were charter members of Angel of Joy, accepted the call to become the congregation’s fourth pastor in late 2006. Despite the challenges of being a Lutheran church in Baptist country, Paul says, one of his main focuses has been congregation growth. AOJ has received over 40 new members within the last four years. He an his wife Inga are “very happy” at AOJ.

Michael Rinehart, bishop
Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
12941 1-45 North Freeway, Suite #210
Houston, TX 77060-1243