A church that began with 10 Lutherans squeezed into a Clintonville living room in 1948 will celebrate its 70th anniversary this weekend.

A service at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 11, will mark the anniversary of the founding of Gethsemane Lutheran Church, now at 35 E. Stanton Ave. in Clintonville.

That date falls one day shy of the first service for the new congregation, held Feb. 12, 1948, in the home of Ruth and Bill Mackenson on East Lincoln Avenue, said the Rev. June Wilkins, who became pastor of Gethsemane Lutheran in June 2011.

The anniversary service will be followed by a meal and a program on the history of the church.

For Wilkins, being the pastor for such an important milestone is special.

"There's a history here," she said. "There's a tradition. It's kind of a family that's grown together through time, but it's also new and exciting."

Northwest Columbus residents Dick and Gail Lyndes, both 85, are two of the oldest and longest-tenured members of Gethsemane Lutheran. They joined in 1959.

"The people I associated with there became part of my family, really -- a different kind of family from my family here at home, but a family," Dick Lyndes said. "There's a core that has been very active. We have done a lot of good in the community.

"We're still here. We're working hard and we're doing our best."

Paula Sauer of Worthington, who has been a member of the church for 37 years, is chairwoman of the 70th anniversary committee.

"There is a great deal of family, a deep sense of commitment to each other in the Lutheran church," she said. "I think by and large ... Lutherans have a deep sense of sticking together. The way we want to live the gospel ministry of Jesus is very much a message of doing it together. There's a great joy for us.

"The fact that this small group got together and stayed together all these many years to me isn't surprising at all."

According to a timeline on the history of Gethsemane Lutheran prepared by member Jeff Klukas, the congregation purchased the four lots on which the church now sits for $5,280 in late 1949. The total cost of the new sanctuary, which was dedicated Feb. 10, 1952, was $25,000.

"Bill and Ruth Mackenson were undoubtedly the most excited by this since they got their house back," Klukas wrote.

Social involvement has been at the heart of Gethsemane Lutheran from the very beginning, Wilkins said.

"An example would be the longtime involvement of this church in supporting Faith Mission," said Richard Reuning, a northwest Columbus resident who joined in 1969 with his wife, Judy, after moving to central Ohio from Kansas City, Missouri.

The involvement with the emergency shelter and soup kitchen in Columbus began in the 1970s, Wilkins said.

"It was kind of a turning point for this congregation to be more hands-on in the community," she said.

More recently, the church began operating a food pantry on Wednesdays as an outpost of the Clintonville-Beechwold Community Resources Center.

"It was because of interest in supporting the community," Judy Reuning said.

Another recent addition is a Swahili worship service, which began on a monthly basis in 2013, said the Rev. Ipyana Mwakabonga. It increased to a weekly service last year, he said. A monthly service also is held at Ascension Lutheran Church on Morse Road.

"As immigrants, back home, we were Lutherans," said Mwakabonga, who emigrated from Tanzania in 2004. "So when we moved out here in Columbus, at some point, people had that feeling if we could worship at a local church, it would be great.

"We are very grateful to them for having us, because we understand how difficult it is to find a place to worship."

"It's a thriving congregation," said Mark Siddall, a 31-year member from Clintonville who is the current president of the congregation. "We're doing pretty well. I think it's the atmosphere of the church.

"People are excited to help and engage with the surrounding area and some of the social concerns of north Columbus, Worthington and greater Columbus."

kparks@thisweeknews.com

@KevinParksTW1