On Aug. 18, 1918, the first Lutheran service was held in Riverhead, officially marking the congregation’s formation in the town.
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Aquebogue is celebrating its 100th anniversary this Saturday with a special Mass, including a guest preacher, Pastor Derek LeCakes, the Atlantic District President for the Lutheran Church.
The church building is recognizable by its large banners proudly displayed on the front the building that say “Jesus Lives.”
“That’s what we’re all about. We’re about claiming the gospel of Jesus, because he is our salvation,” said Pastor Charles Byer, who has been with the congregation for 20 years. “We’ve been here for 100 years, we’ve served our community for 100 years, first and foremost with the proclamation of the gospel.”
In October 1920, land was purchased on the corner of what is now Pulaski Street and Griffing Avenue, and the first church building was erected. Due to the growth of the church, the ministry purchased six acres of land on Route 25 in 1969. That same building that stands today had a groundbreaking ceremony and dedication on Nov. 17, 1974.
The congregation has survived multiple moves and tragedies.
A former pastor who was responsible for moving the church into its current building was killed, along with his wife and friend, in a plane crash while travelling to a friend’s wedding.
“That kind of rocked the congregation for a number of years,” Pastor Byer said. “The congregations have had their tragedies.”
He said that over his 20 years being a pastor in Riverhead, he has seen so many changes within the church and community, especially more of a disconnect between the community and church.
“But that doesn’t mean we have stopped trying to reach out,” he said. “We still want to try to serve our community, other than just having people come here to worship, we want to serve our community. Show hospitality and kindness.”
To do this, multiple organizations have used Our Redeemer’s facility, like the Peconic Community School. There is also a food pantry, which for over 20 years has been open every Friday 10 a.m. to noon. For six months out of the year, the church houses the homeless from Maureen’s Haven.
“It’s kind of like, how can we use our facility,” the pastor said. “It’s a blessing to us, how can it be a blessing to others?”
The parish has been going by the saying “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever,” for the theme of the celebration Aug. 18.
Although the congregation is excited about the anniversary, the celebration will be low-key and casual with the focus on keeping its teachings centered on the gospel.
“We’re not the center of this, Jesus has to be the center of this, or else we’ve missed the mark,” Pastor Byer said. “When you come into this place, you should be able to feel a difference from any of the businesses you go to, any of the educational institutions you go to. There should be a difference because of who you are and who we serve.”
Top Caption: Pastor Charles Byer of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Aquebogue. (Credit: Rachel Siford)