One church’s story

Justin Kollmeyer's picture

On Sunday, Nov. 15, here at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Fayetteville, we will celebrate our 25th Anniversary and Homecoming with worship at 10 a.m. followed by a luncheon for all our members, former members, and guests. We invite all our former members and any of our friends in the community to attend and celebrate and reminisce with us.

I want to share a quick look at our history with you here.

Pastor John Weber came to Peachtree City at the beginning of its development in 1974 and planted Christ Our Shepherd Lutheran Church. He is truly “The Father of Lutheranism in Fayette County.”

In the early 1980s Pastor Weber called for a second Lutheran church to be planted, this one in Fayetteville. The result was the mission board placed Pastor Dobie Schultz in Fayetteville as mission developer. By late 1984, there were enough people gathered to charter an official Lutheran congregation. On Oct. 21, 1984, 110 adult, youth, and child charter members officially formed our congregation under the name Grace Lutheran Church. Worship was first held in a nursing home/private school on Bates Avenue, a building which no longer stands. Then the congregation moved services to the cafeteria of Fayette Elementary School on Hood Avenue.

There soon developed a problem with the name of the church because an independent church also with the name of Grace was forming at the same time. Our congregation decided to change our name to Prince of Peace at that time.

A little over a year after chartering, Pastor Schultz resigned. Pastor Jim Clark served as interim pastor. As an interesting sidelight, he later married Bev Ivey, whom he met here at Prince of Peace.

This is where I come into the story. In June of 1985, I was in Atlanta receiving my doctor of ministry degree at Columbia Theological Seminary, where I had commuted and taken extension courses while serving my church in Tampa. My dear old friend Wayne McAteer so graciously had us stay a night at his new hotel and conference center he had just built in Peachtree City, now The Wyndam. That gave us a flavor of the beauty of Fayette County, Georgia. I had known Wayne, who now serves as our council president, and his wife Deanna, who now serves as our children’s minister, because they were members of my first church in Miami, Florida, in 1976.

A year later in 1986, my wife Elaine and I and our two children, three-year-old Jessica and three-month-old Andrew, were back at the Conference Center in Peachtree City for a few days of vacation. This time we saw a sign to Fayetteville, but didn’t come this far. I returned from vacation to a phone message from a friend who was the assistant to Bishop Jerry Troutman in Atlanta for the Southeastern Synod. I returned the phone call and was asked to come to Fayetteville to look around and consider leading this new congregation. I couldn’t believe that we had just been up here so close to Fayetteville, but had not actually seen it. A week later I flew into Atlanta and came to Fayetteville and met with the leaders. The Holy Spirit took over from there.

My first Sunday as pastor of Prince of Peace was the first Sunday in September, 1986. The congregation was still worshipping in the elementary school cafeteria, but because of not having a full-time pastor, the attendance had dropped to about 30 people. The mission board called me a mission re-developer.

We had one goal while worshipping in the school, and that was to get out of the school and build our church buildings on this property here on Highway 314, which had been pre-purchased by the mission board.

We worked so hard to grow and progress as a congregation and did so well that we actually worked our way out of receiving funds from the national Lutheran Church. In fact, we gave some money back. We were featured in an article in the national Lutheran magazine because no congregation had ever done that before.

We broke ground here in August of 1988. Pictures of this event hang on the wall in the narthex of the sanctuary. Many great stories could be told about us building for the first time. We planned and designed one of the largest and most beautiful mission Lutheran Churches in the country. We were warned it couldn’t be done, but by the power of God and the faith of the people, it was done. We actually did much of the physical labor ourselves.

We held our first service in our new sanctuary on Easter Sunday, March 26, 1989. Two weeks later on April 9, 1989, we dedicated our present sanctuary, office wing, and multi-purpose wing, which is now the classroom, conference room, and choir room. Another sidelight story is that I was strapped into a harness and rode the crane cable to the top of the steeple to put the cross in place, which was definitely one of the highlights of all the years of my ministry.

An even bigger highlight in the life of this church is that our daughter Rebecca was born just two months after, on June 8, 1989. She has been very influential in bringing others into this church over the years.

I will continue the history of Prince of Peace next month when I again write this article.

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