What is sad is that those who worked so hard to establish First Lutheran would not recognize the ELCA or what it stands for today. They would not get how Lutherans could wander so far from their theological and confessional roots to become merely another wannabe among the mainline denominations competing for cultural relevance. It is a wake up call for all churches, but especially for those still struggling to resist modernity, that becoming a mirror image of the media and culture is no key to success or relevance. In fact, it is the recipe for failure and irrelevance in a world where the one thing the Church offers (besides a critique) is a solid alternative toward the empty values and consumerism that has turned the gospel into a grandpa god who wants us to be happy no matter what it takes for us to find happiness (within).
Missouri has certainly not won the war but the battle tide has moved against, rather than for, those who think that the road to success is to become less of who we are. In this Reformation anniversary year, we will hear much of Lutheran success but we dare not forget our failures for unless we acknowledge the cost of faithfulness we will soon cash in the inheritance of our great past for few moments in the spotlight in which we thought we were on top of the world. Word to the wise, just when you think you are on top of the world, the world moves and you must play the game of catch up while others pass you by. This is not the Church for which Luther was willing to give up all.
Joyce Heckmann generated a lifetime of memories inside the 133-year-old First Lutheran Church of Waco. At age 94, it’s fair to say she has more memories vested in the historic structure than anyone else in the aging and dwindling congregation. . .She was baptized there in 1923. She and her husband, Fred Heckmann, a New Yorker she met when he was stationed at the former James Connally Air Force Base in Waco, were married at the church in 1943. Her children and grandson were baptized there and her husband’s funeral was held there.Through the years, there were countless Christmas celebrations, church-wide smorgasbord dinners, Sunday school classes, Vacation Bible Schools and more.
But while the years have been kind to Heckmann, they have taken their toll on the aging church building and congregation, members say. The once-vibrant church family boasted 450 members, requiring an extensive expansion project that more than doubled the size of the building in 1958.Now, members say, they are lucky to have 40 worshipers on Sunday morning. Members recently came to the painful but practical realization that their smallish group could no longer support such a large building. So they voted to sell the property — Texas Historical Commission landmark medallion and all — to Christ Church Waco, an up-and-coming Anglican congregation that has met in least 10 temporary locations since it was formed in 2009. The two churches closed the deal June 27 and First Lutheran conducted its last Sunday morning service there on July 2. More than 100 people attended the final service, including former pastors and past members.