Lutheran Churches Finish Merger
As of Monday morning in Spokane, there will be no Calvary Lutheran Church and no Ascension Lutheran Church.
But there will be Prince of Peace Lutheran.
The two congregations have consolidated and each separately voted to rename the combined church, said the Rev. John Vaswig, senior pastor of Prince of Peace and former pastor of Calvary.
The new name takes effect this weekend with services today and Sunday.
For the present, Prince of Peace will meet in the former Calvary Lutheran Church, 3909 W. Rowan, but it’s hoped that within a year a new building site will be selected for the new congregation.
Through the process of elimination, the two congregations narrowed their choices of new names to Resurrection and Prince of Peace. Resurrection would have been an interesting choice since biblically, the resurrection occurs between Calvary and ascension, Vaswig noted.
The two groups have been worshipping together since June.
It took the congregations 10 months to unite, Vaswig said.
“It’s been a slow process,” he said. “Twenty years ago, it would have been heretical” to think about combining two Lutheran congregations.
But, the minister added, having two like churches in Northwest Spokane was “a redundancy,” and it was decided to unite to make a bigger impact.
Before, Calvary had a worship attendance of about 185 and Ascension about 60. The Rev. Joe Tomlinson resigned his position as pastor of Ascension a year ago.
Prince of Peace will have about 820 baptized members, most of whom are expected to attend regularly, Vaswig said. With such a large congregation, the church hired the Rev. Mike Sager as associate pastor to assist Vaswig.
“We have about 100 children in Sunday school,” Vaswig said. “There’s a ton of kids around here.”
Maybe even more impressive are the 60 to 80 adults who attend Sunday school.
Prince of Peace Lutheran offers studies to those who are searching for a maturity in their faith, Vaswig said. The church wants to avoid “fundamental fluff” and emphasize a strong Lutheran confessional.
“People are coming here for depth, intensity, an awareness of their faith and life,” he said. “If they don’t want that, they don’t stay.”
There were naysayers who cautioned Vaswig to stay away from combining congregations.
“Some people said it was a stupid idea,” said Vaswig, who had been Calvary’s pastor since 1988. “They said, ‘Calvary is doing fine. Why take this on?’
“The reason we took it on is because we were called to do it,” Vaswig said. “A oneness of the church has been experienced.
“We are giving up our identities, our names, to become something else.”