WARNER ROBINS -- Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church has a new pastor and is developing a new plan for relocation and growth in the future.
The Rev. John Barichivich was installed as pastor Jan. 1 after the church was without a pastor for more than a year.
He said he was called specifically for the purpose of a new phase of mission and rebuilding the church is entering.
Like so many mainstream congregations, Faith Lutheran has seen a decline in attendance during the past several years, Barichivich said. Faith Lutheran sought and received a grant from the larger Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, our denomination. Its a redevelopment grant, a three-year diminishing grant, that allowed them hire a new pastor and to work toward the future.
Barichivich said the church will meet shortly with members of the denominations mission board to discuss plans and receive counsel for revitalizing the church. He said those plans already anticipate a move from the churchs North Pleasant Hill Road address to somewhere in the Ga. 96/U.S. 41 area.
Three or four years ago, the congregation considered looking at selling our current property and moving, Barichivich said. Many members have a hard time getting around our facility with all its three-up and three-down steps, and its not very handicapped accessible. Were starting the process again in earnest of considering property and are ready to make the move. Most of our parishioners live in that 96-41 quadrant. The church has been able to begin putting away funds toward that end.
Despite the challenges it faces, Barichivich said Faith Lutheran is confident in the future, and he is confident in the congregation.
They have done a fantastic job while looking for a new pastor, he said. Under the circumstances of dwindling numbers, theyve done an excellent job of moving forward and embracing the idea of change. Most churches, and I guess especially Lutherans, arent good at change, but the people here are eager to see the church move forward and have embraced some of the small changes Ive suggested in the short time Ive been here.
Barichivich described the congregation as small in numbers but mighty in spirit. He said they come from all walks of life and from many parts of the country. He said the church began in Warner Robins in 1955 and started meeting at its present home in 1959. He said they cannot rebuild or expand on their property due to a drainage system that runs directly behind them.
Barichivich said entering the ministry has been a second career for him
Im kind of from all over, but my parents retired when I was 10 and moved to Deland, Fla. Its near Orlando, and I say I was there to see the old Florida disappear. A lot of the places I loved to fish and hunt no longer exist. I graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona in 1990 and worked for Eastern Airlines. When they ceased to exist, I worked for Xerox customer service for about 14 years. Then I went to Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, S.C., where I got my Master of Divinity degree. I first was called to Jerusalem Lutheran Church in Rincorn, Ga., and then here to Faith Lutheran.
Barichivich, 45, and his wife, Julie, have three daughters, Jordan, 15, Brittany, 14, and Jessica, 11.
Among Faith Lutherans ministries, Barichivich highlighted a longtime free clothes closet the church operates the second Tuesday and fourth Saturday of each month and for which they accept gently used clothing.
He also said the church has a handmade card ministry and supports other efforts such as Habitat for Humanity, Samaritans Purse and its Operation Christmas Child, Safe House Shelter and Lutheran Social Services of Georgia.
The church also has a Theology On Tap study at the Atlanta Bread Company on Watson Boulevard the first and last Tuesdays of the month at 7 p.m. Barichivich said anyone is welcome to attend and discuss matters of faith and culture. He said discussions have just finished up on what constitutes a just war and capital punishment.
Barichivich said in the mission of the church and in his own personal efforts, preaching the Gospel and making disciples is central. He said its what Jesus told the church to do.
No matter what I do, as far as my preaching, its not about me, its about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he said. Its about lifting up our Lord and Savior. In any of my preaching, when I sit down and wrestle with the text I ask myself where is God? Where is Jesus Christ in the text? At the end of the day, I want to be able to point to him and say he is the one; he is the savior.
Contact Michael W. Pannell at firstname.lastname@example.org.