THE HISTORY OF SHEPHERD OF THE SIERRA CHURCH 1997-2019
“Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever lengthening, ever ascending, ever improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.” Winston Churchill
This quote from Churchill is representative of a Christian’s life. As we strive to become perfect in the eyes of the Lord our sinfulness will not allow this to take place. Nevertheless, the journey adds character, strength and maturity to Christians. So, as it has been since the inception of Shepherd of the Sierra Church. Regardless of our age each of us should look at each other as a work in progress – and always should be. That being said, we all have strengths and weaknesses but need to seek unity to satisfy the whole.
THE BEGINNING 1997-1999
On January 12, 1997, Shepherd of the Sierra Church was granted a charter membership which was recognized by the Lutheran Missouri Synod. At the time of inception there were 23 families and/or individuals who were charter members of the church who are listed in alphabetical order as follows: Mr. and Mrs. Larry Brunson, Mr. and Mrs. Craig Burnside; Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Burnside; Ms. Patricia Currie, Ms. Tammy Ann Duster, Mr. Jovon Halen, Mr. and Mrs. Earl Isaacson, Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Johnson, Mr. and Mrs. James Johnson, Mr. and Mrs. David Judish, Mr. and Mrs. Jack McCormack, Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Melzer, Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Morgan, Mr. and Mrs. Don Muenchausen, Mr. and Mrs. Albert Neudauer, Ms. Dorothia Pisciotta, Ms. Tammy Sands, Mrs. Filomena Smokey, Mr. and Mrs. David Theis; Rev. and Mrs. Elmer Thyr, Miss Deanne Thyr, Mr. and Mrs. Emmitt Topping and Mr. and Mrs. Edward Young.
Pastor Elmer Thyr and his energetic as well as personable wife, Maxine, were previously members of Trinity Lutheran Church located in Gardnerville, Nevada, where Elmer served as Assistant Pastor before answering an inquiry from Shepherd of the Sierra. Prior to coming to Nevada Pastor Thyr had started a church in Cucamonga, California. Maxine cannot be given enough credit for insight, organization skills, planning and her forethought into what is now a close relationship with Sierra Lutheran High School. Elmer was a strong personality with a wit and a sense of telling it the way it is without concern in our current theme of trying to be politically correct.
In 1997 Jacks Valley Elementary School Administration allowed the members to formally meet and establish weekly church services between 1997 and 1999 as the church had no building otherwise. Services were conducted each Sunday in the school gymnasium with members routinely setting up and putting away metal chairs before and after each service which met once each Sunday at 9:30 am.
MOVING TIME – 1999
In early 1999 the church congregation was informed by Jacks Valley School officials that it was necessary for our church to vacate their premises due to administration needs. Later in 1999 Shepherd of the Sierra officially transferred the locale of the church to the Genoa Town Hall where the congregation remained until December 1999. At that time the vacated Southwest Gas Company building was given to the church for free; however, renovations and the cost of moving the building to its current location cost approximately $375,000.
It was at this time after securing a building for our church that programs, community involvement and activities began their establishment, which included picnics, home Bible Study groups, youth groups, Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, SOSOS (Seniors of Shepherd of the Sierra), In-Betweeners (20-50 year olds), Women of Faith, Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML), Angel Tree, soup suppers during Lent and Advent weekly services, canned food drives, volunteers of the year award, choir/caroling groups, contemporary service on Saturday evenings, baked goods sales, and Mother’s Day plant sales to subsidize youth group activities implemented by Craig Witt.
In Spring 2006 Pastor Thyr retired and a call was issued by Shepherd of the Sierra for a replacement pastor. Pastor Norm Milz answered the call from Shepherd of the Sierra in June 2006. Pastor Milz had an extensive career in education having achieved a Bachelor’s Degree in Education in 1975 (Concordia University, Seward) and a Master’s Degree in Music in 1979 (University of Illinois Urbana, Champaign). He served as the director of music worship service for 4 years, and a teacher for 25 years, in addition to being a principal for 14 of the 25 years. He has currently served in a pastoral role at Shepherd of the Sierra for 13 years. Pastor’s wife, Char, has served as a teacher at Bethlehem Lutheran School for a period of 8 years and has been a teacher for 25 years total.
MOVING TIME – 2009
As of September 2009 Shepherd of the Sierra Church expanded into a new sanctuary. The cost of the new sanctuary was $1.4 million, combined with the Southwest Gas building renovation and moving costs, brought the total cost to $1,775,000. The total property acreage owned by the church on its present location is 2.5 acres. The new building is 5,000 square feet and the complex total is 10,000 square feet. Seating capacity in the sanctuary is 240.
Currently there are 160 members in the congregation at Shepherd of the Sierra. Services are held on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. with Sunday School being held during the service. New programs are the highlight of the church since the new phase of the building. The advent of Sierra Lutheran High School in 2001 allowed six (6) churches to become charter members of the Association. These churches are Bethlehem Lutheran, Trinity Lutheran, Grace Community Church, Hilltop Community Church, Valley Christian Fellowship and Shepherd of the Sierra. These churches have representation on the Board of Directors for Sierra Lutheran High School and assist the high school through prayer and financial assistance. Sierra Lutheran opened in 2001 and currently has 125 students. It is the 17th largest private high school in Nevada and ranks 3,771 out of 7,602 nationally. The student/teacher ratio is 12 to 1.
Additionally, programs such as the Braille playing card program, rummage sales, Elder breakfasts, Oktoberfest, and chili cookoff (with other churches competing with Shepherd of the Sierra) have been added to the programs previously listed.
Our highest priority is proclaiming God’s Good News of love and grace and serving according to His will.
Proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, live and move forward in faith, and carry out God’s mission everywhere.
Concurrent to the Mission and Vision Statements listed above, the Church should continue to move towards Jesus and what He has called them to do and understand God’s presence in their lives. Lastly, a sincere thank you goes out to the literally hundreds of past and present members of the Shepherd of the Sierra for their support in numerous programs and projects over the years. Without the initiative, drive and determination from members, the Lord’s work and the Church’s 22 years meaning would cease to be.
To Be Continued
Prepared by Paul Hochsprung, Fall 2019