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Feb 28, 2011 | Carol E. Barnwell

Final Service at Redeemer is Reunion for Many

Huge portable fans kept the air flowing through Church of the Redeemer’s nave as more than 600 people returned to Houston’s Eastwood neighborhood for a final worship service in the building. Built in 1952 for $220,000, today’s 70-member congregation cannot afford the $7 million it would take to bring the campus up to code. They will share space with the nearby Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer and maintain their outreach ministries in the community.


Emotional greetings, joyful music, waving flags and dancing filled the more than three-hour Eucharistic completing a weekend of festivities to mark the transition.  Outreach ministries will continue with an afterschool program, Scout troops, a bike repair shop and meals for the homeless.


Redeemer, founded in 1919, joined the charismatic renewal movement in the 60s and 70s, and was one of the first churches to add guitar music to its worship, predating many of today’s contemporary expressions of worship. The mural “Christ and the Working Man,” painted by John William Orth in 1952, is made up of many of the church members images at the time. It will ultimately be removed and stored. 


In his sermon on Sunday, February 27, 2011, Redeemer’s youth minister, Mark Ball said he wanted to give meaning to the sorrow of leaving. Others can offer community activities, music and ancient rituals, he said, but, “If we told people about Jesus, they would know we are a church … When we take everything away, one thing is uniquely ours: the change that happens in the heart … transformation in the soul of man is a moment of eternal significance.”


Tom Tellepsen, who grew up at Redeemer, and whose family business built the structure, addressed the congregation about the uncertainty the founding congregation faced in 1919. “God’s great gifts of love, faith and prayer were manifested in their joy at this church,” he said. “This church can leave a legacy to you, it doesn’t have to be here.”


Following the worship service, many stayed for a reception to reconnect with old friends, some of whom had come from out of state for the reunion. The familiar question they shared was: “What years were you here?”


“I believe that the lesson we have learned from this is that the tools of the electrician, plumber, HVAC technician and structural engineer are no less sacred than the tools of the altar,” Sr. Warden Daniel Coleman told a Houston Chronicle reporter.


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