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A WONDERFUL PLACE TO BE; LUTHERAN CHURCH TO MARK 70TH ANNIVERSARY.

Byline: Holly J. Andres Daily News Staff Writer

If you preach it, they will come - it's the kind of sentiment that the Central Lutheran Church has been adhering to for 70 years.

The congregation will celebrate this longevity with an anniversary service on Sunday.

``What has kept me coming here was the excellent preaching,'' said Olga Peterson, who has been a member of Central Lutheran for 45 years. ``There was good religious training in the Sunday school for my children. And the music has also been excellent.''

After it was founded in 1929, the fledgling congregation first met in a funeral home, a bakery and an American Legion hall for many years before acquiring property of its own. Peterson said that while the surrounding area right in the heart of Van Nuys has changed, she finds the church a wonderful place to be.

One change has been a decline in membership.

``When I first became a member, the church had about 1,300 members. Now we have about 50 families. The church has changed, just as the area and the whole Valley has changed,'' said Peterson, who has been the parish secretary for 28 years. ``We are a very friendly, very loving group of people. But the church has to change its ministry to appeal to those who are in the area now in order to grow again.''

Central Lutheran was founded in 1929, but it is not the oldest Lutheran church in the San Fernando Valley. The First Lutheran Church of Northridge, organized in 1917, holds that distinction. Central Lutheran is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.

A lot at Tyrone Avenue and Victory Boulevard was the church's first property of its own, bought for $500 in 1936. Construction of the sanctuary was started in 1940. The church was dedicated in 1941.

As the congregation grew, Central Lutheran bought the current property, stretching from the original corner lot to Gilmore Street by 1944. The church was enlarged and rededicated in 1955.

Lutheran Social Services occupies the buildings where Central Lutheran had a preschool and kindergarten from 1969 to 1995. Its Valley headquarters runs a food pantry, offers job counseling and other services for the needy.

A Korean congregation, Lord's Evangelical Church, has shared the sanctuary, with services at noon, for the past 12 years.

Central Lutheran will welcome a new, full-time pastor, the Rev. Charles Bunnell, on July 1. There are hopes that Bunnell, who will become the church's seventh pastor, will be a catalyst for attracting new members.

``The key reason why Central Lutheran has stayed together for so many years is that it has been consistent with its goals,'' said interim pastor the Rev. Burnell Lund. ``The emphasis has been to remain strongly evangelical and conservative in belief.''

Lund came to Central Lutheran four years ago while the church was conducting the search for a full-time pastor. He said the trend is toward less formality and less ritual during worship services. This church may move in that direction to attract new members.

``The church needs to become competitive again. It's my hope that Central Lutheran will gain a reputation that will draw more people in,'' said Lund, a pastor for 39 years. ``I think the new pastor will retain that spirit.''

The church has invited Bishop Paul Egertson, of the Southern California West Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, to deliver the anniversary sermon. Lund said that Egertson will touch on the anniversary and ``I am the good shepherd'' Gospel, John 10, for his Sunday sermon.

``Part of what I have always tried to emphasize is that people have to become disciples of Christ. They need to reach out, touch others and ask others to come to church - allow Christ to enter their lives as a living presence,'' Lund said. ``Central Lutheran still has a mission to accomplish in Van Nuys.''

The 70th anniversary service with Bishop Paul Egertson, the Rev. Burnell Lund and choir, 10 a.m. Sunday. Central Lutheran Church, 6425 Tyrone Ave., Van Nuys. (818) 785-5414.

CAPTION(S):

Photo

PHOTO The Rev. Burnell Lund, left, his wife, Alice, and Olga Peterson will attend Sunday's anniversary service at the Central Lutheran Church.

Gene Blevins/Special to the Daily News
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 24, 1999
Words:708
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