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Our History

Lutheran Church By The Lake, located near the Savannah River, its tributaries and Lake Thurmond, embodies in its name the symbolism and preciousness of water throughout scripture.  Three walls of the sanctuary are enhanced by stained glass windows that represent the Lutheran understanding of what the church is:  where the Word is taught and the Sacraments are administered.

The left and right panels of the front window include a book and scroll with the sign of the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  The large cross in the center panel represents Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the Word.  The east window features a shell, water, and the Holy Spirit as given in Baptism.  The west window design of wheat and grapes depicts the bread and wine of the Eucharist.

Lutheran Church By The Lake is a neighborhood church, welcoming people of all faiths to the worship services.  The Lutheran Men in Mission (LMM) and the Lutheran Women in Mission (LWM) work extensively with many local charity organizations as well as supporting state and global missions.

Couple in front of stained glass.jpg

Church Organization – May 17, 1998
Building Ground Breaking – October 2, 1999
Dedication Service – October 22, 2000

First Worship Service – November 13, 1994



1994 Like the parable of the mustard seed, Lutheran Church By The Lake (LCBTL) started small but grew from its small beginnings. Two determined people who wanted a Lutheran Church in Savannah Lakes Village (SLV) soon increased in numbers. This group were undeterred even though repeatedly told that there were not—and probably never would be—enough people within a twenty-five radius to justify a mission church in the town of McCormick. In November of that year, an evening service was held at Tara Club House with borrowed hymnals.

1995 The announcement was made that Rev. Ruben Olawsky was coming to develop a church in the village. Various services during this period were held at Tara Golf Club, McCormick Health Care Center, the barn at John de la Howe School, and SLV Activity Center. The very first dollar bill donated was accompanied with a note saying, “a new church should not be without a building fund.”

1996 Cooper Communities pledged 6.126 acres of land for a church on the northwest corner of Twelve Oaks Drive and Highway 378. The church charter was first signed by twenty-three members,

1997 Rev. Walter W. Wist arrived to become pastor and developer of LCBTL. A building committee was established,

1998 A constitution and by-laws were adopted and council members elected. Architect Pete Norgren was selected to draw up plans.

1999 Groundbreaking took place October 2 and with it came the arrival of the first of the mission builders. The lion’s share of the work, however, fell to church members who can recount tales of doing everything from making lunches to climbing scaffolds and pounding nails. Heartfelt thanks is due the many, many generous donors who contributed their time, skills, and monetary resources to complete the church as we know it today.

2000 The first worship service in the new building was held October 1, 2000 with 108 people in attendance.

2001 Lutheran Men in Mission (LMM) sponsored its first golf outing, the Bob White Annual Charity Golf Tournament, at Monticello Golf Course and raised $2,000 for SCLMM and local charities.

2003 Carillon bells were installed in the church bell tower, as a gift from members in memory of their parents.

2004 In April, Pastor Walt Wist announced his imminent retirement. Interim pastors conducted services until, a congregational meeting held August 8 during which Rev. Dr. William Richard (Dick) Albert was called to become the new pastor of LCBTL.

2005 “The Welcoming Christ,” the wood carving that graces our narthex, was dedicated. The Meditation Garden, adjacent to the fellowship hall, was completed.

2006 Church attendance continued to grow and new chairs were purchased for overflow into the narthex. Core values were developed.

2007 Beginning in June, church services were expanded to include an 8:30 am service in addition to the one at 10 am. The Evangelical Lutheran Worship book was introduced. Pastor Dick Albert retired effective December 31.

2008 The call process moved forward after being led by Interim Pastor Mark Scott. On September 24, Pastor James Kinsler was called and began serving as the new pastor of LCBTL.

2009 The first Stephen’s Ministry Team was commissioned. Beginning in September, an worship services were scheduled for 8:15 am with the second service at 10:15 am. LCBTL was on McCormick Garden Club’s annual holiday tour with a display of nativity sets from around the globe.

2010 The Columbarium was approved. On August, 23, it was dedicated and had its first inurnment. “Shall We Gather at the River” lakeside worship services were conducted at the Savannah Lakes Marina/Resort Beach from June 7 through September 5. Camp Grand was implemented with grandchildren and volunteers spending a fun-filled three days in worship and outdoor activities. Camp Grand remains one of LCBTL’s most popular programs.

2011 Two new special worship experiences were added; an Epiphany Service and a Thanksgiving Day Service of Praise and Prayer in the pavilion following the yearly Turkey Trot.

2012 The mortgage of LCBTL was paid off, approximately three years early, and celebrated in a unified worship service. Pastor Walt Wist was designated as Pastor Emeritus in recognition of his service as the mission developer, first pastor, and continued support as a member of the congregation. The women hosted their first Foothills Conference in the Fellowship Hall.

2013 A water feature was added to the Columbarium Memorial Garden. LCBTL saw Pastor Walt Wist and his family celebrate Walt’s 50th year of being a pastor.

2014 The year began with a water line bursting in the Sanctuary ceiling forcing church services to temporarily relocate to the SLV Recreation Center. Pastor Jim received his Doctorate in Divinity in December of 2014.

2015 The focus was on relationships--building bridges within the community. Some members of LCBTL visited local African-American congregations to experience and participate in worship with them. After the tragic shooting at Immanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, this helped the community unite in a prayer vigil. Pastor Jim was asked to chair the newly formed McCormick County Community Relations Council.

2016 Pastor Jim was awarded the Golden Nugget Award from McCormick’s mayor at the Gold Rush Festival for exemplary and varied activities within the Greater McCormick community.

2017 The Solutions Committee was formed and presented its proposed floor plans to the congregation in order to alleviate our facility limitations. Council appointed a Building Committee and Finance Committee to facilitate construction of a new social hall. The Finance Committee determined a professional fundraiser was needed.

2018 Early results of the fundraising campaign were positive. A special Congregational Meeting was held to allow members to vote on Council’s recommendations.

2019 Expansion of LCBTL’s facilities would increase space for fellowship events, expand its kitchen, provide additional meeting space and adequate storage. In February, a Special Congregational Meeting voted on and approved the building of a new fellowship hall. Groundbreaking ceremonies took place June 30th and construction began August 12th. By the end of September, the basement walls and floor had been poured. The summer beach worship service received a new venue—Elijah Clark State Park just across the Savannah River into Georgia.

2020 COVID-19. In-person services were suspended during the height of the pandemic, however, services were live streamed every Sunday via LCBTL’s Facebook page, website, and YouTube’s home page. Other innovative measures were initiated: Sunday morning services in the church parking lot, drive-thru Holy Communion, Bible studies via ZOOM technology, and communion kits provided. Outdoor services restarted as soon as state parks re-opened.

The new fellowship hall was completed. Certificate of Occupancy was granted in June 2020. The building was named “The ARK” at the suggestion of Pastor Jim. ARK stands for Activity, Renewal, and Koinonia (Greek for fellowship). The “old” fellowship hall was named the “The Bridge.” In August, two new Columbarium units were delivered and installed.

After seven months, the Sanctuary re-opened September 13 with many new protocols in place. Gradually, all meetings resumed but with the “new normal” standards of sanitizing, masks and social distancing. A Christmas Eve service was held for those who wished to attend a worship service during a pandemic with special precautions in place.

2021 The year proved to be a most challenging one. For much of 2020-21, LCBTL walked the path of discussion, discernment, and decision concerning affiliation with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Following a congregational vote Sunday, October 17, the majority fell one vote shy of reaching the necessary two-thirds to disaffiliate from the ELCA.

After thirteen years of service, Pastor James Kinsler announced his retirement at the November 2021 Congregational meeting effective March 1, 2022.

2022 The call process began for a new pastor of LCBTL.

2023 Pastor Sue Johnson was installed as Pastor of LCBTL on May 1, 2023. After a brief period of service, Pastor Sue accepted a call to serve in another ministry and ended her tenure on Oct.

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