Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (GSLC) gathers for worship in the Post Oak Savannah Eco-region of modern-day Texas, in the city and county of Bastrop.
Once writhing in non-existence, God breathed life into this space about 14 billion years ago. Our church home was birthed in the belly of a giant star via intra-stellar nucleosynthesis. This giant star went supernova about 5 billion years ago, rocketing us into space. Our modern-day home coalesced as part of Planet Earth, the third star in this solar system. We migrated across shifting tectonic plates for eons, and spent a super long time as an ancient sea floor. We started to dry out about 65 million years ago.
Early History of the Region:
Our eco-region was historically shaped by frequent fires (both purposeful and lightning-generated), and large herds of buffalo. Populated by humans as early as 13,000 years ago, this land is the ancestral home of the Tonkawa and Sana people. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Tonkawa and Sana suffered severe smallpox epidemics in response to their contact with Spanish colonists and missionaries. Beginning around 1859, the surviving Tonkawa and Sana were forcibly removed from their homeland to modern-day Oklahoma by the US Government, with the final expulsion from present-day Texas happening in 1884-85. Anglo-Americans of northern European descent settle-colonized this area in and around modern-day Bastrop starting in the early 19th Century.
More Recent History of Bastrop County:
Around 1960, the Lower Colorado River Authority began constructing Lake Bastrop to cool a power plant. This construction led to a population boom in Bastrop. In 1963, a community survey was undertaken to determine the desirability of founding a Lutheran church in Bastrop. Given sufficient interest, GSLC was founded as a member congregation of the American Lutheran Church (ALC) in 1964 with help from the Division of Missions of the ALC and under the pastoral leadership of Kenneth Solberg. Goodvin Church Builder Service (of Wichita, Kansas) began construction on GSLC in 1966, and the worship space was dedicated on May 21, 1967. Land was purchased at discount from, and also donated by Tuck Land Company of Bastrop.
Pastoral leadership of GSLC over the years has included:
Pr. Kenneth Solberg (1964-67)
Pr. Alvin Bohls (1968-78)
Pr. Glenn Bundy (1978-84)
Pr. David Kyllo (1985-89)
Pr. Bill Schardin (1989-91)
Pr. Brant Pelphrey (1992-95)
Pr. Alfred Toerne (1996-99)
Pr. Charles Holm-Roesler (2000-2012)
Pr. Emily McPhaul (Synodically Authorized Minister)
Pr. Wayne Walther (interim, 2012-2015)
Pr. Paula Canby (2015-17)
Prs. Paul and Kelsie Theiss (2017-19)
Pr. Travis Fitzgold (2019-present)
Initially focused on congregational growth, GSLC has provided a Lutheran presence in this part of Central Texas for decades. Its ministry has focused on proclaiming God’s Word and administering the sacraments of Holy Communion and Baptism. Furthermore, GSLC has provided the community background for major life transitions in its congregation, including births, deaths, and marriages. Since 2010, GSLC has focused on supporting Little Sheep
Challenges in the Church:
GSLC has experienced difficult times in the midst of ministry over the years, as is true for most congregations. Notable challenges arose around the formation of the ELCA in 1988; GSLC voted against the merger, and experienced congregational decline as a result.
Another conflict arose in the mid-‘90’s under the leadership of Pr. Pelfrey, which also resulted in congregational decline.
Another conflict of note occurred in 2009 when the ELCA voted as part of its churchwide assembly to allow for differing understandings of same-gender sexual relationships, including churchwide openness to the calling of pastors who are in publicly accountable, same-gender, lifelong, monogamous relationships; this conflict led to another decline within GSLC.
2010’s: A Big Decade:
Since 2010, GSLC has focused on supporting Little Sheep Learning Center as its primary mission. This mission began as a parents’ day out program with just a few kids under the leadership of Cindy Dobie. It has since grown to over 100 kids and over 20 staff.
In 2017, GSLC began participating in the Lost Pines Lutheran Ministries Cooperative, an experimental arrangement in ministry sharing with Faith Lutheran in McDade, TX, and Grace Lutheran in Giddings, TX.
In 2019, GSLC’s mission focus extended to support the development of Good Shepherd Lutheran School, serving grades K-2 and extending to 3rd grade in 2020.
In its history, GSLC has produced three ordained pastors from among its flock.
While the ups and downs of community life have not bypassed GSLC, we continue to seek God’s will in this time and place for the betterment of the local community and all God’s creation. We, of course, do this work imperfectly and are dependent on God’s grace with each passing day. And as the opening paragraphs of this history indicate, we are part of a much larger story than is told by our individual lives—or even the life of this congregation. That larger story is the story in which we have faith, around which we orient our lives, and toward which we set our hope.