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Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Largo celebrating 50th anniversary

Gidget and Ben Hur were hit movies of the day, Mack the Knife landed Bobby Darin the Grammy for record of the year, and Alaska and Hawaii were brand new states.

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It was Nov. 15, 1959, and Prince of Peace Lutheran Church had its first service in the Largo Civic Auditorium on Fourth Street in downtown Largo.

Over the next six months, the church will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a heavy dose of nostalgia. Prince of Peace, which now sits on Missouri Avenue across from Largo High School, kicked off the festivities Friday with a drive-in movie night and '50s style sock hop.

"Actually, we who were part of the church were so busy raising our children, many of the events are blurry,'' said Barbara Lindenmeyer, the church secretary and a charter member at Prince of Peace.

But at least one memory bubbled quickly to the surface. "My daughter, Tracy, was the first child baptized in the church during the first service,'' Lindenmeyer recalled.

Fifty years ago, the United Lutheran Church of America sent Pastor E. Ray Morack on a mission to Pinellas County. He canvassed the Largo area, speaking to more than 3,000 residents about starting a new church.

"I remember when he came to our front door,'' said Lindenmeyer, 76. "I was glad to meet him. I had moved a few years before from Illinois and I didn't know many Lutherans. This church has become my second home.''

The pastor was able to recruit 120 people to start the new Largo Lutheran Mission. It would grow to become the Prince of Peace Lutheran.

Leona Lazarchik, 79, another charter member, also acknowledges blurry memories due to child rearing. She clung to her Lutheran faith as she and her late husband, Bob Lazarchik, raised their six children through the Catholic Church.

"On Sunday mornings, my husband would take the children to St. Patrick, and I'd get breakfast ready. We'd all sit down and eat together, and then I'd take the car over to Prince of Peace,'' said Lazarchik, the first woman to sit on the church council in 1971. "Here were all these older men, and then there was me, but it all worked out well.''

After one year in the Largo Auditorium, the group held services in the American Legion on First Street.

"We'd clean the hall before holding a service because on Saturday night, people would drink and smoke cigarettes in there. It always smelled like beer,'' Lindenmeyer said.

In 1962, Prince of Peace opened its first Missouri Avenue location. And in 1973, the church opened at its current spot at 455 Missouri Ave. However, the former church is still in use as the Morack Hall.

Former pastors are scheduled to return to Prince of Peace to hold monthly worship celebrations in honor of the anniversary.

For the current minister, Pastor Joe Glymph, who arrived in 1999, the success of the church is kindness, plain and simple.

"I know it sounds cliche, but it's true,'' he said.

To mark the occasion, Glymph has started a churchwide community project, the 50th Anniversary Action Team.

"In August, we asked people to begin logging volunteer hours, whether in our congregation or outside of church," he said. "We're already at 10,000 hours logged.

"This shows the strength of the congregation's ministry, both within our walls and outside.''

Fast facts

The congregation of Prince of Peace has begun its anniversary celebration. On May 16, the church will hold its 50th Anniversary Worship Service and Celebration Banquet with Bishop Edward R. Benoway. Before then, former pastors will return for services.

Here are the dates when former pastors return:

Jan. 15: Pastor Bruce Fehl • Feb. 14: Pastor William Van O'Linda • March 14: Pastor Eugene Kern

For more information: Call the church office at (727) 585-9969 or visit www.poplargo.org.

Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Largo celebrating 50th anniversary 11/17/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 18, 2009 9:58pm]

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