Marilyn Barr is proud to tell people that she has dedicated several decades of her life as a member of First Lutheran Church in Fort Smith.
"I was literally born here and baptized here in this year, so yes, I've been a member for 78 years," she said. "This church is my home."
Barr is one of many members, supporters and visitors who will celebrate the church's 150th anniversary with a free, all-ages event at 3 p.m. June 10 at the church, 1115 N. D St. On tap to help keep attendees' spirits positive and faith-based will be music, history-based skits, a meal and words from the event's guest speaker, the Rev. Dr. Ken Klaus, she said.
"The Rev. Dr. Klaus is the former preacher for the international Lutheran Hour radio program; that program is broadcast worldwide," Barr said. "Dr. Klaus lived in St. Louis and was on the radio program for a really long time, and he now lives in McKinney, Texas."
Those attending the upcoming event will be impressed with and inspired by Klaus' words of "experience" and "wisdom," she said.
"It is great to have the Rev. Dr. Klaus be a part of our anniversary event," Barr said. "We are happy that he will be a part of this."
A meal containing "really good food" will be served following Klaus' presentation, Barr said. The featured music also will be among the highlights for the day, she said.
"There will be choirs and brass," Barr said. "And we'll have one of the former preachers, the Rev. Allen Stuckwisch, preach that Sunday morning. It will be exciting."
Barr said she and others who are organizing the celebration hope that those who attend will learn about First Lutheran Church and its ministries and programs. Numerous facts and personal stories will be revealed during the event, such as how the current church building was built near the previous church building and "old" school building, she said.
"The existing church building was completed in 1906 and it has been remodeled some since then," Barr said. "Construction started on the church building in 1904, and it has gorgeous stained-glass windows.
"The building was completed at a cost of $27,000," she added. "It's unbelievable that they could have done it for that price back then, if you think about it."
Virginia Shaver, another member, said she has seen many changes in the church and the community since she first joined the church in 1953.
"If I had to guess, we probably have somewhere around 300 members now," she said. "Over the years, the church has grown and declined in membership, and we are hoping to continue to grow now."
Easter marked the time when First Lutheran Church started hosting two church services each Sunday; Sunday School classes happen between the 8 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. services, Shaver said.
"Statistics have shown that when a church offers two church services, that church grows," she said.
"We are liturgical — we follow an order of worship," Shaver added. "We're looking for new members."
For Barr, the traditional aspects of First Lutheran Church remain a huge draw for her and, in her words, for other members and weekly guests.
"The church is my faith," she said. "I love the people and the activities. I just love the tradition, and I love the beauty of the church."
"We want people to know that we are here to serve the community," she said.
One who is thankful for the "bonds" she feels with other church members, Shaver said she has appreciated watching the church's ministry expand.
"We're close with members and we have women's groups and care groups that meet outside of the church service," she said. "We meet in homes, we have Bible studies, the youth meet at church on Sunday nights and there are quilters who quilt. It's good."
When asked what the next 150 years might bring for First Lutheran Church, Shaver smiled.
"I would just hope for growth," she said. "We want the community to know that we are here and that we welcome everybody."