In bloom

The Springs Lutheran Church

Pastor Steven Hillmer speaks on how to run the long race.

Pastor Steven Hillmer speaks on how to run the long race.

Photo By d. Brian Burghart

The Springs Lutheran Church meets at the community center at the Lazy 5 Regional Park. On Sundays, there’s a 9 a.m. all-ages Bible class, and worship service at 10:30 a.m. For more information, check out

There’s something about a young congregation that I find particularly interesting. Inspiring. Motivational. We all know the reputation Reno and Northern Nevada has with regard to churches and religion: We are the city least likely to find its citizens in church on Sunday morning. Starting a new congregation here, particularly in this time of economic chaos, seems to require a particularly high leap of faith. And yet, I see new congregations sprouting like those yellow blazing stars in the desert—somehow they bloom and thrive in the worst of conditions.

I found this optimism and exuberance at The Springs Lutheran Church in the community center at Lazy 5 Regional Park. It’s only been going about a year and a half, and the sanctuary had a feeling of impermanence, which of course makes sense, since the group is not allowed to install anything. But they make do with an oak lectern and altar and a few tapestries. The chairs, too, were removable at a moment’s notice. The church grew out of the Reno congregation of Shepherd of the Mountains Lutheran Church, and as such, it’s affiliated with the conservative Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS).

The congregation of about 50 people was uniformly friendly. Not outgoing like some where everyone floats around hugging each other, but everyone who met my eye said hello, and I had several conversations longer than five minutes. The dress was “church casual,” with a lot of well-pressed shirts and skirts, but some shorts. The children were right in there for the service, some running around, practicing the charming respectfulness of children.

The entire service was outlined in the bulletin, which I think a lot of churches could learn from. The pastor’s wife, Jenny Hillmer, provided most of the music with an electronic keyboard, but the congregation sang along on key. Pastor Steven Hillmer, too, has a good singing voice.

There were two main readings: Jeremiah 23: 23-29 and Luke 12:49-53. Both seemed particularly appropriate in these days when the largest national spiritual controversy is whether to allow some Americans to pursue their First Amendment rights near the site of the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in New York City.

This is a secular newspaper, and I’m a secular guy. As such, I always prefer sermons that offer common sense advice that works on levels outside of strict religious interpretations. The pastor offered a sermon along these lines, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

He began by talking about how we’ve become a kind of “instant society.” Because of technology, we can know at a second’s notice where to buy this or that or even what our closest 784 friends are doing at this moment. “It’s almost addictive, isn’t it,” he asked. But life doesn’t follow those rules. We’re in it for the long haul, and we’re faced with pains that don’t go away the instant we take the latest wonder drug. Life is not a 100-yard dash, he said, life is a marathon.

To win the race and to receive the heavenly award that comes with it requires determination. Fortunately, he said, we have a coach to tell us how to run the race with perseverance, focus and discipline.

The pastor spoke calmly with intelligent advice grounded in scripture. I got the idea he’s one of those guys who came to his faith through intellect, but as always with this column, that was just a first impression. It was probably colored by the fact that I thought he looked a little like Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood.

I think people new to the Spanish Springs area who are looking to put their family’s roots down to mature within a Christian church that’s also growing could do a lot worse than to visit The Springs Lutheran Church.