Oakhurst Lutheran Church celebrates 35 years

This Sunday, parishioners of Oakhurst Lutheran Church (OLC) will honor 17 members who 35 years ago chartered the church that sits on the north-west corner of Crane Valley Road (426), and Black Road.

The property was purchased and donated by the Herluf Fries family. Construction costs for the building were provided by some of the charter members in the form of promissory notes.

“We were all later reimbursed,” remembers Marilyn Fate of Ahwahnee.

The church building was completed in April 1983.

Oakhurst resident Mary Nelsen remembers many meetings in the beginning. Then Lutheran Bishop Pastor DeLang contacted both Oakhurst and Mariposa residents about their interest in forming a church, Nelsen said. The residents decided to form separate groups and yet work together to develop two church congregations.

“The two congregations hired Pastor Paul Hansen after he retired from Our Savior Lutheran Church of Fresno,” Nelsen continued. The pastor wasn’t the only person shared between the two churches because in the beginning a choir would go first to the Mariposa Sunday service and return later to sing at the Oakhurst service.

Pastor David Sebastian was later hired as Oakhurst’s first full time pastor in November 1983, a position he still holds today.

Elva Todd of Bass Lake said before OLC was built new congregants met at Seventh Day Adventist Church.

“I remember having our first fundraising event there, I think it was a Spaghetti Feed,” she said.

Charter members Pat and Clyde Johnson, also of Bass Lake, reminisced about building changes since OLC was first built.

“The natural redwood altar is long gone,” Pat said. “It was beautiful.”

Charter member and Oakhurst resident Michael Niewohner was only 17 years-old when his parents and he first went to services at OLC.

“My parents had a restaurant in town which was open on Sundays so getting to a Lutheran church in Fresno was difficult,” Niewohner said.

Today two services are held each Sunday - the 10 a.m. worship service and the 4 p.m. Western Gospel Service with a live band.

Details: Oakhurst Lutheran Church, 39255 Black Road (559) 683-4673.