It was a day of mixed emotions for the Rev. Dr. Lavern Franzen, pastor emeritus of .
As guest preacher at the June 3 worship service, he began his sermon by saying, “I can’t tell you how happy I am to be here.”
After all, it was under his leadership and his wife, Mary Ann’s, fervent support that the 40-year was born. It began as a preschool and grew to serve both male and female students through the eighth-grade.
“I remember the joy in the hours we spent nurturing it, knowing that God was doing new things among us,” he said.
He also spoke about the sadness he felt earlier this year when he learned the school would close due to dwindling enrollment at the end of the 2011-12 academic year.
But because he chose to deal with the issue by putting his faith and trust in the word of God, he said his optimistic spirit has not waned.
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“We are called by the community to be the new people of God, and we are asked to do new things,” Franzen said.
“God said, ‘I will make a way,’ and I praise him for the courage and conviction to tell us it is time for new things,” he added.
The Rev. Dr. Waldemar “Wally” Meyer, who has pastored the church since June 1999, said as bittersweet as it was for all involved to close the school, it was the prudent thing to do.
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“It was just to the point where our enrollment was diminishing due in part to the area’s new charter school and in part to the economy,” he said.
During the service, Meyer recognized and applauded the school’s former teachers and students. He also offered up a prayer asking the Lord to continue to bless and strengthen them as they move forward.
Steven Helm of Wesley Chapel, who was married in the church and taught religion at the school for three years prior to accepting a teaching position elsewhere, was among the attendees.
“It was the time of my life to teach here. It was so satisfying but I could sense the slow decay,” said Helm, who noted he and his family still often attend worship services at the church, where he also once served as youth director.
Longtime Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran Church member Emma Goltermann, 15, was a CORLS student from kindergarten through fifth-grade. She’s now a 10th-grader at Tampa Preparatory School.
“It was like a big family where everyone knew each other,” she said. “It’s sad because it’s sort of where I grew up.”
Tara McDuffie, Emma’s companion at the on-campus picnic following the worship service, is also an alumnus of the school. She’s currently enrolled at Tampa Bay Academy.
“It was a great place to attend middle school,” the Temple Terrace resident said. “I learned a lot and had some great experiences.”
“But I think it (the school closing) is really for the best,” Tara said.
Similar to Franzen, Tara’s thoughts are positive when it comes to the campus’s future.
“There are better opportunities ahead,” she said.