The Rev. Lewis Dasher remembers Lutheran worship services being held once a month in west Chatham County as early as 1930 in a building south of Augusta Avenue. The developer of Garden City (at that time called Industrial City Gardens) offered a lot to the first congregation that would organize, which became Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. On November 4, 1936, the lot on the corner of Smith Avenue and Main Street was purchased for $2,500 by the Georgia-Alabama Synod, with hope that this congregation would provide a connecting link between the Lutheran churches of Savannah and those of Effingham County. Worship service were conducted in a “tabernacle of log wood strips” until the brick church was finished.
Records indicate that on May 23, 1937, the official ground breaking ceremonies were held and construction was begun on the worship facilities. Timber and labor were donated by members of the Savannah and Effingham churches.
The congregation officially organized October 3, 1937, at 3:30 PM and at that time they chose the name “The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd.” Only one week later (October 10th) at 4:00 PM the official laying of the cornerstone occurred. The engraving on the cornerstone reads, “Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd Erected 1937.”
A church bell given by Fred Wessels was dedicated on Sunday, December 5, 1937, at 3:00 PM. The newspaper clipping in which this is reported also notes that, “Although the interior of the church is not complete, the lights and steam heat are installed, and the grounds are now being cleaned and leveled and will soon be ready for plants and shrubs.” On March 4, 1940, the congregation voted to have the church incorporated. The official state charter was granted on June 6, 1940.
The first full time pastor to serve Good Shepherd was The Rev. John Koch, Jr., who served from May 15, 1939, until 1942 when he became a Chaplain in the U.S. Army.
The Rev. J. A. Seaboch received a call to Good Shepherd and began his ministry in December 1943 and served until September 1, 1950. Carolyn Dasher Thompson and Jeanelle Dasher Strickland remember the great Sunday School picnics held at his home on Highway 17 not far from the church.
The Georgia–Alabama Lutheran Magazine, July 1949 issue: reads in part: “Good Shepherd Lutheran has erected on its church lot a spacious and attractive building for Sunday School and recreational purposes, in connection with which a pastor’s study is also provided.” Construction was a project of Good Shepherd Brotherhood (the men's group of that time). There was a new Hammond organ installed in the church in 1948 along with the building of a new pulpit and lectern.
Pastor William R. Hartman was installed as the new pastor in 1951. In that year 35 new adult members and 34 children were received. A new Mr. and Mrs. Club was formed. With the failure of the old wood burner in the church a new heating system was needed but there was no money in the treasury! But contributions were made and a new oil burning boiler was purchased at a reduced price and then installed by members of the congregation. The faith of the congregation was much strengthened in that year, and yet was further tested in the financing and building of a parsonage.
The congregation did survive through these difficult years of turmoil and learned a lesson in the potential of faith. 1952 was the first year that the congregation received more contributions than the budget required, without community fund-raising.That year showed many people that when you put faith and works together, many things can be accomplished. The congregation became self supporting in 1954, no longer receiving money from the synod or the Board of American Missions. Six months later the council minutes of the July meeting indicate that bulletins would no longer be printed until the funds increased. Good Shepherd was on its own and it was a struggle but the people had faith and a willingness to work.
Pastor Heine resigned his position with the congregation in October of 1957. The Rev. Donald Hanberry, just graduated and ordained, became the pastor on June 2, 1958. People wanted to see what the new pastor would do. Bigger and better facilities for Sunday School became necessary as 31 baptized members were received into membership during the last three months of 1959.
As the congregation grew so did the various organizations. The women’s group split into three circles and the youth group split into two groups. Members involved in evangelism received great results. On Sunday, August 14, 1960, a ground breaking service was held for the new educational wing of the church.
During the 1960s, the faith of the congregation was put to the test as circumstances dealt some hard blows to the congregation’s ministry. The Rev. B. Kohn Baker had been serving the congregation for less than three years when he unexpectedly died. Fortunately Rev. Robert Freyermuth was in town and was able to deliver the sermon Pastor Baker had been preparing for Sunday. Pastor Freyermuth read the sermon which Pastor Baker had titled “Dead Men Do Speak.”
Three months later the Rev. John Chewning, Jr., became the pastor. However, he only remained as pastor for one year. Next, the Rev. Thomas Weeks came to assume the office of Pastor. He served the congregation for two years and then he also died. These were difficult years for the congregation as they experienced first hand the uncertainty of life and the need to adjust to tragedies.
On June 10, 1970, Pastor Michael Taylor became pastor of Good Shepherd. He served until March 11, 1973. We have many fond memories of his involvement with families, baptisms, etc.
A new Rogers electronic organ for the church in 1971 at the cost of $13,000. William Hollifield of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Charleston, South Carolina served as recitalist. Donations were given through a special fund with complete payment being made by January of 1975.
Rev. John Anderson became pastor of Good Shepherd on July l, 1973, until September 1, 1976. We have many fond memories of his years at Good Shepherd. He was an accomplished musician and has played the organ for us and also has been a supply pastor on many occasions since then.
On June 2, 1977, Pastor Dave Rasmussen became pastor at Good Shepherd and the “long list of short-term” pastors became history. Fortunately Pastor Dave has served Good Shepherd for 30 years. He has withstood many changes and challenges, but he and the congregation have survived and done ministry together throughout the years and will continue ministry for the future.
The church is always undergoing change. One significant change occurred in the 1970s. It was in January 1976 that Eveline Reiser became the first woman to serve on the church council. The Flock was organized and met for the first time in October l977. This is one of the two social groups that have been formed within the congregation for the purpose of fellowship with other members. Another group, called “The Social-Lites” was formed in February 1979.
By 1983 a donation was made to install a new sign out front and to rebuild the bell tower. The original bell tower had been torn down because of the construction of the Parish Hall in 1960. The bell tower and the lettering for the sign were contracted out to professional businesses. Handrails and a ramp were added to the front entrance of the church. The sidewalks were replaced and the steps were redone so that all the entrances conformed to the fire code. In 1986 we finally were able to walk up the new steps and ramp.
The 1990s were filled with many challenges. In spite of being a smaller congregation the members of Good Shepherd have engaged in many social programs and have given more time, and sometimes money, than larger congregations. The “disciples” of Good Shepherd have a real sense of mission to others, and still do, with support of both local missions and ministries as well as efforts to help others around the globe.
One of Good Shepherd’s favorite projects is sending supplies to Lutheran World Relief. The truck comes to this area once a year and collects from all Lutheran congregations in the area. During the year we collect items for school kits, health kits, sewing kits, layettes, and soap. A group of our women meet during the year to make beautiful quilts to be sent to LWR. Every year, although we are a small group, we send many pounds.
Pastor Dave Rasmussen retired after 35 years of service at Good Shepherd, and after a series of 3 term or interim pastors, the Reverend Susan Thisell became our pastor on September 14, 2015.