Nativity Lutheran Church
In the early 1960's, the New England Synod of the Lutheran
Church in America (LCA) surveyed the Rockland area to determine the potential for establishing a mission. In July of 1963, the Reverend Peter J. DeRuiter was assigned to serve as Nativity's first pastor and in September the LCA purchased the Perry Rich farm on Old County Road in Rockport. In October, the small group of people who had been meeting at the Community Building in Rockland worked together and converted the loafing barn (cattle shed) on the Perry farm into a place of worship, leading the congregation to take the name "Nativity." Several of Nativity's new members came from Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Thomaston, when that congregation of the Finnish Suomi Synod was forced to close, providing Nativity with a strong nucleus of members.
On November 27, 1963, Thanksgiving Eve, with renovations on the building and parsonage complete, the first worship service was held in the new sanctuary. On March 1, 1964, Nativity was accepted into the New England Synod of the LCA with 74 members. Pastor DeRuiter served as pastor until June of 1965.
Nativity's second pastor, the Reverend Ronald B. Wisecarver served from 1965 to 1968, followed by the Reverend George M. Stadler, who arrived in June 1968. Pastor Stadler brought the experience and dedication to make Nativity a viable and active congregation, and in 1980 the congregation went off mission status. In 1979, the house serving as a parsonage was demolished and the barn sold and moved. A 20-foot addition was added to the north end of the sanctuary along with a narthex and steeple. Pastor Stadler retired in 1986.
The Reverend Robert G. Gustavson, a graduate of Yale Divinity School, arrived as Nativity's fourth pastor in 1986 and served until 1994. During this time Nativity was able to increase membership, serve more people's needs, and participate in local charitable organizations.
In 1988, Nativity became a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as their parent body the Lutheran Church in America merged with the American Lutheran Church and the Association of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to become the largest Lutheran body in the United States.
The Reverend Glenn Palmer, a newly ordained graduate of the Lutheran Seminary in Gettysburg, PA, became Nativity's fifth pastor in 1995. Pastor Palmer increased Nativity's participation in outreach, ecumenical matters, and involvement in the community. He also led Nativity to modernize the sanctuary for the eventual expansion of the church facility. He served until 2002 when he went into active duty as an Army Chaplain. The Reverend William Luger served a one-year interim.
The Reverend Jerry LiaBraaten, a graduate of Wartburg Seminary, served congregations in Virginia before coming to Nativity in 2003. Pastor LiaBraaten led the congregation as they continued strong outreach activity in the community and guided the congregation through the installation of a new Rodgers organ, and the groundbreaking in June 2005 and construction of an entirely new worship space. The first worship service in the new nave and sanctuary was on Sunday July 23, 2006. Pastor LiaBraaten retired in June 2015. The Reverend Bruce Meyer served as transition pastor for two years as Nativity searched for a new pastor.
The Reverend Wendy J. Anderson was called as the seventh pastor in 2017. Pastor Anderson has championed Nativity's continued strong presence in the work of local non-profits and social justice issues. In November of 2019, Nativity became a Reconciling in Christ congregation, which signifies a public welcome to LGBTQIA+ persons. In 2020 and 2021 we pivoted with the rest of the world as we experienced the Covid-19 pandemic and worshipped "online" and by phone for fifteen months. God's never failing presence propels us into the future.