The light shines in darkness

Trinity Lutheran relights bell tower cross

The cross on the bell tower at Trinity Lutheran of Onekama was relit in July after being dark for the past four years. (Courtesy photo)

ONEKAMA — For decades, fishermen out on the water at night were guided by the lights of the bell tower cross at Trinity Lutheran of Onekama.

The lights, fluorescent blue bulbs suspended more than 100 feet in the air, were added in the 1980s. Lifelong parishioner Donna Erickson contributed them in memory of her husband, Bill, whose favorite color was blue.

“The fishermen could see it six miles out on Lake Michigan,” explains church elder Joel Meister. “It was a good reference point.”

But weather took its toll. During a violent storm four years ago, high winds ripped the lights out of their mounting.

Rev. Ainslie Wagner (LEFT) and elder Joel Meister (RIGHT) guided the congregation of Trinity Lutheran of Onekama as parishioners decided to relight the cross. (Meg LeDuc/News Advocate)

The cross went dark.

And stayed dark.

Every year at Trinity Lutheran’s doughnut booth during Onekama Days, people would ask when the lights would be lit again.

“(The lights) were missed,” comments Pastor Ainslie Wagner.

Late last year, the congregation decided it was time to light the cross again.

The extension hoist the church rented from a Traverse City company cost $1,000. Congregation members considered it worth it.

“It scared me to watch someone get up there and (replace the lights),” says Meister.

In late July, the lights were relit, and the cross once again became a beacon for the community.

Wagner considers Trinity Lutheran to be an integral part of that community.

The church has “a very active youth group,” he says, as well as an afterschool program that meets twice a month and provides a place for young people to socialize outside of school and sports.

“We have been getting some more young families (attending) and newer members,” says Wagner.

However, the church also has longevity — some of the current parishioners are the grandchildren or great-grandchildren of charter members.

Originally a German congregation, Trinity Lutheran of Onekama was incorporated in 1887. Meister’s father attended the church’s German-language school.

Trinity Lutheran is the largest contributor to the Onekama food pantry, operated by St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

The Boy Scouts and the West Shore Rug Hookers Guild meet at the church building.

“It’s nice to see the building utilized as much as it is,” comments Meister.

The church’s newly lit cross can be seen at locations around Portage Lake, once again a part of the night sky in Onekama.

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