August 1977 Mission Development Initiated by the Lutheran Church in America (LCA)
February 1978 The name “Spirit of Joy” was chosen.
April 1978 First worship held at Ida Redbird Elementary School
March 1979 Spirit of Joy officially organized
October 1982 Broke ground for 3 buildings at 2544 S. Alma School Road, Chandler AZ
January 1988 Became part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
August 1988 Addition to Sanctuary/Education space
July 2007 Purchased property at 1159 N. Greenfield Rd., Gilbert AZ
March 2009 Occupied New Building
October 2019 Missional Partnership Established: Resurrection Episcopal Church
In August of 1977, the Rev. Paul Black, pastor and Mission Developer, was called by The Division for Mission in North America of the Lutheran Church in America (LCA) to begin a new mission in the Dobson Ranch area of Mesa, AZ. Pastor Black soon developed a relationship with Rev. Jim Manning, of Celebration of Life Presbyterian Church, another mission development, and they quickly formed ecumenical collegial relationships with other developing congregations including St. Matthew’s Methodist, College View Baptist, and St. Timothy’s Catholic. As they went door to door, they shared names of families who expressed interest in a particular denomination.
In February 1978, Pastor Black attended a conference in Kansas City, MO and after prayerful discernment, the name Spirit of Joy (SOJ) was chosen and a joint venture between Spirit of Joy and Celebration of Life Presbyterian Church began. SOJ formed a service committee between Yolanda Lutz, Terry Hill and Pastor Black to lead the new congregation. Spirit of Joy’s first altar came as a gift from Faith Lutheran Church in Yuma, AZ, and the first worship was held on April 30, 1978 at the Ida Redbird Elementary School on Extension Road. Due to the rental expense, SOJ soon moved to Lakeshore Mortuary on Dobson Road and began worship on March 18, 1979. This one-year agreement provided everything SOJ needed for worship, fellowship and Sunday school. The owner Dave Shumway became a good friend of Pastor Black.
Spirit of Joy was officially organized on March 18, 1979, and by summer of 1979, Celebration of Life Presbyterian had finished their building, so SOJ left Lakeside Mortuary and shared the facility.
In the fall of 1982, SOJ petitioned the LCA to build their own building and broke ground erecting three buildings in the fall at 2544 S. Alma School Road. Don Ryden and Associates were the Architects. In 1988, the worship space was expanded to seat nearly 400 worshipers and a Fellowship Hall and Education wing were added. SOJ called two associate Pastors, Rev. Sally Piper and Rev. John Pfeiffer who served for approximately two years.
Spirit of Joy became part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in 1988 and was served by Rev. Roger Thompson and Rev. Dawn Keller.
After calling Rev. David M Marz to serve at SOJ, the decision was made to sell their building on Alma School Road and relocate to 1159 N. Greenfield Road (present site) in 2007, which was home to a “barn” and attached house. The “Original” Barn on Greenfield Road was known throughout the East Valley because for years it housed community craft fairs. The original barn, built in the early 1900’s, was moved from Grinnell, Iowa one piece at a time to the Greenfield Road location. Unfortunately, the barn was deemed structurally unsound as a public assembly and the barn was dismantled, given back to the original family, and reconstructed in the East Valley.
Groundbreaking for the new Spirit of Joy “barn” took place on November 2008 and the first worship in the new building was held in March 2009.
In June 2016, Rev. Brian W Cain was called to serve at SOJ and in February 2018, Deacon Janice Zimbelman was called as Director of Discipleship. In 2018 a 2,240 sq. foot multi-purpose patio was added to the property. In the spring of 2019, an alliance was formed with the International Rescue Committee to aid refugees and in fall of 2019, a strategic partnership was established with Resurrection Episcopal Church, a mission start congregation, to share the SOJ building and engage in unified ministry and mission. A Fellowship Hall renovation was also completed in the fall of 2019.
Our history is a story about God’s grace poured out upon us as we seek to worship and follow our Lord Jesus Christ as faithful disciples. Our story is about being the hands and feet of Jesus to others in love for the sake of the world.