A Christ centered Church dedicated to spreading the word of God through traditional worship, Bible based education, and service to the community.
OUR MISSION STATEMENT:
St. Thomas was incorporated in 1968. As a mission church, St. Thomas was commissioned by the Florida Synod to ascertain whether or not the area of our present parish boundaries would support the presence of another ELCA congregation. Following many hundreds of family and neighborhood contacts, St. Thomas was given the blessings of the FL Synod, and a charter was granted. The name, St. Thomas Lutheran Church, was decided upon because in the minds of the Synod body there was “doubt” that a new Lutheran Church would succeed.
On Sunday, May 7, 2023, Othan and Dee Gilbert, founding members of St. Thomas Lutheran Church, attended worship service with us. They no longer live in Miami but returned to attend a family event. The Gilberts were delighted to be with us and were moved by their fond memories of the church. The following are their recollections of the early days of St. Thomas which are fitting to share at the close of our fifty-fifth anniversary.
Shortly after the Gilberts moved into their newly constructed house in 1969 on S.W. 87th Avenue, now in Palmetto Bay, they were visited by Pastor David Webb, who was knocking on doors to inform people in the neighborhood about his new church which met at rented space in Colonial Drive Elementary School. That is where the Gilberts met Wes Roberts. Othan remembers many Sundays setting up and taking down folding chairs with Wes for worship service.
The Florida Lutheran Synod had already purchased property some years before in order to build a Lutheran church on the west side of U.S. 1 on Coral Reef Drive. The land is in the vicinity of the today’s library and Jackson South Hospital close to the busway. Subsequently, members of the fledgling congregation saw a large plot of land suitable for a church that was for sale on Old Cutler Road. It was owned by an elderly couple living next door. Because we could sell the property on Coral Reef for more than the asking price of the Old Cutler lot and still have funds left over for constructing a building, we sold the Coral Reef property and bought the one on Old Cutler with the permission of the Florida Lutheran Synod. During the process of building and afterwards, the congregation got to know the elderly couple next door and obtained a right of first refusal for the purchase of their historic home. Shortly thereafter, it was purchased for $50,000. Funds were tight at that time but a few members got together and made a down payment. The remaining mortgage was very expensive at an approximate 15% interest rate. They recognized, however, that this was a valuable piece of real estate next door to the church and it had to be bought.
The photo is of St. Thomas under construction in 1973. Othan and the couple’s two sons, Keith and Erik, are standing next to the exposed central wood beam running through the sanctuary. At that time, there were woodlands behind the church. The stone was from Boone, North Carolina.
Our 55th anniversary as a Lutheran congregation is a symbol of God’s ongoing purpose for us and a testimony to His grace and love. May He continue to enrich us and enable us to serve Him in the years ahead.
St. Thomas Lutheran Church
The Rev. Wynemah K. Hinlicky has served as an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America since 1989. After pastoring several congregations in the Metropolitan New
York Synod, she most recently served College Lutheran Church in Salem, VA. Pastor Hinlicky is the Pastor at St. Thomas Lutheran Church in Palmetto Bay, and is certified as a Spiritual Director.
She is the mother of three adult children, and lives in Cutler Bay with her Husband, the Rev. Col. William Wiecher, who is serving as pastor at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Pinecrest, FL.