Spirit of Joy was started as a preaching point October 3, 1993, with 20 families, 11 of which came from Christ Lutheran in Sedona. After a short time holding worship services in the Clemenceau School building, Spirit of Joy arranged to rent the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Cottonwood for worship services.
We began our ministry with several interim pastors, starting with Pastor Bud Roufs, attending to the congregation through May of 1994. Pastor David Harr started June 26, 1994, followed by Pastor Jeff Johnson.
On October 1, 1994, Pastor Peter Rose-Kamprath arrived in Cottonwood to minister to Spirit of Joy as our first called pastor; at this point worship size at SOJ was approximately 40. Pastor Rose-Kamprath was installed as Pastor of Spirit of Joy on August 13, 1995. The Living Charter for Spirit of Joy was signed January 29, 1995, and the congregation was recognized as an ELCA congregation in the Grand Canyon Synod on April 23, 1995. After a few years, Pastor Rose-Kamprath resigned, and interim Pastor Ed Petersen of Mesa began serving Spirit of Joy in November of 1997. When Pastor Petersen received a full-time call to another congregation, interim Pastor Scott Haasarud of Phoenix led us. The congregation then called Pastor Bob Jones, and he began serving Spirit of Joy in May of 1999. Pastor Jones resigned in the fall of 2004. Pastor Rick Alpers served as a part-time interim for almost two years while the Call Committee was diligently seeking a full-time pastor for Spirit of Joy.
The Reverend Dr. Mari Larson was called, and she and spouse Gary Werbowski relocated from Minnesota to Cottonwood in January 2007.
Spirit of Joy purchased for $150,000 five acres of land in Clarkdale in 2000, and with some energetic fundraising, the mortgage was paid off three years later. Our “Readiness to Build” paperwork was approved by the Mission Investment Fund of the ELCA in 2009 and we began building on the site (Scenic Drive and Old Jerome Highway) in 2011.
On August 3, 2008, we celebrated our first ordination. Bruce Lerum, charter member of Spirit of Joy, was consecrated as an ELCA pastor. Rev. Lerum currently serves Christ the Victor Lutheran Church, LCMC. In 2010, we relocated from the Seventh Day Adventist Church and an office building to our own space at 101 S. Main Street in Cottonwood. Our office was in Suite D, Suite E was the Fellowship Suite, and Suite F was the Worship Center. This was the first time in our history that our office and worship space were located in the same building! In January 2012, we moved into our first campus. This 8,633-square foot structure became reality through the prayers and financial giving of members, friends, and businesses in our communities and around the world. These gifts totalled more than half of the cost of the campus, equipment, and furnishings. The other half was financed with a $900,000 mortgage (at 3% interest) with the Mission Investment Fund of the ELCA.
Our columbarium and memorial garden were dedicated in 2013. In anticipation of our 20th anniversary as a congregation and remembering the mission partner congregations that assisted us, Spirit of Joy became a Mission Partner to a new congregation: Crossroads Lutheran Church in San Tan Valley, pastored by Charles Newman.
On September 13, 2015, we surpassed 200 members, and most of them are actively involved in our outreach and ministry to our community and region.
In November 2016, Pastor Mari Larson left Spirit of Joy after 10 years to become the Senior Pastor of Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita.
Pastor Stephanie Johnson was called as an interim pastor and served us from November 2016 until January 2018 when she received a call from Trinity Lutheran Church in Alameda, CA.
On February 1st, Pastor Jennifer Zahnow was named our interim pastor until a search for a Called Pastor is complete.
Rev. Sharon Brown was called to be our Pastor on
October 1, 2018