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. 

Mission Timeline

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

August 1979-1989_______Rev. Paul Black

March 1979_____________ Spirit of Joy officially organized

October 1982___________Broke ground for 3 buildings at  2544 S. Alma School Road, Chandler AZ

July 1984–1987_________ Rev. Sally Piper

March 1988-1990_______ Rev. John Pfeiffer

January 1988___________Became part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

August 1988____________Addition to Sanctuary/Education space

September 1990–1999__Rev. Roger Thompson

May 2001-2015_________ Rev. David M Marz

July 2007______________ Purchased property at 1159 N. Greenfield Rd., Gilbert AZ

March 2009____________Occupied New Building

August 2015-2016______Rev. Dennis Hagstrom, Interim

June 2016–Present____ Rev. Brian W Cain

February 2018-2019____Deacon Janice Zimbelman

October 2019__________ Missional Partnership Established with Resurrection Episcopal Church

December 2021________Sold the 1159 Greenfield Rd. property to reinvest in mission as a church "without walls" - Resurrection Episcopal establish a new site at at a Methodist church in Chandler. Spirit of Joy is accepted into the ELCA initiative "Congregations Lead" an innovative cohort.

February 2022_________Missional partnership attempted with Desert Cross Lutheran Church in Gilbert

October 2023______ Completed ELCA initiative "Congregations Lead" and launched "Mobile Ministry" to take minsitry to the streets meeting peoples needs on their turf. A new website was launched to reach people: www.mobile-ministry.org 



Detailed History

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 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.

During the Pandemic which started in early 2020 SOJ went "online" with worship during the year to maintain a connection with many who were not able to attend in-person worhship. Additioanlly, there was a period in which the church did not meet in person to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.  

In December of 2021 the congregation voted to sell the Greenfield property and attempted to forge a ministry partnership with Desert Cross Lutheran church in Gilbert at Pecos and Lindsay Roads. Through that process and a number of Congregational meetings we acknoldeged the Holy Spirits leading to seek out and engage in a non-traditional ministry, "without walls" to reach our community with the gospel in new ways. As a part of this process we applied and were selected as one of 50 ELCA congregations to be a part of the "Congregations Lead" initiative, an innovative cohort to explore and launch new and inovative ministries. Out of that two year process, "Mobile Ministry" was established and officially launched in the fall of 2023 with the goal of  taking ministry to the community where they need to be served. 

Today, the congregation continues to explore new ministry methodologies to bring the gospel to people who are not yet being reached. We expect that the Holy Spirit will move in amazing ways through 2024 as we follow Jesus faithfully.