As a chemist, Todd Arnold tested chewing gum at the Wrigley Company in Chicago and sampled baby formula at Abbott Laboratories in Casa Grande before attending seminary in St. Louis.
"I always say, when I was 35 years old, I decided I wanted to be a pastor when I grew up." Arnold said.
After seminary, Arnold came straight to Payson to lead the congregation of the Shepherd of the Pines Lutheran Church, which celebrated 20 years in the Rim country last month.
"One thing that characterizes this church is its welcoming attitude ... perhaps a liturgical-based, traditional, mainline Protestant denomination might surprise people that they would come in and feel this warm, welcoming, friendly attitude as soon as they hit the door," said Arnold who, along with wife, Kathy, is raising their three children in Payson. "I think Shepherd of the Pines is more about the people and the family that we have."
Although the church's distinctive steeple, library, office, sanctuary and school, are new, constructed 18 months ago, the original church was built three years after Lutheran members of the Missouri Synod began meeting in homes around Payson.
Worship services continued while the congregation expanded in 2003. In the parking lot, dirt sat in piles, and while the kitchen was revamped, a crane sat in the middle of the road, lifting the steeple into place.
Members of the congregation, their families and the community provided decorations for the church throughout the years.
Velma Tainsh, a local resident, according to Arnold, has created mosaics for many Rim country churches. Shepherd of the Pines has two of Tainsh's pieces: one hangs in the church's cry room and another, an image of Jesus, hangs in the entry hall across from a handmade quilt depicting religious symbols, giving the entry hall a warm, homey feeling.
When Arnold and his congregation were ready for the remodel of the chapel, they asked local architect Bernie Lieder, to include a painted glass window of Jesus, which had hung in the old sanctuary since the mid-1990s, in the new sanctuary.
Arnold related the coincidental history of the painted glass.
"A lady by the name of Janet Brandt, who runs MJB Glass Studios up in Pine, happened to be working on a painted glass piece in a church in Colorado when some relatives of a family who had gone to Shepherd of the Pines saw it and said, ‘We'd like to do something at a church back in Payson, Arizona. Would you do that?' The artist said, ‘Oh my goodness, I live in Pine.'"
The pulpit, lectern and baptismal also come from the old sanctuary. The baptismal font is a native American corn grinder believed to be a local piece of stone.
To give congregation members more vocal projection, choir risers are located in the back of the church.
The forefathers of the Missouri Synod Lutherans emigrated from Saxony, Germany when the leader of the Prussian Union said that the church would be reformed as a protestant state church. Seven pastors and 50 people crossed the Atlantic, came up the Mississippi and settled in Missouri.
A sign reminding members as they drive out of the parking lot at Shepherd of the Pines Lutheran Church reads: "You are now entering the mission field."
Sunday school is at 9 a.m. Sunday followed by worship services. Shepherd of the Pines Lutheran Church is located at 507 W. Wade Lane.
This story is a another part of the Roundup's continuing series on churches in Payson and the Rim country, and the beauty and grace they add to our community.