It is the purpose of the Nativity Lutheran Church in Bethlehem to share the good news of Jesus Christ through worship, learning, witness and service. With that in mind, Patti Axel gave up her lengthy career as a registered nurse to become an ordained Lutheran minister.
While already in seminary and with the support of her airline pilot husband, Jeff Axel, Patti soon completed her studies in 2008 and became an ordained Lutheran minister and the pastor-mission developer.
Since that time, much focus has been placed on gathering to have worship, Bible study and fellowship. As the church grew, it was time to locate land to build a church or find an existing church with ample space. After exploring a few possibilities, the church eventually found a vacant church to fill their needs within a mile of their present location in Bethlehem.
After moving ahead with the purchase, a date was established and plans were made for a smooth transition to the new location located at 1079 Bethlehem Church Rd.
Palm Sunday, 2015, was the big day when Axel and church members gathered at 3 p.m. at 799 Christmas Ave. where the Nativity Lutheran Church family had been for several years. Members and friends assembled to say goodbye to their old worship place and “. . . to give thanks for God’s constant presence as the Spirit moved through our midst and gave us the strength, power and courage to go forth on a collective journey of faith, witness and love,” she said.
Axel led the walk with palms in hand past waving well-wishers from the Bethlehem First United Methodist Church who vacated the church more than a decade earlier from what has now become Nativity Lutheran Church.
According to Axel, “This less-than-a-mile walk to our new church gave us the opportunity to ponder the blessings of the past few years where countless worship services, Bible studies, numerous Confirmation classes and servant camps were held and where we assembled care kits, made quilts and prepared rack packs for returning troops.”
When arriving at their new church, the adjacent building was arranged with chairs, an altar, the bell choir, and tables near the kitchen where a large assortment of food awaited the close of the program.
Sounds of joy and thanks to God filled the make-do sanctuary. New memories were in the making while Axel conducted her first service in the dining facility bordering the church building that needed repairs before use. New souls were gathering at the now Nativity Lutheran Church.
In addition to reaching out into the community in many helpful ways, Axel went on sabbatical leave a couple years ago, during which time she and her adult son traveled to Camino de Santiago where they joined other Christians and walked 500 miles across Spain. A challenge Axel wanted to accomplish after conditioning her mind and her feet for prolonged long hours of meditating and walking.
Axel is proud of the growth opportunities and the knowledge she has acquired by being in her role as minister, yet she realizes there are times when God directs our paths to another calling. Such was the case with Axel recently when she received and accepted an opportunity to become bishop assistant for the Southeast Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and director of evangelical missions for four states, including Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee.
“I will be helping with mission planning of new churches as well as existing churches with mission vitality,” Axel said.
As Axel said when she retired from nursing, completed seminary, became a minister, took a work team to West Virginia to help build homes, nurtured and led the walk on Palm Sunday from the old church location to the new location, “It’s time once again to say, let us go forth in the name of the Lord!”