VERSAILLES — The Rev. Bob Akins has been known to put people to sleep not only in his previous profession but jokingly in his present one as pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Versailles. But, he’s quick to point out that both professions also saw him waking them up.
And, he sure does that at the Versailles church.
Akins was a nurse anesthetist for 40 years at the Mayo Clinic and at Miami Valley in Dayton before deciding to enter the ministry; thus, Trinity is his first pastorate.
He came here in 2011, fresh out of seminary.
“I’m a second-career guy,” he said. “I had thought about the ministry for along time, but I as too busy raising a family to do it. When we moved to Dayton it put me close enough to seminary in Columbus and I went there while working part-time.
As for the church, Trinity Lutheran has been in existence since 1856.
“It met temporarily at the Methodist Church while this church was being built,” Akins said. “And that was in 1915. We had our 100th anniversary of this building last summer. We found out that a capsule box was put in the cornerstone in 1915, and on Dec. 6 , we opened it up.”
Inside that box were records of members of the church on the building committee, two weekly Versailles newspapers and a copy of each, a letter from the pastor and a service book they were using.
“That Sunday, we did a service by using the hymnal they used in 1915,” Akins said. “It was an awesome day. “People brought out documents and heirlooms. This April 3, we are going to put the box back in with the contents from 1915 and add contents from 2015.”
Akins said the church has enjoyed growth in the last five years.
“In 2012 we had in worship 40 to 45 people and now we have 80-85,” he said. ” We have one service.”
Akins said he also pastor the Friedens Lutheran Church in nearby Bloomer.
“For most of the time, the pastor here has also been pastor at Friedens since 1856,” he said. “I don’t give the same sermon at both churches. I tend to be more of a speaking-from-memory, not reading, pastor. Both churches have different groups of people. They are older at Friedens and Trinity has a whole bunch in their 30s and 40s. Here, I have a children’s sermon with 20-30 kids.”
He said the children’s sermon is popular, not only for the youngsters but for the adults as well.
“For the children, I have reusable bags that go home with the kids every week,” he said. “They get to choose what they want in it and bring it back in to me. What’s inside the bag can be all over the ballpark. Coming from that bag, comes my subject. I don’t know what it’ll be. Now, a number of adults want a bag. Some adults put things in there to throw me off. We have a lot of fun with that. It’s not me at all but getting people involved is why Trinity is growing.”
That audience participation is what it’s all about.
“We come here to worship not to watch the pastor worship here,” he said.
There are many ministries featured at Trinity.
“We have hosted a community supper every Wednesday night since 2007,” he said. “We don’t do it. It’s at our building. Service clubs and other churches help out.”
Another ministry, Akins said, is the sleeping mats that are made there from plastic shopping bags for the homeless.
“In October 2014, the Lutheran magazine published articles about the ladies of Trinity who do the mats,” Akins said. “Since then, we’ve gotten more than 1,500 requests on how to make them…from as far away as Cincinnati and Columbus. They come here on mat-making days and learn how to do it. Our mats have gone to India, but the majority to Cincinnati, Piqua Lima, Dayton and Greenville to various homeless shelters.”
The pastor said the church also collects small personal toiletries and put together hygiene gifts that get taken to various shelters.
“There is no real expense in these two missions and we can still outreach to the community,” he said.
The church also has a Thursday after-school Bible study for children in grades K-5.’
“We have from 15 to 25 kids and that varies,” Akins said. “Kids involve other kids. We had a couple of families who did not have a church and now they’re attending worship here.”
Trinity Lutheran participates with the Versailles Council of Churches with Christmas gift-giving each year and participates with the Council of Churches in a community-wide Vacation Bible School, which attracts approximately 150 children.
“We rotate this with the different churches [Living Waters, United Methodist, the Christian Church and St. Denis Catholic Church] each year,” said Akins.
Among some of the leaders at Trinity Lutheran are: Karen Schultz, coordinator of the community meals and after-school Bible study; Cindy Lewis, coordinator for distribution of mats and various outreach programs; Kim Klipstine, president of the congregation and “keeping the place running;” Karen Lawrence, church secretary and organist since before 1985; Michelle McClure, Sunday school superintendent; and Ed Collins, who is in charge of special projects.
“One of our big construction projects this summer will be our bell tower,” Akins said.
Kinder Korner, a daycare and pre-school program, uses Trinity for its classes, but is a separate organization.
Akins met wife Donna while working in nursing. She is a nurse at Children’s Hospital in Dayton and will start her 50th year as a nurse on Aug. 17.
The couple has four children. Daughter Sarah Fletcher is following in her mother’s footsteps. She is married to Chad Fletcher and has two children, with the family living in Clayton. The Akinses’ other children are Andrew, wife Christine and their three children of Springhill, Tennessee; daughter Deborah Flood, who with husband Tom, has two children and living in Dover, Ohio; and son Peter and wife Melissa, who are parents of two sons and living in Boston, Massachusetts.
“We were visibly in Boston the day of the bombing,” the pastor said. “We got locked down because of it and couldn’t get to the airport.”