LAKEWOOD RANCH — Nine years ago, Pastor Daniel Witte was beating the bushes for prospective members of a proposed Lutheran church in East Manatee.

He went door to door in August 2001, surveying 1,000 homes, and followed up a few months later with the help of a dozen volunteers conducting a phone survey of more than 9,000 homes.

After years of meeting in rented space at local schools, the congregation of Risen Savior Lutheran Church recently dedicated its new building on 10 acres at the corner of Lorraine Road and 59th Avenue East.

The ceremony started outside the building with the dedication of a granite cornerstone plaque and words from Witte.

“Let us open the doors of the church building for the preaching of God’s saving word, for the receiving of holy sacraments, and for offering to him the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving,” Witte told his congregation.

Then using the cross, he marked the threshold with the sign of the cross and led the congregation into the sanctuary for an afternoon of praise, prayer and song.

“It was absolutely awesome. I’ve never been through that experience before. It was something I’ll never forget,” said Barbara Albrecht, one of more than 200 members who attended the dedication.

Members would say the dedication was accomplished through faith, perseverance and the help of volunteers who came from out of state to construct the building.

“To build a brand-new structure to worship in and bring other people to Christ in, is an awesome task and responsibility. It’s kind of like a new birth, a new beginning, and is a great opportunity,” said Jeff Albrecht, chairman of the congregation.

Among those taking part in the ceremony, which included song, prayer and preaching, were Witte’s father, Pastor David Witte, who traveled from Fond du Lac, Wisc., to present the baptismal font for dedication.

The elder Witte baptized his own son in 1966, helping to set him on his road to the ministry.

“I’m very proud of my son and very happy to help. It was a nice honor,” Witte said.

Pastor John Guse of Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church in Marietta, Ga., delivered the dedication sermon.

Guse trained Witte for the ministry and preached for his installation as Risen Savior’s pastor in July 2001.

In difficult and good times, “praise God,” Guse said.

“He doesn’t want us walking around with our chins scraping the ground,” Guse told the congregation.

Although the exterior of Risen Savior is completed, as is the sanctuary, work still remains to be done on much of the interior of the church.

“It’s a wonderful visual reminder that the church always has work to do,” Guse said.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee Editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.