Leadership of church remains family affair


Staff Writer

LAKEWOOD — The pastor of Calvary Lighthouse Church on County Line Road is retiring after 32 years of administering to a congregation of about 2,300 people.

The Rev. Otto Dietrich said he and his wife will spend the next six months in Florida in order to give the new administration “breathing room in order to establish their ministry.”

The new senior pastor is Dietrich’s son-in-law, Wesley Lindquist, a missionary who is married to Dietrich’s daughter, Esther, who is also an ordained minister and missionary. According to Dietrich, both had been doing missionary work in Cambodia for the past 13 years.

“They came back this year and have been voted in, almost unanimously, by the congregation,” he said.

Dietrich said he does not know what the future will bring, but it will become clear in the next six months. He said he will always minister.

“Ministers are continually asked to preach in different churches,” he said. “We have an extensive ministry in this church, both here and in different countries.”

The month of October was one long celebration, he said.

“The whole month has been a celebration of the transferring of leadership and recognition of my services,” he said.

He said the acronym for the month’s services is RAFT, with one service being about reconciliation; the second about affirmation; the third about saying farewell; and the last, on Oct. 31, concerned thinking about their destination.

The Rev. Charles T. Crabtree, assistant general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, spoke at the service.

After the service, a congregational banquet was held at the Chateau Grand in Lakewood.

Looking back, Dietrich said he remembers his inaugural service in 1972 when the congregation consisted of 23 parishioners, 12 of whom were his family members, including his wife, Martha, and their three daughters. During the past 32 years, the congregation has grown to about 2,300 members. Dietrich’s family has grown, too, with the addition of four grandchildren, one of whom belongs to his daughter, Esther.

Dietrich is not the first pastor of Calvary Lighthouse Church, but he has served the longest. When the family arrived at the white church located on a 3-acre lot with 17 parking spaces, the church’s income was about $7,000, which was primarily used to pay the monthly mortgage and the church expenses.

The pastor had to work outside of the church, so he took a full-time job in Trenton as administrative supervisor of social services.

As the congregation grew, so did the church and the parking lot. In 1978, the name was changed from The Lakewood Assembly of God Church to Calvary Lighthouse; the Calvary Academy, a Christian day school, was started, a new 20,000-square-foot multi-purpose building was dedicated, and on May 5, 1996, a 50,000-square-foot facility was dedicated with a sanctuary that seats more than 1,000 people on the main floor.

In addition, a preschool was started and a Christian bookstore opened.

Dietrich said he and his wife recognize that the leadership of a church is vital to the next generation.

“It has been a privileged opportunity to touch people, not only in the congregation but in the wider community,” Dietrich said. “Ministries beyond the church are many fold.”