By Beth Fulmer, Synod Communicator for Messiah, Mauldin
At Messiah Lutheran Church in Mauldin, a day does not go by that someone doesn’t say one of two things: “Ask Tom” or “Tom would know that.” Tom Manske is the “Tom” to whom I am referring even though we do have many other “Toms,” members of our congregation, who are also very valuable and talented. You know the type. I’m sure you have a “Tom” in your own congregation!
I was privileged to sit down with Tom Manske (the “Tom” in our congregation) and “pick his brain,” to find out for myself why he is such an icon at Messiah Lutheran Church.
First of all, a little background information: Tom and Shirley along with two of their children moved to Simpsonville from Wisconsin in the early 70’s. Their third child, a daughter, was born in Greenville. In the fall of 1974, they joined Messiah Lutheran Church which, at that time, the sanctuary was still located in the small building we now call the Joy Center. There were 188 members and 144 folding chairs. Approximately 90 – 100 parishioners attended church on a regular basis during those early years.
As Messiah began to grow, Tom was instrumental in each phase of this growth. He had an eye for design; he could picture how things would look in his mind. A simple example was deciding how a door would swing, whether the hinges should be on the right or left side of the door.
Tom was the one who changed architectural plans for storage of the robes as you walk into our sanctuary. The original plan was to have closets on both sides of the en-trance. He thought that putting them all on the right side made much more sense. He was and still is continuously looking for storage space and functionality. And he is still succeeding!
I asked Tom what project had been his favorite to date and he didn’t hesitate to say the coffee bar in the gathering area. He was responsible for the curvature of the bar, the back splash, the deep sink, practical flooring, and the storage in every “crook and cranny.” Additionally, he took pride in changing the architectural design of the room which houses the copier, making it more functional than originally planned.
When asked about his greatest challenge, he was quick to say “keeping the church painted both inside and out.” To get this done, he came up with a rotating schedule, painting a couple of rooms each month or quarter.
Tom has an engineer’s mind along with an outgoing personality that only God could blend together so seamlessly. He has served on the Property Committee, chairing that committee four times. He has served on the Church Council two or three times. He has served on the Worship and Music Committee; and, he has sung in the choir and with the band. (When he joined the choir, he was the only male singer. He could sing baritone, base, and tenor.)
I wondered how he developed all of his extraordinary skills which he brought with him to Messiah. He said that he “studied people” and that he watched over his dad’s shoulder, his greatest mentor.
You may be wondering why Tom Manske is being put on a pedestal for all our South Carolina Lutherans to meet. Although there are many people who deserve the same accolades, Tom is getting our “pat on the back” today. Tom is a low key person who would much rather serve than to lead. In doing so, he has quietly and persistently con-tributed to the growth of Messiah Lutheran Church making it the church we have to-day. Messiah will be forever grateful for his contributions.
It might be worthwhile for you to look around your own church with a new set of eyes. I can guarantee that you will discover tasks that are being done and with your next thought, you will be scratching your head wondering just how they are getting done. There is a “Tom” in every congregation who is quietly dedicating time and talents to the growth of your church. Perhaps it’s time for you to give your “Tom” that “pat on the back” which is so well deserved.