Who We Are


God is the heart of our church, but those who toil for the church and bear witness to God’s great love are the legs of the church and with Rev. Stephen Gaulke, our Pastor, we stand firm.

The word “Concordia” refers to musical chords played in such a way that multiple notes, simultaneously struck, strengthen each other and create a sound more beautiful than each on their own.

In his own words Pastor Stephen says, “I like to think of Concordia in this way. We are an instrument Jesus uses to share his love with the world. Each participant in our church is one note on that instrument. In worship, and in our daily lives, God plays all of us together so that, together, we can create something more powerful and beautiful than any of us could ever create on our own. That’s why our mission statement says, We “share Jesus’ harmony with the heart of Sarasota. Jesus serves all people in worship, giving to us His Good News for sharing and His love for caring.” Furthermore, He goes on to say, “I’m Concordia’s pastor. I listen to Jesus and love on His people. I help Concordia share Jesus’ harmony with Sarasota.”

Stephen, the son of a Lutheran pastor and a Lutheran school teacher, was born in California and reared in St. Louis. While in college at Concordia, New York he met a wonderful young woman, Ellen Fred, who became his college sweetheart. He moved on to Concordia Seminary in St. Louis and after his first year at Seminary he and that college sweetheart wed. He earned his Master of Divinity and Sacred Theology Master diploma.

Serving fourteen years at churches in Pennsylvania and five more in a Georgia church, Pastor Stephen was called by the Lord and the congregation to Concordia. Pastor says, “I love Concordia, the way the people have fun together grasping Jesus and giving away his gifts through the bread ministry, Lent and Advent dinners, working together on the property and visiting the sick and homebound with the elders.”

God blessed Stephen and Ellen with five children. Megan (and her husband Rev. Chris, with daughters Caris and Sadie) lives in Easton, Pennsylvania. Ben (and wife Michelle) is in Philadelphia. Grown-up Mary lives in Sarasota. Teens Nat and Rachel remain at home. Mary, Nat, and Rachel are active in our church.

Although Stephen says he never seems to get done with his work, it makes him happy as he sees all that Jesus is doing. He shares the good news, “Jesus here serves us! At Concordia, God is doing something truly amazing. Jesus speaks to us when we read His Word. When we receive the bread and wine of Communion He feeds us His body and blood. So He forgives us. He frees us! He gave Himself to rescue us and rose to life again so that we can live with Him. Jesus comes to heal our broken hearts, a healing we can share with our family and new friends.”


Needing information or doing business with Concordia is as easy as stopping by the Church Office. Lei Ann Ahl is our Parish Secretary and Bookkeeper without whom we would flounder in a sea of paperwork.

A third generation native of Sarasota, Lei Ann performs her duties as a mother and wife along with keeping our church records. Even the interruptions that come with raising a family do not deter her. She makes sure all the t’s are crossed and i’s dotted to keep us on an even keel. We are privileged to have Lei Ann with us and enjoy her presence.

After the birth of the first of her four children Lei Ann came to work in the office of a preschool Concordia sponsored. Her husband Chuck shared his faith with his growing family, now Lance, Logan, Zoe and Luke, and, despite being familiar with another denomination, she enjoyed the harmony of Concordia. When her job merged with the church office she embraced her duties and, as she has for the best part of twenty years, continues to serve our needs.

After working with us for about four years, Lei Ann opted to investigate our Lutheran faith with our then pastor and formally joined our church family. Enthusiastic and energetic, she enjoys her job claiming there is nothing she dislikes about it. She is especially keen on serving in a faith-based atmosphere where she feels like she’s working within a family.


At Concordia we are blessed to have Johnora L. Hildebrand as our music director. She has a lifetime of experience and has played internationally. After studying the piano for 13 years she took time off, if you can call 3 years studying to become a Registered Nurse time off, to fulfill her desire to help people.

Working at Sarasota Memorial Hospital she continued her music career by taking organ lessons and began playing the organ at Concordia in February, 1968. Then, sometime around 1981, she took over as the choir director.

In 1996-97 Johnora’s husband worked in England and she took a sabbatical from Concordia. While in England she played the organ and sang with an English choir touring a number of large cathedrals, including the famed cathedral in Canterbury!

Johnora plays the organ for our traditional service while planning and directing the music for the choir, bell choir and soloists.

Johnora has been attending services at Concordia since 1954 when she visited her grandparents in Oneco. A longtime member of our congregation, Johnora credits her grandparents and strong Lutheran upbringing for bringing her to our church; we embrace her and her talent. When asked, what is the best part of your relationship with Concordia? Johnora says, “My church family and secondly my music.” She goes on to say, “My least favorite thing is that I don’t have enough time to do more.”


If you attend the contemporary worship service at Concordia, beginning at 9:00 a.m. Sunday mornings (10:00 a.m. in July) you will find the band playing the opening songs. The band leader is Dawn Brown. Dawn also plays the piano, sings harmony with the other vocalists and directs the drummer and bassist. Wow! She also puts together the PowerPoint presentation after picking out the songs, reviewing the scripture readings and writing the confession for the week. Being a self-described ding-bat, she puts different words to a familiar tune to keep the congregation interested and paying attention. She says, “I occasionally put the wrong words on the screen by accident but it does serve to keep the vocalists mentally sharp.”

Dawn is an experienced pianist having studied since she was five-years-old and, along with two other young students, won a statewide competition. While in high school she was part of Andy (AJ) Wright’s music program and played with The Admirals, our exceptionally good high school dance band. In her career she’s won a statewide piano hymn playing competition. She credits Mrs. Marion Cox, her piano teacher for nearly thirteen years, as the reason for her success and skills at the keyboard.

Having attended Concordia since birth she is there, every Sunday morning, bringing music into our little world. She credits her sister with bringing her to the contemporary service. Sister DeAnne is one of our vocalists most Sunday mornings.

When asked, “What do you dislike about what you do?” she answers, “I get to play piano with a drummer and bassist while people sing! What’s not to love?” But, she does feel really bad if she starts a song in the wrong key, too high or too low. Oh well, even the most famous directors in history have made that mistake.


Concordia’s Youth Coordinator is a delightful woman whom we’ve come to know as “Christie” or “Mrs. B” if you’re one of the youngsters. But, no matter your age, Christina Basinger is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. A true Florida Cracker, Christie met her husband Chris at Concordia when she came to teach middle school at our, now inactive, school twenty years ago. Ever since coming to us she has participated in our youth program, served on our Church Council and taught the “little petunias” of our Sunday school. Having three busy boys of her own, Christie shares her time and love with her church family.

When asked, what is the least favorite thing about your job at Concordia? She replies, “I wish I had a ton of money to share with my church family so we could perform whatever outreach is needed in our community and world. My pet project would be first on the list; replace our existing playground with a brand new AWESOME play-place for kids.”


Concordia is fortunate in having a wonderful group of volunteers and devoted members eager to serve the church and its members. Deborah Bond is one such person. She gives freely of her time. In addition to working as a Massage Therapist at the Longboat Key Club, she finds time to serve on our “Bread Team” and teach our Sunday-school class for middle-school students.

The “Bread Team” is the heart of a wonderful program in that Panera Bread donates their day-old bread to the church and the team distributes it to all who want it. Deborah collects bins of bread, bagels and assorted pastries from Panera the first Friday of every month and brings it to the church. There the team assembles and hands out the bread at no cost on Saturday morning as they do every Tuesday and Saturday.

With our Sunday-school class Deborah challenges the fertile minds of our youthful members and leads activities designed to help them explore their relationship with God, Jesus and the Church in their everyday lives. Under her leadership and guidance many of her students participate in our youth group activities.

Deborah is from the Midwest and brings those wholesome basic values learned in her youth with her to Sarasota. Wanting to be close to her family, she moved here full-time about ten years ago. She visits Orlando regularly where her three beautiful grandchildren bring her untold joy and happiness.

Coming to our church in search of a “church home” 2012, Deborah says Pastor Stephen’s enthusiastic messages, as did all the smiling faces, kept her coming back week after week. She loves her, for lack of a better description, “jobs” at Concordia and the best thing is that she is part of a caring community.