HISTORY OF OUR CHURCH
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. --John 14:27
Our church is over 160 years old. It is the oldest continually-worshipping congregation in Catasauqua, and one of the oldest in Lehigh County.
Early Church History: The Lutheran residents of Catasauqua longed to form their own congregation, but as of the winter of 1851, they were unable to take on such a project alone. Instead, they joined with the German Reformed congregation, and together, they agreed to form and build a "Union Church." Between the two congregations, they formed a building committee; Solomon Biery, of the Reformed faith, worked with George Breinig, Samuel Koehler, and Charles Nolf of the Lutherans. While preparations for the building of the new church began, they attended religious services at the First Presbyterian Church (now the Catasauqua Presbyterian Church).
An acre of property on Howertown Road was purchased from Henry Kurtz for the amount of $300, and they laid the cornerstone of the original building on July 4, 1852. Rev. Jeremiah Schindel was preaching on Christmas Day of the same year, when the building was dedicated. This original church was made of brick, with a square steeple about sixty feet high. A cemetery for the parishioners was established adjacent to the church building. The first Lutheran council was extremely small; George Breinig and George Frederick were elected to be "church elders," and Jonathan Snyder and Reuben Patterson were elected deacons. The names of the first members have survived:
Mr. and Mrs. Charles F. Beck
Mr. and Mrs. Jacob E. Bough
Mr. and Mrs. Daniel L. Bough
Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Geiger
Mr. and Mrs. Reuben Patterson
Mr. and Mrs. James E. Patterson
Mr. and Mrs. William D. Rahn
Mr. and Mrs. Francis N. Siegfried
Mrs. Solomon Biery
Ms. Mary Schaeffer
Mr. William Schoenenberger
Mr. James Weber
By 1855, the membership of St. Paul's had climbed to 136. The building was remodeled in the fall of 1864, and the following year an organ was added. As of 1868, the Lutherans had bought out the shares of church ownership held by the Reformed members, who left to worship elsewhere; once the congregation became entirely Lutheran, they ceased burying their dead in the church cemetery. When Fairview Cemetery was established in West Catasauqua, James and Clarissa Fuller donated four burial lots to the church and all the remains were transferred there for reburial, a process which was completed by 1873.
It should be noted in passing that the Fullers, one of the wealthier families in Catasauqua, were not members of St. Paul's. The family was, however, in the habit of making contributions to charities in the borough, and on more than one occasion St. Paul's benefited from their generosity.
Sunday School was held in the basement after 1870, when the basement was furnished for such a purpose; services during the week were also held there. In 1871, the congregation was formally incorporated.
By 1868, disagreement had begun brewing within the congregation over the choice of language to be used during services. While many members were comfortable with continuing the services in German, some wished to start worshipping in English. For a time, the problem was solved by holding two services -- a German service in the mornings, English in the evenings. When the council voted to reduce the number of English services provided, a small faction protested and were denied. In 1873, this faction withdrew from St. Paul's and established a new church where all services were held in English. The new church was erected at the intersection of Third and Bridge Streets and was called the English Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity; the congregation later moved to a new site at Fourth and Pine Streets, and today is known as Holy Trinity Memorial Lutheran Church. (The original Holy Trinity church building serves today as the town's library.)
The original church building had served Catasauqua well, but by 1885 it was deteriorating; moreover, it was simply not big enough for the growing congregation. The last service held in the old building was performed on June 12, 1887. It was demolished soon afterward, though its cornerstone with contents intact was preserved. This relic was placed into the new church building on August 7 of that year, and the following August the completed church was consecrated. The new church, in which we still worship today, is larger than the original building, and the steeple stands seventy feet high. The following year a flagstone pavement and cast-iron fence were added to the front of the church property, and in 1890 a rectory was built adjacent to St. Paul's on its southern side.
To accomodate the growing community and congregation, two chapels were built to serve as satellites of the church. These chapels each provided Sunday School classes as well as adult services. One, erected in 1888 in the neighborhood known as East Catasauqua, was named the Zion Lutheran Reformed Chapel, commonly called "Zion's." The other was built in the community of Fullerton (now part of Whitehall), and was known as "St. John's." When the Zion chapel ceased to be part of the St. Paul's church family is uncertain, but St. John's was annexed in 1903 owing to Rev. Lambert's increasing duties at the main church. St. John's chapel is today known as St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church; the building once called Zion's is now the Race Street Baptist Church.
The Twentieth Century: The church's 50th anniversary was celebrated during the week of June 29, 1902, in an event known as the "Semi-Centennial Jubilee." Improvements to the building continued to be made in the first years of the new century, mostly funded through gifts of the parishioners.
A steam heater was installed in 1905, and another one was placed in the parsonage three years later. A small addition was built at the rear of the church in 1909, providing a large altar space complete with a splendid new pipe organ. A vested choir was established in 1911 to provide processional and recessional singing at the start and close of services, a tradition which continues up to the present.
For several decades, life in the church was relatively quiet. The congregation continued to worship peacefully, sharing the good news of the Gospel with the community it served. In September 1940, the Lincoln Middle School was badly damaged by fire, and St. Paul's opened its doors to provide a temporary school for the community. Interest in a dual-language worship schedule dwindled, and on March 12, 1941, a vote in a special congregational meeting officially made St. Paul's an English-only church; at the request of Rev. Lambert, however, the Easter service of that year was performed in German for the last time. The church observed its Centennial in 1952, and celebrated its 125th anniversary in June 1977.
A large addition was placed on the northern side of the building; the cornerstone was laid on Christmas Day, 1962. The completed parish house was named for Rev. Philip Miller, whose portrait hangs within. This newer portion of the church included a small chapel, new classrooms for the Sunday School, a rehearsal room for the choir, a large gymnasium (known as Fellowship Hall), and an enclosed courtyard. Glass-paneled showcases were installed just outside the chapel to display relics from the earlier years of St. Paul's.
Around that same time, the old rectory was torn down and a new one built across the street from the church, on property donated by the Fuller family; a parking lot for the church was also placed on the site. The portion of ground where the original rectory stood is now used as a playground facility by the church's successful child care center.
On the afternoon of March 1, 1979, tragedy struck when a terrible fire caused great damage to the church building. A good portion of the interior was burned, and the flames shot up through the roof. (Click here to read the newspaper coverage of the fire.) Reconstruction commenced in June, and the following year, in October, a dedication service was held in the restored church.
In January 1988, St. Paul's joined the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
St. Paul's Today: Today St. Paul's prides itself on its service to the community. Its congregation, over one thousand members strong, has found many ways to support and assist the town of Catasauqua. Through participation in ecumenical community services for important events, such as Catasauqua's Sesquicentennial and the memorials for September 11th, the people of St. Paul's help to bring our small town together in a union of mutual respect and appreciation.
2012 marked the 160th anniversary of the founding of St. Paul's, and was celebrated with a series of festivities. With a firm foundation in our church's past, we look forward to a great future in Christ Jesus.
Pastors Through the Years: These are the "men (and women!) of the cloth" who have presided over the St. Paul's pulpit since the church began.
1852 – 1954 Rev. Jeremiah Schindel
1853 – 1861 Rev. William Rath
1861 – 1866 Rev. Dr. F. J. F. Schantz
1867 – 1888 Rev. Dr. Jacob D. Schindel
1888 – 1892 Rev. Joseph Mayne
1892 – 1944 Rev. Dr. James F. Lambert
1944 – 1978 Rev. Philip C. Miller
1978 – 1983 Rev. George P. Zacharda Jr.
1982 – 1984 Rev. David C. Lutcher
1984 – 1988 Rev. Harold R. Baer, Jr.
1985 – 1988 Rev. Sharon M. Baglyos
1989 – 1999 Rev. Dr. Hartland H. Gifford (elected Pastor Emeritus)
1999 – 2000 Rev. Robert K. Bohm – Interim Pastor
2000 - 2014 Rev. Gary L. Walbert
2014 - 2015 Rev. David P. Kidd - Interim Pastor
6/01/2015 Supply Pastors
4/17/2016 Rev. Scott Paradise
History of Lehigh County, Pennsylvania and a Genealogical and Biographical Record of Its Families, Volume I, by Charles Rhoads Roberts, Rev. John Baer Stoudt, Rev. Thomas H. Krick, and William J. Dietrich. Copyright 1914 Lehigh Valley Publishing Co., Ltd., Allentown, PA.
Catasauqua and North Catasauqua: A Profile of the Boroughs, by Roberta Burkhardt and Judy Gemmel, editors. Published 1992 by the Historic Catasauqua Preservation Association.
Images of America: Catasauqua and North Catasauqua, by Martha Capwell Fox. Copyright 2002 Arcadia Publishing.
A Golden Sheaf of History -- a historical booklet printed for the church's 50th anniversary in 1902, author(s) unknown.
Continuation of the History of St. Paul's Ev. Lutheran Church, by Rev. Dr. James F. Lambert. Printed in or about 1912 for the church's 60th anniversary festivities.
Our First Hundred Years: St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church, Catasauqua, Pennsylvania -- a historical booklet printed for the church's 100th anniversary in 1852, author(s) unknown.
Copyright 2016 St. Paul's Lutheran Church. All rights reserved.
Web Hosting by Yahoo! Webmaster: Charleen B.