The History of Faith Lutheran Church (Full)
This history was written for the occasion of the consolidation of two churches to form Faith Lutheran Church. It is as accurate as possible, but it is by no means complete. It was not the intention of the Heritage Committee to create a complete history. The committee’s name indicates its intentions. It wanted a history that reflected the heritage of the churches that made up Faith Lutheran. By reading this document, one can see that each organization was formed by hard working people. They were sustained through the hard work and sacrifice of their members.
The future of the new church is in the hands of its members. If the history is used to predict the future, there will be more hard work and sacrifice. There will be more weddings, baptisms, holidays, covered-dish suppers, new buildings, and more renovations. Most importantly, there will be more people doing the Lord’s work. There is one thing that the “old history” and “new history” will have in common…It will all be “United in Faith”.
Our Savior’s History
During the last decades of the Nineteenth Century, there came to this area, scores of Danish immigrants seeking opportunity in this new land of plenty.
Still clinging to their native customs and bound socially by their mother tongue, it was natural for them to settle near each other and look to each other for comfort and company. So, too, it was equally natural to join together in worship. Thus a section of Lansingburgh became known as “Little Denmark” and a Danish church was begun.
The State Church of their homeland being Lutheran, their worship naturally followed the same form, keeping the Danish tongue to which they were accustomed. The Rev. A.L. Soholm, at that time a pioneer pastor or missionary among Danish Lutheran in the Eastern United States, came up from his home in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, to minister to the new church once a month.
They first met in each other’s homes during the 1870’s. Then, as their numbers grew, they obtained a regular meeting place…the second floor of the Fox Hose Company on the corner of Second Avenue and 112th Street. The Danish Synod sent supply pastors, and the group flourished under the name of Immanuel Danish Lutheran Church. In 1883, they got their first resident pastor and occupied their first real church, the former Bethany Presbyterian Chapel on the corner of Fourth Avenue and 105th Street.
Somewhere in the mid 1880’s there was discord, and in the spring of 1886, a number of families withdrew. They formed a new congregation, and it was this group that came to be Our Savior’s Lutheran Church. However, because the Danish Synod already had a pastor in this vicinity, the group turned to the Norwegian Synod, and in August 1887, the Rev. Peter Mortensen became the first permanent pastor of the new church.
The Constitution, published in 1887 by J.P. Jorgensen’s Excelsior Printing, gives the new congregation the name “Vor Frelsers Skandinavske Evangelisk Luthersk Menighed af den Unforandrede Augsburgske Confession” (Our Savior’s Evangelical Lutheran Congregation of the Unalterable Augsburg Confession).
The Constitution states, among other things, that the congregation be taught solely by the Word of God as revealed in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible; its confession be based on the Apostolic, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds, the Augsburg Confession and Luther’s Small Catechism; that no one become a member unless he is baptized and confirmed; who acknowledges his faith and who does not lead a vile and sinful life; that anyone desiring to become a member must give his name to the President or Pastor, the Pastor will look into his Christian confession and then recommend him to the congregation for their acceptance at a congregational meeting; and that any member living an “uncouth life” be treated according to the rule of Christ set down in Matthew 18:15-18, whereby he will first be given gradual warning and, if that goes unheeded, be excommunicated.
In 1887, property for a church was purchased. A legal paper dated November 1, 1887, records the sale from Deborah Powers to Hans Peter Jorgensen of a lot at 411 Sixth Avenue for the sum of $350. (This land was sold on the condition that the buyer sell or allow to be sold no intoxicating drinks.) The families of the congregation probably pooled what money they could spare, and on September 22, 1888, the property was subsequently turned over to the congregation.
The New Congregation Grows
Recorded minutes of quarterly congregational meetings go back to July 3, 1886 (although previous ones must have existed). They show a growing congregation, a well kept church, and the usual events and problems encountered by any Christian congregation and its societies.
In 1915, ill health forced the beloved Pastor Mortensen to resign after twenty-eight years of service. He was succeeded by the Rev. J.D. Wein. Until then, the congregation had not owned a parsonage. (The Mortensen family lived in their own home on Ninth Avenue.) In 1916, Pastor Wein and his family moved into the newly built parsonage at 413 Sixth Avenue adjoining the church. On April 1, 1916, the Rev. Wein confirmed a class of 10 at Our Savior’s. Because of bilingual instruction, five were confirmed in Danish and the other five in English.
For many years, all services and meetings were held in Danish. As the original Danish founders passed on and the younger generations turned to English in school, business, and in social life, they slowly changed to English services. In January 1925, they decided that the 11 o’clock Sunday services and meetings would be conducted in English. It was at this time that the ladies were given the right to vote (although they were still forbidden to hold office of any kind).
Plans for a New Church
As early as April 1931, congregational thought turned towards the possibility of a new church and a committee was appointed to investigate the possibility. However, it was not until 1936 that much was done. At that time, a campaign was initiated to raise funds for extensive repairs to the old building. Just at that time, there happened to be for sale property of the disbanded All Souls First Unitarian Church at Fifth Avenue and 103rd Street and suddenly the campaign turned into a fund raising drive for the new building.
To facilitate the sale and at the same time modernize the original corporation, the congregation voted to form a new corporation. On November 10, 1936, at a meeting presided over by Pastor Torkelson, with Adolph Jensen as clerk and Edward Hyldelund and Christian Boisen as inspectors, formal papers were drawn up. Corporation Trustees named were: John Johnson, President Adolf Jensen, Secretary Frank Hensen, Fred Laustrup, and William Gromoll.
A deed dated November 25, 1936 marks the official purchase of the new church and manse, for the price of $12,000. Of the total price, $1,200 was paid outright, the remainder being mortgaged by the Troy Savings Bank. For a small congregation, caught in the throes of the depression years, it was a big undertaking and there were those who questioned its advisability. However, time has not only justified the purchase, but shown it to be a fine bargain.
The first services were held there on November 29th. Pastor Torkelson lead the service with Mrs. F. Christensen as organist. The Rev. Helmar Halvorson, pastor of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Brooklyn and President of the Atlantic Circuit of the American Lutheran Church, gave the Dedication Address.
Regular activities got underway immediately and newspaper clippings from the following month list a piano recital, choir rehearsal, confirmation class, Sunday School activities, a Young People’s Society, Country Fair, Ladies’ Aid, and Men’s Club.
So the years passed by. Then, in 1941, came World War II, and as they had a quarter of a century before, the congregation prayed for its young men who left to serve their country. But this time, they were to lose their pastor as well; for on June 30, 1942, after 14 years as pastor, the Rev. Torkelson left for duty as a Chaplain with the United States Army.
That September, the Rev. Louis S. Mavrick was sent as supply pastor. It was impossible to get a permanent pastor during those years, and so the beloved old minister and his wife were asked to remain with Our Savior’s for the duration of the war. This he did, until October 16, 1945 when failing health forced his resignation. During this time a Dorcas Society was formed, primarily for working women who were unable to attend Ladies’ Aid. A victory Club for married couples was extremely active during this period and long afterwards.
Pastor Mavrick’s resignation came at a post-war time when there was a great demand for pastors, so the following year saw at Our Savior’s a succession of supply pastors, some from area churches, others sent by the Synod. They included the Reverends James Lund (of Immanuel Lutheran), Alfred Liljestrand (of Watervliet), I.J. Bjerke, Paul Swank (of St. John Lutheran in Troy), George Mellby, William Toto, Osborne Brulend, and T.C. Lovas.
Finally, on October 1, 1946, the congregation again had its own pastor, former Marine Corps chaplain Norman Anderson, who instituted the Advent wreath as part of the church’s Christmas tradition. He was also the only minister in the history of the church to be married during his pastorate. In June, he married the former Elizabeth Hotvedt of Wisconsin. In June 1948, the Rev. Anderson resigned to further his studies at Syracuse University.
He was succeeded in the years 1948, 1949, and 1950 respectively by Pastor A.E. Neve, Herman S. Fauske, and George Mellby. These were years of financial difficulties, indecision, and unsuccessful attempts at mergers. In May 1951, Our Savior’s and Immanuel Churches agreed to hold joint services, alternating churches monthly. As Immanuel’s pulpit continued vacant, another agreement was made in July to temporarily share Our Savior’s pastor with that congregation. This agreement was extended from February 1952 until the following year, and in October 1953, merger attempts having failed completely, Pastor Mellby resigned from Our Savior’s to become the full time pastor of Immanuel Church.
The congregation then applied to Synod for a pastor. However, none was to be had and there followed more months of supply pastors, among them the Rev. Peter Fanning of Redeemer Lutheran Church.
By the next spring, the Norwegian (now called Evangelical) Synod was still unable to send a pastor, so on March 16, 1954, a motion was made to withdraw from that Synod and operate as a free church. This motion was passed the following June 11th.
Meanwhile, in May 1954, Our Savior’s and Bethany Lutheran Church (a Missouri Synod chapel in Troy) issued a joint call to the Lutheran Church in Missouri to send a pastor to serve both churches. This Synod sent supply pastors to serve the congregation until the call was answered by the Rev. George L. Goepfert, who began pastoral duties there that November.
Although continuing to operate as a free church, Our Savior’s supported the missions and activities of the Missouri Synod by whom it had been served. The Memorial fund, begun in May 1953, has grown continually, adding new beauty to the church…lights, offering plates, host box, paraments, and pictures, to name just a few.
In the summer of 1957, the congregation had the pleasure of hearing Seminary student William King, son of Caren King, preach a Sunday service. In June 1958, Rev. King was ordained as a Lutheran pastor, the first “son” of the church to enter the ministry.
On January 21, 1959, the congregation held a celebration in the form of a congregational supper. The occasion was the Burning of the Mortgage, finally taking place twenty-two years after the property was purchased.
That summer, laymen conducted services were instituted, with John Laustrup and Dale McCarthy leading the congregation in worship. The services were so well received that they were continued the next summer and in 1961 they were held again, this time with Thomas Shanahan replacing John Laustrup.
Summer and fall of 1961 saw the world situation become increasingly tense, resulting in the President of the United States calling to active duty many National Guard units. Pastor Goepfert, was a captain in one such unit. It was with extreme regret that the Board of Trustees granted him a six month leave of absence effective November 1, 1961, so that he could go as Chaplain of his unit. Meanwhile, the church was being served by Pastors Louis Roehm, Norman Elling, and Robert Griffin, all area pastors of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod.
During the next six years, Our Savior’s continued in God’s work, knowing little of the wondrous and beautiful things that were to be accomplished by his Hand.
In July 1967, Pastor Robert Mursch was installed as our new minister. He, his wife Ausma, and their two children Stephanie and Andrew, were to become part of our family for the next 16 years.
On October 3, 1968, Our Savior’s and Bethany Lutheran merged, with services being conducted in Our Savior’s building at 5th Avenue and 103rd Street, Lansingburgh.
The Fall of 1969 found members of Our Savior’s inspecting a site on the east side of Leversee Road (Route 40), near the end of Northern Drive and across from the city’s filtration plant, for the construction of a newer and larger church. Some of the members on the committee at that time were: Andrew York, Russell M. Laustrup, Thomas Shanahan, Pastor Mursch, Dale McCarthy, Clarence A. Hoffstetter, and David H. Bartle.
St John’s of Melrose Joins Our Savior’s
During this same time, St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of Melrose lost their pastor and were sent a supply pastor. They found it was economically necessary for their church to join with Our Savior’s.
St. John’s was organized in 1776, by German Lutherans from the Palatinate region of Germany. The first church building was situated near the river in what is now known as Old Schaghticoke. The church was legally incorporated on May 13, 1851, and nine trustees were named.
After almost 77 years of worship, it was felt the old, deteriorating building could no longer serve the congregation. A new house of worship was erected during the years 1853-1854. It is believed that this church stood where the old Lutheran graveyard, located off of Route 40 on Northline Drive, still exists. This second church was carefully dismantled in 1883. Some of the lumber and stones were used in the new church in the village of Melrose. The land for the new church was purchased from the Reed family for $1,500. This building, which still stands, was home to many families in the area and ministered to the needs of the community and its congregation for another 86 years.
In 1969, as Our Savior’s found itself looking for a sight for a new home, so too St John’s felt it was time to explore new beginnings. Both churches joined in the task of building yet another house of worship.
Ground breaking ceremonies for the new church took place on June 28, 1970. The first shovel of earth was moved by Harry H. Dahl. Finally, with so much love and labor behind us, the church was dedicated on April 4, 1971.
Our Savior’s Community Nursery School was incorporated in 1971. Carolyn Speanburg and Pam Cross served as teachers. Norma Page joined later. Classes were being held for three and four year old children for both the congregation and the community.
In the Fall of 1979, Our Savior’s took on a challenge we weren’t too sure we could handle, but again with the Lord’s gentle and loving hand guiding us, we were able to sponsor a Vietnamese couple. With the aid of our friends at St. Bonaventure, we set to work acquiring an apartment, furnishings, medical needs, English classes, and a network of friends to see them through getting settled and becoming members of our community.
In May 1983, Pastor Mursch accepted a call to Our Savior’s of Long Island, New York. Saddened by this news, but knowing God has a reason for all that happens, we said our good-byes. We thanked Pastor then and we thank him again now for 16 wonderful years of dedicated service, community outreach, and the feeling of togetherness we all treasure and share at Our Savior’s.
Pastor Johnston served as interim pastor, and we continued on with the call process. From 1983 to the Fall of 1984, the Rev. Bryan Dadlow was our pastor, followed by the Rev. John Kaercher as interim pastor until the Spring of 1985. That is when Pastor Stephen Cordes and his wife Karen, came to us.
Throughout the past years, Our Savior’s has been very active, both with the community and congregational work as illustrated by:
· Combined Thanksgiving and Ash Wednesday services with St. Bonaventure
· Food Booth at Schaghticoke Fair
· Pinewoods Center
· Gamblers Anonymous
· Youth Groups
· Eden Park and Leisure Arms Nursing Homes
· Annual Country Fair
None of these could ever have been accomplished without the help, prayers, and busy hands of all our members.
Most recently, there has been much to be thankful for, such as our growing bond with St. Bonaventure and seeing a “son”, Brian Triller, and “daughter”, Jo Page, enter the ministry. During February 1990, we welcomed Austin Steffan Kevin Cordes, son of Pastor and Karen Cordes, into our ever growing family.
Maintenance is always an important part of caring for a church. As much as we would like it to remain a small and simple chore, that is not always the case. Several large projects that have taken place are the painting and staining of the exterior of the building, and the paving of the parking lot. Thanks to all who helped to replace the very badly worn carpeting in the educational rooms and the hallway with tile.
The addition of four handcrafted stained glass windows has added to the beauty of Our Savior’s. They were painstakingly crafted by William Lewis while wintering in Florida.
As the congregation grows, we see more new faces, both at work and in service to the Lord. This participation is demonstrated by the growth of outreach with Unity House and our donations to the pantry for those with less. It is also seen through the implementation of Junior Ushers during worship services.
This past spring was indeed a worrisome time for some of our families who had loved ones in the Persian Gulf. Thankfully, they have all returned. We welcome home Dewey Polk, Mary Ann Clark, Edward Morrell, and Michael Morgan.
Lastly, Carolyn Speanburg and Norma Page are retiring as teachers of Our Savior’s Community Nursery School. Simple words of thanks don’t seem to be enough to recognize them for their 20 years of service to the community teaching our young people. The Nursery School is looking forward to the 199101992 school year with Carolyn Abrams as teacher, assisted by Pat Manning.
St. Paul’s History
In 1879, several members of Trinity Lutheran Church severed connections and formed St. Paul’s Evangelical Congregation, the third youngest German Protestant Church in Troy. They held services at Green’s Hall at Fourth Street and Broadway. Rev. P.L. Menzel of Albany and Rev. Goffenoy of Sand Lake alternately served as pastors. In 1880, the Synod sent the Rev. William von Gerichten to conduct services.
No church records are available until January 29, 1882 when Rev. V. Broesel began his duties as pastor and instituted the church book. He served until 1883 when Rev. Edward Seeger began his pastorate.
In 1885, the church at Seventh Avenue and Fulton Street was purchased for $12,000 from the Church of Christ, Disciples. On April 14, 1885, the congregation was incorporated as a religious corporation.
In August 1887, Rev. Seeger was succeeded by Rev. Becher, during whose pastorate Evangelical song books were introduced.
Rev. E. Fuhrmann served as pastor from 1890 to 1897. It was during his pastorate that many improvements were made. These included the renovation of the entrance, construction of a tower with a cast bell, and a gallery for the organ and the choir. A German parochial school was started in 1894. Also, a presentation was made by the Bible Class of an altar painting, “Christ’s Ascension”.
Rev. Edward Lang became pastor in 1897. Through the efforts of the congregation and the Ladies Aid Society, other refinements were made. The final payment on the mortgage was made in 1904.
Rev. W.E. Neumeister was pastor from 1907 to 1920, during the difficult days of World War I. However, reconditioning of the building continued. A new heating system was installed, electric lights replaced the old gas lamps, new windows were purchased, and an Aeolian organ was installed in the front of the church.
In 1920, Rev. Locher accepted a call and served until 1925. There was a fire in the Sunday School rooms in 1923, which damaged the building and its contents. The building was repaired and redecorated. Also, a parsonage was purchased during Pastor Locher’s tenure.
Rev. P.E. Zeller was pastor from 1925 until 1937, and served during the hard times of the depression. The 50th Anniversary was celebrated on November 24, 1929. It was attended by several former pastors.
Rev. Henry P. Vieth began his pastorate in 1937, and continued until May, 1950. The 60th Anniversary and Rededication Service was held after major refurbishing. This consisted of many new items including an altar, pews, pulpit, lectern, chairs, carpeting, wainscoting, and a vestibule or narthex with a stairway and center doors. The sanctuary was changed from a pulpit centered church to an altar centered church.
On September 15, 1950, the pastorate of Rev. William F. Wiley began. Further improvements were made. In 1952, the Spring Sessions of the New York Synod were held in St. Paul’s Church for the first time. On November 7th and 14th, 1954, the Diamond Jubilee was observed with former pastors and the President of the New York Synod attending. In 1957, as a result of denominational mergers, the name and affiliation of the congregation changed to St. Paul’s United Church of Christ. Changes in the worship life were made following the 75th anniversary.
The Urban Renewal movement in Troy, during the 1960’s, changed the life of the church by purchasing the building in 1966. From 1966 to 1969, worship was held at various locations with different pastors. Some of the pastors who served at this time were Rev. Paul Curvey, Rev. Esther Vodola, Rev. Clewell, and Rev. Charles Baboian.
After much discussion regarding the life of the church, it was finally decided to Federate with St John’s Lutheran Church during the pastorate of Rev. Kenneth Hougland.
During Rev. Richard Olsen’s pastorate, St. Paul’s celebrated their 100th anniversary with a banquet on October 20, 1979.
On December 5, 1982, Rev. Ronal Kurtz, a minister of the United Church of Christ, was guest speaker at the service which recognized the dissolution of St. Paul’s. Rev. Kurtz had assisted St. Paul’s with advice and counsel during the decision for dissolution of the parish. As this time many members of the congregation joined St. John’s or became affiliates.
The final records and financial reports were sent to the New York Conference of the United Church of Christ in Syracuse, on April 12, 1983. Otto Kuhl, Treasurer, noted, “This is the end of St. Paul’s”. The original book of records for the church, from 1908 to 1959, has been sent to the Archives of the United Church of Christ, Lancaster Seminary, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. A copy is being retained at Faith Lutheran Church.
St. John’s History
The Early Years as Trinity Lutheran
In Revolutionary war times, there were three Lutheran congregations in this vicinity: Center Brunswick (then Feilstown), Sand Lake, and Melrose (then Schaghticoke). In the beginning of the Fifties of the last century, Rev. F. Schmidt of Albany, occasionally held services in Troy. Also, Dr. H. G. Borchard was active here in the year 1854. The next missionary worker was Rev. Eirich of Albany. He held his first service February 26, 1871, at the Turner Hall. The second service was held in the Green’s Building, at the corner of Broadway and Fourth Street. The Post Office also served several times as a meeting place. Rev. Saul, of Albany, occasionally assisted in the work.
On July 16, 1871, the election of a Church Council took place. The following were elected: Louis Krause, R. Lorenz, E. Bethman, John Mede, Albert Schroeder, F. Plamp, and L. Reichert. The growing congregation soon elected a resident pastor in the person of Rev. Theophilus Maas. He was installed September 3, 1871. On October 15, 1871, the congregation was organized by the adoption of a constitution. At this time, 180 active members constituted the membership. The members evidently were generous in their financial contributions, for the receipts of the first year exceeded the sum of $3,000. In April 1873, the congregation bought the site at River Street near Hutton. The price of $5,800 included a two story house along with the church.
In May 1873, Rev. Maas resigned and on June 1, 1873, Rev. F. Goessling succeeded him as the second pastor. The next step in the development was the rebuilding of the house bought with the property. A panic-like economic depression made a sudden appearance. The number of unemployed people grew month after month. In spite of this hindrance to the congregation, the reconstruction on the building continued. It was completed and a dedication took place on February 7, 1874.
After a meeting held September 12, 1878, a number of members left the congregation to form St. Paul’s Church. In spite of many handicaps, and the continuing business stagnation, the congregation developed peacefully for the next year and a half. Then, the congregation had one of the saddest experiences in its history. Sunday morning, December 7, 1879, a conflagration in the collar factory opposite the church leaped across the street and destroyed the church. This happened shortly before the services were to begin. As the members arrived, they had before them a sight of destruction.
The Turner Hall was used again as a meeting place. The members were glad to hear that liberal aid was assured towards erecting a new building. They gained new courage and many contributions of good size were made. Mr. C. Edward Loth’s services as architect were employed. On August 22, 1880, the cornerstone was laid during appropriate services. On January 16, 1881, the dedication of the building was held.
Rev. Goessling resigned after having served the congregation for nearly ten years. The third pastor, Rev. H Beiderbecke, a former missionary in Africa, was elected on October 8, 1882. He began his duties on November 5th. The congregation reduced the indebtedness and decorated the interior, expending $400 on this work. On July 1, 1886, Rev. Beiderbecke resigned to accept a charge in New York City.
The fourth pastor, Rev. A. F. Walz, was elected August 10, 1886. The prevailing unsatisfactory economic conditions of the times did not prevent the congregation from wiping out its indebtedness. It was also able to purchase a new pipe organ, expending $1,400 on the instrument.
The congregation was not spared a second sad experience. Towards the end of 1910 and in the beginning of 1911, a number of members severed their connection and constituted a new church which held services in the northern part of the city. Rev. A. F. Walz resigned the pastorate of Trinity Lutheran, after serving the congregation for about 24 years, and took charge of the newly formed church. The new church dissolved when Rev. Walz accepted a call in Brooklyn.
The fifth pastor was Rev. J. E. Duerschner of Plainfield, New Jersey. He began his duties on June 1, 1911, and was installed on September 20th. The gloom overhanging the atmosphere of the congregational life gradually began to disperse. The celebration of the 40th anniversary of the church, which took place after the new pastor’s installation, aided materially in creating a new spirit, looking forward with new hopes toward the future. Notwithstanding the financial loss, due to so many members leaving during the second division, the remaining members were willing to meet the extra expense of about $800 (repairs, street pavement). Credit is especially due to the members of the church council for making many repairs gratuitously; to the Ladies’ Aid Society for its effective cooperation; to the Sewing Circle for its untiring work; to the Young People, who in their society took care of the interests of the church.
The death of members, the older people gradually going to their reward, and the removal of some, is a circumstance that always must be reckoned with. Trinity was no exception. These experiences did not diminish the willingness of the people to make sacrifices for their church. The Fiftieth Anniversary was the occasion for showing this spirit in a united effort on behalf of the church building. The interior was made new. All the walls, including the Sunday School, were painted in oil. The woodwork throughout the building was grained and varnished. A new lighting system was installed. The expenses amounting to about $2,000 were raised through the harmonious cooperation of all members.
First English Lutheran Church
In another section of the city, at the instigation of the Eastern Conference of the Franckean Lutheran Synod, the First English Lutheran Church was organized in 1897. On April 1, 1898, Rev. Horace M. Oberholzer became the pastor of this mission group. There were approximately 29 charter members. A church, erected by another denomination, was purchased May 1, 1900. Four years later a pipe organ was purchased and installed.
Both churches continued to grow both in numbers and spirit. Because of the growth of the Sunday School at Trinity, a branch school was conducted in North Troy in addition to the regular church school. The congregation was able to hold its own through years of depression, changed circumstances, and atmosphere. In the summer of 1937, Rev. Duerschner was elected Pastor Emeritus upon his resignation, having served the congregation for twenty-six years. He was succeeded by Rev. Daniel S. Grenier, who served until 1942. Upon the resignation of Rev. Grenier, George H. Kling became the pastor, ministering to the congregation until 1944. Following that time, various supply pastors ministered to the needs of the congregation.
The First English Lutheran Church gradually became more self-supporting as growth in numbers made this possible. In July, 1920, Rev. Oberholtzer resigned and Rev. William W. Frey was called in November. He began his duties in December. The plans for purchasing a parsonage were made and carried out. Also, new lighting fixtures for the church were installed and new hymnals were purchased. Throughout this period, the help of various organizations was deeply appreciated by the council.
In 1923, Rev. Frey resigned, and Rev. A. Walter Baker was called to succeed him. The parsonage was sold at this time because of financial difficulties. A few years later, in 1928, under Pastor Baker’s direction the group relocated in the heart of the city. They purchased the building at Fifth Avenue and Fulton Street from the Baptists. The building measured 92 feet by 67 feet and had a tower 133 feet high which contained a bell weighing 2500 pounds. The congregation adopted the name of Central Evangelical Lutheran Church of Troy upon its relocation. Throughout these years, the financial strain was a constant source of worry to the small congregation, but each member is to be commended for his or her efforts in working in unity to hold the band together.
Rev. Lauren H. Grandy was called in 1935, and was installed in September of that year. In 1938, the 40th anniversary of the Women’s Missionary Society was celebrated with appropriate services. In 1940, the church edifice at Sixth Avenue and 101st Street was sold to the Seventh Day Adventist Church. On April 29, 1942, a special service was held for the burning of the second mortgage on the church. Due to the unusual efforts of the Ladies Aid in making this possible, the past presidents of this organization took part in the ceremony. In 1943, Rev. Grandy resigned this pastorate.
Because of the need of a pastor and aid in financial matters, help was sought from the Board of American Missions. Missionary Walter K. Hauser was therefore assigned September 1, 1943. Rev. Hauser was able to envision the possibilities of a strong Lutheran Church in Troy, and thus advised the Board to refinance the indebtedness of the congregation. Extensive plans were made for redecoration and purchase of an organ. In addition, a merger with Trinity Lutheran was planned. In August, 1944 the final formal plans for the merger were affected, followed by a united service in Trinity on September 3rd. On September 7, 1944, a glorious service of rededication was held in the newly renovated building. Central and Trinity congregations united in worship in the newly renovated building.
Rev. Frederick K. Knubel, D.D., newly elected President of New York Synod, was the preacher at this occasion. The name St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church was decided upon by the merged group and became the official name January 9, 1946.
In March 1945, Board Missionary Rev. Paul R. Swank, was assigned, and one year later the congregation extended him a call. During the first year, extensive repairs were made on the church steeple, the exterior of the church was painted, and the property of Trinity Church was sold to the Disabled American Veterans. Through this and the intense efforts of the now combined congregations the debt was reduced from $15,000 to approximately $7,500. In 1946, in connection with the 75th Anniversary, the debt was further reduced to $5,000, the downstairs of the building was refinished, and a sinking fund was established.
After Rev. Swank resigned in 1947, Dr. Benton F. Rudisill was called as pastor. He was installed on August 25, 1947. Notable events at St. John’s during Pastor Rudisill’s years of service were: the celebration of the 80th Anniversary in October, 1951 with the Burning of the Mortgage, the purchase of the parsonage on April 14, 1957, the rededication of the Primary Department room on November 22, 1959. On May 27, 1959, John Buerk, sons of Mrs. Helen Buerk and the late Raymond Buerk, was ordained into the ministry of the church.
On Sunday, January 3, 1960, the congregation tendered a Testimonial Service to Dr. and Mrs. Benton F. Rudisill at a Vespers Service at St. John’s. The program was in the form of a “This is Your Life” – a history of Rev. Rudisill’s life. Paul J. Lynch was Master of Ceremonies. Greetings from previous parishes, synod, council, church women, and all organizations of St. John’s were presented at this Testimonial Service.
After Dr. Rudisill’s retirement, Rev. Paul L. Schmiedel was called to serve the congregation. Under his direction, and with the cooperation of the congregation’s “Our Venture in Faith” Program, the Church School facilities were completely renovated in 1962.
Pastor Schmiedel served until late in 1965. The pulpit was filled from December, 1965 until August 1966, by Vice-Pastor Marvin Johnson. Rev. Glenn D. Appleby began his ministry among us on August 15, 1966.
In 1967, the Head Start Program began operating in our building. This program offered disadvantaged youth of the community the opportunity for pre-kindergarten day care in an organized setting.
A few of the other significant accomplishments of the church during the late 1960’s were the rebuilding and restoration of the pipe organ, the modernization of the office equipment, and the insulation of the church school ceiling with sound proofing.
On June 1, 1969, the Lutheran Cooperative Ministry began, with its office at St. John’s. The cooperative included St. John’s, Redeemer, and Immanuel Lutheran Churches, all from Troy. In 1968, Rev. Kenneth Hougland began his ministry as Urban Pastor. An interim pastor was called by the Lutheran Cooperative Ministry to work in Troy. Mr. Darryl Whalen and his family arrived in June, 1970. Mr. Fred Nelson and his family came in 1971. In this joint ministry many programs were completed and services held. The work in Troy eventually led to the beginning of the United Urban Ministry.
On September 4, 1969, the federation of St. John’s and St. Paul’s United Church of Christ was consummated. On December 15, 1969, Rev. Kenneth Hougland began his ministry with the federated congregation.
In October 1971, St. John’s celebrated its 100th year as a “Century of Believers”. A special service was held and a banquet was served.
In March 1974, Rev. Richard Olsen was called as pastor of the church. Charles “Rusty” May, son of Herbert and Margaret May became our second member to be ordained as a Lutheran Minister. He was ordained at St. John’s and presented stoles as a gift from the church.
Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Rensselaer County were offered the use of a vacant Sunday School room for their office. They occupied that space from 1976 until 1991. Although that may have been the longest continuous community service that St. John’s provided, the distribution of surplus food was also important. The church provided space and personnel and the federal government provided the food. On the days food was distributed, there was a line of people halfway around the block. It was hard, yet gratifying, work for our members.
Charles Schwartz came to St. John’s as a Lay Associate and worked with the youth. He soon realized he had found his calling. He pursued his undergraduate education at local colleges and attended the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina. He was ordained at St. John’s on June 17, 1983. Thereafter, he was frequently called “Pastor Chuck”.
Pastor Olsen celebrated the 25th anniversary of his ordination in 1981. A reception was held for him at the church.
The Rensselaer County Lutheran Parish was formed in 1983. It was comprised of four congregations: Evangelical Lutheran – Postenkill, St. John’s – Troy, St. Paul’s – Rensselaer, and St. Stephen’s – Schodack. Through this arrangement the four small and financially weak congregations were able to continue. The parish called Pastor Olsen and Pastor Schwartz. The Parish was eligible for financial aid from Synod that the churches individually would not be able to obtain. This aid, combined with other savings allowed the churches to minister to their respective areas. Evangelical was able to grow sufficiently to allow them to leave the Parish and operate independently. The other three churches have remained together until 1991.
The parish also presented other opportunities for the churches to work together. Numerous concerts were held together, utilizing the many different talents of all the churches. Also, summer picnics were held together.
When Pastor Schwartz answered a call to Prince of Peace, Clifton Park in 1986, the parish had a vacancy to fill. This vacancy was filled by Rev. Daniel Rumfelt. Pastor Rumfelt brought with him a marvelous musical talent which he shared with the congregations during both church services and at Parish concerts. Pastor Rumfelt left the parish in 1991 to answer a call from St. Timothy’s, a mission church in Lakeville, New York.
Through the years, the bell tower had deteriorated to the point where it required action of some kind. During 1987, many alternatives were discussed as were the methods of paying for each of them. After months of discussion, the council sadly recommended that the tower be removed. During the demolition work, the contractor indicated that it would cost an additional amount to remove the bell whole. His intention was to break it up and remove the pieces. His estimate had not included the cost of the equipment he believed necessary to remove it. At a Council meeting held after church, Pastor Olsen offered the alternative of spending a large additional sum or destroying the bell. The Council, feeling that they could not justify the added expense, agreed to let the bell be destroyed.
Bryan W. Clickner, Council Vice-President, was not pleased with the prospect of the demolition of a piece of history. He called Pastor Olsen later that evening and indicated that the bell must be saved. The money would come from somewhere. As it turned out, there was a provision made in the design of the bell tower that allowed the bell to be removed without the expensive machinery. The bell was stored at Mr. Clickner’s residence until its installation at Faith Lutheran.
In May 1988, Pastor Olsen retired. A special service was held at St. John’s. There was a dinner afterwards at the Wynantskill Legion Post. Many friends from his past parishes were present. There were many stories told of how Pastor Olsen had served his congregations, and a few anecdotal accounts of his life.
Rev. Paul D. Lamoureux was called by the RCLP in July 1988. Pastor Lamoureux graduated from Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary in May 1988. He was ordained in Berlin, New Hampshire in August, and began his services in September. Pastor Lamoureux’s call by the RCLP marked the beginning of his second career. He continues to serve St. Paul’s and St. Stephen’s.
The Organization of St. John’s
There have been many references of the organizations that work in the church. This section will provide some greater detail of the history and purpose of each of these groups.
The Sunday Church School
The Sunday Church School functions as basic training for discipleship. There were classes for all age groups, from beginners to adults, ministered to by dedicated workers. Studying, learning, growing – the future church lies here.
The Ladies Aid
The oldest of all organizations is the Ladies Aid, organized in 1872 to help support the church by its various activities. Its functions included serving congregational suppers, providing flowers for the altar, visiting the sick, sewing buttons on church pew cushions, and preparing clothing for overseas relief. In the wholesome environment of the church, many works of love and worth were accomplished to the Glory of God.
Roses and Flax
For many years this women’s organization had practiced discipleship in the field of missions. Monthly meetings were devoted to studying the various mission fields and activities of the church-at-large. In addition to supporting this work, much local missionary work was carried out in the form of special services, sunshine work to the sick and shut-ins, and generous support to the church.
The Altar Guild
This dedicated group of women has a special interest in the proper care, use, and meanings of the Sanctuary, sacred vessels, and paraments. This group became the Altar Committee of the Lutheran Church Women.
Lutheran Church Women
The Ladies Aid, Roses and Flax, and the Altar Guild joined to become the Lutheran Church Women on October 15, 1963. Even though their name was changed, they showed the same unfailing efforts to serve their church, community and missions. They demonstrated their service by making quilts for Lutheran World Relief.
The Altar Committee made the banners that have hung in the church. These banners will be transferred to Faith to hang in the sanctuary. Also, this group of women consistently prepared the altar for every service.
In 1988, the organization changed its name to Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
The Friendly Circle
A counterpart organization to the women’s mission group is this mixed group of workers interested in practicing discipleship. Among the Friendly Circle’s activities were gathering, packing, and shipping food and clothes to destitute families overseas, ministering to the sick and shut-ins, supporting the means of the church, and promoting fellowship through social events. The Friendly Circle discontinued meeting in 1985.
Often taken for granted, this faithful group of volunteers practices weekly and serves loyally each service of worship. Their special talents in the field of music are rendered in unselfish service to the Glory of God. Recognition must also be given here to the patient and devoted services of our many organists and choir directors.
Youth Fellowship – Luther League
The youth contributed in many ways to our church. They led worship services that they designed and wrote themselves. They brought joy to many in a variety of ways, ranging from Halloween parties for the very young to singing Christmas Carols to the shut-ins. The group has also gone on many retreats. During Pastor Appleby’s ministry, Luther Leaguers made a trip to Puerto Rico to work at a small Lutheran Church construction project.
Couples Club (Dinner Club)
After World War II, a friendship group was started. The members had been Luther Leaguers and renewed their friendships at occasional meetings. In the early 1950’s, most were married and had started families. They agreed to organize more formally as the Couples Club. The young group decided to start nursery care during the church service.
As the years went on, their discipleship was demonstrated by various dinners they would hold to raise money for different causes they chose to support. These included: support for Charles “Rusty” May, a son of the church in Seminary; stoles for Rev. May, to be presented at his ordination; funds for a young member of the church who is a hemophiliac. Charles Schwartz received support to continue his training in the ministry.
This was a friendship group. They did not study the word of God, but they certainly practiced Christ’s teaching. As time passed, sadly so did some of the members of the club. The name was changed to the Dinner Club in 1989. This was done to acknowledge the change for some members and to welcome single people into the group.
In 1960, a Memorial Fund was established. With this fund many additions and improvements were purchased for the church. Some of the many additions are a piano for the Sunday School Room, a rack for the folding chairs, the exterior announcement board, the oak railing, paraments, banners, flowers, and ceiling fans.
One memorial that proved to be a great asset to St. John’s is the elevator. It provided access to many members and visitors who would have been unable to attend church otherwise. The elevator was given in memory of Anna Niles and was installed in 1967.
There are too many memorials to list here. A more complete list is available. All memorials are recorded in the Memorial Book, now kept at Faith Lutheran Church.
The Consolidation of Our Savior’s and St. John’s
The consolidation of these two churches has meant a great deal of work for many people. The work has been divided among a number of committees. Each committee has concentrated on a particular aspect of the consolidation. Often, tasks fell into areas where the lines between two committees became blurred. Therefore, some people ended up serving on more than one committee, but they are only listed on one. It is very likely that people who were not on the official committees contributed to the consolidation, and most likely that every member was contacted for one reason or another. Although this means it would be historically accurate to have each member’s name listed here, only those persons who were officially on committees will be.
Burt Benziger Polly Hayward
Rev. Stephen Cordes Fred Howard
Mary Fraser Rev. Paul Lamoureux
Robert Gibson Russ Laustrup
Synod Advisor – Rev. John Pearson
Heritage, History and Tradition
Ann Benziger Ken Meybaum
Bryan W. Clickner Dorcas Ocker
Gertrude B. Clickner Adelaide Ott
Helen Coons Betty Regan
Helena Grimm Paul Russell
Bob Hayward Helen Seidel
Rob Hayward John Shanahan
Roberta Hayward Thomas Shanahan
Connie Hoffmann Svend Toftegard
Audrey Dougherty Caren King
Janet Erickson Jane Mallinson
Donna Givson Shirley Waples
Ruth Goerold Kay Warmt
Cynthia Crossen Carolyn Rouse
Caroline Kiefer Donna St. John
Donna Miller Sandy Whaley
Norma Page Kay Young
Property and Finance
Nancy Clarkson Douglas Kurick
Ralph Erickson Janet Walsh
Paul Hoffman Hank Whaley
Carol Karpien Charles Yale
Betty Devernoe Merilyn Niles
Marion Gibbons, deceased Darlene Shanahan
Helen Inglis Caroline Speanburg
Roger Kale Donna Van Zandt
Pastors Who Have Served St. John’s
Rev. Theophilus Maas 1871 – 1873
Rev. F. Goessling 1873 – 1882
Rev. H. Beiderbecke 1882 – 1886
Rev. A. F. Walz 1886 – 1910
Rev. John E. Duerschner 1911 – 1937
Rev. Daniel S. Grenier 1937 – 1942
Rev. George H. Kling 1943 – 1944
Rev. Horace M. Oberholtzer 1898 – 1920
Rev. William W. Frey 1920 – 1922
Rev. A. Walter Baker 1922 – 1935
Rev. Lauren H. Grandy 1935 – 1943
Rev. Walter K. Hauser 1943 – 1945
Rev. Paul R. Swank 1945 – 1947
Rev. Benton F. Rudisill 1947 – 1960
Rev. Paul Schmiedel 1960 – 1965
Rev. Marvin Johnson 1965 – 1966
Rev. Glenn D. Appleby 1966 – 1969
Rev. Kenneth Hougland 1969 – 1974
Rev. Richard Olsen 1974 – 1988
Rev. Charles Schwartz 1983 – 1986
Rev. Daniel Rumfelt 1986 – 1991
Rev. Paul Lamoureux 1988 – 1991
Pastors Who Have Served Our Savior’s
Rev. Peter Mortensen 1887 – 1915
Rev. J. D. Wein 1915 – 1928
Rev. Ingolf Torkelson 1928 – 1942
Rev. Louis S. Mavrick 1942 – 1945
Rev. Norman Anderson 1946 – 1948
Rev. A. E. Neve 1948 – 1949
Rev. Herman S. Fauske 1949 – 1950
Rev. George Mellby 1950 – 1953
Rev. George L. Goepfert 1954 – 1961
Rev. Louis Roehm 1961 – 1963
Rev. Norman Elling 1963 – 1965
Rev. Robert Griffin 1965 – 1967
Rev. Robert Mursch 1967 – 1983
Rev. Bryan Dadlow 1983 – 1984
Rev. John Kaercher 1984 – 1985
Rev. Stephen Cordes 1985 – 1991
Pastor of Faith Lutheran Church
Rev. Stephen Cordes 1991 – Present