In early January 1925 the Reverend George P. Hegele, pastor of the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Castle, Pennsylvania, resigned his post. He soon went about organizing a new Lutheran Church, affiliated with the Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States (now known as the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS)). The LCMS was organized in Chicago, Illinois, back in 1847, but had grown considerably since then. Hegele gathered a small group of German immigrants and named the congregation as the Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church. The first official gathering for services was held in Hegele’s home at #823 Beckford Street on Sunday, April 12, 1925. Subsequent services were held at various locations such as the Woodman’s Hall, the Y.M.C.A. building, and several nearby churches. Initial services were held in German but English language sermons were soon added. Education was a key element of the church
The New Castle News of Tuesday, April 28, 1925, reported, “Rev. George P. Hegele, formerly of St. Paul’s Church, has received his honorable dismissal, at his own request, from the Pittsburgh Synod, and has been appointed missionary pastor for New Castle and vicinity…The church council consists of Rev. George F. Hegele, Karl E. Schmidt, William Guenther, William Huber, John Fronlus, Andrew Paulini, George B. Dernerth and a building committee of 13 members. The present membership consists of German and English Lutherans, who were not actively associated with any other church in the city.”
In early November 1926 the Reverend Hegele resigned and was succeeded by a host of interim pastors. Finally, in September 1927, the newly ordained Reverend Walter R. Sommerfield took over as the fulltime pastor and remained for the next seventeen years. Sometime in 1928 the congregation began leasing the old Third Presbyterian Church at the northwest corner of the intersection of East Washington Street and Beckford Street. This church was renovated in late 1931 to better accommodate the needs of the growing congregation. The aging rear of the church was razed and redone and basement was upgraded into classrooms for educational use. The remodeling was completed in January 1932.
In December 1935 a corner lot just across Beckford Street was purchased for about $3,200. A building committee was formed and a fund drive commenced for a new house of worship. Plans for a new red brick church were drawn up by local architect Thure M. Veivo. Ground was broken in July 1936 and construction commenced soon after. The church was completed and opened for services in late November 1936. The new building was officially dedicated during a ceremony held on Sunday, February 7, 1937.
The small congregation thrived in its new church and grew steadily in the coming years. In May 1945 the Reverend Sommerfield, after a long term of loyal service, departed for a new assignment in Pittsburgh. Subsequent pastors who guided the congregation through the next three decades were Martin Lobeck, Herbert Poellet, and Harold Held. In August 1945 the church purchased a house on #909 Ryan Avenue for use as a parsonage. An educational building, which cost about $50,000, was opened next to the church in September 1964. Eventually, as many of the “old guard” of the congregation passed on, the German language sermons were dropped in favor of English only services.
On Sunday, October 25, 1975, the congregation, numbering about 200 people, proudly celebrated its 50th anniversary. The guest pastor was the Reverend Walter R. Sommerfield, returning to the church he had left thirty years prior. Just a few months earlier the congregation had finally paid off its mortgage on the church. The congregation, like many other churches, suffered a loss of membership beginning in the 1970’s but continued to survive over the next quarter century. The Christ Lutheran Church, now with close to 100 members, remains in active service today.
The Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized in early 1925 by a small group of German-Americans led by the Reverend George P. Hegele. In the coming years the growing congregation met at various locations, including the old Third Presbyterian Church building from 1928-1936. A fund drive resulted in this handsome new church building, located along East Washington Street, being dedicated in February 1937. The educational building, on the left of this photo, was opened in 1964. The church is still in active service today. (Aug 2013) Full Size
(Aug 2013) Full Size