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History of St. Lukes Evangelical Lutheran Church, Reading, Pennsylvania

This history appeared in Morton Montgomery's 1908 edition of The History of Berks County, p. 1381.


St. Luke’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Rev. F. K. Huntzinger, Pastor. One of the largest Lutheran congregations in Pennsylvania is St. Luke’s, in the city of Reading. It is a child of Trinity. Its Sunday-school was organized in 1862 by Messrs . Frederick Fox and Solomon L. Moser, both of whom were deeply interested in Sunday-school work. It was organized in the public school house at Tenth and Green streets, and became the nucleus of the congregation. Seeing the importance of having a church in that section of the city, a lot was purchased by Trinity Lutheran congregation on the east side of North Ninth street near Green, 60 x 110 feet, on which was erected a frame building 30 x 50 feet, known as "The Chapel of the Reformation."

The corner stone of this chapel was laid on July 26, 1868, and the building was dedicated on the 31st of October following. The cost of the ground was $600, and of the building $3,000. The Sunday-school at Tenth and Green streets, which had been conducted as a mission of Trinity Church, was now transferred to the chapel. Rev. J. Fry, D. D., pastor of Trinity Lutheran Congregation, assisted by other Lutheran pastors of the city, conducted services in the new building.

In May, 1869, the Evangelical Lutheran Ministerium of Pennsylvania held its annual convention in Reading, and among the young men who were ordained to the ministry during its sessions was Rev. F. K. Huntzinger, and he was selected to take charge of the new field. He therefore preached his first sermon there as pastor on the 6th of June, 1869. His labors proving satisfactory, he was duly installed in October of that year, one year after the church had been dedicated. The attendance at the services was small for some months- often not more than ten to fifteen persons were present. That section of the city had just been laid out, and streets were being opened. When the first services were held, there were but a few houses in the immediate vicinity; in fact the neighborhood was of a suburban character. The section, however, commenced to improve rapidly about the year 1870, and as fast as new houses were erected many of their occupants sought the nearest church, and the attendance at the services increased correspondingly. On Jan. 12, 1871, a meeting was called for the organization of a congregation, at which Rev. Dr. Fry, of Trinity, presided. Thirty-eight persons signed the constitution of the new parish, and identified themselves with it. The name chosen was St. Luke’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, of Reading, Pa. The first class of twenty-five catechumens was confirmed April 21 (Good-Friday), 1871.

St. Luke’s now began to thrive. Trinity, the mother church, gave it encouragement and aid, and on Jan. 10, 1879, a conveyance of the property was made by Trinity congregation to St. Luke’s church for a nominal consideration. During the ensuing seven years the new congregation continued to grow, and before the close of 1885 the necessity of providing a more commodious house of worship was plainly evident. Accordingly, in 1886, the present roomy and substantial edifice was erected. The basement is 50 x 110 feet, while the main auditorium on the first floor is 50 x 94 feet, and is supplied with wide galleries. The seating capacity of the church is 1,400, but there have been occasions when many more persons have been crowded into the building. The corner-stone of the new church was laid June 13, 1886, and the basement was regularly opened for services on the 10th of October of that year. During the four months that intervened from the laying of the corner-stone services were held, by permission of the Reading school board, in the Boy’s high school building at the southwest corner of Eighth and Washington streets, and the Sunday-school occupied the two public school houses at Tenth and Green streets. The church was dedicated Feb. 13, 1887.

The growth of St. Luke’s church has been phenomenal. The additions by confirmation having averaged 116 each year for the past twenty years. The largest class confirmed in any year was 183, in 1902. The present membership is fully 1,7000, and the Sunday-school numbers between 1,000 and 1,200. Services are held in both English and German. Since 1907 the morning services are conducted in English on alternate Sundays. All the evening services are conducted in English. In 1893 the large pipe organ was placed into the church at a cost of $2,700. The quarto-centennial of the congregation was celebrated in 1894, as well as of the pastor’s pastorate, and in June, 1909, the pastor celebrated the fortieth anniversary of his connection with the congregation. Truly he has witnessed its development from a very humble beginning into one of the most influential in the city.

Gillis Sampler

Last Modified Thursday, 16-Oct-2008 21:07:51 EDT

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