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History of Trinity Lutheran Reformed Church, Mount Penn, Pennsylvania

This history appeared in Morton Montgomery's 1908 edition of The History of Berks County, p. 985.


Trinity Reformed Church, of Mt. Penn borough, Berks county.-As early as 1873 a Union Sunday-school was conducted in the public school-house at this place. This building stood where the Friedensburg road crosses the Stony Creek electric railroad. This school flourished under the patronage of various denominations, of which the Reformed predominated. In 1890 the Reformed people organized a Sunday-school of their own in the public school-house then located on the north side of Perkiomen avenue, between Twenty-third and Twenty-fourth streets. Mr. David V. R. Ludwig was the superintendent. He was succeeded in turn by Peter B. Keehn, Charles Williams and William Soders. The Sunday-school disbanded on July 26, 1891. It became reorganized on Feb. 3, 1895, under the superintendency of Frederick Yeakel, a member of the First Reformed Church in Reading. The indefatigable labors of Mr. Yeakel were soon evidenced in the purchase, by the Sunday-school, of a lot on the corner of Twenty-fourth and Cumberland streets, at a cost of $387.50. David D. Dundore made the first contribution. The Sunday-school now commenced to hold its meetings in the new two-story public school-house on the corner of Twenty-fourth and Grant streets. Superintendent Yeakel was a man of delicate health and on Jan. 12, 1897, was obliged to resign. The work, however, did not cease. For several Sundays the pious flock assembled and had sessions as best they could afford. On Feb. 7, 1897, Llewellyn F. Schearrer, a member of the First Reformed Church of Reading, was elected superintendent. He took his seat of office on the 14th, and being the right kind of man for the place the spirit of enthusiasm immediately revived in the hearts of the members. Mabry L. Herbein was ordained and installed pastor of Spiess Reformed Congregation on June 20, 1897. By direction of the Classis of Reading and the request of some members of the Mt. Penn Reformed Sunday-school Rev. Mr. Herbein, who at the time being was the youngest Reformed clergyman in Berks county, conducted a church service in the school-house at Mt. Penn on Sunday evening July 11, 1897. His text was from Luke 6:36. There were present forty-two people. These services were continued every Sunday evening.

Soon the desire of organizing a congregation prevailed, and a petition with fifty-two signatures was handed to Classis asking permission to organize. This was granted at a special meeting of Classis on Oct. 18, 1897. On the evening of Oct. 29th a meeting was held and a consistory elected as follows: Elders, David D. Dundore and Irwin N. Manwiller; Deacons, William O. Leinbach and William K. Adam. The consistory was ordained and installed on Oct. 31st. At the same time Rev. Mr. Herbein was unanimously elected pastor, and at his suggestion the name of Trinity Reformed Church was selected for the new congregation.

A building committee was appointed, consisting of Rev. M. L. Herbein, Lewis Kraemer, Sr., William K. Adam, David D. Nein and David D. Dundore. They adopted plans for a substantial one-story brick edifice, 40 x 60 feet, to be erected upon the lot previously purchased by the Sunday-school. D. D. Dundore broke the first ground toward its erection on Dec. 3, 1897. A charter of incorporation was granted by the Berks court on Dec. 7, 1897. Foundation and basement stones were quarried and delivered free of charge, so, also, was the excavating done. This work, at the rate of 12 1-2 cents per hour, was found to amount to $232.18. There was paid for the masonry of foundation and basement walls the sum of $65. David D. Dundore drew the plans, as suggested by the pastor, and thus architects' expenses were avoided. The contract from the basement walls was awarded to D. D. Dundore for $2,400, excluding stained glass windows, furniture, heating and lighting apparatus.

The corner-stone was laid March 13, 1898. The pastor was assisted by Rev. Dr. Henry Mosser, pastor of the First Reformed Church, Reading, who preached the sermon. The building operations now commenced in earnest, but much rainy weather retarded progress. On June 19, 1898, the last day of the pastor's first year's ordained ministry, Trinity Reformed Church was dedicated. The full liturgical service of the Reformed Church was observed. All the responses were chanted, accompanied by the music of the pipe-organ built and installed by Elmer E. Palm, of Mt. Penn. In the morning 10:30 o'clock Rev. Dr. Mosser preached on I Cor. 3:11. The dedicatory service was conducted by the pastor. In the afternoon Rev. Dr. John W. Steinmetz, pastor of St. John's Reformed Church of Reading, preached on I Kings, 18:39. Rev. J. P. Stein, D. D., of St. Thomas Church of Reading, and Rev. James R. Brown, of the Schwartzwald Church, took part in the services. Rev. Dr. N. Z. Snyder, of Bethlehem, Pa., visiting in Reading, was also present. At the evening service Rev. Dr. S. R. Bridenbaugh, pastor of the Second Reformed Church, Reading, preached on Psalm 87:3. During the day $127 was realized.

Everybody seemed to be highly pleased with the new edifice, especially its churchly and dignified interior. The architecture is extremely Gothic in design. The stained glass windows admit a subdued and mellow light, blending harmoniously with the oak furniture and other hard wood finish. Within the deep chancel-recess is the beautiful massive altar of oak, a high reredos surmounting it. The super-altar contains the gilded cross with gilded candlestick on each side. To the front and right of the altar is the lectern, to the left the pulpit. To the right of the altar inside the chancel is the pipe-organ, of excellent mechanical construction and sweet musical tone. Back of the chancel are excellently appointed ante-rooms, from which the choir and pastor enter the main auditorium for their respective places. The basement is furnished for church sociables. The entire investment amounts to $4,100. The fact that the structure was built in the time of a severe financial panic accounts for its cheapness.

On July 3, 1898, Holy Communion was celebrated by the congregation for the first time. Forty-eight of the fifty-two who communed expressed themselves desirous of becoming members of the new organization. This included the catechetical class of fifteen young persons. The first confirmation was that of Bertha Estella S. Lutz, on July 1, 1898. The first person to receive Holy Communion was Mrs. William K. Adam. The first baptism in the church took place on July 10, 1898, the child being Arthur Peter Hafer; also, at the same time, Jennie Ellen Nein. The first funeral service conducted in the church was that of William D., a seven-year-old son of Milford H. Hein, on Dec. 29, 1898.

On June 4, 1905, the second graduating class of the Mt. Penn borough school came to this church in a body and the pastor preached the baccalaureate sermon from I Tim. 4:12. The commencement exercises of this class were held in the church on June 16, 1905. The first class, that of 1904, had its commencement exercises, and without a sermon, in the school-house.

In October, 1898, a missionary society was organized, and on Oct. 7, 1902, an active Ladies' Aid Society was organized, which proved its usefulness by contributing its funds toward liquidating the indebtedness incurred by the erection of the church edifice. The Sunday-school paid the interest on the necessary loan, also money toward the liquidation of the church debt. The congregation, small as it is, nevertheless has had years during which from all sources $750 were contributed.

While worship was held in the school-house Miss Naomi Rauenzahn served as organist. When the congregation took possession of the church Miss Jennie Lutz assumed the duty, the family of Rauenzahns having moved to Reading. Miss Lutz is still serving as organist, also of the Sunday-school for the same period of time.

William O. Leinbach served as janitor from the beginning of the organization until January, 1906, when he resigned and was succeeded by John R. Dickinson, who in 1908 was succeeded by Josiah Leinbach.

Mr. Schearrer faithfully performed his duties as Sunday-school superintendent for nine years and nine months. He resigned and presided for the last time on Sept. 30, 1906. When he assumed the duties of the office there was an enrollment of sixty-five; when he relinquished his services there were 105. On Sunday, Oct. 7, 1906, the Sunday-school unanimously elected Prof. Frank J. Fister, principal of the borough schools, to the office of superintendent. He accepted and served until September, 1907, when he became succeeded by John R. Dickinson. William O. Leinbach has been the only secretary in the entire history of the Sunday-school.

This congregation was never a mission nor an organization of some other church. It was obliged to support itself from the beginning. Daniel Miller, in his "History of the Reformed Church in Reading" published in 1905, says on page 155 that the First Reformed Church of Reading fostered Trinity. This must not be understood to signify in a financial way, as not a cent was ever realized from any congregation. The Classis of Reading out of its treasury at different times contributed sums, the total of which amounts to $250; but Trinity had to raise a double amount, the $750 being then paid on the loan. Regular sustentation was never received. At the time of this writing the congregation consists of 110 members, and Rev. M. L. Herbein continues as pastor. The Sunday-school has 125 members.

[Contributed by M. L. Herbein.]

Gillis Sampler

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

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