St. Paul Lutheran was formed in the village of Reading, Ohio in 1852, over 150 years ago. It continues to be a force in the Reading community, sharing God’s word and doing His work locally and throughout the area.
St. Paul Lutheran was founded as a German-speaking congregation which met well with the many German immigrants that were flocking to the Cincinnati region during that time. The church continued holding services in German into the 1920’s. As the community changed, so did the church. Services in English were added in 1920 and became the only services in 1931.
The site of St. Paul Lutheran was donated by several of the founding members, many of whose descendants still attend St. Paul Lutheran. The first church building on the site was erected in 1883. A new sanctuary was built in 1958 but you can still see one of the original stained glass windows above the present-day altar. As the church grew, additional space was needed for classrooms and fellowship activities. To this purpose, the education wing and fellowship hall were added in 1970. The fellowship hall was renovated in 2005 with an upgraded kitchen (perfect for large meals) and a stage for the St. Paul’s Players Drama Ministry.
The church continues to evolve and the congregation continually arises to meet the new opportunities and challenges as they are presented. We move forward, confident in the knowledge that God has a plan for each of us and the community of St. Paul Lutheran as a whole.
1852 to 2002
The village of Reading Ohio was just one year old when the first official meeting of St Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church was held, April 12, 1852. However, other meetings must have been held before this, for at this meeting a proposed constitution was read and adopted.
In 1852, the turnpike (now Reading Road), a narrow, dirt highway with a historical background, was the main street of the new town. Famous generals had led armies, and Indian War Chiefs led tribes down this road into battle in the forests of Ohio. Mad Anthony Wayne used this Indian trail in his expeditions against the Indians. Now in 1852 it was a turnpike, with toll gates at each end of Reading. Chiefly of German population, Reading was a peaceful community with its many tailor shops, four breweries, vinegar and woolen mills, compressed yeast factory, three fireworks concerns, a rope factory, several copper shops, two marble works, several wagon and blacksmith shops, brickyard, and planing mills, as well as many taverns and stores. Seldom was any language other than German heard.
The spirit of these men, who met to form a church, cannot be better portrayed than by the appeal with which they headed a subscription list to obtain funds to build a house of worship.
The appeal read: “Thy kingdom come. Jesus Christ has put this petition into our mouths. That His Kingdom may come also among us is our desire; and with this desire we have united to form a congregation, which shall bear the name: Evangelical Lutheran St. Paul’s Congregation of Reading, Ohio. Since we are now planning to build a church, but our congregation is still very small, we find it necessary to gather an offering for this purpose, and request therefore, that all Christian friends, near and far, who have the same desire, and petition – that God’s Kingdom may come – may give us their cooperation.”
A constitution was adopted on April 24, 1853, with these signers: Rudolph Schuermann, Johann Jacobi, John H. Wachendorf, Heinrich Bremer, Franz Depinal, Carl Liermann, Heinrich Schlenz, Johann Wichmann, Friedrich Schlenz, Peter Haefner, John Fr. Wachendorf, Peter Bachmann, George Koehl, Daniel Rost, and Friedrich Hafner. For almost a year and a half after the congregation was organized they had no pastor. Funds were gathered, meanwhile, and a church was built on the southeast corner of Third and Voorhees Streets in Reading. The ground on which the present church stands was purchased in February 1872 for $1,400. This plot included four lots with a frontage of 100 feet on Maple Street and 210 feet on Jenny Lind Street. There was a small house on the lots which was used as a home for the parochial school teacher. A new church was built in 1883 and it served the congregation until it was replaced 76 years later.
1908 – 1931
During this period, extensive repairs were made to the church building, and gas, city water and electricity were brought into the parsonage. In 1911, the church building was covered with cement stucco and stained glass windows were added. The financial affairs of the congregation took a turn for the better. When the church was repaired and redecorated, the Men’s Society offered to give half of the $ 1,000 needed for the purchase of new windows. In about November of 1910, the pastor’s salary was raised to $700, and the Janitor and organist (one person) received $200. The years from 1917 to 1927 were marked by various improvements in the property, the redecorating of the church in 1920, the building of a porch on the parsonage in 1923, and finally the building of the long-discussed parish hall in 1927. The old constitution, in effect from 1859 to 1918 (when it was revised), stated that St. Paul’s should be and remain forever a German congregation. For more than 50 years after its founding, there is no record that the congregation made use of any other language than German. The minutes of all meeting were recorded in German until April of 1919. After years of heated debate at meetings, tabling the subject, then trying English services (only to drop them again), it was decided by 1920 to hold double services once every two weeks, with the alternate Sunday having an English service only. By 1931, German services were no longer held.
1932 – 1959
In 1952, the Centennial Building Committee was appointed and in 1954, a Parsonage was built for $34,000. On March 16, 1958 a ground breaking ceremony was held for the construction of a church and educational unit at a cost of $190,000. The educational unit was completed and used for the first time on November 16, 1958. The cornerstone laying for the church portion took place on December 28, 1958. The final service in the old church was held on May 17, 1959. During the next week the old church was razed, and by the end of the week no trace of it was left. On May 24, 1959, the new church was dedicated.
1959 – 1963
The congregation borrowed money in order to purchase the Proffitt property adjacent to the parsonage. In 1962, the house on the property was moved, and a portion of the area was blacktopped for a parking lot.
1964 – 1970
In 1965, a new public address system was installed in the sanctuary, and a sanctuary light and carpeting were added. On September 24, 1967, a church mortgage-burning service was held, in celebration of paying in full the debt incurred in building the new church facilities. In May of 1968, air conditioning was installed in the sanctuary at a cost of $10,755. In March of 1969, new faceted stained glass windows were installed, made possible by gifts and memorials given by members of the congregation. These were dedicated on the tenth anniversary of the new church building, May 25, 1969.
On May 17, 1970, a dedication service was held following the addition of new office space, conference room, coatroom, widening of the rear entrance hallway, carpeting of the narthex, and air conditioning of the new office space, office and nursery.
1971 – Present
In 1999, after identifying changes required to make the church facilities more inviting to visitors, the membership voted to expand the Narthex, relocate the nursery, offices and library; and make changes to improve the overall appearance of the Sanctuary. The work was completed in the Spring of 2001, and successfully met the original intent of enhancing the functionality and appearance of the church.
In late 2004, we began a new phase of our continuing improvements. A team was formed to determine what capital improvements were needed to improve our education and meeting facilities, and to assure that we can meet the congregation’s current and future needs. The team recommended and the congregation approved starting the improvements with a major renovation of the Fellowship Hall and Kitchen level, including full air conditioning, a new stove, new refrigerator, new dishwashers & disposals, and a new storage pantry. This work was essentially completed and in use by the congregation by April of 2005. In addition to the remodeling and upgrading of the kitchen appliances and area, one end of the Fellowship Hall was dedicated to Drama, with the addition of a stage and storage area for sets and costumes. Another committee has developed a list of potential uses for this modern and comfortable Fellowship Hall and presented this list to the congregation for input on priorities.
St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church looks forward to her leadership continuing to effectively guide the congregation through the 21st century.