St. John's Evangelical Lutheran in Perrysville celebrating 150th anniversary
In 1867, 15 German families gathered at one another's North Hills homes every Sunday for worship. Together, they eventually established St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Perrysville.
As the congregation observes its 150th anniversary, the Rev. Michael Robinson, 59, of Richland, reflects on his church's past and draws some similarities to its modern-day practices.
The church's founding fathers were immigrant farmers who purchased one acre of land along Route 19 in Ross for $433 and built a wooden chapel on that spot within the same year. That chapel remains the core of the current structure.
“They would hold their worship services at 2 p.m. on Sundays,” Robinson said. “That's because farmers had chores. Only after they were done with the chores could they come to church. They had to walk or ride carriages or sleighs.”
“They came together for worship and Christian education, and also were active in the community and the world,” he said. “They supported missions in Central America and other places.”
Over the years, the congregation swelled to 800. Additions to the chapel were built from milled sandstone and included a newer sanctuary, a nine-room education wing, library, music room and offices.
Despite all the changes and growth, the original stained glass windows, which were brought to America from Germany, endured, and remain a fixture at the church.
So does the congregation's mission to serve God and others throughout the world.
“I love our mission statement. It's ‘To know the love of God and show the love of Christ,'” said Robinson. “Any kid can learn it, but it takes a lifetime to live it.”
Today, volunteers from the congregation serve meals at the Pleasant Valley Men's Shelter on the North Side. A group of women quilters sews 200 quilts a year and sends them overseas for Lutheran World Relief. The church held a collection of furniture, clothing and essentials to send to flood-ravaged areas of Webster Springs, W.Va. They also contribute food and funds to neighboring Hiland Presbyterian Church's food pantry.
Parishioner Walt Wible, 68, of Ohio Township, is a life-long member of the congregation. While attending Sunday school as a child, he met a girl named Arlene.
“Her dad was the sexton at the church for 50 years. We'd help him get the church ready every Sunday morning,” Wible said.
Wible was cutting branches in the church yard one Saturday afternoon when he proposed to Arlene. They were married for 23 years before she died.
Wible currently is gathering historical photographs and memorabilia for the church's 150th anniversary celebration, which will be observed on Sunday, June 4, during a 10:15 a.m. celebration service in the sanctuary.
Bishop Kurt F. Kusserow will officiate, and the North Hills Flute Choir and a brass ensemble will provide festive music. Former pastors will return, including Pastor Robert W. Strobel, Rev. Margaret A. Suhr-Barkley, and Rev. Deborah Thompson. Former organists Ruth Horni and Dr. Charlotte Roderer also will be present.
Throughout the past 150 years, the church has had 22 pastors, including one named Herbert R. Trump.
“He's no relation to President Trump,” said Robinson, who has led the church for 15 years.
A reception will follow the June 4 celebration and all are invited to attend.
The church is located at 920 Perry Highway, Pittsburgh.
For details, call the church office at 412-364-6626.
Laurie Rees is a Tribune-Review contributor.