From St. Peters - Where faith meets life

Jump to: navigation, search

St. Peter's Birth and History

On New Year’s Day, 1863 the Rev. C. F. A. Kaessmann called a special meeting for the purpose of organizing a new Lutheran congregation in Berlin, Ontario. This was the birthplace of St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church. Its roots, however, lay in the strife surrounding the controversial figure of F. W. Bindermann. With the creation of the newly organized Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Canada (1861) came a move to consolidate the area's Lutheran population under one effective umbrella. These German Lutherans had able assistance in the U.S.-based Pittsburgh Synod which had parented the Canadian synod and had continued to supply it with numerous pastors. Because of the Bindermann troubles the new synodical body appointed two pastors to conduct a survey of the Berlin situation.

One of these, the Rev. L. H. Gerndt, reported that the Bindermann situation demanded a change "for the better". Among the Pittsburgh Synod pastors then serving in Canada was the Rev. C. F. A. Kaessmann who had accepted pastoral charges at Sebastopol and in Oxford County. However, he was moved deeply by the Gerndt report and was determined to do something about the plight of Berlin's Lutherans. He relinquished his charges and took up mission work in that town for the purpose of setting up a Lutheran congregation there.

St. Peter’s Historical Highlights

November 2, 1862

Rev. C. F. A. Kaessmann gathered a number of Lutherans at a meeting in the local Berlin Stadthalle (Town Hall). This group would become St. Peter’s first Sunday School and for the next two months they met regularly. At the final worship service it was announced that a special meeting would be held at the Town Hall on New Year’s day, 1863 for the purpose of discussing the formation of a congregation.

January 1, 1863

Ninety-three Lutherans signed the roll including seven trustees to officially form The Evangelical Lutheran St. Peter’s Church (Die Evangelische Lutherische St. Petri Gemeinde).

January 19, 1863

A meeting was called at which the decision was reached to prepare plans for a church building of their own and a building committee was formed.

March 1, 1863

A piece of land, one quarter of an acre in size was purchased from Mrs. Augusta Krug for $178.50. It was located on North Queen Street. This is the same property on which the present church stands.

April 6, 1863 (Easter Monday)

Building plans for a church 36 feet wide, 60 feet long and 20 feet high were approved for a total cost of $2,300.00 including contents.

April 26, 1863

Cornerstone laid by the Pastor, the Rev. Kaessmann, assisted by the Rev. J. Helschi of St. John’s Lutheran in Waterloo and the Rev. E. Worster of St. Peter’s Lutheran, Preston. The church was built with a considerable number of volunteers from the new St. Peter’s membership.

July 19, 1863

Dedication of the church. The congregation entered their new house of worship singing “Nun Danket alle Gott, mit herzen, Mund und Händen” (Now thank we all, our God. With hearts and hands and voices) with tears of gratitude and joy filling many an eye.
The President of the Canada Synod, the Rev. I. Fischbern, assisted by the Rev. E. Worster of Preston, officiated at this formal dedication service. The Secretary of Synod, the Rev. J. Ehringer, preached the sermon, based on Isaiah 28:29 “This also comes from the Lord of hosts; he is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in wisdom.”

November 22, 1863

The first officially adopted constitution was beautifully hand written as a seven-page document.

November 1869

Rev. Kaessmann resigns to return and serve a Lutheran church in the land of his birth, Baltimore Maryland. The congregation was both stunned and sorrowed by his announcement as he was a devoted pastor and was beloved by all. He faithfully served and nurtured the young congregation through the first seven years allowing it to become a secure and established congregation with nearly 500 members.

March 1870

Rev. Herman Sagehorn of Zurich, Ontario, was installed and began his ministry.

Fall 1871

1½ acres of land was purchased from Menno Erb (Weber Street East) to develop St. Peter’s Lutheran Cemetery.

December 17, 1876

Congregational meeting held and the decision was made to build a new church building with tower, and tall steeple, complete with basement. The plan was for a building 54 feet by 116 feet and the contract was let to Heinrich Jaeger for $10,140.00.

March 11, 1877

The last worship service was held in the old white church, and demolition to provide for the new church was begun the next day. During the construction, worship services were held in St. Paul’s church, Queen Street South, and in the Town Hall.

September 9, 1877

Rev. Herman Sagehorn ended his seven years of ministry at St. Peter’s to accept a call to Potter, Wisconsin. This plunged the congregation into gloom, discouragement and dissension. The contractor abandoned the building project and left town. Fear and apprehension gripped the membership.
Without a pastor, the members rallied to the task, completed the basement and began holding worship services in it.

November 15, 1877

Rev. G. Manz from New York began his ministry at St. Peter’s having accepted their call. He took up the tasks of overseeing the completing of the building as well as building up the congregation.

October 6, 1878

Formal dedication of the new church building.

May 15, 1881

Rev. G. Manz resigned after three and a half years to accept a call to the United States. A brief interim pastoral ministry was provided by Rev. Thomas Snyder of Waterdown, Wisconsin and the retired Rev. Immanuel Wurster of Preston, Ontario, following Pastor Manz’s leaving.

November 27, 1881

A special congregational meeting was held to decide to extend a call to the Rev. R. Von Pirch, pastor of First Lutheran Church in Toronto, and professor of German at the University of Toronto. However, due to his commitments, could not start his ministry at St. Peter’s until four months later. The Rev. Immanuel Wurster, who later served as assistant for over ten years, filled the vacancy as interim pastor.

April 1, 1882

The Installation of the Rev. R. Von Pirch by the Rev. Immanuel Wurster. One of the first innovations made upon Pastor Von Pirch’s beginning ministry was the introduction of Sunday evening services in the English language. This service proved to be so popular that more often than not the church was filled to the last pew and on occasion, extra chairs had to be brought in. Another innovation was to bring in the offering envelope system, which did much to bring about the entire payment of indebtedness on the building as well as financing the purchase of a new pipe organ.

July 1, 1883

New pipe organ, costing $2,400.00, was dedicated.

May 9, 1886

Dedication of three bells installed in the tower of the church building. The youth of the church as well as the Ladies’ Aid each donated one bell, while the congregation as such were responsible for the third one. Each bell was named with an inscription, “Huss”, “Melanchton” and “Luther”. The bells cost $1,275.00 with a total weight of 5,625 pounds.

October 2, 1887

Dedication of new silver communion ware as presented by the Ladies Aid.

October 30 and November 2, 1887

25th Anniversary of congregation celebrated with the story of the congregation read by Frederick Rittinger, one of the founders of the congregation.

September 15, 1889

St. Peter’s first parsonage purchased on Margaret Avenue for $4,500.00.

Summer 1895

New gas lighting installed in the church building at a cost of $1,200.00. Also, new carpet was installed in the chancel along with new chancel linens and paraments for the altar and pulpit. Numerous repairs were required to the church building including the installation of iron rods through the church interior to tie the side walls together. Water piping was installed and a water-powered motor was installed for the organ.

January 7, 1900

Rev. R. Von Pirch welcomed Canada’s Governor-General publicly when he paid a visit to Berlin on this date. By this time, after 18 dedicated years of ministry, Pastor Von Pirch was very much at the heart of Berlin’s social and civic elite and the future prime minister of the Dominion, William Lyon MacKenzie King, would worship occasionally at St. Peter’s English services.

May 1901

Lightning struck and burned down the spire of St. Peter’s, damaging two of the bells, and creating a serious structural problem for the building as such. Immediately however, the congregation moved to repair the tower and obtain a complete new set of bells.

January 1, 1902

Dedication of 12 new bells. This addition and the music it created became a symbol of St. Peter’s presence in the community for many years after.

To be continued at a future date.