St. Peter's Lutheran Church Chester Springs History

St. Peter's Lutheran Church Chester Springs

St. Peter's Lutheran Church Chester Springs Parsonage (Built 1967-1968)

During these years of building additions and renovations, changes were also made in the activities and organization of the congregation' In February of 1955 an evangelism committee was formed with six couples. These were trained and sent out to visit in the community to encourage those without a church to come to St. Peter's. From February 1-14, 1957, the congregation participated in a Lutheran Evangelism Mission. This was a denomination-wide program, consisting of services conducted by a guest pastor, visits, and an organized effort by the congregation to bring members and neighbors alike into the church. The Rev. Roy W. Meck was the missioner. In October of 1955 several innovations were presented in the worship of the congregation. A children's choir and altar guild were formed. Gowns for the children's choir were acquired in 1960. Ushers were scheduled for one month at a time. February 1956 saw the approval of a paper drive. In March of 1957 the constitution was amended to allow teenagers to vote on the acceptance of a pastor and councilmen. Lenten services were held in 1957 with the first several services at Centennial, the last three at St. Peter's, each to be followed by a coffee hour. From July 9-11, 1957, a team of Luther League Caravaners visited the parish. The four young people were from the states of Oregon, California, Iowa, and North Carolina. Choir gowns were purchased in 1958. They were black and of academic style. 1959 marked a first in the history of St. Peter's with the election of a woman to the church council.

Pastor Boyer resigned, effective June 1, 1960, to become Director of Home Missions for the Ministerium of Pennsylvania. He was succeeded by the Rev. Edwin P. Bastian on November 1, 1960.

Throughout this history we have tried to tie local events to national developments in the churches. About 1960 a leveling-off occurred in church life, after many years of growth. Pastor Bastian wrote with regard to this in his report to the congregation in January of 1961:

    "In understanding past gains and losses and in planning for the future, we must understand the gradual transition from strictly farm life to gentleman farming, our proximity to other Lutheran and non-Lutheran Churches, the cultural and ethnic background of the old and newer residents, the terrain of the land insofar as it may affect future building development, zoning laws, and the unbelievably widely scattered parishioners of the Church.
    "Standing still or losing ground in membership rolls isn't necessarily bad. If the potential is missing for the time being, no one (and we have had wonderful pastors at St. Peter's) under the most advantageous conditions (and the aftermath of the wars and prosperity were indeed conductive to Church growth) can produce a large increase out of thin air. Becoming bitter and resentful is, however, bad and can lead to many other sins which can destroy the soul."

Midweek Lenten Services for 1962 consisted of guest preachers according to a schedule whereby the pastors of the local ministerial group rotated among the congregations. In October 1962, the congregation enrolled in the "Every Home Plan" for subscription to The Lutheran. A nursery for the care, of small children in the basement during the Service was established in December of 1963. In August of 1964 the three-year program of catechetical instruction as recommended by the Lutheran Church in America was adopted. In June of 1965 money realized from the sale of real estate which the congregation had held as an investment was placed in "The Common Investing Fund of the LCA." Since 1918 two congregations had been worshipping as one at St. Peter's. That commonly known as Middle Pikeland was incorporated on September 29, 1789; Upper Pikeland was incorporated on February 20, 1846. On January 7, 1965, articles of consolidation were recorded at the County Court House, and the two congregations legally became one. Pastor Bastian resigned from the West Pikeland Parish effective November 16, 1965.

With the vacancy following this resignation, the two congregations of the West Pikeland Parish pressed for resolution of a matter which had been considered for some time - the division of the parish. Over the years St. Peter's has shared pastors with almost every Lutheran congregation in northern Chester County and southern Montgomery County. For short periods St. Peter's supported a pastor of its own, but a shared-support arrangement was soon restored. Throughout the modern history of St. Peter's, that is since the merger of 1918, St. Peter's, West Pikeland, and Centennial, Kimberton, had constituted the West Pikeland Parish. Beginning in 1963, discussions looking forward to separation from Centennial were held from time to time. The decision in 1963 -, was that the time was not ripe for decision. A restudy was called for in 1965. In 1965 the question was one of merger - between St. Peter's, Centennial, and maybe Zion's, the mother of our congregation. Merger was voted out, and on March 6, 1966, by a vote of 46 to 28, the congregation accepted a resolution that St. Peter's be constituted a single congregation parish effective March 15, 1966.

One of the results of the division - the building of a new parsonage has already been discussed. Changes in program came about as a result of the division. Previous to this time many activities were held on a parish basis. In June of 1966, St. Peter's held its first Vacation Church School without the assistance of any other congregation. In January of 1967 a new constitution, patterned after that recommended by the Lutheran Church in America, was adopted. And on April 2, 1967, the Rev. John G. Conz was called to serve St. Peter's as a single-congregation parish. A number of innovations have been introduced in worship in the last few years. Good Friday has been observed with a Prayer Vigil from noon to 8 p.m., followed by a service of Tenebrae, or Shadows; council members have been invited to read The Lesson and The Epistle during the Service; children have been included in the Communion Service by an invitation to come to the altar rail for a blessing. The most dramatic change for many members has been the introduction of the Service Book and Hymnal, published by the American Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church in America in 1958, and first used at St. Peter's December 1, 1968. A questionnaire sent to members in 1968 indicated that a more aggressive youth program was desired; this resulted in a visit by a Youth Ministry Team for one week in August, 1969, The Vacation Church School, which continued for a second year as an independent program, has since been held in cooperation with neighboring churches. In 1968, St. Matthew's Lutheran; 1969, St. Peter's United Church of Christ; and 1970, the U.C.C. and the Charlestown Methodist Church. In 1969 and 1970 one-week schools were held with outings in the afternoon. In 1969 a third event joined the Country Fair and Christmas candlelight service as a big day at St. Peter's. This was the hosting of the Pickering Hunt Thanksgiving Service. About 200 carloads of people were in attendance to participate in the service and to witness the hounds and mounted horsemen of the hunt. Pastor Conz resigned effective November 1, 1970.