History of The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity
Many Lutherans, especially of German and Scandinavian extraction, had moved to Jeannette with the advent of the glass industry. The Greensburg Conference of the Pittsburgh Synod decided therefore in 1888 to survey the possibility of establishing a Lutheran mission in Jeannette. With the support of the Conference, J.A. Boord, a recent graduate of Thiel College, organized a Sunday School and Pastors Kinzman, Lund and Zuber of Greensburg and George Seaman of Adamsburg took turns in leading worship services at various temporary locations in Jeannette. However, when Boord left in 1889 to enter the Lutheran Seminary in Philadelphia, these activities came to a halt.
At this crucial point, the church at large decided to more strongly enforce a Lutheran presence in the mushrooming Jeannette area. In November of 1889 the Home Mission Committee of the Pittsburgh Synod sent a full time pastor, the Rev. Robert M. Zimmerman, to revitalize the work. On the first Sunday after Easter, April 13, 1890, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Holy Trinity was organized with 58 charter members. These members elected the following officers: Gabriel Potts, James Guy, Charles Soles, Oliver P. Skelly, D.T. Knappenberger amd G.W. Knappenberger. This meeting took place in the German Lutheran Church on North Second Street. According to available information, this German Lutheran congregation was organized in 1889 with 20 members and disbanded in 1914.
The Holy Trinity congregation laid the cornerstone for a church of its own on a lot at Gaskill Avenue and Third Street on September 18, 1892 but the new church building was not dedicated until June 12, 1894. The cost of the church building was $12,000 and an additional $4,000 for the adjoining parsonage. The first four pastors of Holy Trinity served here for a total of 13 years: Robert M. Zimmerman (1889-1895), John W. Myers (1895-1898), Frank S. Beistel (1898-1902) and Luther D. Reed (1903-1904). During their leadership the confirmed membership grew steadily and reached 250 in 1903.
Pastor Reed had a most distinguished career in the church at large following his brief pastorate here. He was a professor of liturgies and church art at the Philadelphia Seminary for 34 years and then president of the seminary 1938-1945. It is especially noteworthy that Dr. Reed was chairman of the commission that in 1958 published the Service Book and Hymnal (the red hymnal) which during our centennial celebration was succeeded by the Lutheran Book of Worship (“the green hymnal”) in our congregation.
During the early years of the Rev. J.J. Brubecks pastorate (1904-1918), a split developed in the congregation concerning conflicting positions of the General Synod and General Council leading to the withdrawal of many members who formed St. Mark’s Lutheran Church on November 22, 1908. Even so, the Holy Trinity membership grew steadily, creating a need for a larger church building. Thus the first church was razed in 1916 and the present stately Gothic structure was erected at a cost of $30,000. The cornerstone was laid on November 26, 1916 and the completed church was dedicated on September 22, 1917. In 1918, the confirmed membership was 450.
During the pastorates of the Rev. W.G. Langhans (1919-1922) and the Rev. G.L. Himmelman (1922-1931), the congregation devoted much effort in paying off the church building mortgage, which was accomplished in 1927! The same year a new parsonage at 204 North Second Street was purchased at $15,000, making it possible to use the old parsonage adjacent to the church for the ever expanding Sunday School program and other activities. Paster Himmelman later served as President (now called Bishop) of the Pittsburgh Synod! The Rev. Bernard D. Fetterly served as pastor (1931-1936) when conditions were darkest in the glass and rubber industries of the town. Under his leadership, the congregation continued to develop favorably.
The longest pastorate in the history of the congregation was the one of the Rev. Dr. Edgar B. Hanks from 1936 until December 31, 1967. The old parish house was replaced by a new educational building, dedication on May 14, 1950. The growth in membership, from 695 confirmed members in 1936 to 1116 in 1967, was such that expanded facilities still needed. A building next to the church was purchased in 1965 and reconstructed to serve the needs of the congregation. This addition was named “Hanks Hall”, a tribute to the ministry of the Pastor and Mrs. Hanks. In 1964-1966 an outdoor recreation area was obtained by the church not far from the Bushy Run Battleground.
The pastorates of H. Edmund Pfeifer (1968-1980), George E. Black (1981-1985) and Hans O. Andrae (1985-1996) have coincided with a dramatic decrease of the population in Jeannette, contributing to a substantial loss of members for the Holy Trinity congregation. But just as our city now is retaining her population, so our church membership has stabilized as well. In fact, with 872 baptized and 682 confirmed members as of 1990, we are actually a good sized congregation. With a healthy blend of all age levels, we are a true mirror of our community.
Longtime programs and organizations at Holy Trinity are the Sunday School, Junior Church, Senior Choir, Vacation Bible School, the Church Women, (now comprised of the Ester, Rebekah and Ruth Circles), the Trinity Teens, Scouting for boys and girls, the Sunshine Class, the Worship Aides. Using our facilities on a daily basis are the Senior Citizens and the Seton Hill Day Care Center.
While some formerly strong programs have been discontinued, especially the Christian Education opportunities for adults (bible classes, etc.) many activities have been added in recent years such as our newsletter, the Parish Notes in 1981, the Bell Choir (1982), the Food and Supply Cupboard (1986), the Circle of Prayer (1983), the Clothing Outlet (1986), Brotherhood of the Holy Trinity (1987), and the Trinity Juniors (1989). Beginning in 1985, lay people have served as church council presidents: Mr. John Shrum (1985-1986), Mrs. Sharon Donaldson (1987-1988 and 1990) and Mrs. Thelma Lewis (1989). Our present organist/choirmaster, Mr. Thomas Doerzbacher, has served our congregation since 1959, the longest tenure of any in that function.
We have received a great spiritual legacy from the thousands of men and women who have worshiped and labored during one hundred years in/and through Holy Trinity in Jeannette. We are now experiencing so much love, warmth, enthusiasm and determination among the present members of our household of God’s people. First and last, now as in the past, we richly enjoy “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit”. Being so abundantly blessed by God, or Maker and Redeemer, we enter our second century as a Christian Congregation with great expectation, confidence, faith and joy. All this is in and through our Risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
Our Ongoing History
After 125 years of service to the city of Jeannette, Pennsylvania, Holy Trinity is still know as “the Church on the Hill”. Many changes have occurred in the last 25 years. Pastor Hans Andrae retired after 11 years of service in 1996. Pastor Daniel Defassio came to us in 1997, and he served until July of 2013, when he answered a call in Arizona. Pastor Dennis K. Koch, and currently Pastor Susan Luttner have served as the interim pastors.
A Saturday evening service was added to our worship time in October 22, 1994, allowing more parishioners to be served. The mission statement of our church, “Together called by God, we make Christ known through faith, love, and active service,” was added in 2005. To better serve the surrounding community via no cost Community Dinners, serving over 300 people each year, the Angel Children’s Tree, the children’s Christmas parties, the “After the 4th Quarter”-a program for students to have a place to go after the Jeannette football games, New Year’s Eve chili party and compline service, concerts featuring The Cabin Fever Band and David Boyer, “Son of Moe” featuring Moe’s son Paul Howard of the “3 Stooges”, the Longest Night, a Blue Christmas service, and the healing services are offered as outreach ministries.
We still participate in Lenten services and Advent services during the weeks of the respective seasons, Bible study and Sunday school. Alter Guild, Sunshine Class and the Community Arts and Activities Center are active organizations of Holy Trinity. We host the Girl Scouts, Brownies, Boy Scouts, Cut Scouts, The Wanna Bees, the Jeannette Senior Center, Meals on Wheels, and Narcotics Anonymous.
We are an active and caring faith based Lutheran Christian witness, and member church of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, thankful for all of the blessings God has given us in the past and looking forward to God’s many blessings yet to come.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity
211 Gaskill Avenue - Jeannette, PA - 15644-3348 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org