The History of Hope

1957 - Hope was founded as a mission church. 

On December 9, 1957, 73 founders signed the charter, becoming Charter Members of Hope.

1958 - Land was purchased for the construction of a new sanctuary.

This is the current sight of Hope. Services were previously held in the old Shrine Building on Route 13, and then in the chapel on the nearby US Air Force Base.

1965 - Construction is complete and services are held in the new sanctuary.

The first service was held on September 5, 1965.

1971 - A Daycare was opened.

In September of 1971, Hope's Daycare program began. This would operate continually and become our present day Early Education Center.

1976 - A new worship space was constructed.

Today's sanctuary was added to the building after 10 years of operation. The larger space enabled a larger congregation and the ability to host events. Many upgrades to the sanctuary and fellowship hall have been completed since the addition.

1980 - Hope's Food Pantry began.

In the fall of 1980, Hope started a food pantry, which still operates today as a partnership with Lutheran Community Services. As a mobile food pantry, it serves families in need once every month.

1994 - A new pipe organ was installed.

In May 1994, Hope's current organ, manufactured by Wissinger, was installed and dedicated with a concert.

A Narrative of Hope's History

Hope was started by a request to the ULCA from the Lutheran community in Wilmington, Delaware. The ULCA was the forerunner of the ELCA and the LCA.  Starting a mission in this manner was unusual.  Before this time, the Board of American Missions of the ULCA would say where a mission should be started. The Lutheran community of Wilmington believed that a church was needed to be developed in New Castle because the area was developing rather quickly. All the groundwork and research was completed before the ULCA was petitioned.

At a meeting in June 1957, 18 adults expressed an interest in starting a new church in the New Castle area. By the end of June, that number had increased to 50 adults. On September 15, 1957 the first services were held in the old Shrine building on RT 13 (near Hares Corner). That building is no longer in existence. The initial attendance was 138. Then on October 20, 1957, the congregation voted to name the new mission church “Hope”.  There were several names in competition, but the name “Hope” edged the others in close voting. A petition requesting permission from the Board of American Missions of the ULCA to organize as an official congregation was presented to the prospective members on December 9, 1957.  Seventy-three (73) members signed the charter that day. The charter remained open for a period of time to allow others to sing and also allow them to come into the new church as charter members.

During the winter of 1957-58, the Shrine building had serious heating problems. When there was no heat on Sunday, members of Hope would stand out on US 13 and signal our worshippers to the Toman’s Restaurant. Toman’s Restaurant was a short distance away and this building providing a warm place to worship on the cold days without heat. Emilie Toman was a member of Hope and she offered her restaurant as an alternative place of worship on those cold winter Sundays.

On February 15, 1958, the first congregational meeting was held. This first meeting was held in the basement of the Wilmington Manor Methodist Church on RT 13. This is where the first constitution of the Hope congregation was adopted. The first members of the church council were also elected at this meeting. Beginning with this first council, both men and women have represented the congregation on council. While this first congregational meeting was in progress, a major snowstorm developed (almost a blizzard). No one at the meeting was aware of the storm until the meeting was over. Many of the members’ cars were vandalized during the meeting. In addition to the snowstorm, vandals had removed the gas caps from most of the members’ cars and thrown them away. 

Also during the first congregational meeting, the congregation received the keys to the USAF Base Chapel to hold our services. With members bringing chairs and other furniture, the first service was held there on Ash Wednesday, February 19th. The members had to bring their own furniture because the Air Force had removed the pews and many parts of the heating system. With the help of Harry Adams, the heating system was repaired before the first service. This chapel was used for worship services until the first unit of the present Hope Church was completed. The last service held at the chapel was on August 29, 1965. Shortly after this, the Air Force demolished the building. All the buildings occupied by the Hope congregation prior to our current buildings have been demolished.

Pastors of Hope

Rev. Howard W. Werdemoyer

March 1958 - September 1960

Vice Pastor Rev. Park W. Huntington

October 1960 - July 1961

Rev. Frederic B. Geehr

August 1961 - October 1967

Vice Pastor Rev. David Blackwelder

November 1967 - February 1968

Rev. Donald L. Turley

February 1968 - July 1974

Vice Pastor Rev. Jack Little

August - November 1974

Rev. James Shelton

November 1974 - July 1978

Vice Pastor Rev. Jack Little

July 1978 - September 1979

Rev. Jane O'Hara Shields

October 1979 - April 1997

Rev. Wes Hamlin

(Interim)

April 1997 - December 1999

Rev. John Mohan

December 1999 - March 2003

Rev. Richard Miller

March 2003 - June 2006

Rev. Ruby Narucki

May 2007 - August 2009

Rev. Wes Hamlin

(Interim)

August 2009 - February 2011

Rev. Daniel Swanson

February 2011 - May 2019

Rev. Barbara Melosh

(Interim)

May 2019 - July 2020

Rev. Amy Wright

August 2020 - Present