Additional History of Hope

On March 30, 1958, Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church had its official organization with the charter closing with 89 adult members. Reverend Howard W. Werdemoyer was called to the first Pastor. In April 1958, St. Luke’s Lutheran Church donated silverware (still in use today) that has become quite a conversation piece at church dinners, because many of the pieces still bear the engraving “St. Luke’s.” In May 1958, Pastor Werdemoyer and Albert H. Seidle were representatives to the Ministerium of Pennsylvania (Synod) convention and Hope officially became members of the Ministerium and ULCA in May 1958. The Ministerium of Pennsylvania was from Philadelphia. This encompassed areas south of Philadelphia as well, including Delaware. At that time, there were no Lutheran churches south of the C&D Canal. In1958, Hope recorded many firsts: First confirmation, Vacation Church School and the organization of the Luther League (men’s and women’s groups).

In 1958, Hope began searching for a location for a site to construct a church. An advisor from the Board of American Missions (ULCA) inspected all of the sites the congregation was interested in and said “they wouldn’t fly.” None were on a main road with potential housing developments in the near vicinity. The development of Coventry had just begun and members took the advisor to the area. He stated, “This is a main artery to the city. It’s a good place. Buy.” The team discovered they a shopping center was to be constructed in the vicinity. On December 28, 1958, the congregation approved the purchase of several acres of land for the church site. An offer of $20,000 for 4 acres was made. The church was lucky enough to have been dealing with some generous Lutherans who asked if  5 acres for the price of 4 would be preferable. The offer was quickly accepted. 

In May 1959, the fist organ for the church was purchased and on August 16, 1959, the first parsonage, a ranch-style home, was purchased on RT 273, just west of Appleby Road.

The year 1960 saw the first building fund campaign to raise $10,000. Ken Smith and others built the model of the proposed building along with a study model showing full use of the site. The model showed a unit on each end of the first unit and showed where the Nave would be located. In a report by Pastor Werdemoyer to Church Council he stated that the building fund was a disappointment and that the congregation was lukewarm, unappreciative, without enthusiasm and in need of professional help to succeed in a fundraising campaign.

After Pastor Werdemoyer resigned, Pastor Geehr took on the role as Hope's pastor. In 1961, a larger parsonage was bought about one block from the current church site. It included home office facilities, as there was no church office at that time. The old parsonage was sold, and the new one was occupied on February 17, 1962. The “new” hymnal (Red, SBH) was introduced and first used on March 7, 1962.

A professional capital funds drive was undertaken May 16 – June 15, 1962 by the Lutheran Layman Movement to secure funds for building a new church. On November 10, 1963 a special congregational meeting approved the ultimate building plan and authorized the drafting of preliminary drawings for Unit 1. Groundbreaking took place on November 5, 1964. The cornerstone was laid on May 30, 1965. The first service was held on September 5th and the dedication occurred on September 19, 1965. The mortgage on the current church site was burned on September 25, 1964.

The altar rail, pulpit, lectern and altar were built by John Ludwig and finished by Frank Kramer, both of whom were members of Hope. The altar railing is the only one of these pieces that is currently not in use, as the worship space was expanded 10 years later. Easter Sunrise Service was held at the church site inside the steel framework of Unit 1 on April 18, 1965, and one year later on April 10, 1966, the first Easter Breakfast was held.

 

The Sunday evening youth program began in September 1966. Weekday kindergarten started with 10 children on September 6, 1967 with Jean Heubst, a member of Hope’s congregation, in charge.

Pastor Geehr resigned on October 31, 1967. Hope learned a lesson from his tenure: The Pastor must not do everything. No one even knew how to make the church bulletin at the time of his departure, because Hope did not have a church secretary. This made for an interesting, and somewhat difficult transition, but ultimately the congregation emerged stronger.

 

The 1970s saw more growth and improvement's to Hope. The parking lot was paved in 1970. It used to be a gravel lot, but a loan of $12,000 was secured to pave it with blacktop. The Day Care Center officially opened on September 13, 1971. Martha Shipe and Elaine Beck, who were both members were in charge, and 8 children were enrolled. In December of that year, Hope's Blood Bank group formed.

The following year, the Pro Deo Scout program began, the Shepherding Program was initiated, and the parsonage mortgage was burned in April. In 1973, Hope purchased its second organ.

 

April 13, 1975 saw the kickoff of Hope’s second professional capital fund drive, chaired by Albert Siedle. This was for the construction of the current sanctuary and fellowship hall portion of the church. The goal realized was $85,000. Construction began on February 29, 1976. The first service held in the new sanctuary was in December 1976, even though it was not fully complete. The dedication was held on February 6, 1977.

 

During his tenure, Pastor Shelton pressed the idea of a church bazaar to increase fellowship. However, when Hope became a Mission Congregation, it was agreed that there would not be any fundraisers. This was the teaching and policy of the ULCA church at that time, and the founding congregation took this very seriously. When Pastor Shelton arrived at Hope, the congregation was not receiving any support money from the ULCA. The church bazaar practice lasted several years, and although it did raise funds for the church it was eventually abandoned.

On April 8, 1979, under the second tenure of Pastor Jack Little, Hope's Last Supper painting was dedicated. The work was completed by Richard Grabher and the frame was constructed by William Beck, both of whom were longtime members. 

On October 1, 1979 Rev. Jane Shields became Hope's fifth pastor and the first female to assume the role. She enjoyed a long and strong tenure. During this time, a program entitled "Word and Witness" began. From 1981 to 1986, 20% of the adult members committed to participating. Also in 1979, the "new" green hymnal (LBW) was introduced, replacing the previous version. Hope's food pantry was founded and being serving members of the community in 1980.

 

1983 was a particularly exciting year. A successful campaign to raise $50,000 against the mortgage of the new building was completed, and as part of Hope's 25th Anniversary, Jesus Christ Superstar was performed. During the run, from March 18 - 20, 1983, nearly 1,000 people saw the show. A new roof on the original wing of the building was installed that year by members of the church. In May, a special congregational meeting was held to implement an intern program that began in September. Seven interns participated in the program and have gone on to have successful careers in ministry. The interns are:

Larry Mort (1983 - 1985)

Tim Craven (1985 - 1986)

Susan Lutner (1986 - 1987)

Mark Russell (1987 - 1988)

Mike McQuaid (1988 - 1989)

Zack Harris III (1989 - 1990)

Ben Ehrets (1990 - 1991)

One particularly exciting event in 1983 occurred on June 25. It was the ordination of Cathy Ludwig, Hope's first ordained minister.