At one time, most Lutheran congregations in the United States worshipped and catechized their children in German. In the 19th Century, individual congregations gradually began moving towards using English. The same held true for some Lutherans in the greater Harrisburg area with its rich population of people who came to the United States from Germany.
In 1896, a small group of these German Lutherans from St. Michael Lutheran Church on State Street in Harrisburg decided that they wanted to worship in English as well as have their children catechized in English. The trouble was that the parish was a strong proponent of using German.
This group of parishioners, under the leadership of Frederick L. Welsel and George Deller, formed a mission congregation under the supervision of the English Evangelical Synod of Missouri and Other States. The first service was held in the Shipoke home of George Deller. Rev. Oskar Kaiser, pastor of an English speaking Lutheran church in Baltimore, MD, led the first service. The group continued worshipping as a mission congregation until it organized as Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church on May 16, 1899.
The Rev. Edward H. Paar, who was called as a missionary in June 1897 (installed on October 10, 1897), was installed as the congregation’s first pastor at the initial service on May 16, 1899. There is some small irony in the calling of Rev. Paar in that he received his education at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO. Concordia was one of the seminaries associated with the German Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other states, a group firmly grounded in German. The German Synod would eventually be renamed the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in 1947.
On May 1, 1900, construction of a building began on land donated by Frederick L. Welsel, located at the corner of South 13th Street and Reese Street in the Allison Hill section of Harrisburg. Construction costs totaled $1,750. The cost of the stained glass was an additional $300.
On May 15, 1911, Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church became one of the founding parishes in the English District of the German Synod as the English Synod merged with the German Synod on that historic day. The English District, to reflect its former function as an English speaking Synod, came into the German synod as a non-geographical district, which boasted an international flavor as some of its member congregations were situated in Canada. According to the agreements as part of the merger, the English District would retain some or its autonomy, including in the area of missions and in its very existence as a district.
The German Synod had become more bilingual by this time, and following the onset of World War I, English began replacing German in many of the churches. The church body changed its name to The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in 1947.
As the congregation grew and many of its parishioners moved to the suburbs of Harrisburg, the congregation decided to move out of Harrisburg to serve its members closer to where they were, and to provide a facility that would be suitable for its growing size. The building was sold to Mount Calvary Baptist Church in May 1973. Calvary temporarily shared facilities with Trinity Lutheran Church (Lutheran Church in America) from June 24, 1973 until July 25, 1982.
Calvary shared these facilities for this long period because of a conundrum that arose in deciding on the community to which to relocate as Calvary served—and still serves—parishioners from seven counties: Cumberland, Dauphin, York, Perry, Juniata, Lebanon, and Lancaster. This challenging problem resolved itself when the congregation purchased 5.7 acres in Silver Spring Township in an effort to centralize itself near the bulk of its membership. Its present location is at 208 Woods Drive, also known as the corner of Woods Drive and Hogestown Road.
Calvary remains as one of the original founding congregations the English District of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Calvary joins with its sister congregations, mission starts, and social ministries in furthering God’s Word among His people.
Pastors of Calvary
Calvary has been served by six pastors in its history:
Rev. Edward H. Paar was Calvary’s first pastor and served our congregation from 1897—1930.
Rev. Paul J. Lindenmeyer was Calvary’s pastor from 1940—1972.
Rev. Dr. Thomas D. Kraus served as pastor from 1972—2002.
Rev. Robert J. Nemoyer served as pastor from 2003—2006.
Rev. David M. Nickel served as interim pastor from 2006—2008.
Rev. Luke T. Zimmerman is the current pastor, beginning his service in July 2008.
Rev. Edward Paar
Rev. Paul Lindenmeyer
Rev. Thomas Kraus
Rev. Robert Nemoyer
Rev. David Nickel
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