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Redeemer Lutheran Church | Our History

Our History

The History of The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer of Oakmont, Pennsylvania

Organization

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Oakmont, Pennsylvania, was organized in the year 1900 under the guidance of the Reverend Theodore Walz. Though pastor of a German-speaking congregation in New Kensington, Pastor Walz helped shepherd a small group of German Lutherans speaking English and meeting in a log cabin in Penn Township (now Penn Hills) near the intersection of Hamil, Poketa and Shannon Roads.

With a nucleus of eight families, the newly formed congregation decided to establish a meeting place in Verona, where many more prospective members could be served. The first meeting place was in a second floor hall in the Crookston Building, above a furniture store.

Our First Church Home

The following year, St. Thomas Episcopal Church vacated a small white frame church building located at Second and “C” Streets (now Delaware Avenue) in Oakmont. The small Lutheran congregation purchased the building from Jacob Paul, owner, for a reasonable sum of $2,000. On July 21, 1901, the congregation dedicated its first permanent home. The Reverend Theodore J. A. Huegli, who was later to serve as the first full-time pastor of the congregation, preached the dedicatory sermon.

Charter members were W. H. Hegmann, M. B. Irwin, J. P. Knell, George Kemmler, John Schwarz, Henry Schmidt, George Heid, August Overbeck, Henry Renz, Charles Juch, James A. Hope, Theodore Walz, Jacob Ostein, Chris C. Kemper, and Ernest Reinhold. (Available records do not list the names of women and children.)

Our Second Church Home

After only eleven years, the congregation outgrew the building on Second Street. On October 1, 1912, they purchased the church building erected by the Methodists in 1892 on Fourth Street (now High Spire Apartments) for $8,500 from the Methodist Episcopal Congregation. The two congregations shared the building until November of 1913 when the Methodists completed their new facility at Fifth Street and Maryland Avenue. On November 16, 1913, Redeemer Congregation took full possession of the property and held a dedication service.

In 1929, a parsonage was erected on the lot adjoining the church building. The mortgage for the parsonage was paid off and a special Mortgage-Burning Worship Service was held on January 6, 1944, to celebrate the great blessing. After 43 years, the entire church property was free and clear of any debt.

Adding On

Ten years later, in 1954,a two-story addition was built onto the church building to provide additional Sunday School classrooms. In 1956, a piece of property fronting on Isabella Street and abutting our church property, was acquired with the thought of further expansion of our building. However, in subsequent years, it was decided to look elsewhere in the community for property and build a new facility rather than add onto the existing church building.

On Christmas Day, 1957, Pastor and Mrs. Alfred Faulstick were having dinner with Dr. Jerry McAfee and family. The McAfees were members of the congregation at that time. After dinner, Dr. McAfee asked Pastor Faulstick to accompany him on a short walk at which time he pointed out property at Thirteenth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, which he felt would soon be available. With that walk, the dream for a new House of Worship was born. So, in 1958, 1964, and 1974, three adjoining parcels of land were purchased, providing a lot approximately one square acre at the northwest corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Thirteenth Street in Oakmont. Plans got underway to erect a new church building at that location.

Building a New House of Worship

On September 16, 1979, after 22 years of prayer, sacrificial stewardship, capital campaigns, and planning, the congregation held their groundbreaking ceremonies with Pastor David P. Stechholz and Pastor Emeritus Alfred E. Faulstick officiating. The worship service began at the Fourth Street location. After the initial portion of the service, the members made their way by car to the new church site for the ground-breaking ceremony. The Building Committee consisted of Earl Pauli (Chairman), Charles W. Buttgereit, Sr. and C. William Ruppel. The architect was Mr. William English, and the contractor was Mr. Anthony Tedesco, a neighbor of the church.

On June 8, 1980, the congregation celebrated the laying of the cornerstone. Laid in the cornerstone is a copper box containing the Holy Bible; the Lutheran Confessional Symbols contained in the Book of Concord; a copy of Luther’s Small Catechism; an anniversary medallion commemorating the 400th anniversary of the Book of Concord and the 450th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession of June 25, 1530; a copy of “I Have Good News for You” which is a study book from the Christian Faith and Doctrine class; Kurth’s Catechetical Helps; a copy of our congregation’s 75th Anniversary booklet; a church telephone directory; a copy of our “1979 Annual report”; a copy of Catechetical Review Booklet; one of our Holy Communion registration cards; a copy of The Lutheran Book of Prayer; and several newspapers: “Advanced Leader” issues of April and May, 1958, concerning an ordinance variance; December, 1961, regarding our new organ; September, 1979 issue concerning the ground-breaking ceremony; as well as the June 3, 1980 issue of the Pittsburgh Press concerning the state of the world and the USA.

On September 16, 1980, both the bell and the outside cross were to be put into place. The crane was ready, the bell was ready, but the cross was damaged in transit. After traveling safely all the way from Kentucky, a section of the cross hit a low bridge on Route 19 while approaching the Parkway West. The cross was cracked and had to be returned for repairs.

Initially, the bell had been deleted from the construction costs due to a lack of funds. However the LYF (Lutheran Youth Fellowship) seized the opportunity to promote a special “Bell Fund.” The congregation responded enthusiastically with over-and-above contributions. On October 3, 1980, the same cross, now fully repaired, arrived and was put into place where it serves as a reminder to all who pass by of the great sacrifice Christ made for us.

Next came the move from the House of Worship on Fourth Street to the new House of Worship on top of the hill.

On October 12, 1980, a “Valedictory Service” deconsecrating our church on Fourth Street was held with the Reverends David Stechholz and Alfred Faulstick officiating. Following the deconsecration, members moved by car to our new church building on Pennsylvania Avenue and Thirteenth Street where the service concluded. The congregation gathered in the parking lot of the new church building while Pastor Stechholz blessed the doors, and the congregation entered their new House of Worship for the first time.

November 16, 1980—Dedication Sunday! What a happy day! The day started at 8:00 a.m. with a Holy Eucharist Worship Service. English District President (and a former Pastor of Redeemer), the Reverend Dr. George Bornemann, gave the Dedicatory Sermon. Pastor Stechholz then dedicated the House of Worship and the Church liturgical appointments and objects to the glory of Almighty God. The cost of the new building was approximately $800,800, not including the moving of the organ or placement of the bell. Members and friends of Redeemer congregation gave the faceted glass windows and most major furnishings as gifts. An afternoon Church “Open House,” which many from the community attended, preceded the evening worship service, followed by a reception. In all, an attendance total of 607 was recorded for the three services on Dedication Sunday. Many visitors shared in this joyous occasion.

Establishing a Christian Pre-School

The next memorable event for the congregation was the establishment of our Christian Pre-School in September 1983. We started with one teacher, Mrs. Janet Stechholz, one teacher’s aide, Mrs. Lynn Venturini, and eight students. Mr. Daniel Beckwith served as the first chairman of the new Pre-School Board. In 1986, with Mrs. Stechholz taking maternity leave, Mrs. Gail Holzer assumed the duties of teacher with Dolores Hackwelder as aide. By the year 1987/88, the Pre-School had grown to two teachers, two teachers’ aides, and 24 students.

In November, 1985, the congregation celebrated the 85th Anniversary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer. By God’s grace, the congregation continued to grow in grace and in number.

June 19, 1988, was another grand day. During the Divine Worship Service, the congregation celebrated the burning of the mortgage of the new House of Worship—seven years early. Once again God truly blessed Redeemer. The Planning Committee and Building Committees were already preparing studies and working on a master plan with the hope that in the near future they could enlarge the educational and administrative facilities.

In 1990, the congregation decided the pipe organ was desperately in need of work. With that, a total rebuild was initiated and completed in 1991. Shortly afterward, in 1992, a sound system was added to enhance our worship.

From 1986 on, the Pre-School continued to grow, so that in 1993 the congregation added a kindergarten class. The following year, 1994, introduced our first “elementary” students with three first-graders attending half-day sessions to supplement their home schooling.

It quickly became evident that we were in great need of more space, so in 1995, the Voters’ Assembly decided to engage the services of an architect to design an addition to our building.

Establishing a Christian Day School

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p>In 1996, the congregation established an elementary school, beginning with Grades One and Two and adding a grade level with each subsequent year. Due to zoning disagreements with the Borough of Oakmont, the elementary school, consisting of 11 First and Second grade students, was temporarily moved to Grace Lutheran Church in Penn Hills. Redeemer congregation was grateful for the support from our sister congregation. Following numerous zoning hearings and meetings with our attorney, we were finally granted permission to conduct the elementary school in our own building, and in the fall of 1997, held classes for First through Third Grades with 17 elementary students enrolled.

Adding an Education Wing

On May 31, 1998, a groundbreaking ceremony was held to begin the first phase of the construction of an educational addition, adding a classroom where the courtyard had been. It was dedicated on August 30 of the same year. The following spring, at the March 23, 1999 meeting of the Voters’ assembly, it was decided to accept the bid from MASCO Construction of $1,086,130 and to begin construction of phase two—the main portion—of the education wing. Due to budgetary constraints, it was decided to reduce the costs of the construction by temporarily leaving the lower floor of the wing unfinished, with only the cement floor, bearing walls and rudimentary heating and lighting installed.

November 28, 1999, was a day of celebration and rejoicing as Redeemer congregation not only dedicated the new education wing to the glory of God, but on that most appropriate Thanksgiving weekend began a yearlong celebration of our 100th Anniversary as a congregation, “A Century of God’s Blessings.”

In the meantime, it is up to us today to use our present facilities to the Glory of God. We must remain steadfast in our faith, worship only the one true God, and constantly seek to do His will. God has blessed us mightily. We pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, that we remain constant in the Word of God.


Pastors Who Have Served The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer

Rev'd. Carl Schweitzer 1904-1905
Rev'd. F. W. C. Jesse 1906-1908
Rev'd. Emil G. Steger 1908-1910
Rev'd. Dr. J. H. Dobbyn 1911-1915
Rev'd. Theodore J. A. Huegli 1916-1917
Rev'd. August F. Lindenmeyer 1917-1923
Rev'd. F. Schumm, Sr. 1925
Rev'd. William W. Walker 1925-1937
Rev'd. Alfred B. Claus 1937-1941
Rev'd. George W. Bornemann 1941-1947
Rev'd. L. G. Leonard 1948-1955
Rev'd. Alfred H. Faulstick 1955-1973
Rev'd. Richard L. Ingmire 1974-1976
Rev'd. David P. Stechholz 1978-1988
Rev'd. Mark C. Sheafer 1988-2002
Rev'd. George Dolak, Interim Pastor 2002-2003
Rev'd. Dr. Jonathan C. Naumann 2003-2016
Rev'd. Dr. Edward A. Naumann, Assistant Pastor 2013-2015
Rev'd. Brian P. Westgate 2016-present
We must remain steadfast in our faith, worship only the one true God, and constantly seek to do His will. God has blessed us mightily. We pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, that we remain constant in the Word of God.

100th Anniversary Celebration of The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer

A Century of God’s Blessings: 1900-2000

Throughout the yearlong anniversary observance, we thanked God for His people and the work they are doing for the Lord. As we have said time and again, the Church is the people—the “brotherhood of saints.” Our purpose in this life is to prepare for the next. How? By . . .living according to God’s Word . . .reaching out with the Gospel to all mankind . . .building in His name and to His glory . . .worshipping Him . . .bringing our concerns, thanks and needs to Him in prayer . . .by teaching our children. Each of the groups in the church contributes to this purpose.

In November of 1999, we began our celebration of thanksgiving with the dedication of our new education wing. What a way to start—by looking forward . . .to our children . . .to their education! In December, we talked about “outreach”—what it entails, why it’s important, and how we can be and are involved in it. We also gave thanks for our Married Couples’ Club and our Sunshine Club. In addition to “outreach,” these groups are focused on “inreach”—building up and spiritually supporting our members.

In January 2000, we gave thanks for our youth, including the acolytes. Their contributions to our congregation are most important. Through their participation, they grow in the faith. They are, after all, the future Church.

In February, the music department of the congregation was highlighted. Music is an integral part of our worship. There certainly are many examples throughout the Bible of how music was used in the worship of our Lord. Just take a look at the Psalms! Redeemer is blessed with a variety of opportunities to serve through Music: the Senior Choir; the Music Ensemble, the Handbell Choir; the Sonrise Singers (Youth); and the Cherub Choir.

March brought Lutheran Schools Month and a closer appreciation of our Christian Day School. We read about the rich heritage of Lutheran schools, and the importance of not just a “good education,” but of one that is taught according to Christian principles. We also had the opportunity to meet our “Pre-School Lamb” pen pals at the special reception that was held.

In April, we gave thanks to the service provided to our congregation by our Altar Guild and Gardeners’ Club. Totally different groups? Not really. Our Altar Guild beautifies the inside (the chancel) of our church, and the Gardeners beautify the outside church grounds. Of course, the Altar Guild has many other duties, including preparation of the Lord’s Supper, and care and placement of the altar linens.

May gave us an opportunity to appreciate our branch of AAL (Aid Association of Lutherans), now merged with Lutheran Brotherhood in the newly formed “Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.” Because of its “fraternal” makeup, this group provides educational opportunities, service projects, as well as funds that help our congregation and community.

June, July and August gave us time to contemplate our history, the people who came before us who looked to the future (our present) in establishing this congregation of believers. We enjoyed a visit by one of our former pastors, the Rev. David Stechholz, and a visit from a former member, now a pastor, the Rev. Edward Grimenstein. We talked about how every pastor needs many “helpers”—Sunday School teachers and staff, VBS teachers and staff, Bible Study leaders, officers, committee members, board members, youth leaders and others—to do the Lord’s work and ministry. The summer months also brought some respite, fun and fellowship with the various picnics, including the annual congregational picnic.

September, as usual, was “Christian Education Month.” Our focus settled on the Sunday School, Home Bible Study groups, catechism instruction, and adult instruction classes. September was also a month of wonderful new beginnings! We added sign language interpretation to several of our weekly worship services. God provided us with three members who are trained in American Sign Language and are willing to use their talents in His service to the Deaf.

In October, we gave thanks for the LWML (Lutheran Women’s Missionary League) and the Stewardship Committee. The LWML’s name describes its purpose—mission, both toward women and through women. We had an opportunity to see what they’ve been doing both locally and throughout the world. Throughout October, our Stewardship Committee offered “Five-Minutes Talks” following the worship services on “First Fruits Giving.” The life of a Christian is, and rightly ought to be, one of proper stewardship of time, talents and treasures. After all, Christ, through parable, condemned the servant who “hid” his talents rather than use them wisely on the master’s behalf.