The History of St. Paul's 

St. Paul's has served Pittsford and the greater Rochester, NY community for over 150 years.  St. Paul's Lutheran Church is listed on the New York State Register of Historic Places.  

St. Paul's Lutheran Church was established in 1867 in Pittsford, NY.  Pastor Armin Uebelacker was interested in addressing the spiritual needs of the German speaking farm families in the Pittsford area.  He began services for them in the Cobblestone Academy school house on Church Street.

 

As more families settled in the area, the need for a full-time pastor grew, and on June 20, 1967, the Rev. Valentine Mueller was called, and the German speaking congregation was subsequently organized under the name of St. Paul's German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Pittsford. 

Later that year, ground was purchased on what is now Golf Avenue and the cornerstone for a frame building was laid.  Members of the congregation gave freely of their time and the use of their horse teams to complete the church building in time for Christmas services.

In 1869 Pastor Meuller resigned, and George Gomph, a theological student at the Philadelphia Seminary was called.  He was ordained in June and came to serve as a faithful shepherd to St. Paul's for 40 years.

  In Dr. Gomph's four decades of ministry, the congregation made great progress.  

  • Soon after his arrival a Sunday Church School was organized. ¬†In 1870 a parochial school was built with Dr. Gomph as its teacher.
  • In January 1884, the congregation voted to sell the property on Golf Avenue and purchase land at the corner of Lincoln Street and Morningside Park (now Washington Avenue). ¬†Ground was broken in February and the church was completed in September.

 

  • In 1891 it became apparent that some of the younger generations were not enjoying or understanding the German services as much as their parents had been, so the last Sunday of the month was set aside for services in the English Language. ¬†Eventually a second English service was added, and in 1898 the Sunday Church School gave up the German language completely.
  • The Dorcas Society for the women of the congregation was organized in September 1902. This group is still doing good work for our church and the community today.
  • In 1903, the Dorcas Society gave the money in its treasury to build an 18-foot extension of the church building. ¬†That room was named the Dorcas Rachel Room.

Dr. Gomph retired on June 27, 1909 after forty years of ministry.  

Later in 1909, Mr. Herman Miller, a senior at the Philadelphia Seminary was called. During the ministry of Pastor Miller, the old pew rental system was replaced with monthly offering envelopes. And in 1911 it was resolved to mortgage the church property and build a parsonage.

In January of 1915 Pastor Miller resigned to accept a call to the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in Buffalo, NY.

In May 1915 the Rev. J. Christian Krahmer of Hudson, NY was called.  During Pastor Krahmer's ministry, further progress was made:

  • In 1916 men and women were given permission to commune together. ¬†Up until that time, first the men communed and then the women.
  • In 1918 the name of the church was changed to St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church of Pittsford, Monroe County, New York.
  • In 1923 an appeal was made for goods to help our brothers and sisters in war ridden Europe. ¬†Several shipments of clothing were sent overseas supervised by the hard-working Dorcas Society.

In September of 1923 Pastor Krahmer resigned to accept a teaching position at Wagner College, now moved to Staten Island.  

In August of that year the Rev. Yost Brandt of Albany, NY was called.

  • In January 1924, English morning services instead of German were started the first Sunday of each month. Also that month the horse sheds were removed.
  • In 1926 a constitutional revision gave all members in good standing, including women, a vote in church affairs.
  • In 1928 the decision was made to remodel the church. ¬†The sanctuary was reversed and remodeled and classroom areas added. ¬†The organ was enlarged and rebuilt by the Kohl Pipe Organ Co. of Rochester, and the altar window was given in memory of Dr. Gomph who died in 1918.
  • In 1935 the congregation voted to abolish the German service, which were then held just once a month.

In November 1945, Pastor Brandt retired after serving the church for 22 years. 

In January 1946, the congregation extended a call to the Rev. Charles Davis, a military Chaplain.  Pastor Davis resigned in 1950 to accept a call in Colorado, and in February of 1951 the Rev. John Sanborn was called to serve as the congregation's seventh pastor.

  • In 1952, women (two) were elected to the church council for the first time.
  • In 1954 the congregation began the building of a new wing to contain Sunday Church school rooms, a library and a study for the Pastor.

Pastor Sanborn left the congregation in March 1957 to accept a call in North Syracuse.  

In April, the Rev. Wayne S. Pittenger from Wilmington, Ohio was called to be the eighth pastor and faithfully serviced for over 30 years. 

From 1959 to 1966 major work was done on the church.  

  • In 1965 the Gilmore property at 30 Lincoln Avenue was purchased for additional parking.
  • A new pipe organ from the Schlicker Organ Co. in Buffalo was purchased and installed. ¬†A gallery for the organ and choir was added by remodeling the attic above the Dorcas room. ¬†Renovations were made to the sanctuary and classroom space was added. ¬†All of this was completed in 1966.
  • A parsonage at 98 Sunset Blvd. was purchased in 1969 anticipating the use of the house adjacent to the church as a Sunday School.
  • In 1967, St. Paul's celebrated its 100th anniversary and was placed on Pittsford Historic Places List.
  • The renovation and expansion of our facilities overlapping the 100th anniversary was our response to great change and diversified growth in the Pittsford area.
  • The growth also led to the addition of an Associate Pastor in 1969. ¬†The Rev. Kenneth Sharp was called and served for two years. ¬†Three services were also held for a brief period.
  • In 1971 the old parsonage was annexed to the main building by a breezeway serving as an entrance from the parking lot. ¬†The newly purchased parsonage served the pastor for 12 years until his own home was purchased and the parsonage was sold. ¬†This freed the church from the responsibility of parsonage ownership, following a positive trend in home ownership for clergy throughout the church.

St. Paul's has long been an active participant in social outreach.  In 1976, the congregation sponsored and resettled their first refugee family, the Chuang Chomthipes from Laos in Southeast Asia.  

In 1987 the congregation extended a call to seminarian Judith VanOsdol as Assistant Pastor.  Her ordination and installation were on June 28th of that year.  She resigned in 1989 to accept a call to Zion Lutheran Church in Chicago.

In May of 1989 Pastor Pittenger retired after 32 years of service.  He was honored with the title of Pastor Emeritus.

In January 1990 the Rev. Jeffrey Alan Hedin was called from Zion Lutheran Church in Clarence Center, NY to be the ninth pastor of St. Paul's. Interestingly, St. Paul's first pastor, the Rev. Mueller, also came from Clarence Center.

Soon after Pastor Hedin's installation, it became clear that significant renovations were necessary. St. Paul's had been named a part of historic Pittsford and had been designated by leading architects as one of the finest examples of late 19th century architecture. A conscientious property committee, pastor and long-range planning committee worked toward its continued beautification and preservation.

In May of 1991 the renovation and beautification of St. Paul's was started, which included removing 10 layers of peeling paint using a new technique. They applied a white stain.  

In 1992 the overgrown plantings were removed, the steeple was reroofed, and new louvers installed.  

On July 26, 1992, St. Paul's celebrated its 125th anniversary with a special service and a banquet at the Burgundy Basin Inn. 125th Anniversary cookbooks, stationary and ornaments were available.

During the anniversary year, the art glass windows originally installed in 1904 were starting to decay. Sponsorships were offered for each window to be releaded and protected. The names of the donors are still on each window.

Renovation became part of a long-range plan. There was a desire to create additional main level fellowship space that would make church programs more inviting and accessible to everyone.  

A building task force reorganized in 2002 to address an ever-growing nursery population, inadequate office space, and neglected building maintenance. Hospitality and accessibility were the goal.

In April 2005 ground was broken on a $1.3M renovation project which included a new nursery and offices, a Grand Foyer as a main entrance, a new roof, a new heating system, renovated electrical and fire alarm systems, and an elevator and lift to access main portions of the building. The sanctuary was redesigned for accessibility, flexibility, and was refurbished with new lighting and an improved sound system throughout the main floor. 

The balcony became a single level for ease of access. The downstairs was rebuilt with soundproof classroom dividers, and handicapped restrooms were added on the three main levels.  Storage space was redesigned, the cellar dirt flooring was covered with concrete, and the downstairs kitchen significantly upgraded.

 

To address a swine flu epidemic in 2007, hand sanitizers were placed in each pew and became a staple at all gatherings.¬† 250 ‚ÄúFans of St. Paul‚Äôs‚ÄĚ were purchased in 2012 to address summer sweltering at services in the unairconditioned sanctuary.

Pastor Hedin was the Transitional Pastor for Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in East Rochester in 2001 and again in 2013.  

Over the years, Trinity's membership steadily declined. They decided to share their building with Mary Magdalene Church, which rented space and would eventually purchase their Main Street facility, keeping it as a Christ centered facility. The eventually got to a point that it was no longer viable to continue as a standalone congregation.

Holy Closure occurred in January of 2014. The congregation of Trinity merged with St. Paul’s and many core members of Trinity joined St. Paul’s and added their gifts to the life of the congregation.  All their historical records were brought to St. Paul’s, and St. Paul’s was strengthened by new leadership, as well as the many material and spiritual assets they offered. 

An avid Buffalo Bills fan, Pastor Hedin always found a way to incorporate the Bills into his sermons during football season, and even many other times throughout the year. The Bills appeared in a record four consecutive Super Bowls in the 1990's, losing on each occasion. 

Using the Bills in his sermons was a message of hope and belief. Bills fans live in hope and believe there will be another Super Bowl win.  As Christians, we live in hope.  It is God's promise that there is something better coming. GO BILLS!

In July 2016 Pastor Hedin retired after nearly 27 years of service, and a final celebration was held on July 31st. He left as a legacy an inspirational music program, a caring social ministry serving the greater Rochester area, and a strong congregation focused on the future.

St. Paul's celebrated its 150th anniversary in July of 2017.

After several interim pastors, the Rev. Johanna Rehbaum began her ministry at St. Paul's as St. Paul's 10th pastor, and first female pastor, in January of 2019.

 

In March 2020, the coronavirus pandemic shut down all in-person services, and St. Paul's began livestreaming services. Thus began a new way of worship for our congregation, and what started as a challenge turned into a blessing. People could now worship at St. Paul's from anywhere in the world.

 

 

It was decided to make livestreaming an ongoing worship offering. In January 2022 new equipment was permanently installed to improve the quality and accessibility of our livestream ministry and outreach.

In February 2022, St. Paul's made the final payment on the mortgage for the 2005 renovation. An Octoberfest celebration was held on October 1st which included German food, dancing and a mortgage burning service. 

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