Prior to the year 1852 the Lutheran people of this community worshipped in the Altalaha Lutheran Church at Rehrersburg. In this year (1852) the Salem Lutheran Congregation was organized by the Rev. T. T. laeger. The first Church Council consisted of Martin Smith and Solomon Schreffler as Elders; Henry Brobst and John Burgert as Deacons. Before the organization took place the Salem Reformed Congregation was petitioned for the privilege to worship in their Church. This right was granted under a written agreement signed by the Reformed Consistory and such voting members as were present at a meeting August 21, 1853. This right was granted for as long as the Lutherans wish it and as long as the majority of the voting members of the Reformed congregation permit it, providing that the Lutherans shall bring their voluntary gifts for the maintenance and improvement of the church, as the Reformed do. The agreement further provided for the privilege of the Lutherans to worship every four weeks, and to hold confirmation and communion services as well as the use of burial ground, and that all general offerings to go in the general treasury of the two congregations and that both Lutherans and Reformed alike abide by the regular laws of the Reformed Church. Furthermore, if the Lutherans wish to break away at any time they may not take anything along nor need they pay anything further. At the time of the organization of this Congregation there were 25 communicants. The pastors up to this time were as follows: Rev. Thomas T. laeger, 1852-1854; Rev. J. C. Schmidt, 1855-1856; Rev. Hugo Grahn, 1858-1866; Rev. D. D. Trexler, 1866-1913; Rev. Ira W. Klick, 1914-1927; Rev. W. A. Dries, D.D., 1927-1947; Rev. Donald H. Heist, 1947-1948; Rev. Alfred H. Erb, 1949 - 1959; Rev. John D. Keener, 1960 - 1968; Rev. Larry Hassler, 1970 - 1979; Rev. George E. Hein, 1980 - 1991; and Rev. John F. Hazel Jr., 1992 to 2004.

For 78 years these two congregations lived up to the spirit of the agreement when on May 1, 1930 at a meeting of the Church Council Mr. and Mrs. J. George Rick offered $20,000.00 for the purpose of building a new Lutheran Church for this congregation. Greatly desiring a Church building of their own, with room especially provided for a Sunday School, and with no unfriendliness toward their sister congregation, the members at a congregational meeting held on May 25, 1930, decided by a unanimous vote to gratefully accept the voluntary contribution of $20,000 from Mr. and Mrs. J. G. Rick for the purpose of building a Memorial Church at this place to be known as Salem's Evangelical Lutheran Church. At the same time, Charles Clemens donated one acre, more or less, of ground for the site of the Church, which, too, was gratefully accepted. The ground was broken August 19, 1930 and the corner- stone was laid September 7, 1930 by the Pastor, Dr. W. A. Dries. The building committee consisted of Mr. J. G. Rick, Mrs. T. G. Rick, Charles Clemens, Mrs. Sallie B. Kurr and William Bashore.

The Church Council at this time consisted of Pres., Dr. W. A. Dries; Secretary. Wayne H. Gibble; Treasurer, Charles C. Clemens; Elders. Philip S. Steinbach and Harry M. Kohr; Deacons, William H. Bashore, Norman Y. Schlappig, C. C. Clemens, Nathan H. Gibble, Wayne H. Gibble, and Oscar E. Strauss. At a special service at the laying of the cornerstone there was placed in the cornerstone a copper box containing a Bible, a Church book, an Augsburg Sunday School Quarterly, a Parish Record, an Historical Article about the donor of the Church building as well as the ground, a list of all Church members and a Kirchenbuch. A Committee was formed to solicit donors of memorial windows.

In 1931 the Church was completed at an approximate total cost of $25,000. The amount of $5,000.00 over and above the initial contribution of $20,000.00 by the Rick family was borne by the Congregation through cash contributions as well as the memorial windows and interior furnishings. There was a small loan made to complete the transactions for a period of 7 years when in 1938 the balance of this debt was cancelled by another donation by Mrs. J. G. Rick in the amount of approximately $500.00. The Church was dedicated in this year. During the year of 1947 a new oil burner was installed, a well drilled and a water pump installed at a total cost of over $800.00. In the year 1948 Vestments were purchased for the Choir and a new set of Altar ware including Cross, Candlesticks, Flower vases and Offering Plates were purchased and dedicated.

In 1949 the Church basement was concreted. In 1950 a set of white Altar, Pulpit and Lectern Paraments was consecrated April 23rd and a new Minshall-Estey electric organ was dedicated at a special service on May 28th of that same year. At the latter service Rev. Paul J. Dundore, President of the Reading Conference, was the guest speaker. Prior to this time there was no organ in the Church, and a piano was used to accompany the services. On Sept. 9, 1951, a set of Red Altar, Pulpit and Lectern Paraments was consecrated.

After extensive renovations both to the interior and exterior of the Church the rededication service was held on Oct. 7, 1951, at which service the Rev. Horace S. Mann, Superintendent of the Lutheran Inner Mission Society of Reading and Vicinity, was guest speaker.

An electrical fire destroyed Salem's building on , November 9, 1977. At the invitation of Altalaha congregation, Salem members worshipped with them, until February 3, 1980. In an effort to preserve their identity, Salem's members decided to establish their own services at Salem United Church of Christ, Bethel.

A building committee was formed. Now the challenge to rebuild or build new. Consideration was given to salvaging and modifying the existing structure but a suitable floor plan could not be devised. Attention was turned to designing an edifice to meet the needs of Salem congregation.

After many months of planning, ground was finally broken May 18, 1980 in services performed by Rev. John D. Keener, a former Salem Pastor.

The Church was constructed to give all the opportunity for worship. There are no steps in the entire building except the one at the Communion Rail. The beautiful stone facade consists of stone saved from the old Salem Structure. The wooden Cross which hangs on the interior side of the stone panel was made from the pine tree that once stood at the southeast corner of the old building. The seating capacity in the nave is 226 with the Narthex to be used for overflow. There is a new Allen organ to provide music for the services. Through a window from the Nursery, the attendant can view the worship service. There are 7 Church School rooms for education, and a kitchen and social hall, with seating for 162. The parking lot has a capacity of 60 cars.

The first service in the new building was held May 24, 1981, at which time the Order for laying of the Datestone was conducted before the congregation entered the building for the service.

The Datestone was donated by the General Contractor, Arthur Funk & Sons, Inc. The Stainless Steel Container was made by Calvin Zellers.




10/27/2015 04:10:40 PM