TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
Lutheranism began in Pickaway County in 1811 when the Rev. Jacob Leist was sent by the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Pennsylvania to organize Lutheran congregations in Ohio. His first service was held on August 28 and may have been the first public preaching service in Circleville. Among the heads of Lutheran families who aided in the formation of a congregation in Pickaway County were Jacob Zeiger, George Zimmer, Samuel Watt, Philip Zeiger, Jacob Zeiger, Jr., John Valentine, Peter Apple, Valentine Keffer, Peter Tres, Heinrich Tres, William Moyer, Peter Herbster, Heinrich Ely, Father Try, Anthony Weaver, John Weaver, John Row, and M. Earnhardt. For a long time, Rev. Leist held services once each four weeks, exclusively in German.
It was not until May 9, 1831, that the congregation was organized under the name of the “English Evangelical Lutheran Church,” with the Rev. Nathan B. Little as pastor. In the fall of 1831, subscription (pledges) raised money, material, and work for the building which was erected on West Franklin Street, then known as Bastille Avenue. The cornerstone was laid in the spring of 1832. The Rev. Joseph A. Roof was called in 1834. He saw the church building completed in 1839 and served the congregation for 21 years.
While the Rev. Joel Swartz was pastor of the English Evangelical Lutheran Church, a painful schism within the congregation occurred over matters of doctrine. The Rev. Swartz made it known that he would adhere to a new explanation of certain tenets of the Augsburg Confession. A group who were called the ‘old school’ withdrew from his church, organized with the Rev. C. Albrecht as pastor, and took the name Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church. In 1860, with the Rev. John Wagenhals as pastor, the Trinity congregation obtained from the City of Circleville, by order of the court, lots on East Mound Street known as the “Public” or “Presbyterian” Burying Ground for the construction of a new church building and parsonage. A neat brick church and parsonage were built. The cornerstone was laid in 1865 and the church was dedicated on May 17, 1866. The cost of the church was $5000.
From 1868 until 1870, the Rev. Lenker served as pastor. During his time of service, a number of the older families withdrew from membership due to a diversity of opinion in the Ohio Synod on points of doctrine. After the forced resignation of the Rev. Lenker, the church remained closed for a time. In 1871, the Rev. E. L. S. Tressel arrived and served the remaining members of the congregation until 1874. He was followed by the Rev. A. H. Shulze and, in 1879, by the Rev. A. Pfleuger.
During the pastorate of the Rev. J. H. Schneider (1882-1894) a parochial school was established and a schoolhouse built, a pipe organ was purchased, and the interior of the church was beautified. The parochial school began operation in 1888 with a heavy emphasis on German, Catechism, Church History, and Church Doctrine. In 1895, G. C. Schaub resigned as the teacher at the school to enter the seminary, and because a replacement could not be found, the school was discontinued.
The Rev. S. W. Mautz became pastor of the congregation in 1894.
In August 1898, the Rev. G. J. Troutman began serving Trinity for the salary of $600 and his house. In 1904 his salary was raised to $750 per year along with his house and utilities. In 1901 the congregation decided to build a new church providing the needed funds could be raised. Fundraising proved successful, so plans progressed; the cornerstone for the new building was laid July 20, 1902, with more than one thousand in attendance. A copper box was placed within the cornerstone containing, among other items, a copy of the Holy Bible; lists of the communicant members, the vestry, Sunday School pupils, and various committees; and copies of local newspapers. The last service in the old church had been held on February 9, 1902, and the largest number of members who had ever communed did so on that day. During the construction process, the congregation of 650 members with 400 communicants worshipped in the English Lutheran church on Franklin Street. The new building was dedicated on July 19, 1903, nearly debt free. The cost of this second church was approximately $20,000. A new parsonage was built west of the church in 1907, and the old parsonage was occupied by the custodian.
Until November 1915, two services were held each Sunday morning, one in English and one in German. In June of that same year, the custom of the men and women of the congregation communing separately was discontinued. However, the common cup was used for communion until 1925 when the vestry voted to use individual cups for better sanitary conditions.
Ellis Snyder was hired as choir director in 1919 and was called as assistant minister upon completion of his studies at the seminary at Capital University. He was ordained at Trinity on June 25, 1922, and on the following Sunday was installed as associate pastor, a position which he held for nearly three years. He continued as choir director until about 1932.
In 1927 it was decided that the old parsonage would be removed from the east side of the church and a Parish House built there to accommodate the growing Sunday School and active societies of the congregation. The Parish House was dedicated in 1928.
In November 1930, a re-opening and dedicatory service were held to celebrate the acquisition of a new organ and a remodeled church. The old altar with a figure of the risen Christ was moved to the Lutheran Church at Lick Run.
During the centennial celebration in 1931 services were held throughout the day and were attended by more than 1300 people, many of whom were former members of the congregation who returned from their homes in other cities. At that time, the Trinity congregation numbered nearly 1200 with over 900 communicants and 475 Sunday School pupils.
The Peal of Bells donated to the church by the Rev. Jacob Barthelmas was dedicated on October 15, 1939. The three bells were given to the Glory of the Triune God and in memory of his wife Amelia, his mother Barbara, and his mother-in-law, Lena Webbe. Engravings on the bells record this intention.
After many years of service at Trinity, Dr. G. J. Troutman retired and became Pastor Emeritus in June 1941. On January 22, 1945, he passed into eternal life. Upon his father’s retirement, the Rev. George L. Troutman, who had been serving as associate pastor since 1929, assumed the full responsibility of the church. Also, since 1929 he had been serving as pastor of the East Ringgold Lutheran (Warner) Church which was organized in 1839 by German Reformed and Lutheran congregations and in 1880 had a membership of 140. By 1942, services there had been discontinued.
Pastor Carl Zehner became minister of Trinity in July 1954. During his tenure, the congregation of Christ Church of Lick Run in Jackson Township merged with Trinity. That congregation had been organized in March 1885 and for many years had been served by the pastors of Trinity. During the month of November 1946, the congregation of “Lick Run” celebrated the golden anniversary of its church building. In 1947 a special Memorial Day service was held to honor the 165 members of this Circleville Parish who served in the Armed Forces of our country. Pastor Zehner also led Trinity’s strong support of the formation of the Circleville Mission on Lowery Lane.
In June of 1958, Mr. David Walters was commissioned as a lay missionary to New Guinea. He along with his wife and two children left to serve in the mission field there.
As Trinity’s congregation grew, the need for a larger church with adequate educational facilities became apparent. The last service in the second church building was conducted September 2, 1962. During the demolition of the old church, it was discovered that the building, although it appeared to be a fortress, was in a very unsafe condition. Workers were able to push off the bricks with their hands, the building had been constructed with no cement footers or foundation, and the dome crashed down when the first of eight supports was pulled out. The cornerstone for the new church was laid on January 20, 1963, and the structure was built at a cost of $347,000. The edifice was dedicated on December 8, 1963. In Pastor Zehner’s message at the ceremony, he stated, “To give up the old church was a difficult experience for those who had worshipped in it through the years. But just as the new house into which a family moves soon becomes a real home, so this new church will become a home in fellowship with our Heavenly Father and with one another in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Early in 1979, Dr. John Mittermaier was installed as Senior Pastor. Assistants who served during his tenure were the Rev. Roger Lawrence who had become Trinity’s assistant pastor in 1977 and filled the pulpit since Rev. Zehner’s resignation in 1978, the Rev. Alfred Krebs who served from 1983 until he was called to the Mission Field in Peru, and the Rev. John Boldt who began serving Trinity in 1986. The membership in 1986 numbered 1169 baptized and 911 confirmed. Sunday School membership was 150. Dr. Mittermaier resigned in 1989, and several months later he accepted the request from the congregation to serve as part-time Visitation Pastor, a position which he held until 2006. In 1989, Pastor Roy E. Godfrey was installed as Senior Pastor of Trinity, and in 1990 Pastor Eugene Bensch was installed as Pastor for Outreach. Interim pastors who served the congregation during this era were the Rev. Dan Mortinger, the Rev. Thomas Baumgardner, the Rev. Alan Schwochow, and the Rev. Ronald Wolter.
Over the years, Trinity has been served by Parish Worker, Arlene Palm, and Interns Ray Kibler, Fred W. McLean, Jack E. Schweiss, Don J. Kearns, G. F. Neurenhausen, Ray Johnson, John Gast, John Neumann, John Dietrick, and Herbert C. Beyer, Jr.
The Trinity Lutheran Preschool was established in the fall of 1990 as an integral part of the church’s education ministry to serve families in the church and the community. Mrs. Ruthann Godfrey was named its first director. The preschool began with just two classes and 32 children. Today it has expanded to include kindergarten and has 8 staff members and an enrollment near 90. Construction of the playground was begun in 1997 and completed in 1999 with the laying of the rubberized surface.
A reconstruction project was begun in March 1992 to remodel the Parish House and join it to the church. The rooms added between the two buildings provided additional office space, a library, meeting rooms, classrooms, and an elevator making the facilities accessible. Dedication of the new facility was held on April 25, 1993. The cost of the actual construction was covered by a bequest from the estate of Joseph P. Noecker, a lifelong member of the church.
Vacation Bible School had long been a staple of the educational offerings of Trinity when in the mid-1990’s it was decided to partner with other Mound Street Churches for this endeavor. Beginning by joining with the Presbyterian Church, the summer Bible School was later expanded to include the congregations of the Episcopal and Catholic Churches. The partnership proved to be very satisfactory and continues to the present.
In 1993 the senior choir directed by Katie Wilson Schneider began holding an annual Choir Festival. Choirs from several local churches presented anthems and then formed a mass choir singing to the glory of God. The festival continued for twelve years and was a very successful ecumenical event.
Senior Pastor Donald Bachman, Jr. was installed in September 1994. About a year later the “Dream Come True” ministry was launched. Volunteers have completed projects including a first-floor bedroom with bath and deck, wheelchair ramps, and siding for homes. “Dream Come True” volunteers also helped during construction of the St. Paul A.M.E. Church on Pickaway Street. Other volunteers help with fundraising and supplying meals for the workers during construction.
Serving Trinity with Pastor Bachman has been associate pastors, the Rev. Karl Hanf, installed in 1999, and the Rev. Karen Kepner, installed in 2004. The pastors lead three services each Sunday morning, two traditional and one contemporary. The first contemporary service which was held in the upper room was September 5, 1999, and has since been moved to the sanctuary continuing strong.
In the summer of 2006, a major rebuild of the sanctuary organ was completed by the Bunn-Minnick Company of Columbus, Ohio. Also that summer, Howard Clevenger was hired to fill the vacancy created when Dr. Mittermaier resigned as Visitation Pastor.
Trinity can claim an influence in sending nineteen sons and daughters to the ministry.
Within the community, Trinity cooperates with the local Food Pantry, the Clothing Center, Brown Memorial Home, Eden Place, and the Circleville Community Mission. As times have changed, there has been a turnover of organizations within the congregation. Many such as Von Bora, the Family Circle, Junior Mission Band, the Sunday School Orchestra, the Ladies Bible Class, and Lutheran Brotherhood have passed into history, but other groups have taken their place. Currently, opportunities abound within the church family for worship, praise, service, and fellowship. Church organizations serve as auxiliaries for the work of the church, support the worship services, and contribute to the life of the congregation. The educational ministry continues to be strong through Sunday School, Sunday Night Alive (established on September 7, 1997, and held the first & third Sundays of the month featuring a new catechism program and other education offerings), and Vacation Bible School.
Studies are currently underway to determine the most effective ways for Trinity to serve the Lord in this, the 21st century. This includes a more effective link of home and congregation through the Faith and Family Institute. Additionally, the investigation is underway concerning current and future physical facilities. With its nearly 1200 members, the church can continue to be a strong force within this community and boldly witness to its risen Lord. With God’s divine guidance…one hundred seventy-five years, and still counting!
–compiled by Carolyn Weigand
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This history has been compiled largely from those written for previous celebrations held by Trinity. Special recognition goes to Ann and Elizabeth Wolf for their careful research done for the anniversary celebration twenty years ago. Other information was found in the reference files and scrapbooks at the Pickaway County Historical and Genealogical Society’s library and in bulletins and booklets saved from special services held at the church. The History of Pickaway and Franklin Counties by the Williams Brothers which was published in 1880 was a source of information about the earliest years of the church.