More from Our History


I continue to enjoy going through old bulletins. At this point, I've been through some from the late 1940s/early 1950s and now I'm going through ones from the late 1920s.

The Sanctuary

In 1926 St. Stephen's had committed to building the sanctuary at 13th and Broom Street. The price was $75,000, or $1,076,606 in 2020 dollars. That was for the building. Not the windows, not the pews, not the organ, just the building. In March of 1927 it was reported that steel beams were being hoisted into place. The cornerstone laying ceremony was tentatively set for April 1927.

In 1900, when St. Stephen's was just 12 years old, women of the church created the "New Church Property Fund" to start collecting money for the new church, whenever that might be built.

Regarding the New Church Property Collectors: "This organization deserves much credit for in the past decade or more they have raised over $7,000.00 [$101,628 in 2020 dollars] for the new church fund. They were organized in 1900 and have been quietly working ever since that year. Any friend or member of St. Stephen's can join by pledging to give at least five cents each month [75 cents in 2020 dollars] for the New Church Property Fund and the ladies will visit your home at stated intervals to collect the money. (5/5/27)

For over a quarter of a century they quietly gathered funds from participating members. They funded 10% of the cost of the new church. They were thinking ahead. They were patient. They were helpful in offering to pick up the money. They were realistic about what was affordable. (In 1927 the average weekly wage was $28. A gallon of gas cost 15 cents.)

Money

Printed announcements tended to be about upcoming services and activities for the next week.

Or about money.

12/5/1926 after noting the price of the new building: "Unfortunately the people of St. Stephen's have grown out of the habit of giving, through not having been called upon for some twenty years. Now that the beginning of the operation (new building) is near at hand, this condition must be corrected. We need money -- and we appeal to you.

5/5/1927: "Our Special Easter Offering Envelopes are still being returned. Not all have reported and we feel certain that every member of our church desires to have a part in making this the largest one in the history of St. Stephen's To date it has exceeded all expectations which proves the fact that one cannot estimate the real sacrificial spirit of our membership. When the financial secretary reports checks of $150; $75; $50; $25 -- one feels like asking all to join in singing, ‘Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow.’ “

12/22/1927: "New Church Fund -- We just hesitate in calling your attention at this particular season of the year to the fact that Mr. Charles C. Kurtz, Chairman of our Building Fund, has been compelled to make arrangements for our first loan. Of course those who have not paid their subscriptions can help us save interest money by mailing their checks at once."

Expectations

In 1926 St. Stephen's apparently had a static if not dwindling membership. They were committed to a large building project with the new sanctuary. The congregation called a new pastor, Park W. Huntington, who would serve the church for over 25 years. During his years at St. Stephen’s he earned his doctorate, served as an Army chaplain before, during and after the war, frequently taking his vacation time to serve at a local base, and taking a leave of absence in 1941-42.

When he was called to St. Stephen’s in late 1926, the following announcement appeared:

“When a man is at the threshold of immediately realizing his fondest hopes, he is sometimes unconscious of that realization. Do our members visualize what Park W. Huntington's acceptance of our call means? It means that St. Stephen's' decline is about to stop - that this decline is about to receive a severe jolt in the personality and righteous determination of our new leader - that St. Stephen's will return to her old-time strength with its members and organizations teeming with activities - that the young people will receive their inspirations here and become sincere and active Christians, a duty which we owe them - in short, it means a ‘New Dawn’ for St. Stephen's with all the brilliancy of success shining upon us, for which every member has been hoping for years and years. Let us offer thanksgiving for the ‘New Dawn.’ ” (10/1/1926)

We always have expectations for our new pastors, but this seems like a lot of pressure.

There was a delightful passive-aggressive tone to some of the announcements:

We want to thank the following Personal Workers, who made house-to-house visitations last week on prospective members of St. Stephen's. They did such wonderful work and won many new friends as well as members to our church. Sorry that the names of men cannot be included in this list but the call was extended and only the following accepted the challenge: (following is a list of women's names) (3/10/1927)

We appreciate the work and the effort on the part of those ladies who recently cleaned the church auditorium. Because of the fact that this work was done voluntarily and they did not need to be drafted makes their effort doubly worth while. (4/15/1927)

A Message from the Ushers

We appreciate the work of the young men who are assisting in the work of ushering at our church services. But we need a little more co-operation on the part of our members. Remember these men are to do more than hand you a hymn book and to receive the offering. They are USHERS which means that they stand ready and willing to usher you to a pew. (3/24/1927)

This will remain relevant as we return to in-person worship. Please follow the instructions of the ushers (even if they are not young men).

Just a suggestion! Because of the increased attendance at all of our church services and for the convenience of all concerned it would be a splendid idea of those among the first to enter a vacant pew would move to the center. This suggestion comes from the Ushers Association. (4/15/1927)

This will not be relevant as we turn to in-person worship. Sit at the ends of the pews!

- Ann Iona Warner

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St. Stephen's 

Lutheran Church

To Love, To Invite, To Serve

 

1301 N Broom Street Wilmington, DE 19806

302-652-7623  office@ststeph.org

As a Reconciling in Christ congregation of the ELCA, we believe that the gospel is God's gift to all people, shared unconditionally and without regard to race, gender identity, sexual orientation, socio-economic or family status, age, physical or mental abilities, outward appearance, or religious affiliation. We seek to live the truth written in Ephesians that Christ breaks down the dividing walls between us and makes us one.

 

© 2020 St. Stephen's Lutheran Church. All rights reserved.

St. Stephen's Lutheran Church

1301 N Broom Street, Wilmington, DE 19806

302-652-7623 office@ststeph.org

 

We are a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Delaware-Maryland Synod.

 

 

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