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St. Paul’s gears up for sesquicentennial

The congregation and staff at St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Elmira are working months in advance to prepare for their 150th anniversary celebrations coming up next October, and to start the celebrations off right they are publishing a calendar of photos chronicling their history.

“We dug up some photos from the old archives that we have over at the church,” said longtime member Dennis Bowman. “I think people who visit our church, or who are even just interested in the history of our area, will find this really neat.”

St. Paul’s came into being in 1860 when some German settlers to the area chose to organize a congregation with services in their native language. After meeting in a schoolhouse for a few years, the congregation erected its first house of worship in 1863. The present structure on Mill Street in Elmira was built in 1889, with an education wing added in 1963. Additional renovations followed in 1982, and new washrooms and an elevator were constructed in 2008.

English services were added during the First World War and eventually replaced the German services by the 1940s. In 1988 the congregation became a member of the Lutheran Church of Canada, one of more than 315 Bible-based Lutheran churches in Canada.

St. Paul’s has been served by 11 full-time pastors since its inception, all of whom have continued in the tradition of its first pastor, H.W.H Wichmann, with their dedication to their faith, Bowman explained.

To celebrate the anniversary, staff and volunteers at the church are planning a commemorative service and celebrations including choirs and instrumental music, festivities which may span two weekends.

The calendar depicts bits and pieces of this history through photos of a confirmation class from the 1920s, a vacation bible class in the 1980s, the interior of their very first house of worship, and the St. Paul’s float in the 2001 Elmira Santa Claus parade, among others.

“I think the calendar would make a good Christmas gift to a member of our church,” said Bowman.

The calendar is hot off the presses and available to the public for $10 by calling Pastor Richard Frey at 519-669-2593.

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