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Church of the Holy Spirit ISI - 196]

A Fifty Year History


Founder of Holy Spirit Church

Born June 10, 1850 at Easton, Pa. Graduated from Gettysburg College in 1869, and Philadelphia Seminary in 1872. Ordained the same year by the Ministerium of Pennsylvania. Pastor Christ Church, Chestnut Hill, Phila- delphia, 1872-1876; St. John’s, Charleston, S. C., 1876-1897; Trinity, Reading, Penna., 1897-1911. Elected Professor of Ethics and Missions at Philadelphia Seminary 1911. President of the Ministerium of Pennsylvania 1909-1913. In 1880 he married Harriet Chisolm of Charleston, S. C. Children, three daughters and four sons, three of the latter having entered the ministry.


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A History of

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit of

Reading, Pennsylvania


Prepared and Sponsored by THE MEN OF HOLY SPIRIT

Upon the Occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Founding

of the Congregation




Probably the most valid reason for writing any history is to give those now living a view of the past, that they might give intelli- gent thought to the future. At this fiftieth milestone in the travels of Holy Spirit Church, all of us need to know more about our Church and how it was born and nurtured to maturity. We need to know something about the sacrifices which have brought it to its present state, and something about the people who with God’s help have made, and are still making, all of this possible.

The central theme of our Fiftieth Anniversary observance is to better inform ourselves about our Church and its activities; and this book is intended to serve as part of that effort. Through its pages stride many courageous and dedicated men and women, only a few of whom in this limited space are identified by name. Stout in heart and spirit, it is they, really, who have written this history of Holy Spirit Church. We who have had the privilege of recording their deeds can only pray that the record will afford all of us inspiration to match their accomplishments.

Many persons have lent their assistance to the preparation of this book, and their help is here gratefully acknowledged. Particularly are thanks due our Pastor, Dr. Radcliffe, for his valuable guidance and suggestions concerning its contents; to Dr. Gunnar Knudsen, Pastor of Trinity Church, Reading, who with his Vestry made avail- able the Trinity records, and who permitted quoting direct from his book, “Two Living Centuries”, a history of that Church; to Alan M. Hawman, Jr. for the preparation of the chapter on the Church at Large; to Miss Margaret Beears and Earl H. Reimert for their compilation of information on the Sunday School and the Choir; to Judge Frederick A. Marx and Samuel S. Fox for their able and helpful comments on the manuscript; and finally to those stalwarts, The Men of Holy Spirit, and particularly J. Edgar Hilgendorf, Robert L. Gifford, Jr., and Robert F. DeHart, who made the financing and publication of the book possible.

George V. Luerssen, Reading, Pennsylvania, June, 1961.


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Chapter 5



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Rev. FRANK E. RADCLIFFE, D.D. Pastor of Holy Spirit Church

Born January 22, 1914, Chapman Quarries, Pa. Graduated Nazareth High School 1931; Muhlenberg College 1935: Philadelphia Seminary 1938. Ordained by Ministerium of Pennsylvania in Christ Church. Allentown. Pastor, Robeson Lutheran Parish (St. John’s, Gibraltar. and Robeson, Plowville) 1938-1944; Holy Spirit Church, 1944 to present. During his ministry he has served the church at large in the following capacities: Treasurer of the Reading Conference; Board of Trustees, Muhlenberg College; Ministerium Board of Inner Missions; Board of Directors Spring Crest Home, Lebanon; delegate U.L.C. at Seattle, Washington. Examining Committee of the Minis- terium; Committee for Statement of the Holy Communion. Married in 1938 to Katherine E. M. Kohler. Children. Beverly Louise, Ronald Brian and Cynthia Sue. Degrees: B.S. Philadelphia Seminary 1940; D.D. Muhlenberg College, 1956.


; Chapter |

The Mission

ended, and in its wake had come a resumption of the great

industrial surge of the early nineties and a consequent rapid ex- pansion of our cities. Reading was experiencing its share of this growth; and the trend of its residential spread suggested roughly the five digits of a huge right hand, palm upward. The thumb of this figurative hand extended eastward through the valley between Mt. Penn and Neversink Mountain into the area commonly called “East Reading.” The first finger pointed the length of North Ninth and North Tenth Streets, while the remaining three fingers marked the combined North Fifth-North Sixth Street artery, Centre Avenue, and Schuylkill Avenue. These all followed closely the main car lines of the city.

se year was 1899. The Spanish-American War had just

In the approximate center of the palm of this hand stood Trinity Church, long a bulwark of Lutheranism and the mother of many churches throughout the County of Berks. In the year of which we speak, our Country was observing its 123rd year of exis- tence as a republic—while Trinity had already passed its 150th milestone; and during these many years of its existence it had not neglected the areas in our imaginary hand. In the eastern part of the city, mission congregations had been started which had already resulted in Faith Church in the present Borough of Mt. Penn, and Grace Church on Eleventh Street near Franklin. In the area of our first finger, the north-east, it was through the efforts of Trinity that St. Luke’s at Ninth and Green Streets was later formed. In the area of our mythical third finger, that reaching down the Centre Avenue hill to Riverside, Trinity had planted Peace Chapel at


Centre Avenue near Bern Street; and in the area of our fourth finger it had built Hope Chapel on Schuylkill Avenue near Greenwich Street. The area represented by our middle finger, that large tract in the northern part of the city west of Sixth Street and extending past Centre Avenue, had not yet been provided for.

It was in July of the year 1899 that the first move was made by the Trinity Church Vestry to procure a plot of ground in that area for a prospective Sunday School and Chapel, and the fall of 1899 when a large lot was actually purchased on the southwest corner of Front and Windsor Streets. Trinity never used this lot for building purposes; for in March 1904 Hope Church, now a thriving congregation, having found some disadvantages in its Schuylkill Ave- nue location, decided to move to Front and Greenwich Streets. This move put Hope in a position to serve a large part of the area intended for the Front and Windsor mission, and as a result the Trinity Con- gregation decided to sell this property, and obtain one truly in our “middle finger” area. The property which they acquired was at the northeast corner of Fourth and Windsor Streets, the present site of Holy Spirit Church.

The spring of 1904, when the property was acquired, found this section of the city ripe for a mission congregation. The car shops of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad sprawled northward for several blocks between Sixth and Seventh Streets, a tremendous plant, and probably the city’s largest single employer. Much of the residential expansion along Sixth Street and the immediate streets branching from it, had resulted from the presence of this one plant. Looking westward, Fifth, Fourth and Third Streets, Centre Avenue, and the streets connecting them, formed one of the most pleasant and desirable residential areas in the city. A goodly number of the members of Trinity Church resided in this area.

Windsor Street had been only partly developed. It was on the route of the Cotton Street-Riverside car line, at the time operating the old four-wheel “bouncers”, and periodically one of these would sweep up the street from Sixth to Centre Avenue, a cloud of dust in its wake. This was pretty much a one-way delivery operation— for in order to get a car back to town, one had to use shanks’ mare to Centre Avenue and catch the car on its trip back from Riverside.

The entire property along the north side of Windsor Street between Fourth Street and Madison Avenue was a vacant lot, re- ferred to by the adults in the neighborhood as a “weed field”, but welcomed by the children as a playground. A cinder path served as a sidewalk. Of this entire plot, Trinity purchased a quadrangle meas-


uring 110 feet along Windsor Street and 86 feet along Fourth. Far- seeing as these good folks of Trinity were, it is doubtful that any of them could have envisioned the magnitude of the dynamic force for God’s Kingdom which, by this simple act of purchase, they were putting into motion.

On the date of this first significant step toward a new mission in the north of the city, Dr. Edward Traill Horn had been Trinity’s Pastor for about seven years. Pastor Horn had come from St. John’s Church, Charleston, South Carolina. His predecessor at Trinity, the Reverend Jacob Fry, D.D., had served Trinity Church for 32 years, and in that period had concentrated on the expansion of the Church locally. With the coming of Dr. Horn, even though emphasis was shifted somewhat into the field of foreign missions, the interest of Trinity both in nurturing its present children and in mothering new ones continued. And thus the intent to start a new mission at Fourth and Windsor Streets did not languish. In October 1906 a committee was appointed to have plans prepared for the erection of a chapel. It is possible that the depression of 1907-1908 delayed somewhat the consummation of these plans; for actual work on the building did not begin until April, 1909.

The design submitted by Muhlenberg Brothers, the architects for the building, represented a distinct departure from those of the three previous chapels constructed by Trinity Church. The motif


was Italian Renaissance, and the construction brick, a welcome respite from the brown sandstone epidemic of the times; and both the design and the position of the building on the lot were such as to permit the addition of a larger edifice without detracting from


the architectural unity of the whole. A large rose window was made the feature of the gabled front, and the entrance opened into a separate vestibule to the left of the main part of the building, this vestibule with its doorway, occupying the present-day position of the tower and Windsor Street entrance.

During the construction of the Chapel, Dr. Horn “issued a state- ment indicating that Trinity would gladly give the lot to any re- sponsible body of Lutherans who desired to form a congregation and until a congregation were formed Trinity would carry on Sunday School work in the Chapel. He also indicated that any members of Trinity living in the neighborhood who desired to affiliate with the new congregation would be welcome; with this tongue-in-cheek state- ment, ‘members who wish to remain in Trinity and are able to come to its services, will, it is hoped, remain.’ ””?

There is no doubt that the progress in the construction of the new chapel coupled with this announcement stirred up intense in- terest within the Trinity Congregation. Many of her members lived quite close to the chapel, and evidently they quite gladly put their shoulders to the wheel. Mrs. Walter Jones, then an active member of Trinity, and later a charter member of Holy Spirit recalls helping to raise money in her Sunday School class to assist in financing the construction of the chapel. Mrs. Calvin Noll, then Miss Bertha Gilbert, relates how social gatherings were held in which oranges were served as refreshments, each person being required to con- tribute a penny to the building fund for every seed found in the orange. The devious ways in which they supported this effort indicate better than words the diligence of Dr. Horn and his flock to get this mission on its feet.

The cornerstone of the Fourth and Windsor Chapel was laid on August 29, 1909, Dr. Horn officiating in person at the ceremony.

At a meeting of the Vestry of Trinity Church on March 28, 1910, the architect reported the chapel finished. At this same meet- ing “Pastor Horn was authorized to meet the men belonging to the Lutheran Church who lived in the vicinity of Fourth and Windsor Streets, and endeavor to organize a Sunday School under the same constitution as Trinity.”? The response to Dr. Horn’s invitation was quite enthusiastic, and the meeting was held April 19, 1910. The proceedings of this gathering are carefully recorded in the first pages of the Minutes of the Sunday School Association of Holy Spirit. It

* Quoted from “Two Living Centuries”, by Gunnar Knudsen. * From the Minutes of Trinity Lutheran Church Vestry, March 28, 1910.


was unanimously agreed to form an organization to establish a Sun- day School in the Chapel; and it was at this meeting that the name “Church of the Holy Spirit” for the congregation was “heartily en- dorsed” and adopted.* Sunday, May 1, was selected for the dedica- tion, with afternoon and evening services under auspices of Trinity; and the following Sunday, May 8, was set as the commencement of the Sunday School.

The future of this infant Sabbath School was to be indeed in sure and capable hands. Within but a block or two of the new chapel there lived men of real stature and ability, many of them dedicated and experienced in the field of Christian education. At this initial meeting of the Sunday School Association sixteen of these signed their names as willing to support the venture—and these elected their officers who were to nurture and guide the newly born Sunday School under the direction of Dr. Horn.t The Holy Spirit Mission was indeed fortunate in the selection of these officers—for some of them were to help pilot her through not only the formative years of the Sunday School, but some of the later and very precarious years of the Church as well.

The Superintendent was to be Frederick A. Marx, a young at- torney who later was to become Judge of the Orphans Court of Berks County. Attorney Marx had moved from Kutztown where he had been a member of Trinity Church, to become affiliated with Hope Lutheran, teaching the Bible Class there during the early years of its existence. Not only was he to officiate as Superintendent of the Holy Spirit Sunday School, but it fell to his lot also to teach the Bible Class, to which he attracted an ever increasing attendance. He was to serve the Sunday School in both capacities continuously for 38 years. His wisdom and experience which proved to be so indispensable to the growth of the new Sunday School are still avail- able to Holy Spirit today as a continuing source of inspiration.

The Secretary of the new Association was to be Mr. Robert L. Strohecker—and the minutes of this initial meeting are penned in his strong legible hand. Mr. Strohecker was a member of Grace Church, in Reading, and while he was one of the spearheads in the formation of the new Sunday School, and helped immeasurably in bringing it to maturity, he never relinquished his membership at Grace Church. Mr. Strohecker held an executive position with the W. H. Luden Company, and brought to Holy Spirit a breadth of

* The official corporate name of the church adopted later was “The Evan- gelical Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit of Reading, Pennsylvania.” * A complete list of the original signers is given in Appendix E.


business experience and a deep understanding of human nature. He was a man with a ready smile and an ever cheerful word—windows to a kind and sympathetic heart within. He served as Secretary of the Sunday School Association until March 1918, when he accepted a call to be Superintendent of the Sunday School of his home Church, Grace.

As its Treasurer, the group chose Mr. Charles S. Eisenbrown, one of six brothers engaged in the cemetery memorial business. Mr. Eisenbrown had long been a member of Trinity Church in Reading, and when, about the year 1900, Peace Sunday School, established by Trinity in Riverside, was having difficulty attracting leadership from that area, Mr. Eisenbrown accepted the call to be its Super- intendent. He served there successfully for about five years through its period of difficulty, relinquishing the post to other capable hands. Thus he was able to bring to Holy Spirit a wealth of business ability and intimate experience in Sunday School administration as well. All through the development period of the Sunday School, and later of the Church and its building program, Mr. Eisenbrown was a tower of strength for Holy Spirit.

As Superintendent of the Primary Department of the new Sunday School, the Association selected a very capable and talented woman, Miss Araminta Richards. Miss Richards was a teacher in the Public Schools, and a member of Trinity Church. It was said of Miss Richards that she spoke so interestingly that the children “hung on her every word so that they might not miss what was coming next.” Miss Richards was Superintendent of the Primary Department up to the time of her death in May, 1915. Special reso- lutions by both Church Council and the Sunday School Association paid tribute to her unselfish Christian Service. To quote from one of these, “She laid many a fine foundation for noble manhood and womanhood.”

And so with this leadership Holy Spirit Sunday School opened its doors Sunday, May 8, 1910. The event had been well publicized through the immediate neighborhood and in the local newspapers. In spite of rainy weather 103 persons attended, and it was found that they divided themselves 18 in the Primary Department, 47 in the Main School, and 38 in the Bible Class. The first to enroll as a pupil was Elizabeth Franklin from Grace Lutheran Church, now Mrs. Elizabeth Mengel.

This was primarily an organization session, and most of the time was taken up in determining the abilities of the attendants, and in fitting those volunteering for service into their appropriate


places. Even so there was apparently some time available for singing—for Judge Marx still recalls that the lone hymn book avail- able that day was one he had brought with him from Kutztown, and that he himself led the singing with the help of Miss Mary Eisenbrown (now Mrs. Raymond Titlow) who had volunteered to play the piano. The collection that day was $5.01.

The Sunday School actually began functioning the following Sunday—and from that point forward there never was any doubt of its success. The progress of the new Sunday School could not be more eloquently stated than it was in a letter by Mr. Marx to the Vestry of Trinity Church reporting the first two months experience. The letter, now part of the Trinity Church Minutes, was dated June 27, 1910, and reads in part as follows:

“Dear Sirs:

“Realizing that it will be of more than passing interest to you to know what your wards have been doing with the cause entrusted to them in the work of the Sunday School at Fourth and Windsor, beg leave to submit the following summary:

Primary Main Bible

Date Dept. Dept. Class Total May 8 30 56 iby 103 i 30 65 28 123

22 2b 66 33 126

29 26 ih SN 114 Jonceen) Dil 56 43 126 12 2b 47 42 110

19 oS 59 54 148

26 27 51 49 FIN!

“The growth of the Infant or Primary Department has been impeded by the prevalence of whooping cough and measles.”

The letter then went on to list the officers and teachers, and we record these from his letter as follows:

Officers: F. A. Marx, Superintendent; R. L. Strohecker, Secre- tary; Samuel F. Eisenbrown, Assistant Secretary; Charles S. Eisen- brown, Treasurer; Frank Yocum, Librarian; Araminta Richards, Asst. Supt. and Supt. of Primary Department.

Teachers: Mrs. Jacob Baureital, Miss Lela M. Fry, Mrs. James M. Billig, Miss Helen Lenig, Miss Lottie A. Becker, Mr. H. E. Hilbert, Mr. S. G. Frederick.

As the weeks went by, the problem of the Sunday Schooi


seemed to be not so much one of obtaining attendants as of finding space to accommodate them. To quote one of the early teachers, “Many members of other churches, with their children, came to our Sunday School. They made Holy Spirit Sunday School their church.” Particularly was this true of the Bible Class conducted with so much success by Attorney Marx. The Chapel as originally constructed had a balcony at the north end planned to seat about 50 persons. Here the Bible Class met. Attendance had very shortly grown to as many as 54; so it is not surprising that very soon there was discussion of enlarging the Chapel—and the February 27th Minutes of Trinity record permission of that Vestry to enlarge the Chapel, “cost to be stood by the Chapel.” Actually nothing substan- tial was done on this until January 1912, when 25 feet of additional land was bought to the north in anticipation of further building. This rapid expansion of the Sunday School was indeed a tribute to the efforts, the good will, the patience and the devotion of the officers and teachers, and no words written here would be sufficient to give them due credit. The atmosphere at Holy Spirit Sunday School was such that those who attended once invariably wanted to come again. Those who served in that early period set a pattern which has been preserved through the years to this present day—one of friendship, good will and dedication to the work at hand. Through the first summer of the life of the Sunday School another very significant movement began to take form—that toward the formation of a church congregation. The first step taken is recorded in the Association minutes of September 5 and October 3, when suggestions were made of having evening church services in the Chapel in the near future. Then on the evening of October 10, 1910, forty-five persons gathered in a meeting presided over by Mr. Marx, for the purpose of “learning the sentiment of those pres- ent relative to the advisability of organizing a congregation to hold regular services for public worship.” The result was the drawing of a petition upon the Reading Conference requesting that it assign a minister for a future congregation. At this meeting Mr. S. G. Fred- erick was appointed to be secretary, and his minutes of this initial meeting form page one of the Church Council minutes of Holy Spirit Church which have continued unbroken to the present date. At a second meeting on October 18, 1910, attended by about 60 people, a committee was appointed (later known as “the Com- mittee of Seven”) to draw up a constitution and by-laws, and to explore further the possibilities of support of a new congregation. The committee consisted of: Fred A. Marx, Chairman, Elmore A.


Burkhart, S. G. Frederick, John W. Gilbert, Morris Hartman, Henry E. Hilbert, Walter H. Jones.

At the first annual Sunday School meeting on J anuary 2, 1911, the Committee of Seven reported that they had obtained the signa- tures of 75 persons to their petition without having yet canvassed the neighborhood. At the next meeting, that of February 6, it was decided to take the definite step of finding a pastor. About two weeks later, on February 18, word was received from Dr. Horn stating that he had been in touch with Mr. Carolus P. Harry of Norristown, who had finished at Philadelphia Seminary in 1910, and that Mr. Harry had consented to conduct the first church service in the Chapel. The date selected was March 5, the first Sunday in Lent. On this day Mr. Harry conducted two services. Those who attended were deeply impressed, and quite promptly thereafter, on March 14, a meeting was called of those who had designated their willingness to support a congregation, at which it was voted to issue a call to Mr. Harry to become pastor of the prospective congrega- tion. It was further decided at this meeting that regular church services would be held henceforth, and that if Mr. Harry would not always be available to conduct these, supply pastors would be ob- tained until Mr. Harry would be in a position to take over regularly. Mr. Harry accepted the call in a letter dated March 26, 1911.

Mr. Harry’s next visit to Reading for purposes of conducting a church service was on May 7 as part of the observance of the first anniversary of the Sunday School. Holy Spirit had indeed travelled far in one short year. In his address as principal speaker of the Anniversary, Mr. Charles H. Leinbach, President of the Berks County Sabbath School Association, said that “the showing of this Sunday School for the year could not be equalled anywhere in Berks County.”

The Committee of Seven continued to work diligently during the summer. It had already secured a pastor. It next prepared a constitution and by-laws for the prospective congregation. Finally, it redoubled its efforts to obtain members. In this work Dr. Horn was of great assistance, for on August 28 the Trinity Vestry voted to grant “dismissal” to thirty of its members to join Holy Spirit, and on September 25 an additional twenty-four. Of these 54 released, actually 49 became “Charter Members” of Holy Spirit, and repre- sented more than a third of the total initial membership.

The organization meeting was held the evening of September 29, 1911, in the Chapel. Mr. Marx presided, and Mr. Frederick recorded the proceedings. Quoting from his minutes of that meeting, “The roll of all those persons who had presented their letters of


transfer or dismissal from their respective congregations was called, there being present one hundred and two. This complete roll is recorded in the Parish Record designated as Charter Members.”’

The total number of “persons who had presented their letters of transfer or dismissal” was actually 120, not all of them being present at the meeting. The roll called that evening is shown in Appendix C.

This meeting adopted the Constitution and By-Laws as sub- mitted by the Committee of Seven, with only minor changes. It pro- ceeded then to elect the first Church Council, which we record as follows:

Elders: Charles S. Eisenbrown, 1 year; John W. Gilbert, 2 years; Frederick A. Marx, 3 years.

Deacons: Henry E. Hilbert, 1 year; S. G. Frederick, 1 year; Irvin Rader, 2 years; Morris Hartman, 2 years; Elmore Burkhart, 3 years; Walter H. Jones, 3 years.

Trustees: William G. Brosman, 1 year; Irvin Davidheiser, 2 years; Ralph B. Davis, 3 years.

Thus was the Church of the Holy Spirit born. Dr. Horn and the group of leaders in the Holy Spirit Sunday School had worked diligently to bring their venture to fruition. Now both were to em- bark on new and interesting waters. For almost at the exact time of the organization of Holy Spirit, Dr. Horn resigned from Trinity to accept the Professorship of Theology at the Theological Seminary. As to the leaders at Holy Spirit, they now had in their hands alone the piloting of this new congregation. But they ventured forth with confidence. For they had with them both wisdom and faith.


Chapter 2

In Which a Chapel Grew

NDER the guidance of Pastor Harry the 120 persons con-

stituting the new congregation started with a will. Most of

them were relatively young, and, in a sense, they were pioneers. For it must be remembered that these folks had left con- gregations and Sunday schools in which many had their roots deeply planted—congregations with relatively few financial worries— churches in which they were accustomed to seeing familiar faces. They left these for a venture containing many unknowns, but a venture which they knew was to further God’s Kingdom. Mr. Harry, newly from the Seminary, also was embarking upon a new expe- rience. Together they had enlisted in a venture in faith; together they served with both energy and devotion.

The first Communion of the newly formed congregation was celebrated on October 1, just two days after the organization meet- ing. And two days thereafter, on October 3, the first Church Council of Holy Spirit Church met to elect its officers. Pastor Harry was selected to be its President, Sylvester G. Frederick its Secretary, and Charles S. Eisenbrown its Treasurer. Standing committees were appointed to carry through the work of the Council, and a day selected for its regular meetings—the first Tuesday evening after the first Monday of each month. (This was changed shortly there- after, and has been changed many times since.) At this meeting it was decided that the regular hours of Church services were to be “eleven o’clock A. M., and seven-thirty o’clock P. M.” (The time of the morning service was shortly changed to ten-thirty.) It was at this meeting also that a special committee was appointed to ar- range a social gathering “for the purpose of promoting a free and intimate social intercourse among our members,” indicating at this early date that the founders of Holy Spirit Church recognized the importance of close fellowship among its members.


The record of this first meeting, and of many meetings which followed are both intimate and complete as a result of very careful and painstaking recording by the Secretary. Mr. Frederick, a native of Berks County, was at the time engaged in the textile business in Reading. He was one of the original 49 members who had transferred from Trinity Church, where he had been active in church work. At Holy Spirit he was one of the “Committee of Seven’ responsible for its foundation. He was ultimately to serve twelve years on Church Council five of which were spent as President and four as Secretary.

Had we no other records than those left us by Mr. Strohecker for the Sunday School and Mr. Frederick for the Church Council, we would have sufficient evidence that Holy Spirit Church in those first few years was teeming with activity. And these same records spell quite plainly the dilemma of this new congregation, which so quickly outgrew the space available to it. For at a very early date it was obvious that the original chapel built by Trinity Church would not be adequate for long, and that provision for more space would have to be made promptly.

Putting first things first, Church Council on November 3, 1911 asked the Trinity Vestry to “define its position regarding the prop- erty,” mentioning the possibility of Holy Spirit’s acquiring a 25 foot strip of land adjoining the north boundary of the original plot. Trinity gave its blessing to this contemplated move, replying that Holy Spirit was free to go ahead as it saw fit; with the result that in January 1912 preliminary plans were prepared by Muhlenberg Brothers for a one-story addition to the north end of the Chapel, and the President and Secretary were authorized to secure the extra 25 feet of ground, the purchase cost of which the Sunday School had offered to assume.!

No building operations were started, however, until fall; and during the summer the new lot was fenced in and plowed to make it available to those members with an urge toward gardening. It is recorded that only about half the land was thus used, indicating that gardening had not yet grown to be the popular “sport” it was to become later. In the fall, further assurances were secured from its Vestry that Trinity Church would continue to hold the property at Fourth and Windsor with its encumbrances, and offered to pay the interest on the mortgage until such time as the Holy Spirit Con- gregation should feel able to take it over. And thus in October a

" This property was deeded on April 3 to the Trustees, a procedure which was necessary because neither Church nor Sunday School were as yet in- corporated bodies.



Co-founder and First Superintendent of Holy Spirit Sunday School

Born Kutztown, Pa., March 19, 1876. Graduated Keystone State Normal School 1892, and Lafayette College 1896. Taught in public schools, Morgan- town, and Keystone Normal School, three years. Admitted to Bar of Berks County Courts 1900. Studied at Dickinson Law School 1901. Assistant District Attorney of Berks County four years. Appointed Judge of Orphans’ Court of Berks County 1926, elected 1927, and served until 1958. Charter member of Holy Spirit Church; Superintendent of Sunday School 1910-1948, and teacher of Bible Class for same period; served on first Church Council, and two subsequent terms, as President for one year. Member of “Committee of Seven”, and of numerous other important committees in the life of Holy Spirit Church. Married to Rebecca Fenstermacher, 1903. Two sons, James F., born 1906, and John E., born 1918.


contract was let for constructing a new annex which was to house the Primary Department, and make the main floor of the chapel available for the other departments of the Sunday School.

The new annex was dedicated January 19, 1913, and proved to be only the first of a series of steps taken to utilize every square foot of available space—an effort which was to tax the patience and ingenuity of the good folks at Holy Spirit Church for some years to come. For the chapel and its annex were soon outgrown once more, and there followed the construction of a second story above it in August 1914 with some changes to the stairway to save space, and finally in 1920 by the construction of a chancel on the west side, and of a balcony on the south and east sides.

In the meantime in June, 1914, the Congregation had taken another forward step, that of acquiring a parsonage. Immediately to the east of the chapel property, their fronts facing Windsor Street, there was under construction a row of new stone front houses— and negotiations were started promptly toward the purchase of the first of these just across the alley adjacent to the Chapel. Title having been duly secured, Pastor Harry occupied this new house on August 18, whence it has continued to serve as the Parsonage to the pres- ent day.

Quite willingly the young Sunday School assumed its share of the financial responsibility for the acquisition of these new facilities, and set about raising the first improvement fund. Various plans were used to raise funds, one of which was known as the “Mile of Pen- nies”, in which special foot rules were distributed, each containing spaces for 16 pennies. A mile of these when filled, netted about $850. Another was to take two collections in the Sunday School, the first the regular offering and the second an offering for the fund. This extended also to the small children. Many of these would forget and give all their coins into the first offering, so that when it came time to make their all-important contribution to the fund, they were empty-handed. On such occasions it was not unusual to observe Secretary Strohecker stationed at a strategic though inconspicuous spot, with a handful of coins. A sly wink by Secretary Strohecker to the youngsters was a signal to them quietly to pick up a penny or a nickel as they went by, thus relieving their embarrassment and at the same time preserving their status as “regulars” in contributing to the fund.

The funds of the Congregation were in capable hands. Charles S. Eisenbrown had been chosen the first treasurer of both Sunday School and Church Congregation. In J anuary of 1914 William Bros-


man took over the duties of Sunday School Treasurer, which post he filled for almost 20 years; and in December of the same year, when Mr. Eisenbrown concluded his first three-year term on Church Council, Elmore A. Burkhart was elected to Church Council and was made treasurer, a task to which he dedicated himself for over 20 years until his death in 1935.

Mr. Burkhart, a native of Bernville, had been a member of Grace Lutheran Church in Reading. There he had served as member of its Church Council, and for many years as Secretary of the Sunday School. He held an executive position with the Reading Hardware Company, and when he came to Holy Spirit as a charter member he brought to it both knowledge of finance and ability in church administration. Mr. Burkhart was a member of the “Committee of Seven”. Throughout this early period and the difficult financial years which followed, he labored hard and late to keep funds flowing into the Church to keep her work alive. His efforts constituted one of the mainstays of the Congregation through many years.

Just as the physical plant needed enlarging to meet the needs of the growing Congregation, so did the Constitution and By-Laws adopted at the organization meeting need to be revised to meet new problems and situations as they developed in the church, and to satisfy certain requirements of the Reading Conference. And thus during the first four years there were frequent amendments as they were needed. One of these of particular interest had to do with the officers of the Congregation. Up to 1914 these were three Elders, six Deacons and three Trustees, each elected for a three year term. Under a revision of the By-Laws, there were now to be simply nine Deacons to be elected for three year terms, the body to be known as “Church Council”. The reshaping of both Constitution and By- Laws continued until 1915, when in its annual meeting on January 11, a charter for incorporation was adopted by the Congregation. This was formally granted by the Court on April 4 of the same year. The full corporate name was “The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit of the City of Reading, Pennsylvania.” The “Charter and By-Laws” as written then and printed in booklet form, have survived to the present time with only minor changes.”

Shortly after the incorporation of the Congregation, Church Council voted on July 6, 1915 to inform Trinity Church that “we are ready to assume on January 1, 1916, obligation on the mortgage

* The complete Charter and By-Laws in their present form are given in Ap- pendix L.


of $3700 on condition that title to the property be transferred to the Corporation before that date.” This was an important milestone in the history of the Congregation; for the message served notice that Holy Spirit Church now had grown into a healthy robust child. She was now ready to leave the shelter of the parental roof and assume her own responsibilities, not without a feeling of pride, perhaps, that she had fulfilled all the hopes of the Church that had mothered her.

With the assumption of this mortgage, the total debt of the Church was about $10,000. But the folks at Holy Spirit were by no means abashed at the size of this burden, and met the challenge without hesitation, and one by one the various items of the church debt were paid. The first of these, the debt on the 25 foot lot, had already been liquidated by the Sunday School on the occasion of the celebration of its Sth anniversary on May 9, 1915, when in the presence of Mayor Ira Stratton, the speaker of the day, the Sunday School proudly handed the mortgage on_ this ground to Pastor Harry. May 18, 1919 however was particularly a day of rejoicing in the Congregation—for it was then that the mortgage and note which were assumed when the original property was conveyed from Trinity were burned with appropriate ceremonies. “Thus” relates the record, “by the united effort of the members of the Congregation, supported by the Sunday School and other organizations, there was fully paid in a little over two years an indebtedness of $3700, a burden which seemed almost crushing when it was assumed. This accomplishment gives us just cause for rejoicing, and promises well for the future of our Congregation.”

It is a matter of record that the Sunday School had assumed up to that time over half the total Church indebtedness—and it was the Sunday School finally in 1921 who alone completed the payment of the last and largest single item—the $4500 mortgage on the Parsonage.

Holy Spirit Church never was lacking in either musical talent or musical effort. Miss Mary Mengel, a former member of Trinity Church and a talented music teacher, became the first organist of the Sunday School, to continue thus until the spring of 1913 when she transferred her membership back to Trinity. Originally the chapel contained two small pedal organs, one on the main floor for Sunday School use, and another on the balcony. This second organ was a very mobile one, moving frequently from one location to another depending upon whether the balcony at the moment were serving as a room for the Bible Class or as a choir loft for the Church service.


Later, through the efforts.of Mr. Strohecker, this was replaced by a pump organ, giving opportunity for some of the young men of the Sunday School with good arms and backs to display their willing, though sometimes unsteady, brawn.

Shortly after the organization of the Church, Robert Eisen- brown, then a senior in high school, was appointed to be the first Church organist. He served as a volunteer from November 1911 until September 1912, when he left for college; whereupon two additional volunteers were immediately available, Miss Mary Eisenbrown and Charles F. Smith. These two alternated at the organ, and when Mr. Eisenbrown returned the following summer, all three attended to the musical needs of the Congregation. Mr. Smith now remarks with undue modesty that what Holy Spirit lacked in quality in this par- ticular phase of her activities, she certainly made up for in quantity.

In any event, they served