God’s People: Believing, Caring, Loving, Serving
Believing: We are chosen and called into a community of faith by the Triune God who we celebrate and praise in our worship. By God’s grace we receive the sacraments and deepen our relationship with God
Caring: As individuals and as a community of faith we care for each other, our community, and the world. By sharing our faith stories we nurture and guide others in the Christian faith
Loving: As God so richly loved us we share God’s love with all whose lives we touch. We strive to love and respect all people, including people who have different views of faith and life.
Serving: As Christians of the Lutheran faith we seek to share our gifts with everyone through our witness. We advocate for justice and peace for all. We give of our time, talents and treasure freely in response to God’s love and blessings.
Our participation in believe, caring, loving, and serving gives our lives meaning and purpose and makes life worthwhile.
Since the year 1885, the Church’s influence has been important in this area of the “Queen City” of the Lehigh Valley, known successively as Three Lanes, Aineyville, Salisbury Township and the Borough of South Allentown. Some of the earliest names recorded in the congregation are Barner, Henninger, Meyers, Miller, Rau, Scholl, Schmoyer and Smith. Prior to the erection of a church edifice, religious services were conducted by the German Reformed Church at irregular intervals in various places by the Reverend Jared Fritxinger. On May 10th, 1884, he organized a Reformed congregation and installed a Consistory. This parish bore the title “St. Mark’s Church” and met in a building on the Old Hellertown Road (now Susquehanna Street).
Even while the Reformed congregation was beginning, the Lutheran missions outreach into this area had been started under the leadership of Prof. William Wackernagel, D.D., LL.D., who was the Chaplain and Professor of Literature and German at Muhlenberg College. For a time, he also served as the college president. The life and progress of the Lutheran Church was so near and dear to his heart that both his tongue and his pen were constantly employed in promoting its interest. In addition to his college duties Dr. Wackernagel had charge of the Lutheran congregations at Altonah and Eastern Salisbury, helped organize St. Mark’s and St Joseph’s Lutheran Church (East Allentown), and was closely identified with the ministry at St Stephens and St. Luke’s Lutheran Churches in Allentown.
On February 12th, 1885, a meeting of the citizens of South Allentown was held in the schoolhouse to consider and devise ways and means to build a new church. At that time a committee was appointed to secure a suitable property for it. On March 9th, 1885, that committee reported that James Barner was willing to sell a plot of ground 60 x 80 feet at three dollars per foot on which to build the church, this is where the present St. Mark’s United Church of Christ stands. There was one stipulation in Barner’s offer: it was to be a “Union Church,” that is, one built and owned jointly by the Lutheran and Reformed denominations and was to be known as “St Mark’s Church” The church was build and dedicated in 1885.
The Reverend Charles E. Sandt, the first Lutheran pastor, came to St Mark’s as an ordained-on February 12, 1885. He was privately tutored by Drs. William A Saddler and George F. Spieker, both outstanding Lutheran theologians. His parish consisted of Aineyville (St. Mark’s), Freemansburg, and St. John’s, Williams Township. Having resigned both Freemansburg and New Williams in 188, he served St. Mark’s ably until his death on August 15th, 1905.
The second spiritual leader of the congregation was the Reverend Charles A Kerschner, who was installed as pastor on May 13th, 1906. Shortly after the Allentown Conference re-assigned St. Mark’s to the Zion’s Lehigh Church and added the preaching point Alburtis to the parish. Pastor Kerschner who was born in the Kutztown area, was the son of a blacksmith. He taught in the public schools in Upper Macungie, North and South Whitehall Townships, for twelve years prior to entering college. He became a most skilled catechist. An elective course at Muhlenberg College passes him into the Philadelphia Seminary in 1892. He was ordained by the Ministerial of Pennsylvania in 1985. His ordained ministry began in the Hegins parish for five years, followed by six years in Conyingham, Pa. prior to his years at St. Mark’s. While here, he ably led our congregation to adopt its own separate constitution and by-lays and had to church remodeled with steam heart being installed. During Pastor Kerschner’s years here, our congregation served as a training ground for ministerial candidates from Muhlenberg College. His own grandson, Charles Ruloff, was confirmed at St. Mark’s and spent his career in the ordained ministry of Lutheran Church. Pastor Kerschner died in Allentown on April 5th, 1928 at age 67, having served as pastor here for twenty-two years. He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Allentown.
On Sunday, July 8th, 1928, the Rev. Carl E. Neudoerffer was ordained and installed as St. Mark’s third pastor. The services were held at Zion’s Church, Lehigh (Alburtis). Participating in the services was the Reverend. Dr. J. J. Neudoerffer, the new pastor’s grandfather, and the Reverend Ernst Neudoerffer and the Reverend August Neudoerffer, uncles of the new pastor. “Pastor Carl” as he was affectionately called, did much of the early evangelistic work of the parish. Though hampered by burdensome activates at Zion Lehigh he reported at our Golden Anniversary celebration on May 26, 1935, that St. Mark’s now consisted of 517 confirmed members. During Pastor’s Neudoerffer’s years among us, the church was completely renovated, memorial windows were installed, and a new Hammond electric organ was purchased. On November 30th, 1950 Pastor Neudoerffer resigned his call here and assumed new duties at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church, Allentown, where he served until his retirement. He and his wife, Melda presently live in Allentown. A key event in St. Mark’s history happened in the month after Pastor Carl left. The Allentown Conference of the Ministerium of Pennsylvania voted to separate the Zion-Lehigh Church in Alburtis and St. Mark’s effective December 31, 1950, making them each independent congregations.
On Sunday June 17th, 1951 the Reverend Ralph W Bagger new ordained was installed as the fourth spiritual leader of the congregation by his father, the Rev. Dr. Henry W Bagger, pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Lancaster, PA. As a representative of the president of the Ministerium of Pennsylvania the Reverend Emil E. Fischer, D.D. Pastor and congregation teamed up and brought a parsonage at 1704-1706 Chapel Ave for over $12,000. It was dedicated November 25, 1951. In 1952 the first Vacation Church School was held with 102 pupils enrolled. Under his leadership, the Lutheran League and Women’s Missionary Society were organized. In October 1952 the nave of the old church was once again redecorated. The Church Council was increased to twelve members and for the first time in 1955 two women were elected to serve on that board. Pastor Bagger resigned his pastorate here on December 16th, 1954. He next served Immanuel Lutheran Church, East Lansdowne PA. He is presently the Periodicals Editor for the Board of Publication, Lutheran Church in America, in Philadelphia, PA. He and his wife Elizabeth, live in Norristown, Pa.
On December 11th, 1955, the Reverend Evans Keim, Jr, coming from Zion, Zion Hill PA, was installed by Rev. Dr. Charles Cooper, President of the Ministerium of Pennsylvania, as the fifth pastor of St. Mark’s. The population growth of the area combined with the efforts of St. Mark’s people to increase the mission and ministry of the congregation. After a period of negotiations that had spanned about twenty years of our history, a vote was taken to dissolve the union with St. Mark’s Reformed Church, with the understanding that we would buy property and build a new church edifice. On November 26th, 1955, Charles Spalding reported on the recommendation to purchase the present property at a price not to exceed $3,550. This was adopted. Under the leadership of Attorney James G. Kellar a building committee labored to make our present structure a reality. Ground was broken on April 13, 1958; the Corner-Stone laid on November 30th, 1958 and April 5, 1959, the split of the union became a reality with our congregation occupying the new building and worshipping in Luther Hall. The first service in the new sanctuary was the Easter Sunrise Service, on April 17th, 1960. Pastor Keim transferred to the Virginia Synod on April 20th, 1969, serving Holy Trinity, Martinsville from 1969-1971. He then accepted the pastoral change at Our Savior Memphis, Tennessee, until his retirement in 1983. He and his wife, Helen, retired resided in Salem Virginia until his death.
The Reverend Harry J. Goos became the sixth regularly called pastor of St. Mark’s having served at Christ Lutheran Church, Grill and Allegheny Lutheran Church, Allegheyville prior to moving to Allentown. During his pastorate among us, the stained-glass windows were installed and dedicated on June 4th, 1978. Pastor Goos also widened our vision to see ourselves as part of the city-wide ministry of Allentown Area Lutheran Parish, the urban cooperative of seventeen, Lutheran congregations and the Good Shepherd Home to which St. Mark’s Belongs. In 1978, Pastor Goos accepted a call to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Northampton. He and his wife, Ruth, and their children live in that town today.
The seventh pastor of St. Mark’s was the Reverend Grant A. Wickert who was called in December 1979 from St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Tannersville, Pa where he had served since ordination by the Upper New York Synod, L.C.A, in 1970. The Wickert family moved here in 1980, when the pastor’s duties began on March 1, 1980. Some of noteworthy advances our congregation has made since that time are the installation of a sound system in the sanctuary, storm windows and ceiling fans for energy conservation, carpeting in the nave, and the renovations of Luther Hall into flexible classroom space.