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You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
– Matthew 5:14-16

St. John’s Lutheran Church, “the church with the red doors,” continues to be a welcoming place of community for the borough of Nazareth and surrounding areas since 1859.

Ministries at St. John’s evolve and grow as we continue to write our history.

  • Every Palm Sunday, area churches join the St. John’s congregation on the “Donkey Walk,” an interdenominational tradition that’s become treasured in downtown Nazareth.
  • St. John’s daycare center (St. John’s Lutheran Daycare Center) and nursery school (Love-A-Lot Nursery School) continue to meet the needs of Nazareth’s growing families.
  • St. John’s Youth are blessed to participate in life-changing activities, trips, and conferences through Luther League, SHYG (Senior High Youth Group), Confirmation, Choir and Music, and MAD (Music, Art, and Drama) Camp.
  • New “small group” formats have recently been added like Tables of 8 and the men’s group.
  • The Nazareth Area Food Bank was founded by St. John’s members and operated for many years out of the church, serving the needs of Nazareth and surrounding communities. Today it continues to thrive through the generosity of many Nazareth area community members.
  • Faith Through the Arts occurs every three years at St. John’s, bringing together some of the areas most talented artists.

We are thankful for our rich history and we invite you to help us shape our future in sharing the good news of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.

St. John’s is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America within the Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod.

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Chapter 1

The Beginning and Early Days

On the 14th of October in 1858, our church forebearers met in the home of Charles Whitesell to discuss creating a new “Union” church that would serve both our Lutheran congregation and that of a Reformed congregation. John Hess was chosen to be President of the church, with Thomas Hartzell and Paul Bachschmidt named Secretaries.

A committee of three was chosen to find a suitable location for the building, while others worked out the details of an agreement between the Lutheran and Reformed congregants. They all reconvened two days later at the home of Henry Whitesell to share their findings and formalize plans. A vacant lot at the southwest corner of Broad and Prospect streets, owned by Solomon Schaeffer, was presented to the group. It was unanimously agreed upon that the lot should be purchased for the new church.

Weekly meetings continued throughout the winter months to commune in the glory of God and discuss the details of the planned edifice. Funds were raised for the construction through the combined efforts of John Hess, Charles Wehrle, John Bender, Reuban Nolf, Paul Kleppinger, George Schweitzer, Joseph Reich, and Thomas Hartzell.

Work on the structure began in Spring of 1859, and the building was completed by the end of September. One month later, over the 29th and 30th of October 1859, the St. John’s Union Church was dedicated to the Glory of God. History records the first offering ever taken at St. John’s on the morning of October 29th totaling $136.73. That equates to $3,861.15 in 2022 currency, according to the Consumer Price Index.

The first pastors to preside over services were from neighboring churches, while each of the two congregations searched for their own spiritual leaders.  Reverend Jacob B. Rath was chosen by the Lutheran parishioners, and he answered the call in March of 1860. At just twenty-six years old and fresh out of Gettysburg Theological Seminary, Pastor Rath immediately got to work establishing St. John’s Lutheran and creating a legacy that endures today.

Though he presided over the congregation just five years, he continued to make an impact long after he left. While serving at a Lutheran church in Bethlehem, Pastor Rath mentored a newly-ordained minister, Reverend George M. Lazarus, his assistant pastor. Reverend Lazarus had a son, Luther, who also grew up to become a minister and in 1902, Reverend Luther D. Lazarus was called to be our fourth pastor. He led St. John’s until 1905.

In between the tenures of Pastors Rath and Lazarus, St. John’s was served by Pastor Reuben S. Wagner from 1867 to 1869 and Pastor David Kuntz from 1869 to 1901. Unlike his predecessors, Pastor Kuntz remained with St. John’s for the majority of his time in ministry, nearly 32 years. Pastor Kuntz also fulfilled a pledge made by Pastor Wagner, leading services for nearby Belfast Union Church, now known as Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, until they were able to find their own full-time pastor.

Over the course of 45 years, St. John’s Lutheran congregants shared the building with St. John’s Reformed congregants. By 1905, both groups had grown considerably, and the Reformed faithful sought their own sanctuary.

Through a genial agreement, St. John’s Lutheran agreed to pay $5,000 for the property and St. John’s Reformed agreed to relocate. They chose a parcel of land on the northeast corner of the same intersection as the old Union Church, naming their new edifice St. John’s Reformed Church. The Union Church was renamed St. John’s Lutheran Church.

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Chapter 2

A New Building for a Growing Congregation

Ground was broken for the new St. John’s Reformed church on June 16th of that year and the separation of the two congregations was made official on July 27th, when Northampton County Judge Henry W. Scott amended the original church charter.  St. John’s Reformed’s new building was dedicated on December 15, 1907, with services led by Reverend W. H. Wotring, the Reformed congregation’s minister of sixteen years.

Meanwhile, St. John’s Lutheran welcomed our fifth minister on December 1, 1905, Reverend George D. Druckenmiller. Though Reverend Druckenmiller’s tenure at St. John’s was a brief five years, he created an enduring and profound legacy. Under his leadership, the congregation decided to demolish our first church building and, in its place, construct the magnificent house of the Lord that continues to serve us today.

St. John’s Lutheran church worshipped for the last time in our original sanctuary on May 17th, 1908. Reverend Kuntz returned to St. John’s to officiate the morning service and Reverend Druckenmiller led the evening service. The church was emptied the next day and demolition began by the end of the week.

The cornerstone of our new church was laid on August 13, 1908, and the building was dedicated to the Glory of God on September 25, 1910.  Construction of the stunning terra cotta brick edifice cost $40,000.

Special events were held all day to celebrate the occasion, commencing with a morning service officiated by Reverend J. F. Lambert, President of the Allentown Lutheran Conference, and ending with the evening service officiated by St. John’s new spiritual leader, Reverend John H. Miller.

In the week that followed the dedication, twenty clergymen from area churches came to St. John’s to lead worship services in a show of ecumenical unity. Notable preachers included Reverend W. H. Wotring of St. John’s Reformed, Reverend John Greenfield of Nazareth Moravian church, and newly-ordained Reverend Floyd R. Shafer, who would go on to be a co-founder of the Nazareth Area School District and namesake for one of our local elementary schools.

Pastor Miller was called to serve a parish in Missouri after just three years at St. John’s, but he was quickly succeeded by Reverend Milton M. Dry, who oversaw the next big chapter in church history. Through his leadership and the generosity of the congregation, a $30,000 loan used to fund construction of the new church building was paid in full. Meanwhile, a new parsonage was built for our senior pastor between May and December of 1924.

Prior to that point, St. John’s members helped pastors find a rental home upon moving to Nazareth. The church paid the rent and that property was considered the parsonage for the duration of the pastor’s tenure. Pastor Kuntz lived at 122 South Broad Street, Pastor Druckenmiller lived at 131 North Broad Street, and Pastor Dry lived at 326 Belvidere Street.

Thanks to the combined generosity of Susan Hartzell and Alice Heller, St. John’s was able to provide Pastors a permanent home directly next to the church. Heller donated $1,500 to pay for the land adjacent to the church on Broad Street and Hartzell donated $8,000 for materials and labor.  Total construction costs were $17,843.99 and St. John’s parsonage was dedicated as a memorial to Mr. and Mrs. William Shortz, Hartzell’s deceased daughter and son-in-law.

Pastor Dry lived less than one year in the new parsonage he helped build before peacefully passing away in his sleep. Amid the grief of St. John’s members, a committee was assembled once again to find a new shepherd to lead the congregation. They spent eight months searching for the right candidate who could not only help St. John’s recover from the loss of their beloved pastor, but also steer the church to achieve long-held goals of growth and expanded community outreach.

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Chapter 3

Dedicated Shepherds Reshape and Renew the Church

By unanimous vote of the congregation, Reverend Harvey C. Snyder, was called to lead St. John’s on May 1, 1926. Just three years out of seminary, Reverend Snyder was a young man with an undeniable presence and big dreams for the future of St. John’s. He shared the vision of church members but saw an opportunity to do more and on June 1st of that year, he assumed the mantle as pastor and immediately got to work.

The church began a strong recruitment program in the Nazareth area that included reaching out to former members, new residents, and getting more involved in local affairs. Along with bringing in new church members, Pastor Snyder joined multiple civic and charitable organizations in the area, living the Gospel through his service to the community.

In his first year at St. John’s, Pastor Snyder was lauded in local newspapers after performing four weddings on the same day, April 2, 1927. The first ceremony was held at 3pm, a double wedding held in the nave which included a brother and sister from Belfast and their respective partners. The second and third ceremonies were conducted at 4pm and 7:30pm in the parsonage, both organized for the couples by Pastor Snyder’s wife, Dorothy.

The first of several renovations to the St. John’s building was undertaken in 1929, with the interior fully repainted and decorative wood molding refinished. A carpet runner was installed down the aisles of the hardwood nave and up in the chancel area around the altar. The basement, which was mostly unfinished and had previously been used for storage, was renovated into several new areas. The furnace and boiler system were enclosed in a utility space with two Sunday School rooms for elementary age children built alongside it. A hallway was created to bisect the basement and across from the new Sunday School rooms, large reception and social spaces was constructed, along with a small kitchen for the catering of church functions.

A decade later, in 1939, St. John’s underwent a second, much more extensive renovation. The original goldleaf fresco above the altar which depicted saints was augmented by a second, equally ornate fresco just below it. The entire church was rewired, three massive chandeliers that lined the center of the nave were replaced with six smaller lighting fixtures, and all the stained-glass windows had their lead removed and replaced. Additionally, a powerful new Möller organ was installed, utilizing using pipes from the original organ and massive, new pipes for deeper resonance.

The exterior doors were replaced with the familiar oak doors we see today in their signature red color, a section of the nave was reconstructed to create a choir loft with its own pews designed for choir members, while the main pews were sanded, stained, and resealed. The interior of the church was in pieces and the building unusable throughout the five-month duration of renovations, so Sunday services were temporarily held in the Nazareth High School auditorium.

Pastor Snyder witnessed the realization of his many goals for St. John’s throughout the Pastor’s three-decade long tenure. Church membership had nearly doubled, additional worship services and Sunday School classes were added, and service to the community became a cornerstone of St. John’s expanded ministries. Among Pastor Snyder’s personal accomplishments was a term as president in the Lutheran Ministerium of Pennsylvania, president and then board member in the Nazareth Ministerial Association (an organization he helped establish) and volunteer chaplain at Gracedale. He also served as President of the Nazareth Lions Club and Director of the Nazareth Police Commission. In 1948, Pastor Snyder was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity, by Muhlenberg College for his many years of dedicated service.

Pastor Snyder’s time at St. John’s ended abruptly after he suffered a medical emergency during Sunday service on April 15, 1956. The pastor was rushed to Allentown Hospital, where doctors attempted to save him, though he passed away three days later. For longtime church members, it seemed history had repeated itself and as they mourned their treasured leader and friend, another committee was assembled to search for a new pastor.

In October of 1956, Reverend Alfred L. Long, accepted the congregation’s call and on November 1st, he became the ninth pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church. Pastor Long came to Nazareth 15 years into his ministry, having previously led churches in Lancaster, Lansford, and Pottsville, PA. Much like his predecessor, Pastor Long held big plans for the future of St. John’s, and he hit the ground running.

Christian Education was a recurring theme during Pastor Long’s installation ceremony, which served as an augury of things to come. St. John’s had grown so significantly under the leadership of Pastor Snyder, that the church was running out of room for everything but traditional worship services, which Pastor Long accommodated by adding a second Sunday service. The number of confirmed congregants had reached 1,800 and even in the traditionally slow summer months, records show the lowest attendance number on communion Sundays was 840 people.

Sunday School enrollment had dramatically risen at all levels to the point that classes were overcrowded, with several forced to relocate to the nave in between services. Adult bible studies, confirmation classes, and St. John’s varied outreach ministries struggled to coordinate with one another for use of the limited gathering spaces. Meanwhile, they also had to coordinate with several community organizations like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, who had come to rely on the church for their meetings. Even the church secretary had been relocated into the sacristy, a small preparation and robing room just off the chancel.

Additionally, the fellowship area downstairs could no longer comfortably accommodate the expanded congregation and the downstairs kitchen had neither the space, nor the equipment to keep up with the crowds. Pastor Long, supported by the church’s elected leaders, proposed a solution to the congregation that would address every concern… a Christian Education annex.

Though unassuming in name, the Christian Education annex was a massive undertaking and added just under 25,000 square feet to the approximately existing 36,000 sq ft church building. Ground was broken on June 14, 1959, with work completed in October of 1961. While the annex was constructed, extensive renovations were also undertaken on the present church spaces to create a seamless transition.

Pastor Long followed the example of his predecessor with community service, in and out of the ministry. He served as President of both the Easton chapter of the American Red Cross and Nazareth Lion’s Club, while serving 19 years on the Board of Directors for The Lutheran Home at Topton, and completed a term as Dean of the former Northeastern Pennsylvania Lutheran Synod. Pastor Long continued to faithfully lead St. John’s as senior pastor for 27 years before retiring in 1982.

During his nearly-three decades at the helm, Pastor Long helped numerous seminary students and recent graduates through mentorship and assistant pastorships. One student in particular made a strong impression upon Pastor Long, a young man named David B. Schaeffer. Pastor Long coordinated with the Synod to arrange for Schaeffer, along with 11 fellow seminary graduates, to be ordained at St. John’s. Afterwards, he strongly recommended the congregation call Reverend Schaeffer to serve as St. John’s assistant pastor and the congregation wholeheartedly agreed. Pastor Schaeffer accepted the call and continued to serve as assistant pastor from 1977 until Pastor Long’s retirement.

Upon the announcement of his retirement, the St. John’s congregation voted to grant Pastor Long to the status of Pastor Emeritus. This allowed him to remain an honorary member of church leadership for the remainder of his life and periodically return to lead worship for his treasured St. John’s family. The congregation initially sought to promote Assistant Pastor Schaeffer to the role of senior pastor, but synod leadership declined the request. St. John’s was among the largest congregations in the Northeast Pennsylvania Synod, and they believed a pastor with more experience was necessary to lead the church.

After a year searching for the right candidate, St. John’s called Reverend Paul H. Spohn to be our new senior pastor in November of 1983. Pastor Spohn accepted the call and got right to work on December 1st. Though he led the church just five years, Pastor Spohn forged a strong legacy that endures today in the community outreach programs he helped establish.

Early childhood education was of particular importance to Pastor Spohn, who helped found Love-A-Lot nursery school in June of 1985 and St. John’s Day Care in early 1989. Pastor Spohn also oversaw the creation of a new food bank at the church in 1985. Beginning as a grassroots effort undertaken by volunteers to help 20 Nazareth families, The Nazareth Food Bank is now a separate non-profit organization that serves over two hundred local families in need.

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Chapter 4

The Prodigal Son Returns… Twice

On February 1, 1989, Pastor Spohn left St. John’s to become Northeastern PA Synod Director and Assistant to the Bishop. While the search began for our next Senior Pastor, many in the congregation already had a candidate in mind. They reached out to Pastor Long’s protégé and St. John’s former Assistant Pastor, David B. Schaeffer.

After leaving St. John’s, Pastor Schaeffer had been called to lead Peace Tohickon Lutheran Church in Perkasie. Much as he enjoyed his new church, St. John’s held a special place in his heart and when the congregation called him to return, Pastor Schaeffer enthusiastically accepted. He assumed the duties of senior pastor on August 1, 1989 and was officially installed on October 1st , with Pastor Long leading the prayers.

St. John’s experienced a period of growth and transformation under the leadership of Pastor Schaeffer, evolving to serve the needs of a changing community. The Nazareth area population more than doubled during Pastor Schaeffer’s tenure as former farms and wooded lands were developed into residential neighborhoods and commercial buildings converted into apartments. The influx of so many new residents brought with it an opportunity to further spread God’s word and Pastor Schaeffer focused heavily on community involvement, both as a church and on a personal level.

Pastor Schaeffer volunteered with organizations across the region, serving on boards of directors and working in the trenches, helping wherever he felt he could do the most good. Pastor Schaeffer built off the legacies of his predecessors and each of St. John’s outreach ministries greatly expanded under his watchful eye. The Nazareth Food Bank was able to move from the church into their own building on South Main Street with the help of a $50,000 gift from the church.

Ecumenical Christian love was a reoccurring theme under Pastor Schaeffer’s leadership. He officiated hundreds of funerals for people with no church affiliations and orchestrated St. John’s coordinating with other Nazareth churches for services and special events. Palm Sundays became joint celebrations with St. John’s UCC and Nazareth Moravian churches, St. John’s choir joined with other local choirs for melodious concerts, and in the most difficult of times, the Nazareth community came together in our sanctuary. Five days after the horrific terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, more than 800 local residents marching through the streets of Nazareth to St. John’s, where Pastor Schaeffer presided over a healing service and prayer vigil.

Over the course of Pastor Schaeffer’s 28-year service as Senior Pastor, he followed the lead of his mentor and counseled a host of seminary students while also training several assistant pastors who would go on to lead their own churches. History repeated itself as one seminarian made a particularly strong impression upon Pastor Schaeffer, so much so that he invited the student to lead Sunday services at St. John’s.

Scott A. Hall, was in his senior year of seminary when he preached his first sermon in our nave on September 5, 1993. The congregation saw the same qualities in Hall that Pastor Schaefer did, so much so that a vote was held to call the soon-to-be Reverend Hall as our Assistant Pastor following his graduation from the Lutheran Seminary of Philadelphia. Seminarian Hall accepted the call and Pastor Schaeffer arranged for him and a classmate to be ordained in the St. John’s nave on June 19, 1994.

Pastors Schaeffer and Hall forged a strong bond that endured long after Pastor Hall left St. John’s to serve in Lutheran Campus Ministry. The two remained in contact and upon Pastor Schaeffer’s retirement in late 2017, he expressed his wishes that Pastor Hall succeed him and shepherd his beloved flock.

The congregation strongly agreed and on June 2, 2019, Reverend Scott A. Hall was officially called to be St. John’s new senior pastor. After returning to Nazareth, Pastor Hall led his first service on July 13, 2019. He held the distinction of being the first Pastor to live in the St. John’s parsonage as a bachelor, though that would soon change after he married Reverend Jennifer Fuhr on November 21, 2019.

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Chapter 5

Trial by Fire and the Dawning of a New Day

Great joy was shared among the congregation as we welcomed Reverend Jennifer (Fuhr) Hall to our family. With Pastor Scott at the helm, old traditions were restored, plans to modernize the church were discussed, and the future seemed bright. Nobody could have predicted that just a few short months later, St. John’s would be forced to join millions of churches around the country in closing its doors.

The Covid 19 pandemic began ravaging the United States in the middle of the 2020 Lenten Season and with Nazareth’s proximity to major cities like New York and Philadelphia, our community was hit particularly hard. Over the course of two days, schools, businesses, and each of the local churches were suddenly closed, while the state ordered residents to stay at home.

Pastor Scott recognized that amid the fear and uncertainty gripping the world, people needed to hear Jesus’s words of hope, love, and faith more than ever. Since people couldn’t come to the church, he was determined to bring the church to the people through the internet. On March 18, 2020, a very special mid-week Lenten service was recorded in the empty building.

Pastor Scott shared that modest, yet powerful service on YouTube and on our St. John’s Facebook page. Nobody knew at that time what the future would hold with the pandemic or how long we’d need to be apart, so Pastor Scott continued filming and sharing both Sunday and mid-week services. Over the next two years, as the pandemic eased and then worsened again, St. John’s held outdoor worship services in the parking lot and opened our doors when we were safely able to do so.

The new video ministry Pastor Scott created out of necessity, grew and evolved through the help of many dedicated volunteers. Three cameras were installed in the nave and video equipment was added to the sound booth, allowing every weekly service to be shared real-time on Facebook and YouTube. A drone was used to capture aerial footage of the church and surrounding Nazareth community for a professional opening video that’s now shown at the beginning of every recorded service

St. John’s not only endured through the pandemic, but grew, thanks to the quick thinking of Pastor Scott and a video camera, along with the hard work of all those who continue to volunteer their time behind the scenes. Our congregation welcomed 22 new families to St. John’s throughout 2020 and 2021, and 35 people were baptized.

On January 30, 2022, St. John’s began a new era. The congregation voted to change the traditional senior pastor and associate pastor roles. Senior Pastor Scott Hall became Pastor of Stewardship and Pastor Jennifer Hall was officially called to be co-pastor of the church with the new title, Pastor of Discipleship. Pastor Jennifer accepted the call and immediately began serving the church.

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Faith Endures

St. John’s has been profoundly blessed throughout our 160+ years and the greatest gifts we’ve known are God’s people among us. Along with our pastors and assistant pastors, we’ve been blessed with dedicated and long-serving organists Ellis Schneebeli, Mary Hand, Daniel Rohn, Emmerson Harding, and Reverend Janice Butz, providing magnificent worship music during services.

Reverend Butz, our current Minister of Music, came to St. John’s following Harding’s retirement in 1998. Reverend Butz’s profound talents enchanted audiences of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Northwestern University, and other Chicago venues, where she honed her talents for 25 years prior to St. John’s. Accompanying Reverend Butz is Deacon Patrice Kidd, a lifelong member of St. John’s who has shared her musical gifts in service to the congregation for over 30 years.

The youth of St. John’s continue to be served by the Day Care and Love-A-Lot Nursery School, and guided by our Director of Youth and Family Ministries, Jaime Taylor. Like Patrice, Jaime also grew up in St. John’s and has been deeply involved in youth activities from a young age.

Scores of volunteers still devote their time teaching Sunday School and confirmation classes, along with Vacation Bible School in the summer, and the yearly MAD Camp (Music, Arts, and Drama) that showcases the theatrical talents of our young people.

Our dedicated Sextons, led by Dean Brodt, make certain the building and adjoining grounds remain in pristine shape. They help organize and setup for hundreds of weddings, funerals, baptisms, and other events each year, along with our three weekly church services. Linda Kasmakites and Bonnie Mertz ensure everything goes smoothly behind the scenes, while greeting visitors in our church office. Meanwhile, our Communications Director, Laurie Storlie, supports our digital presence online and maintains the lines of communication between our staff, volunteers, and congregants.

From humble beginnings in 1858, St. John’s has grown into much more than a church, but a family of faith, a community devoted to serving the Lord as we support one another. Just as all are welcome at God’s table, there will always be a place in our St. John’s family for anyone who wishes to join us.

“We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.”
-Martin Luther