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St. John’s celebrates 150th anniversary

St. John’s Lutheran Church celebrated its 150th anniversary this year, having organized in 1873.

Planning began in late 2022, and events began in early 2023.

Events included a free movie day at the Roxy Theatre, 2004 Main St., Northampton, as well as five Sons of the Congregation sermons delivered by ministers who grew up in St. John’s Lutheran Church.

The main anniversary event took place May 21. Synod Bishop Christopher DeForest gave the sermon during the service. DeForest’s message for the day was “help each other in all kinds of times.” His sermon reflected on how the recent COVID-19 pandemic changed all of us forever.

A luncheon for congregants and family followed at Coplay Saengerbund, 205 S. Fifth St. The event included a short video interviewing some of the church’s lifetime members who shared their hopes, dreams and fondest memories of the church. There were 62 members, friends and family in attendance.

The congregation was organized May 22, 1873, during the first major economic Depression in the United States. There was a concern the church might dissolve because of the economic turmoil and challenges.

The Lutheran church was built and dedicated Nov. 12, 1882. At that time, as the Depression raged on, St. John’s Lutheran was an important gathering place for congregants and Coplay residents providing support and sustenance, both material and spiritual.

St. John’s Lutheran then became a hub of the community. It remained that way until the Industrial Revolution stimulated the immigration wave at the turn of the 20th century that brought Germans, Austrian- Hungarians, Irish, Polish and Ukrainians, who arrived to work in the growing cement mills, silk mills, local iron works and other nearby budding factories.

The burgeoning immigrant population was predominantly Roman Catholic. They built St. Peter Roman Catholic Church in 1917, and the Catholic-influenced Coplay Saengerbund opened the same year. The Catholic population grew in numbers, dwarfing the Lutheran congregation.

The Lutheran congregation grew, stabilized and was successful in its mission, which continues today.

In 1998, a celebration was held to mark St. John’s Lutheran Church’s 125 years.

St. John’s has since continued to flourish. A new pastor, the Rev. Timothy D. Boyer, was installed in 1997 after the untimely early passing of beloved Pastor Don A. Elefante.

Past church council presidents include Joyce Long, Samuel Beidleman, Bette MacAdam, Ondrea Neifert, Fred Milander Sr., Stanley Reinhard Jr., Jeffrey Reinhard, Joseph Danner and Gregory Miller.

Boyer noted the church has hosted eight pastors and, to date, has seen six church members travel the path of God’s ministry.

The foundation of St. John’s ministry is Sunday worship, Sunday school, Confirmations, Bible study, youth group, Vacation Bible School, service to those in need, ecumenical worship, local community outreach, world outreach through the National Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and more activities. To join the church, visit stjohnscoplay.com.

“By the grace of Almighty God, St. John’s will continue our ministry for our Lord Jesus Christ, baptizing, communing, confirming, marrying and burying unto eternal life the Christian faithful, as members live out their lives,” Boyer said. “We welcome all to the congregation’s fellowship at worship and events. May God grant that St. John’s ministry be fruitful for years to come so that all may know the salvation of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”

PRESS PHOTO BY C.M. PISKULA Synod Bishop Christopher DeForest and Pastor Timothy Boyer celebrate the 150th anniversary of St. John's Lutheran Church, Coplay, during a special service May 21.
PRESS PHOTO BY C.M. PISKULA The 150th anniversary committee of St. John's Lutheran Church, Coplay, present a special video during a May 21 celebration and luncheon. Committee members include Beth Napoli, Renee Coyle, Bill Gilfert, Britt Yenser, Pastor Tim Boyer, Louise Hash and Jeremy Snyder (not pictured).