Emmanuel Lutheran Church celebrating 125th year

Emmanuel Lutheran's first church edifice. (Submitted photo)

SALEM — Service to others, a welcoming spirit and family unity — those attributes define Emmanuel Lutheran Church, according to members.

For Pastor Alan Smearsoll, the generosity of the members has defined the 125th year.

“One of the things I’m most proud about in celebrating our 125th, we chose (up to) 125 charitable organizations to raise money for throughout the year. As of last Sunday, we raised $12,638,” he said.

They actually came up with 117 organizations to help and hope to raise another $3,000 before they’re finished. Some of the benefactors include the Salem K-9 Fund, the Salem Fire Department, Eyes of Olivia, Salem Honor Guard, Hospice of the Valley, Church Women United, ROC of Salem, Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, Doctors Without Borders, Autism Speaks, United Way of Northern Columbiana County and Ohio CAN (Change Addiction Now) and the church’s own youth group known as THUGs (True Heroes Under God). Church council voted to give $2,000.

The gathering of donations was just one of the many activities for church members as they marked their big anniversary, including guest ministers from Emmanuel Lutheran’s past preaching, including native son Ray Gottschling who was ordained there, a kickoff dinner last December, bell choir and senior choir performances, a joint progressive dinner with Holy Trinity in October for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, cooking and serving a meal at the Banquet in Salem and having Bishop Abraham Allende speak with a program and dinner following the service for the anniversary on Nov. 19.

Emmanuel Lutheran Church 125th anniversary committee members Ila Jeanne Paxson, seated, and from left, Dawn Jackson, Angela McCoy and Doug Falk gather with some of the items to be buried in time capsule this morning to celebrate the end of the year-long anniversary celebration. (Submitted photo)

The historic journey wraps up today with a Christmas cantata at 10:30 a.m. followed by the burial of a time capsule representative of the past and present. Some of the items included were old church directories, the church history as chronicled in “Yesteryears” and anniversary booklets, news from this year in the Salem News, a choir robe, photographs from this year’s activities, a phone book, a Vacation Bible School music CD, a list of new members for 2017, and so on. The list includes more than 50 items.

Anniversary committee member Doug Falk said the time capsule is scheduled to be reopened in 50 years for the 175th anniversary. The people who open it will be able to see how people have changed and look up family members from the past.

The entire committee offered thanks to Fred and Tom Baker of Salem Welding and Supply for fabricating the inner and outer capsules, sealing them and doing the air/gas exchange, to Russ Loudon of Stark Memorial for the vault, to Henry Spack for excavating the hole on the south side of the church where the capsule will be buried, to Jock Buta of Butech Bliss for the memorial marker at the site and to Judi Allio and David Shivers for their guidance.

Emmanuel Lutheran Church became official on Nov. 27, 1892 when the congregation first met and adopted a constitution. According to the anniversary booklet, several families immigrated to the Salem area from their native homeland Transylvania in the late 1880’s, with the Saxons forming a fraternal organization in 1891 and the men deciding to start a Lutheran church, calling Abraham Miller of North Georgetown as the first pastor.

The journey from that day to the present day included a number of stops along the way, including a hall above the Woolworth’s 5 & 10 at the corner of North Broadway and Main Street (now State Street). A lot was purchased on South Lundy Avenue in 1895 and the new church held its first worship service on Christmas Day 1897. In 1917, the church experienced a split between the German-speaking members and English-speaking members, resulting in the founding of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. Property was purchased on South Broadway for an Emmanuel church hall and eventually the decision was made to build a new church there, with the cornerstone laid in 1928. There the church remains. The old church currently houses the ROC of Salem. The church also bought some property up the street in 1956 which eventually became the education building.

Emmanuel Lutheran Church in 1892 on South Lundy Avenue.

The people themselves have continued to care for the church as their ancestors did, along with caring for the community.

“Our immigrants were very strong in their faith,” committee member Anne Lutz said.

She and committee member Dawn Jackson grew up together in the church where they’ve been lifelong members and third and fourth generations of their families in the church.

Jackson said she’s learned the origin of some things in the church, including a handpainted ceramic statue that Anne’s grandmother helped to get here from Romania through fundraising dinners.

“I think we were all rooted,” she said.

Emmanuel Lutheran Church as it looks today on South Broadway Avenue.

Angela McCoy, who was originally Catholic, moved to Salem in 2008 and she and her husband started looking for a church and trying different ones. When she first came to Emmanuel Lutheran, everyone was welcoming and one family invited her and her family to dinner at their house.

“I guess we felt more at home here,” she said.

McCoy serves as Director of Family Ministry and on the anniversary committee.

Smearsoll was called to Emmanuel Lutheran in 2009 and accepted after noticing the lengthy tenure of past pastors.

“That told me there was a good and stable congregation,” he said

Falk remembered coming to Emmanuel Lutheran as a child once in a while, then his sixth grade teacher Kay Metcalf invited him to come to church and he’s been there ever since. He always felt welcome and accepted.

Church members have spread that welcoming message to the whole neighborhood, holding neighborhood block parties with the First United Methodist Church across the street, and Smearsoll also helped lead members of many churches during a cross walk on Good Friday for several years.

“We try to listen to the needs of the community and accommodate those needs and do what we can to help,” Smearsoll said.

Ila Jeanne Paxson, longtime church organist, said she loves it when the people sing. The music has remained somewhat traditional, with a senior choir and a bell choir. The hymns have gotten more modern. She also talked about how different groups in the church go out into the community to help, such as the quilting group which makes walker bags and blankets.

And the THUGs, who made sure she was able to go on the recent tours of the Sebo house Christmas lights. The church also had its own pumpkin patch for many years and has helped Eyes for Olivia with many fundraisers for curing retinal blindness.

The church has also opened its doors as a gathering place for community groups and Quota Club’s speech and hearing clinic for children.