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Congregation celebrates 200 years

This past fall, St. Paul’s, a WELS congregation in Columbus, Ohio, celebrated its 200th anniversary.

While St. Paul’s is not a founding congregation for the Wisconsin Synod (which is 172 years old), when it was officially accepted into membership in WELS in 2007 it became both the oldest and the youngest congregation to be a member of the synod. It’s also the oldest Lutheran congregation in Columbus.

St. Pauls in 1918
St. Paul’s has had three churches throughout the years. The first building was a small, wood frame church, which the congregation outgrew; the second church was destroyed by fire and rebuilt on the same property. The church it now worships in was built in 1918 (pictured). The congregation is working on building restoration.

The Lutheran faith connected those first German immigrants in Columbus, who started gathering for worship soon after the city was founded in 1812. “Immigrants were coming to Columbus during those first 40 years and I think they knew they were safe there [at the church] and they were so blessed to have found a home,” says Judy Moehl, who served on the congregation’s 200th anniversary committee.

The congregation legally organized in 1821 and incorporated in 1822 under the name “The High German Evangelical Lutheran and Reformed St. Paul’s Church of Columbus, Ohio.” It has gone through many ups and downs through the years, including breaking fellowship with the Ohio Synod in 1846 and the American Lutheran Church in 1964. After leaving the American Lutheran Church, the congregation remained independent. It joined in fellowship with WELS in 1965; WELS pastors, teachers, and vicars have served the congregation since. It applied for membership in WELS in 2007.

Moehl shares that although the breaks caused divisions within the church—even within families—they were necessary because of the liberal tendencies of the time. “I commend those pastors,” she says. “It’s wonderful that they recognized that and didn’t want the members to stray away from what God’s Word says.”

She continues, “That’s the one constant: God’s Word has always been taught at St. Paul’s.”

This means much to Moehl, a fifth-generation member of the congregation. “I was blessed to have been born in a family that was deeply rooted in the Lutheran faith. There aren’t adequate words to express how important it is having people all of the same Christian belief who love and care about each other.”

Author: Forward in Christ
Volume: 109, Number 11
Issue: November 2022


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