St. Paul’s story begins the way most stories do: a small group of dedicated and hopeful people got together and decided to make something happen. For the Lutheran-Dutch Reformed group living in Frankfort, this meant establishing St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1871.
Together, they celebrated and served with a new identity, but no pastor. It was not until 1873 when Rev. John J. Kuntz, who was serving two congregations in Mulberry, convinced St. Paul’s to reorganizing and start planning for a building to house their ministry. In the meanwhile, St. Paul’s held worship services in the Frankfort courthouse.
As a formal part of what was called “the Mulberry parish,” St. Paul’s erected its first house of worship on the corner of Jefferson and John and dedicated it on June 25, 1876.
In 1885, St. Paul’s called it’s first pastor: Miles J. Stirewalt. However, several parishioners were disappointed that their first pastor was not bilingual and only preached in English.
The church records indicate this was a hard time for the people of St. Paul’s, but they remained optimistic, noting that “the future, while not flattering, is hopeful.”
Over the next two decades, St. Paul’s grew steadily and began looking for more room. Instead of increasing the size of the building, they combined into a two-church parish with Phanuel Lutheran in Wallace, IN. The 62 miles of separation proved too difficult for a single pastor to serve, so the parish was separated. This is also the time when St. Paul’s began having major economic problems.
Enter Rev. C. Robert Defenderfer, a mission pastor of the Indiana Synod. A number of building improvements were implemented, including the addition of a Hammond organ gifted by George K. Pritsch.
The improvements, however, were short lived. In February of 1942 a fire damaged the small white frame church and the 67 year old “porch.” The building was restored and sided with red brick veneer, and the congregation continued to sing “A Mighty Fortress” on its little corner of Frankfort.
St. Paul’s began looking to locate once again in 1955. They called Rev. Clifford Schreck who led the congregation in moving to its present location on State Rd 39.
Throughout the 1960s, St. Paul’s struggled to sustain ministry and education programs. Even as the local population began to decline, the people of St. Paul’s remained persistent in their efforts to proclaim the Gospel in Frankfort community.
Things began to change in 80s, when the congregation called Rev. Keith Kinney to serve as their pastor. Once again, the congregation found that it needed a little more elbow room – and an addition was built to add a large fellowship hall and three classrooms.
After Rev. Kinney’s retirement in 1995, the congregation faced some serious challenges, including not having a pastor for several years after the turn of the century. Despite these challenges, a number of faithful persisted in the ministry and mission to share God’s love with others and grow in faith as followers of Christ.
Through prayer and conversation, the congregation decided to use a generous bequest to call a pastor. Realizing the need for a communal transformation, the Rev. Steve Bouman was invited to preach in worship and teach the congregation about reclaiming their roots in the community. Re-energized for mission, St. Paul’s applied for Partnership Support from the E.L.C.A. at the invitation of Bishop Bill Gafkjen.
Though still a small church, there is an energy and hope among the people much like that of those first Lutherans. Through the process of engaging the community and one another, St. Paul’s looks to fulfill the mission : to share and proclaim the love of God with all people, while growing in faith as followers of Christ.
You can read more about St. Paul’s plans for mission here. But that’s enough of about us – what about you? What’s your passion? What hopes and dreams do you have for yourself or our community?