A Brief History of Bethany Evangelical Lutheran Church, compiled from material taken in part from the 45th Anniversary Celebration booklet, compiled by the Rev. John C. Stuff in 1937; the 50th Anniversary Celebration booklet, compiled by the Rev. Karl Luther Mumford in 1942; and from other church records and publications, compiled by Mary Ann Mauzy and updated last in September 2006.
Bethany Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brunswick, Frederick County, Maryland, was organized on August 21, 1892, with a membership of twenty-one. C. W. Bixler, a student at the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, spent three months during his summer vacation in 1892, taking a religious survey of the community.
The first services were held in a storeroom on Fifth Avenue. Seminarian Bixler returned to Gettysburg in the fall and the congregation was without a pastor. Professor J. J. Shenk had moved to town and opened a private school known as “The Brunswick Seminary.” He was elected superintendent of the Lutheran Sunday School, organized in the fall of 1892. He served until 1904 and was active in all of the work of the congregation.
On November 23, 1892, the Rev. W. C. Wire moved to Brunswick and became pastor of the parish, which included Brunswick, Harpers Ferry, and St. Paul’s of Neersville, Virginia. He found about 100 people who were interested in joining the new church in Brunswick. On February 26, 1893, Pastor Wire announced that because of ill health he planned to move away.
Ferdinand D. Hesse, another Gettysburg seminarian, served the congregation for three months, beginning on June 23, 1893. During this time ten more members were added and in August a building lot on East C Street was purchased for the sum of $105. The cornerstone of this frame building (36 by 50 feet) was laid on September 24, 1893. The foundation was constructed by Mr. Daniel Martin at a cost of $160. The completed building cost $1,484.
During the fall and winter of 1893, Professor Shenk and the Sunday School teachers had been busily engaged soliciting funds for the completion of this building. At one point, when there were no funds available to finish the work, two charter members of the congregation, Mrs. L. E. McBride and Mrs. Evans, traveled to Frederick to solicit funds from Lutheran friends there. They stayed overnight and awoke to find that a deep snow covered the ground. They continued their work and came home with fifty dollars in cash, an amount which enabled the finishing of the building. Sunday School services were held in the new church for the first time on February 11, 1894
On June 1, 1894, Henderson N. Miller, a senior at Gettysburg Seminary, took over the work as pastor at Bethany. The new church was dedicated on June 17 of that year. The entire cost of the lot, building, and furnishings was $2,100, of which amount the Church Extension Board of the Maryland Synod paid $500–$300 as a gift and $200 as a loan. An amount of $1,170 remained to be provided for on the day of dedication. On that day the people responded with cash and pledges of $1, 270. Pastor Miller served the congregation until September 1, 1895.
On March 1, 1896, the Rev. Cyrus Held became pastor. During his pastorate, membership increased to about one hundred. He resigned on December 1, 1898. The Rev. John H. Diehl became pastor on June 1, 1899, and continued until December 9, 1900. On January 2, 1902, the Rev. Charles W. Hess, a graduate of Gettysburg Seminary, became pastor.
During the late 1890’s, the congregation bought from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company a lot on the corner of A Street and First Avenue, where the church currently stands. The congregation planned to relocate there.
Through the will of Mr. Joseph Waltman (died 1870), a Lutheran who at one time owned a large tract of land adjoining the town of Brunswick (then known as Berlin), the congregation was entitled to one acre of land and a cemetery, both located in the west end of town. This acre of land was divided into building lots and sold to Mr. E. J. Hudson for $745, which sum was used to reimburse Dr. A. G. Horine, one of the members of the Bethany Church Council and an early leader in the congregation, for the amount he had spent to buy the lot on A Street for the church. The first church property on C Street was sold in 1903 for $795, also to Mr. Hudson. The congregation worshiped in Wenner’s Hall until the new church was built.
The cornerstone of the present church building, where we now worship, was laid on August 14, 1904. The first service was held in the basement of the church on January 8, 1905. The building, dedicated on July 16, 1905, cost $3,100 and contained about $1,000 worth of furnishings.
When the church was dedicated, the remaining debt was $1,293. On that day, the congregation responded with cash and pledges of $1,068.60. The service was conducted by Pastor Hess, with a number of other clergy taking part.
The large window in the back of the church was a gift of the congregation in recognition of the valued gifts of Mr. Joseph Waltman (1800-1870). The communion service was given by Dr. A. G. Horine, fine silver offering plates were given by Evangelical Lutheran Church of Frederick, and the lectern, pulpit, and baptismal font were made by the local Brunswick furniture factory of Messrs. C. H. Feete and Brothers. A new Estey organ containing 392 reeds was in use. The floor of the sanctuary was covered with Flemish tapestry. Oak-finished opera chairs were placed in a circular formation to seat the congregation. The nave and chancel were artistically decorated by Mr. J. F. Bittle, a member of the congregation. The ceiling was painted to present an array of colors blending in with the symbolic paintings in the chancel. The stone chips for the sidewalks around the church were given by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company.
During the summer of 1916, the parsonage (now known as Bethany House) was built on the church lot facing First Avenue. The entire cost of the parsonage and improvements was approximately $2,900. Helping to pay a great deal of this amount was a group called the Ladies’ Mite Society, organized in 1893 (and, even in those days, admitting men to membership). They had worked hard since their beginning and raised much of the money needed to pay for both buildings and the parsonage, and to keep the church going over the years. This group continued to work and serve the church until the 1980’s when they disbanded because of a lack of new members. In 1932, during the Great Depression, after accumulating more than $6,000, the group donated almost $5,000 for the remodeling of the sanctuary and raised an additional $500 to be used later for the rebuilding of the organ put in at that time.
Bethany became self-supporting in 1917 and its total indebtedness was paid slowly; between 1920 and 1923 the debt was paid off completely. Pastor Hess continued as pastor of Bethany until 1932 when he became ill. He resigned on November 30 of that year after a long and faithful pastorate.
In 1932, the sanctuary was remodeled into what it remained until 2001, when it was again remodeled. It was rededicated on October 2, 1932. There was a new floor, solid oak pews, a new choir loft, and a remodeled chancel which could accommodate an altar, lectern, and a 24-inch brass cross with vases, new lighting fixtures, etc. A kitchen was put in and also a furnace room and toilet.
In January 1933, the Rev. John C. Stuff accepted a call to become pastor of Bethany. The work of remodeling was completed when a two-manual Moller pipe organ, a gift of the local B & O YMCA, was rebuilt and installed at a cost of $600. It was dedicated in 1935. That same year the reredos, new baptismal font, pulpit, lectern, and altar linens were bought.
In 1936 and 1937, stained glass windows were installed in the church (the present windows), and in 1942, they were put in the vestibules.
Pastor Stuff resigned in June 1942 and the congregation called the Rev. Karl Luther Mumford as pastor. He served until August 1943, during World War 11, when he resigned to become a chaplain in the U. S. Army.
The Rev. Ralph H. Miller became Bethany’s pastor on October 1, 1943, and served the congregation faithfully until his retirement on August 31, 1974.
During the years of the 1920’s, 1930’s, and the 1940’s, Bethany was the center of social as well as religious activities of its members. There were three choirs at one time, an active youth group, several women’s organizations, and confirmation classes every year. There were many social activities—Halloween parties, church suppers, strawberry festivals, bazaars, congregational meetings with suppers. A great deal of the work of the church was done by the women of Bethany; the administration of the congregation was handled exclusively by men. It was not until March 1972 that the first two women members of the Church Council—Mary Ann Mauzy and E. Patricia Werking—were elected and appointed, respectively.
After Pastor Miller’s 31-year pastorate ended, the congregation called the Rev. Douglas S. Strachan on November 1, 1974. He served until July 31, 1979, when he accepted a call and moved to Woodstock, New York.
For the next year, Bethany was without a pastor and was served by a number of supply pastors. From August 1, 1980 until March 1, 1981, William Henry Roen, a graduate of Gettysburg Seminary, served as supply pastor. After his approval for ordination, the congregation called him as pastor on June 1, 1981. It was a joyous time for Bethany as their new pastor was ordained in the church on August 30, 1981. Pastor and Mrs. Roen were also married at Bethany in June of that year.
During Pastor Roen’s ministry, the congregation bought a new Rodgers organ, replacing the pipe organ rebuilt in the 1930’s. The old Moller organ needed rebuilding and the cost was prohibitive. Two other major improvements were the building of the entrance for the handicapped and the addition of the church office. In 1982, Bethany members and friends celebrated the congregation’s 90th anniversary. Anniversary donations were used to have the stained glass window which is now above the organ designed, built, and installed. A well-attended dinner was held at the American Legion hall in Brunswick. Former pastors Ralph Miller and Douglas Strachan and their families attended.
Pastor Roen resigned on June 19, 1988 to become pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Bradenton, Florida.
The Rev. Jeffrey A. Truscott, a graduate of Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, became pastor on October 1, 1988. During his ministry, in addition to his regular pastoral duties, he contributed greatly to the church’s musical program, playing the organ, piano, and trumpet, as well as composing. He also organized and directed a children’s choir. Pastor Truscott resigned on April 30, 1992, to become pastor of St. John Center Lutheran Church in East Earl, Pennsylvania. He then went on to Notre Dame, in South Bend, Indiana, where he earned his doctorate in liturgy. He then served as professor of liturgy in Tokyo, Japan at the Lutheran Seminary there. He now teaches liturgy at Trinity Theological College, a multi-denominational seminary in Singapore. He also does some preaching in LCS (Lutheran Church of Singapore) congregations and leads continuing education events for LCS pastors.
On Sunday, August 23, 1992, almost one hundred years to the day of the organizing of Bethany Evangelical Lutheran Church, the congregation voted to call its first woman pastor, the Rev. Patricia Snyder, a 1992 graduate of Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary. One of the greatest gains made during her pastorate was the expanding of the work done by the laity of Bethany. She resigned on November 9, 1997 to become pastor of Luther Memorial Church, York, Pennsylvania.
Between the pastorates of Pastor Truscott and Pastor Synder, and the pastorates of Pastor Snyder and Pastor Barth, the Rev. Donald F. Sause served Bethany faithfully and well as interim pastor. In his last interim position, he served from November 1997 until September 1998, when Bethany voted to call the Rev. Bruce W. Barth. Pastor Barth, ordained on September 28, 1966, earned his Bachelor’s degree from Colgate University, his Master of Divinity degree from Yale, and his Master of Sacred Theology degree from Concordia Lutheran Seminary, St. Louis. In 1983, he received his Ph. D in Human Development from the University of Maryland. Pastor Barth was installed as Bethany’s pastor on September 13, 1998. In July 2003, Pastor Barth resigned as pastor and moved to Nebraska, where he served as pastor of Rejoice Lutheran Church of Gering, Nebraska.
In 2001, Bethany’s chancel was once again re-designed, with the Men of Bethany (the M.O.B.) doing the work of reconstruction. The choir loft was removed and the raised areas were made level. When the floor was taken up, a very large beam was discovered and removed. The Rev. Richard Clossen, a retired Methodist minister living in Keedysville, crafted the large Celtic cross that now hangs on the back wall.
Pastor Andrea Ernest, a graduate of Hood College and Gettysburg Seminary, was called to serve Bethany for a one-year term call in February 2004. She was called as Bethany’s regular part-time pastor in January 2005 and now serves as our faithful and hard-working pastor.
As we look back over the history of Bethany, perhaps we seem to think in terms of buildings and windows and furnishings, since these are the visible signs of growth and change. But these are not the true signs of life and growth in a congregation. As members of the body of Christ gather to worship on Sunday mornings, there are grandchildren and great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren of Bethany’s founders and leaders standing side by side with the many treasured new members who have recently moved into the community and joined the Bethany family.
We thank God that we have many years of history behind us and we pray that he will reinvigorate us to serve him and to minister to his children for many years to come.
BETHANY’S CHARTER MEMBERS Received on August 21, 1892 Jonas Haupt, Mrs. Jonas Haupt, George H. Tritapoe, Mrs. George H. Tritapoe, Mrs. Annie M. Piper, Mrs. E. S. Blessing, W. O. Sutter, Mrs. John Fleming, Mrs. Sarah Miller, Miss Estella Links, Mrs. Charles Ernest, Mrs. Sarah Forney, Mrs. Ridgeway, Mrs. Daniel Shafer, Mrs. H. M. Thompson, Mrs. Nora Kelley, Mrs. W. E. Evans, Luther McBride, Mrs. Luther E. McBride