Hallam's St. James Lutheran Church celebrates 275 years of worship


Hanging over the altar in St. James Lutheran Church is a painting of Jesus Christ draped in a red robe, painted by York County native Wayne Crumling in the early 1920s.

"People say that he was so intent on getting this painting finished and getting it right that he took the blood from his own wrist to get the color of the robe right," said St. James church council president Carolyn Dietz.

"My mother always used to tell me that story," congregant Paulette Toomey chimed in, looking up at the painting.

The painting isn't the only piece of history in the approximately 120-year-old church at 180 W. Market St. in Hallam. It boasts its original stained-glass windows as well as an organ designed by F.J. Furst in 1936.

Members of the congregation, because it was during the Depression era, collected coins for nearly a year to purchase the organ made of recycled materials — including a Model T starter — for $1,050.

But the oldest thing St. James Lutheran Church has to offer is the tradition of its members coming together and celebrating their faith, which they have done for 275 years.

St. James, named after town physician Dr. James Armstrong, celebrated its anniversary with a worship service Sunday.

The Rev. William Avery, who served as St. James' pastor from 1961-67, and current interim pastor the Rev. Paul Frank Jr. presided over the services.

Some history: The congregation was established when the Rev. John Casper Stoever, a Lutheran minister and missionary in 1740, performed several baptisms in Kreutz Creek.

Even though the congregation did not have a church in 1740, that year was recorded as its first because baptism is one of three sacraments recognized by Lutherans.

In 1746, a warrant for roughly 50 acres of land was granted to the group where they built what was known as the Reformed Lutheran Dutch Congregation.

"Can you believe that? 1746? Just think about how long ago that was," Dietz said. "George Washington was only 8 years old, that's how long ago that was. That's how long this group of people has been coming together."

The original worshippers, Dietz added, had to go to church armed because of their fear of Native Americans, a fact revealed in old church council meeting minutes.

In 1797, they replaced the old log church with a new one made of stone, and then a third one was built in 1860 that now serves as the Kreutz Creek Presbyterian Church.

In 1894, the congregation built the church in which they continue to attend services today.

The congregation continued to grow, and in the 1960s the church purchased land in the western section of Hellam Township to build another, bigger church building.

However, that plan never came to fruition, and the land is now known as the St. James Lutheran Church Fields, where sporting events are hosted.

Special: Both Toomey and Dietz grew up attending services at the church in Hallam.

"It's like a second home," Dietz said. "I've come here all my life, I went to church here, I went to Sunday school here, and it really is where I belong every Sunday. It's like a family."

Toomey's granddaughter is the sixth generation of her family to attend church at St. James.

"My family has always been so involved here," she said. "I mean, they helped build this church."

— Reach Jessica Schladebeck at jschladebeck@yorkdispatch.com.