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St. Paul Community Church sanctuary is 60 years old,
but the church community is celebrating it’s 150th
anniversary this year.
(Photo by Eric Crump/The Chronicle)

 

Members of St. Paul Community Church have marked a golden anniversary, a  centennial and this year they are celebrating the 150th year of their church  community.

To mark this special occasion, the church, at 18200 Dixie Highway, is hosting a free concert at 4:30 p.m. on April 12 presented by the 75 members of the Spirit of Life Chorus. Their ecumenical program has a strong emotional appeal through joyous music of the love of Jesus Christ, said director Marc Stiehr. 

Under the brick skin, the old 
frame church is still standing 
and serving the congregation. 

(Photo by Eric Crump/The
Chronicle)

The congregation will also have an anniversary worship celebration at 10:30 a.m. on May 17, followed by a luncheon.  Pastor Frank Rodgers conducts the congregation’s regular Sunday services at 10:30 a.m. Sunday School starts at 10:45 a.m. 

You can view photos and memorabilia about St. Paul Community Church through April in the lobby of the Homewood Public Library. 

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The history of St. Paul’s goes back to when the Civil War was raging in 1862. German settlers in a place we have come to know as Homewood raised $42 to purchase a lot on Dixie so they could establish a school to teach children the German language.

In 1865, the school was converted to German St. Paul Church. Over time, a second lot was purchased and in 1873, members raised enough money to build the first official church building.  Eventually a arsonage was added.

The last sermon in German was delivered in the 1930s. As Homewood grew, the congregation swelled in the 1940s and 1950s with many young families, said Dixie Mitchell, a long-time member of St. Paul’s. 

Sunday School was conducted on the top floor of the parsonage and the Homewood Theater until a major renovation took place adding an education wing and a new sanctuary.  The steeple on the original wood framed church — today on the north end of the parish structure — was removed and the building was clad in brick to match the new additions. The cornerstone was laid in 1955.

A plaque on the exterior wall 
of the old church marks 
the congregation’s 125th 
anniversaryin 1990. (Photo 
by Eric Crump/The Chronicle)

Tom Parsons remembers his Sunday School lessons in the Dr. Doepp House, one of the original buildings owned by the congregation, and then in the new education space. When children were in seventh or eighth grade, they transitioned to Christian Youth Fellowship directed by a youth pastor, while the adults attended services in the church sanctuary.

Parsons also remembers taking piano lessons from member Jean Sunden who was married to the church organist, Ralph Sunden. Parsons got to play the church organ one time for services.  His father, Fred, had served as president of the choir.

Mitchell’s family, like many others in the congregation, has generations of support for St. Paul’s. The Mitchell family is now on its sixth generation of church members.

Pastor Rodgers said even as the church rolls has slimmed down, its members, representing all age groups, continue to reach out to those less fortunate to touch as many lives as possible.

“Churches have gone up and down with life in America. In the 1950s when we underwent our major building project, it was a boom time for American religion. It’s what families did on Sundays. It was their fellowship,” he said.

St. Paul’s is a part of the United Church of Christ. Rodgers said they are an all-encompassing group.

“St. Paul’s today is trying to create a community that is very welcoming to all people. The people here are very warm and loving and their work is mission driven.  They do much to support Respond Now and the Jones Center. They work to support cancer victims. It’s that kind of outreach that we do.”

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