St. Paul’s History

2018 marked the 65th anniversary of St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church. The origin of St. Paul’s is unique – it was not founded by a synod mission, but rather by a small group of 141 dedicated Newark Lutherans who saw the need for a church home as the town swelled with the arrival of companies like Chrysler and DuPont during late 1940’s and early 1950’s. In October 1952, our church’s first humble seeds were sown as the Newark Lutheran Mission met for worship in the Warwick Funeral Home. Spirit-led and –blessed, the Mission grew, and was christened as St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church on May 24, 1953, with 113 charter members.

Seeking suitable property for a church site, the congregation bought the present property in 1955 from the Diamond Ice and Coal Company, with later additions of two adjacent housing lots and a small triangle of land to give us access to Old Chestnut Hill Road and space for a rear parking lot. St. Paul’s hired an architect to design a building in phases. Ground was broken in 1958 for the first phase consisting of the nave, the front wing (now the parlor, nursery, and classrooms), and the area that currently houses the sacristy and restrooms. The building was dedicated in October 1959.

From within its new home, St. Paul’s looked out with servant eyes towards its community. St. Paul’s first offered a kindergarten from 1962 until 1968, serving parents and 24 students at a time when Delaware public schools did not offer kindergarten. St. Paul’s Lutheran School in its current form began under the leadership of Katherine Johnston in 2004 and today serves 50 3, 4, and 5-year-olds in a day program, as well as 28 area school-age students in aftercare and summer camp programs.

As “that church across from the stadium”, ties to the University of Delaware came naturally in 1962, when the church called Pr. Louis V. Rogers to serve both St. Paul’s and the Lutheran students of UD. 247 Haines Street became the face of the Lutheran Campus Ministry in the late 1960s when a member of the congregation offered her house for purchase. St. Paul’s members worked together with UD Lutheran students to build a small student center in 1969. Paul’s Chapel. Bonhoeffer House, next to Paul’s Chapel, houses students and the Campus Pastor’s office. Today, UD Lutherans share a Tuesday night meal and worship, and spearhead monthly food distribution to the needy through the FISH program, first begun by the students in March 2005.

Modern times have shown dynamic and breathtaking changes to our church building and programs. In February 2002, the congregation dedicated a 1600-pipe Walker organ. Architect George Yu was chosen by the building committee in 2005 to design a new, larger worship space. We broke ground in February 2009 and dedicated our beautiful new sanctuary in April 2010.

Today, we are served by Interim Pastor, the Reverend Barbara Melosh (July 2019), Director for Worship & Music, Mike Bareham (January 2012), and Business Administrator, Terri Fulwider (2004). The faithful members of St. Paul’s now include 878 active members and growing, a dynamic community of diverse people that come together to share our many spiritual gifts. Nurtured by love and faith, we come together in a shared mission to love, to serve, and to inspire each other and our community.

Pastoral Timeline

  • Dr. Robert Gearhart (January 1953 – September 1961)
  • Howard Hugus (January 1954 – August 1960)
  • Campus Minister Louis Rogers  (1962 – October 1966)
  • Richard C. Wolf  (April 1961- January 1966)
  • David Blackwelder  (July 1966- September 1969)
  • Campus Minister Edward Fisher  (1967-1976)
  • Richard Batman  (July 1970-May 1988)
  • Assoc. Ronald Reaves (1977 – 1980)
  • Donald Olson  (May 1987- February 1991)
  • Assoc. Margaret Rasmussen  (September 1988-February 1991)
  • John Keating  (1992-2013)
  • Campus Minister Bruce Heggen  (1996 – 2013)
  • Assoc. Greg Eidell  (February 2003 – March 2012)
  • Visitation Pastor Jack Little  (September 2012 – March 2016)
  • Welcome Pastor Michael Merkel  (September 2012 – March 2014)
  • Assistant Pastor Gwendolyn King  (September 2015 – January 2016)
  • Interim Pastor Janet Peterman  (November 2013 – January 2016)
  • Linda Gunderson  (February 2016 – May 2023)
  • Campus Minister Mindy Holland
  • Interim Pastor Barbara Melosh (July 2023)
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