Our Roots - Faith Lutheran Church Today (Formerly Capernaum)
The Messiah Lutheran Church congregation was organized February 18, 1921. Many of the charter members were formerly members of the Capernaum Lutheran church in Ashtabula Harbor (now Faith Lutheran Church). Swedish immigrants were the founders of Capernaum and they settled in the harbor. But in later years many families moved "uptown" to Ashtabula Main Avenue area and the need was felt for a church that would serve that area.
On February 18, 1921, a group of members met and unanimously decided to organize a new congregation. The new church was incorporated under the name of the Evangelical Messiah Lutheran Church of Ashtabula, Ohio. It has been called in short - Messiah Lutheran Church. The "uptown" families had previously built a chapel in 1907 on Hiawatha Street. That chapel is still in use today by the Hiawatha Church of God. All of this early 20th century activity was an outreach effort of Capernaum.
Hiawatha Chapel about 1921
Rev. Oleen was Capernaum's pastor at the time and he continued to serve both parishes. Rev. Oleen accepted a call in July 1922 to become Messiah's first full time pastor. At about the same time, The Rev. E. W. Peterson accepted a call to Capernaum. The parishes then each had their own pastor and the formal relationship between Capernaum and Messiah ended.
Under Rev. Oleen's leadership, it was decided to hire Raymond Freeburg of Jamestown, NY, as architect to prepare plans for a new church. A bid of $46,950 was accepted for the construction of the new church. Excavation began May 1, 1928. The first service was held in the beautiful new building September 22, 1929. There were about 200 confirmed members.
After 11 years as pastor at Messiah, Rev. Oleen resigned in 1932. The congregation extended a call to C. Oscar Leonardson to become Messiah's second pastor. With Pastor Leonardson's leadership, English became the main language of the congregation. English replaced Swedish, which was the native language of most of the original members. Rev. Leonardson resigned in 1938.
Pastor Carl Moberg was called and began his duties in 1939. He served until 1944. Pastor Wallace Johnson was called and started serving Messiah in 1944. He served until 1950.
Messiah in the mid 1960's prior to construction of the educational wing.
Pastor Howard B. Pettersen was called in April 1951. With Pastor Pettersen's leadership the church grew by leaps and bounds. The average attendance at the Sunday morning service passed the 200 mark for the first time in the history of the congregation. Sunday School also grew tremendously with over 200 children in 20 classes. A new parsonage was built on Knollwood Avenue and the old parsonage became additional space for the Sunday School and for the church administrative offices. In 1964, the Sunday School enrollment reached a peak of 280 children and operated in the church, the former parsonage and two other houses purchased on Station Avenue. In 1965 the congregation hired Walter Wefel as architect to design an educational wing on the west side of the original church. Plans were accepted in 1966 and Burns Construction of Jefferson, Ohio was given the contract to construct the new building. Ground breaking took place in September 1967. The new building was dedicated in September 1968.
Messiah today and following construction of the educational wing in 1968.
The congregation issued a call in 1973 to The Rev. Stanley Sneeringer to become Messiah's Associate Pastor. Pastor Sneeringer served until 1975. Upon his resignation the congregation returned to being a one pastor parish.
Pastor Pettersen retired from active ministry in 1978 and the congregation issued a call to The Rev. Wayne Sherman. Pastor Sherman served until 1991. During his tenure the church's outreach effort improved greatly. The Lend-A-Hand food pantry was established and Messiah's former Parish House became the only homeless shelter between Cleveland and Erie (Samaritan House). Both of these programs continue to serve area residents.
The Rev. Elizabeth Eaton was called in 1991. She served until 2007 when she was called to be Bishop of the Northeast Ohio Synod. Following her service as NEO synod Bishop, Rev. Eaton was elected to the national office of Presiding Bishop of the ELCA. During Pastor Eaton's tenure a major restoration of the entire church edifice was accomplished costing nearly $300,000. The Church's outreach effort also expanded with organization of the Station Avenue Task Force with the goal of improving our troubled neighborhood.
In December 2007 the congregation called The Rev. Dr. Michael Meranda as their new Pastor. Paster Meranda still serves the congregation today.