LIMA — On the northwest corner of West Spring and Pierce streets is a simple parking lot. Its sits moderately full of cars on the average weekday afternoon, but not much about it would let on to the historical significance of this generic plot of land. Once, there stood a considerably sized church that was designed in the simple fashion of other holy buildings of the 19th century. This spot once housed a church building that was originally known as the Bethany Lutheran Church.
For half a century this church shone as a sanctuary and symbol for the people of Lima. Because of the ever-changing times and an eventual merger of peoples, this symbol eventually fell out of usefulness for the citizens of Lima. The history of the church that once stood there, however, is one that is intertwined with the very history of Lima itself.
Lima already had St. Paul’s Lutheran Church to serve the religious needs of the community, but by 1890 the town’s booming population required the creation of another church. At that time, the General Synod (an older term for such a Lutheran population) realized the necessity to provide for the needs of those who lived too far from St. Paul’s and thus created the First Evangelical Church of the General Synod.
The people of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church were a bit peeved by the name as they were technically in existence before this new church, making the title of “First” a bit of a misnomer. This eventually caused the newer church to become Bethany Lutheran Church.
The first congregation assembled in 1890 to attend services led by the Rev. A.C. Miller in a place called Stamets’ Hall, which was owned by members of the congregation at the time. In the years that followed, however, they found their number increasing to the point that it became apparent the meeting hall just wasn’t going to cut it any longer. This was when the plans to construct the church building began. The congregation purchased an empty lot on that corner, and work immediately began.
This church the organization had commissioned would become Bethany Lutheran Church, but the address led the people of Lima to refer to it as Spring Street Church. When the church was officially dedicated on April 18, 1893, the building lacked many of the essentials needed to function as a place of worship. One surviving directory from Bethany Lutheran Church in 1923 remarked on the amount that went in to completing the building: “The total cost of the church and its furnishings with the lot was $8,000.”
After all these funds went into crafting the church, one staple of Christian services that was yet missing was an organ. The call for such an instrument was eventually heard by none other than the Carnegie Fund of Pittsburgh which agreed to match what church-goers had already raised, $1,000. Finally, the church building seemed complete, but what truly made it special was the congregation itself.
In the years when the church was up, the Lutheran community flourished. Pastors came and went, each leaving their mark on the area, but the citizens of the church remained as impassioned for their faith as they had at the beginning. A 1959 article from The Lima Citizen remarked on this monumental growth.
“By Sept. 21, 1930, Bethany congregation had completed 40 years of existence, developing from a small mission church of 44 charter members to a congregation of 325.”
The growth was no doubt marvelous in many ways, but it caused a problem. When the number of church attendees had grown too large for the old building, a merger occurred between the people of St. Paul’s and Bethany to become what is now St. Luke’s Lutheran Church.
The building itself was then sold to Seventh Day Adventists of Lima. With the passage of time, the Adventists too found their congregation too large for the building, which was then sold to be converted into the lot it sits as now.
Reach Andrew Ewry at email@example.com.