Ev. Lutheran Church of Our Saviour, Stone Harbor

The Mission and Vision of Our Saviour

The Mission of Our Saviour congregation is to draw people to Christ and his church:
  • In inspiring worship through Word and Sacrament
  • In lifelong learning
  • In service using our personal gifts at Our Saviour and beyond
  • In prayer and passionate spirituality
  • In fellowship and small groups
The Vision of Our Saviour congregation is to be a growing active congregation that welcomes all people to faith in Jesus Christ.
Other than our congregation’s charter (which is not archived) there are few purposeful statements of Our Saviour Mission until a mission statement was written and reformulated in the 1990’s. Our mission has to be gleaned from the minutes and other documents, as well as recollections of members who have some history as members of Our Saviour. This brief statement will seek to summarize Our Saviour’s mission as it might guide us at present and in the future.

As a tool to state some of what has been gleaned from our history, three main time periods based on the ministries of Our Saviour’s pastors will be utilized. Findings are based on congregant recollection and supposition, as well as hard data.

The Early Years         
The seed from which grew an active congregation named the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Our Saviour of Stone Harbor was planted by Anna Salvesen. In November of 1910, Mrs. Salvesen invited a group of children to attend a birthday party for her son, Oscar. Following the event, she invited the children back the next week for a Sunday School class at her home. The children who returned formed the nucleus for a Sunday School which soon outgrew the Salvesen’s home. Sunday School included hymn-singing, prayer, Bible reading and exposition of the Bible text. By March 1913, the Sunday School was formally organized and included adult Christian education. The desire for
Christian education for the children and adults of Stone Harbor directly influenced the next step taken, the establishment of a worshiping community of faith.

In October 1913, a group of 15 women from both the Sunday School and the community gathered to form The Union Church Club of Stone Harbor. The object of the club was, according to their minutes, to “furnish religious services every Sunday evening of an interdenominational character, endeavoring, as far as possible to have clergymen of each and every denomination conduct services.” They stipulated that “no one denomination is to be in charge more than two consecutive months.” A committee was appointed to supply the pulpit with preachers. The Oakes Cottage was the site of services. Later, after outgrowing the Oakes Cottage, the U.C.C. met in the Episcopal Church and Borough Hall.

In December 1913, the South Jersey Realty Company requested that Dr. Silas Daugherty, Superintendent of the Eastern Pennsylvania Synod study Stone Harbor to determine if there was a need for a Lutheran Church. In January of 1914, Dr. Daugherty arrived seeking the views of the U.C.C. to determine if a Lutheran congregation should be established. In February 1914, Dr. Daugherty was asked to preach for the Union Church Club and a canvass was taken. By March 1914, the Synod authorized Dr. Daugherty to proceed with the organization of a Lutheran congregation. South Jersey Realty donated a lot for the purpose of building a church. In May 1914, the congregation was chartered. In July 1916 ground was broken for the church and the services were first held on Easter 1917.

In summary, Christian education and worship year-round were the priorities of the charter members and earliest members of Our Saviour. In spite of the fact that the congregation was founded under the auspices of the Lutheran Church and several of the founding members had held prior membership in the Lutheran Church, the congregation tended to be more non-denominationally Protestant in worship and theology.

Pastors Bair and Walker
In 1920, Our Saviour’s Church Council contacted Dr. Daugherty requesting the calling of a permanent minister. In 1924, D. Upton Bair was called as pastor. But his duties were split with Messiah Lutheran Church in Sea Isle City. During his tenure a mission was formed in Dorothy (Bethlehem Lutheran Church) and summer work undertaken in Townsends Inlet.; Dr. Bair resigned in 1935 and died two weeks later.

In May 1935, Morris Walker was called as Our Saviour’s (also Messiah’s and Bethlehem’s) pastor. In 1940, after the parish was split, Church Council extended a call to Pr. Walker to serve Stone Harbor only. In 1942 the church was enlarged to include a Sunday School room (later called the Missionary Room and present-choir room) and chancel.

The Walker years were punctuated by a number of other building and property projects. In August 1949, the Parish Hall was dedicated to meet the need of increased Sunday School attendance and as a “center of activity for the young people of the community.” In 1953, a new parsonage was completed. In 1961, a parcel of land with an existing structure across Third Ave. from the Church and Parish Hall was purchased to accommodate expansion and house visiting ministers or for summer rental.  

During this period (1918-1952) The Assembly by the Sea program flourished at, what had now been dubbed, The Lutheran Community Church. The week-long sessions included: morning Bible study, afternoon discussion groups, and evening lectures. Lessons in the Sand, a Vacation Bible School for children on the beach was soon added to adult programming.

In 1962, Our Saviour took part in the ordination of member and summer assistant, Richard Starr. Starr was the only “son” of Our Saviour to enter ordained ministry, but other summer assistants served the summer here. That same year the remaining members of the Union Church Club became part of Lutheran Church Women as the Lutheran Church in America came into existence. 

The 12 year pastorate of D. Upton Bair and the 28 year leadership of Morris Walker reinforced the “community church” nature of Our Saviour. A second worship service was added for the summer. The congregation expanded Christian education to the community, as well as a wider summer audience through the Assembly. Our facilities were updated and property was increased with an eye to future expansion of facilities and ministry. An emblem that might be indicative of this era was the star which, rather than a cross, was set atop Our Saviour’s steeple. One member surmised that this may have been done to draw a distinction between our parish and a Roman Catholic one. It was presented by the Assembly by the Sea quoting John 8:12: “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 

The Spindler Years
The pastorate of Pr. John Spindler, beginning in November 1963, slightly overlapped that of Pr. Morris Walker. Pr. Walker left Our Saviour but stayed in the area to become pastor-superintendent of the new Lutheran Home at Oceanview. Concern for housing for the elderly and infirm also characterized Pr. Walker’s later pastorate. 

In 1964, Our Saviour celebrated its 50th anniversary. In 1965, the younger women met to organize a circle of the L.C.W. called Women for Service for women who could not attend a noon time meeting. The Sunday School movement was at its peak and so was the attendance in Our Saviour’s Sunday School.

In 1967, Our Saviour took part in the first ecumenical service (both Protestant and Roman Catholic) in the area at the old High School in Cape May Court House. The colorful Willet stained glass windows began to be set in place.

On Reformation Sunday 1967, a narrative service was held to introduce the liturgical (red)
Service Book and Hymnal to replace the Washington Service which was used at Our Saviour for so many years. In March 1978, a plan to introduce the Lutheran Book of Worship (green hymnal) was approved by Council. Its adoption caused quite a stir as language of creeds, prayers, hymns, and hymn tunes were changed.    

Music was a centerpiece of the ministry and fellowship at Our Saviour during the 60’s and 70’s. A variety of groups from the eastern U.S. and as far away as Korea brought the congregation and the community together.
Music by Candlelight concerts were held to help fund a $17,000 expansion of the pipe organ.

In 1971 the sanctuary was renovated adding new lighting, a new chancel rail with gates for use during the Lord’s Supper. The large wall cross of stained glass panels was dedicated on Palm Sunday 1978. A drop ceiling with insulated tiles was installed in 1979. A ramp to accommodate wheel chairs was installed in August 1982. During this period the building on the parcel on the west side of Third Ave. was used for summer rentals. Eventually it was demolished because of the expense of upkeep and during a financial crisis, a portion at the northwest corner of 93rd and Third was sold.

In addition to congregational groups, Our Saviour hosted or took part in many community-wide events including Masonic services, the Bi-centennial celebration, and a meal served to GI’s by the American Legion.

The early 80’s were a time of turmoil at Our Saviour leading to the resignation of Pr. John Spindler in September 1982. 1963-1982 saw the peaking and subsiding of the Sunday School in our nation and at Our Saviour. Still,
Christian education and worship remained an emphasis with a third summer service added during this period. Community and worldwide ministries were also evident in the spiritual care offered to summer residents and visitors and in the sponsoring of children in poverty in the Philippines and Liberia.

It could be said that the Spindler years were ones of a return to our Lutheran roots as two Lutheran hymnals were adopted during this period. At the same time ecumenical activity inspired by Vatican 2 (1963-65) also was evident. Emblematic of this period was the retiring of the star on the steeple and the installation of a cross in November 1971.

The Schoenberger Pastorate
It should first be said that this chapter has not ended. But it began with a need for the healing of many of the wounds caused by contention in the final two years of Pr. Spindler’s tenure. Pr. Glenn Schoenberger began his ministry in June 1983. The first few years were punctuated by the rebuilding of the congregation emotionally and in attendance.

The core of the congregation that held Our Saviour together through nearly a year's pastoral vacancy were up to the task of rebuilding in a variety of areas. The first "class" on new members in July 1983 saw 18 new members received; a record at Our Saviour. The first big congregational event was the celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the Sunday School including Lessons in the Sand led by Uncle Allan (Charles Chamberlin) Jr. and a confirmation class reunion. We looked back at our past as we looked ahead to the future of Our Saviour. 70th, 75th, and 80th anniversaries of the chartering of the congregation were also celebrated.   

A building plan for a new Parish Hall was approved in late 1983. It was decided that the Parish Hall built in 1949 had to be renovated or demolished to make it acceptable for Sunday School classes, meetings, and meals. The Hall was demolished in spring of 1984 and construction of the present Parish Hall began in spring 1985. Many groups and individuals within Our Saviour and in the community helped finance this project. In 1987, a home adjacent to the sanctuary became available and in a step of faith, the congregation voted to purchase the home and property for future expansion.

During this period liturgical worship using the LBW continued to be a priority. We were aided in worship and music by four organists, Dottie Young, Pam Steiner, Alice Stenlake and Renee Tobias, along with an ever changing membership in the Semper Fidelis choir. Hand bells were added in 1989 and since then a digital piano and a small orchestra for the festivals of the church year have been added. In the late-90’s, worship and hymnody have striven to be true to Lutheranism while respecting the traditions (Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic, Orthodox, Baptist) of the Christians who worship on Sundays. 

Since 1983, the Sunday School has ebbed and flowed; growing to 65 children during the mid to late 90’s. A renewed Vacation Bible School program has revitalized summer Christian education. Adult Christian education has been a priority from 1983 to the present. An adult forum, Bible Study, Lutheran Men in Mission, periodic parish and ecumenical studies have formed a firm foundation for Christian growth in members and friends of Our Saviour.

In 1993 a renewed ecumenical emphasis was sparked by a visit to Our Saviour by Dr. Gordon Sommers, then president of the National Council of Churches. Since then more ecumenical services and events have been held in addition to the Thanksgiving service. It has spawned a pastor’s Bible study which meets weekly to study the lessons assigned for Sundays.

While technology at Our Saviour has increased with computers, VCR’s, DVD’s, a hearing impaired sound system, nothing can replace the hands-on ministry inaugurated by Jesus Christ our Lord. In the 21st century, Bonnie Kratzer became our Parish Nurse and more and more Our Saviour is highlighting God’s desire that his people be whole in body, mind and spirit.

The years 1983-2005 have sought to build on those elements of Our Saviour history and practice that have been its firm foundation.
Worship and Christian education, community and global world views have been and remain firm foundation stones on which to build for the future. Yet we are a pilgrim people, ever-moving with the cross of Christ setting the pace. One conclusion should be drawn: While “Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever”, the world and the Church are the not same as when this pilgrimage began. We must recognize what has been successful in the past, just as we must critically judge what is successful and appropriate today. But we must recognize that people don’t look at the Church as they did in 1910, nor do many have a clue about what constitutes Lutheran Christianity. We have to re-orient ourselves to be the church for the future.
Other than our congregation’s charter (which is not archived) there are few purposeful statements of Our Saviour Mission until a mission statement was written and reformulated in the 1990’s. Our mission has to be gleaned from the minutes and other documents, as well as recollections of members who have some history as members of Our Saviour. This brief statement will seek to summarize Our Saviour’s mission as it might guide us at present and in the future.

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Lutheran Church of Our Saviour, 9212 Third Ave., Stone Harbor, NJ 08247 - 609-368-3031 - e-mail: oursaviour@verizon.net