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Merger of St. Andrew and Trinity - 1947

Times Are Changing

    After resolving in 1930 to be a self-supporting entity, Trinity endured the hardships of the Great Depression and World War II and saw continuous but slow progress in growth from then into mid-1945. Maple Heights, as a suburban community of Cleveland, did not expand as rapidly as expected. Transportation difficulties also prevented rapid growth. The years of the Great Depression caused many residents to move elsewhere, some of our own members being among those affected. St. Andrews also grew slowly in these years.

    With the approach of their 25th Anniversary in June, 1945, Trinity was looking forward to a better era of growth and prosperity and was looking hopefully into the future.

     In 1945, St. Andrew began discussions of merging back together with Trinity and relocating to Maple Heights. The path leading up to the merger of St. Andrew and Trinity was not exactly smooth. The experiences of these faithful Lutherans so many years ago are similar to issues we are facing today.


Merger Preparations

     In January of 1946, meeting minutes from St. Andrew indicate they were considering buying plots of land on Lee Road, at the southwest corner with Maple Heights Blvd. That site is now a retail strip across from the Maple Heights City Hall. But the price of $6000 for the land purchase was determined to be too high. In hindsight, it is clear they were right to seek a better location.

     On October 16, 1946 St. Andrew's Evangelical Lutheran Church notified Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church that their membership had voted in favor of merging the two congregations.

     Documentation indicates that the members of Trinity were not all in favor of the idea. Ballot cards in Covenant archives include some with comments for and against the merger.

     "My thought is to build colonial structure on present site – basement to stay as is for recreation. My Reasons – (1) Debt would be too great to build a structure on Libby site. (2) Loss of members from Trinity and St. Andrews. (3) Site on Libby very inconvenient for Sunday school children. Numerous complaints on this subject. Should it be necessary for St. Andrews to vacate, we would accept those who wish to become members of Trinity."


     "I favor the merger so that a modern, large church can be erected with a regular parochial school even if we have to give our last cent to meet new expenses. In my estimation, the parochial school is every bit as important as the proposed church."


     "I think our church is doing fine now without having to go in with another congregation."


     "If uniting the two churches means erecting a church located nearer the community I live in, I would be able to attend church. I'm all for such a merger."


     "I believe we have enough members without going in with another church. The transportation is very bad for people in Bedford to get out that way."


     "As long as Rev. Oehlschlager will be with us in the new church, we all think the merger would be a great thing. It would strengthen us immeasurably and the new location will offer many new possibilities."


     Facing the variety of opinions, the Trinity congregation discussed their concerns and searched their souls. Obviously, in the end they voted in favor of the merger and relocation, and the process began.

     The merger was effected on March 17, 1947, the new congregation being incorporated by R.W. Depenbrok, Harry Mandat, and Gustave H. Bergsieker under the name "The Lutheran Church of the Covenant." Rev. Oehlschlaeger and Rev. Swigart continued as associate pastors of The Lutheran Church of the Covenant, until Rev. Oehlschlaeger's retirement on February 20, 1949.

     After the two congregations officially united to create “The Lutheran Church of the Covenant” the Voters Assembly asked the pastors, Rev. Oehlschlager and Rev. Swigart to prepare a report about the road ahead and the plans for the construction of the new building. The report, called “A Story of Progress” included these inspiring words:

We Build Together

    St. Andrew and Trinity congregations are now, under the new name “The Lutheran Church of the Covenant.” A beautiful building site has been purchased, comprising eleven lots, with frontage on Libby Road, Maple Heights Boulevard, and Oakwood Avenue. (See maps on foregoing pages.) A new constitution was drawn up and adopted. The following men were elected to office: C. Lembke, chairman; F. Schieman, secretary; B. Schutte, treasurer; W. Auping, financial secretary; G. Bergsieker, A. Taylor, L. Kolsom, trustees; H. Simler, R. Depenbrok, G. Telzrow, members of the church council at large. A building committee has been appointed, and an architect has been engaged to draw the plans for our new house of worship.

Soli Deo Gloria

     We cannot look back upon the accomplishments of the past two years without recognizing and acknowledging the rich blessing of our Lord Jesus Christ, whose guidance and help we had implored from the outset, and in whose name we have undertaken this task.

     We pray that our Lord will continue to bless us and inspire us with faith and love and zeal to complete this work to the glory of his name.


Libby Road Diagram 1  Libby Road Diagram 2

***

     Handwritten notes by Gordon A. Telzrow were found with the booklet. His insights into the land purchases are very interesting (especially the prices!!):

     Note: Date unknown, probably a report to Voters’ Assemblies of both churches so when it became evident to both congregations that a merger was the real solution to our problems the next step, of course was to find a desirable location in the heart of the rapidly expanding community of Maple Heights.  It was felt that the best spot would be at the junction of Libby Road and Maple Heights Blvd., since it was geographically in the center of the community and also within the area where the tremendous expansion was taking place in the homebuilding. In fact it was called the “fastest growing community in Ohio.” Having picked our location, a committee was authorized to take steps to obtain the desired lots. The first results were disappointing but, after getting deeper into the matter, it was found that the lots we desired were available and at a price very acceptable to us.

     Since the merger was not yet completed, the lots were purchased by St. Andrews and we now hold the title to 9 lots fronting on Libby Road and also 2 lots butting into these from off of Maple Hts. Blvd. Negotiations are now in progress to obtain one more lot on Oakwood which runs directly behind those we now have on Libby Road and which will add 40 feet more depth to these lots.  This will give us a total frontage of 360 feet on Libby Road, 160 feet on Oakwood and 95 feet on Maple Heights Blvd. but does not include the corner lot there which we considered too costly (purchased later).

     These lots were purchased at a total cost of about $9000, (excluding the Oakwood lot, not yet final) or an average of about $818 per lot of which 75% represented delinquent taxes.

     This was an exceptional figure since adjacent lots there sell for about $1000 and upwards today. The price of the new Oakwood lot totals $425 -- $300 for the lot and about $125 delinquent taxes.

     All in all we now have a fine site for our proposed new building in the heart of an expanding community with great possibilities for our Church.

***

     Services were held in the former Trinity Church on Friend Avenue, Maple Heights, until the new church was finished. Robert Kopper was the organist and choir director and Mrs. Ted Billenstein was the Junior Choir Director.

     On March 30, 1947 the first Confirmation Class was confirmed. Seven students in the class included Fran (DiFulvio) Schirmer and Eileen Stohlman, who remained at Covenant for the rest of their lives. On August 10, 1947, William Stohlman was the first boy was baptized and on December 7, 1947, Christine Eitel was the first girl baptized. On June 12, 1948 Audrey Mandat & Richard Etling were the first couple married, and they were active members of Covenant thereafter. Audrey, who passed away in August 2015, was the daughter of one of the men who signed the incorporation documents for The Lutheran Church of the Covenant.

 

 

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Our First 100 Years

  Our website features articles about the long, rich history of The Lutheran Church of the Covenant, including its founding congregations, St. Andrew Lutheran Church of Cleveland, which was founded in 1912, and Trinity Lutheran Church of Maple Heights, which was founded in 1920. Please use the links below to learn more.


Church History 1912 St. Andrew 1920 Trinity Lutheran 1947 Merger
1950 Construction 1951 Dedication of Building 1957 Education Wing Other Fixtures