The Lutheran church
may have started because a German monk named Martin
Luther struggled with the contradictions he saw between
the Bible and some of the practices of the Catholic
church. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted
95 Theses on the Power and Efficacy of
Indulgences, now commonly known as
Ninety-Five Theses, on the door of the Castle
Church in Wittenberg, Germany. This disputation
was a protest against clerical abuses, especially in
regard to 'indulgences', and is widely regarded as the
primary catalyst for the Protestant Reformation.
The background to Luther's
Ninety-Five Theses centers on agreements within the
Catholic Church regarding baptism and absolution.
Significantly, the Theses offer a view on the validity
indulgences (remissions of temporal punishment due
for sins which have already been forgiven). They
also view with great cynicism the practice of
indulgences being sold, and thus the penance for sin
representing a financial transaction rather than genuine
contrition. Luther's Theses argued that the sale
of indulgences was a gross violation of the original
intention of confession and penance, and that Christians
were being falsely told that they could find absolution
through the purchase of indulgences. He fought to
reform the church by exposing its corruption and abuses.
It was never his intent to divide the church, but his
efforts toward reform proved to be fruitless and
eventually he was excommunicated. He continued to
spread his teachings despite threats to his life.
The name "Lutheran" originated as
a derogatory term used against Luther by Johann Eck
during the Leipzig Debate in July 1519. Eck and
other Roman Catholics followed the traditional practice
of naming a heresy after its leader, thus labeling all
who identified with the theology of Martin Luther as
Lutherans. Martin Luther always disliked the term,
preferring instead to describe the reform movement with
the term "Evangelical," which was derived from a word
meaning "Gospel." Although Luther strongly opposed
many aspects of Catholicism, he continued to embrace any
practices of the church that did not directly contradict
the scriptures. As a result, Lutheran churches
today tend to reflect the appearance and atmosphere of
Catholic churches. Lutherans themselves began to
use the term in the middle of the 16th century in order
to identify themselves from other groups, such as
Philippists and Calvinists. In 1597, theologians
in Wittenberg used the title "Lutheran" to describe the
true church based upon the true doctrine of the gospel.
Martin Luther designed his own
personal mark to indicate what was an authorized
publication of Luther’s works. That design has
Luther's Seal or
In the 17th century, Lutherans
from Germany and Scandinavia began to migrate to the
United States, bringing their culture and faith with
them. Lutheranism is known for its emphasis on
education, and therefore, today many Lutheran schools,
colleges, and seminaries exist throughout the world.
In February 1901,
Sheraden was a Borough of the City of Pittsburgh,
the City Mission Society sent a representative to look
into the possibility of starting a Lutheran Mission. In
the process, several families were interviewed - and
enough interest was shown - that services were soon
being held in several private homes.
Due to the success of this Lutheran
Mission, a meeting was held on August 8, 1901 in
the Methodist Church on Faulkner Street (now a private
residence) for the purpose of organizing a Lutheran
Church. A Constitution was the first order of business,
and Reverend Schuh
presented our fledgling group with the Constitution of
the Lutheran Church in Mars, Pennsylvania. That
Constitution was adopted for use by Trinity, thereby
officially bringing into existence Trinity Evangelical
Lutheran Church of Sheraden Borough.
On the following Thursday,
August 15, 1901, the first Congregational meeting
was held for the purpose of electing Trinity's first
Church Council. Those elected to Council positions were
installed during the services on August 18, 1901.
Under the Christian leadership of this Council, and with
help from the Synod, worship services were held
regularly, with Reverend
Dittmer and Reverend
Weaver providing pastoral care until the
Synod called our first Pastor.
The Church was officially founded,
and the charter granted, on January 16, 1902.
During these early days, the congregation organized two
important groups in the Church's ministry: The Sunday
School and the Ladies Aid Society, which now is our
Trinity Lutheran Church Women's (TLCW) group.
An interesting Trinity
fact: We have not changed our Christmas
tree policy since Trinity's founding because, the
Minutes Book of the Congregation (dated November 23,
1902) read, "Moved that we keep Christmas with tree
and treat for the children". It was further moved
that the Christmas service be held on Christmas
The Sunday School was not only a
feeder for the Congregation, but also a worker for the
American Lutheran Church. Sunday School always
emphasized benevolence programs. Trinity's next step in
growth was the formation of a choir and two young
In January, 1904, the
accepted the call to be our first Pastor
(1904 - 1908). Since
then, Trinity has been served by the following Pastors:
Eisenbach (1909 - 1939)
Grabau (1940 - 1944)
Tejan (1944 - 1950)
Goehle (1951 - 1955)
Rohrbacher (1956 - 1964)
Grill (1964 - 1971)
Frederick Haseche (1972 - 1975)
Sharp (1976 - 1980)
Hutchinson (1981 - 1986)
Furno (1987 - 1991)
Weiss (1991 - 1993)
Nagy (1994 - 2009)
Beth L. Siefert
and John J. Gropp (2009 - present)
Paul F. Koch (2010 - present)
Melba T. Dibble (2012 - present)
Two men from our Congregation were
called into the ministry; Harry Dott and
James Robson. Harry
served as a missionary in New Guinea, while Jim accepted
a call in New York State.
In the first years of the Church,
much time was spent discussing plans for establishing a
permanent meeting place. The Methodist Church (on
Faulkner Street) and some lots in the Keystone Plan were
both considered as possibilities. On February 2,
1904, the Treasurer was instructed by the
Congregation to buy the Keystone lots. At a special
meeting, a committee was appointed to meet with
contractors and to get cost estimates of construction of
the church building. The cornerstone of the Church was
laid in 1904. The Church was dedicated on
July 16, 1905. The parsonage was completed in
The growth of the Sunday School
led to the decision to erect the Sunday School unit of
the new Church. This unit was dedicated on November
8, 1931. In the thirty years from 1909 to 1939, the
Congregation grew in numbers from ninety members to
three hundred and seventy members strong. Organizations
which were added included: the Brotherhood (in 1911);
the Catherine von Bera group (in 1916); and the
Berean Class (in 1930).
When many of Trinity's boys and
men expressed an interest in forming a Boy Scout troop, the
men's Brotherhood group decided to sponsored one; Troop 299
received its first Charter in March 1954. Many of
the Troop 299 Boy Scouts and the Troop leaders were
members of Trinity.
As our Congregation continued to
grow, the ever-increasing attendance necessitated the
construction of a larger Sanctuary. With a hard-working
Building Committee and Church Council, the cornerstone
for our present Church was laid on August 17, 1958.
The present Church building was dedicated on February
the success of Boy Scout Troop 299, the Brotherhood
decided to sponsor Cub Scout Pack 299 (for the younger
boys), who received their first charter in February,
On October 27, 1968,
Trinity celebrated the "mortgage burning" of our new
Church building. With its property in good order, the
Congregation became more and more aware of its Christian
responsibilities to the community. The Scouting program
was expanded and Trinity became involved in The
Association of Sheraden Churches (TASC), the South West
Interchurch Ministry (SWIM), the Golden Agers and the
Meals On Wheels program.
In January, 1987, Trinity
participated in the merger of the Lutheran Church
of America with the Association of
Evangelical Lutheran Churches. The merged
Churches then came to be known as the
Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.
We celebrated our 100th
Anniversary on June 21-23, 2002, with many of
our past (and far-flung) members and clergy returning
for the celebration.
After many years of serving
Trinity and the Sheraden community, due to a lack of
parental involvement, Cub Scout Pack
299 ceased their Scouting activities in June 2008; their
charter expired on February 28, 2009.
Likewise, Boy Scout Troop 299 was forced, by lack of
parental participation, to allow their charter to lapse
on February 28, 2010. Before Taps played on
their Scouting activities, Troop 299 had taught hundreds
of boys that a "Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful,
courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave,
clean, and reverent". The boys also
promised that, "On my honor I will do my best, to do my
duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to
help other people at all times; to keep myself
physically strong, mentally awake, and morally
straight". A lasting legacy of Troop 299 is an
impressive total of
52 Eagle Scouts, including many from our own
On April 22, 2009, a group of three
South Western Pennsylvania (SWPA) Synod Conference 6
Collaborative Partners meeting, which was a gathering of
the Synod’s churches who, like Trinity, had been asking
the Synod for help.
At the end of the meeting, two pastors from
Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries (PLUM)
a brief talk about their cooperative ministry of five
churches (three member churches and two one-year trial
membership churches). They explained how their Ministry
had three Pastors, who traveled to, preached at and
fulfilled the pastoral duties of those five churches -
much like the
Circuit Riders of the old American frontier. All
five of the churches pay their percentage of the three
The churches were happy to have three Pastors – at less
cost than hiring just one full-time Pastor. Also, the
Pastors liked PLUM because, for the first time, they
were getting the Synod’s recommended minimum salary!
Those Trinity members in attendance loved this idea!
So, they started planning on how they could start their own
group of churches. They even tried to think of a name;
something like "West End United Ministries".
the May 11, 2009 Church Council meeting, the
representatives gave a report about the Synod meeting
and their idea about forming a partnership with other
West End churches. During the discussion,
said that we had good timing because he had planned
to announce that he had decided to retire following the
last Sunday in August 2009. Needless to say, that
announcement, while expected in the not-too-distant
future due to Pastor’s declining health, created a
renewed sense of urgency to their planning. Now,
they had a
specific deadline to meet.
The three Trinity representatives attended the May 28, 2009
Conference 6 meeting with the goal of meeting with other
West End area
churches and finding suitable matches for our planned
West End United Ministries. Luckily, while asking
questions of the PLUM pastors (after the meeting had concluded),
our representatives discovered that PLUM was actively looking for more
churches to add to its group! Here we had a ready-made
organization, with the rules and organizational
structure already planned out. All we had to do was
join their group and then we would have three Pastors to
replace our one retiring pastor.
At a Special Congregational Meeting on July 12, 2009, we voted to join PLUM for a one-year trial membership,
starting on the first Sunday in September, 2009.
Nagy fully retired on August 30, 2009.
One week later, on September 6, 2009, we began a
one-year trial membership with the Pittsburgh Lutheran
United Ministries (PLUM).
At a Special
Congregational Meeting on April 25, 2010,
we decided, by an oral vote, to submit our request to become a
regular member church
of PLUM; we submitted our formal request letter that
afternoon at the quarterly PLUM Board meeting.
During the July 25,
2010 PLUM Board meeting, all of the representatives
from the PLUM member churches voted ‘Yes’ to accept
Trinity as their sixth and newest member of PLUM.
At a Special
Congregational Meeting on Sunday, October 10, 2010,
by written ballot - and with a Synod representative
present - we voted unanimously to
‘Call’ Pastor John J.
Gropp and Pastor Beth L. Siefert to be our Pastors.
On November 1, 2010,
Pastor Paul Koch became the third (interim) PLUM pastor.
At our annual
Congregational Meeting on November 20, 2011, by
written ballot - and with a Synod representative present
- we voted unanimously to
(pastor-in-training) Melba Dibble
as a third 'called' Pastor at Trinity. At that
time, Vicar Dibble had passed all requirements for
ordination, which was scheduled to be held on January
Dibble was ordained and called as the third 'called'
PLUM pastor on January 28, 2012.
Our members continue to serve the
Lord within the Congregation and through volunteer
services to various community and social groups.