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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 his 95 Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences, now commonly known as The 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 of 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 been called Luther's Seal or Luther's Rose.

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, when 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 afternoon.

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 people's groups.

In January, 1904, the Reverend Mollenauer accepted the call to be our first Pastor (1904 - 1908).  Since then, Trinity has been served by the following Pastors:

  • C. H. Eisenbach (1909 - 1939)

  • Harold Grabau (1940 - 1944)

  • Claude Tejan (1944 - 1950)

  • Alfred Goehle (1951 - 1955)

  • Philip Rohrbacher (1956 - 1964)

  • Keith Grill (1964 - 1971)

  • Frederick Haseche (1972 - 1975)

  • Kenneth Sharp (1976 - 1980)

  • Robert Hutchinson (1981 - 1986)

  • John Furno (1987 - 1991)

  • Nancy Weiss (1991 - 1993)

  • Z. Louis 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 1905.

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 8, 1959.

Following 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, 1960.

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, friendly, 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 Trinity congregation!

On April 22, 2009, a group of three Trinity members attended the 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) gave 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 Pastors’ salaries.  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".

At 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, Pastor Nagy 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. 

Pastor 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 ‘call’ Vicar (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 28, 2012.

Pastor Melba 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.


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Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sheraden, 3102 Sherwood Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15204        412-331-0600