St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church was founded, as a mission congregation, in 1903 by The Reverend E. L. S. Tressel pastor of St. Peter Lutheran Church located at Fayette and Asquith streets in Baltimore City. The Fitzell family, who lived on the Grange, a farming area in Patapsco Neck, was asked by Pastor Tressel, to assist in establishing the mission church at Colgate.
On Sunday, May 31, 1903, the first worship service of St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran Congregation of Baltimore County was held in the old school house, which was on a site adjacent to the west side of our present church building. There were 17 persons present on that date and Sunday services have been held each Sunday since then.
On Tuesday, December 29, 1903, St. Peter Church was organized. The records show that "after a very successful Christmas entertainment, the sum of $100.88 was collected." This Amount started the fund for the erecting a church building. The charter of the church was drawn up and filed for record on April 23, 1904.
On August 15, 1904, the congregation resolved to accept from the Canton Company, a parcel of ground adjacent to the east side of the school building. Later the Canton Company was paid $1,000 for the property. The building of the wooden church cost $1,200. On August 12, 1906, a ceremony was held for laying of the cornerstone, and the church was dedicated on November 18, 1906. This same cornerstone is a part of our present building and may be observed on the West side near the front of the building.
During the first twenty-five years, at least twelve pastors served our congregation. After Rev. Tressel had served for a short time there was a succession of pastors.
On August 2, 1925 a joint call was issued to Reverend Luke Schmucker of Canton, Ohio by St. Matthew's Lutheran Church of Highlandtown and St. Peters Lutheran Church of Colgate. The Call was accepted. Pastor Schmucker was installed on September 20, 1925 at St. Peters. Reverend Schmucker was married in June 1926, and his prompted St. Peters Congregation to purchase another plot of land, costing $667 from the Canton Company for the purpose of building a parsonage.
On August 15, 1926, the first issue if our parish paper, called Good Tidings was printed on a Multigraph printing press purchased by the congregation. This paper, issued regularly since then, is now in its 85th year. The year 1928 was a memorable one. It was the year of our twenty-fifth anniversary. A committee of fifty planned the services and festivities. Speakers included church leaders from Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Baltimore; and the Honorable William F. Broening, Mayor of Baltimore, Maryland. The total attendance at all the services was 1,555.
The most significant event in 1928 was the vote to call Reverend Schmucker to serve the congregation on a full time basis. This action was precipitated by the disbandment of St. Matthew's congregation. Pastor Schumucker accepted the Call, and pon an invitation from St. Peters, a fine group of members from the former St. Matthew's united with our congregation.
Reverend Schmucker was known for his zealous service to the Lord, his devotion to St. Peters congregation, his aggressive leadership within the community and his business and financial acumen. Under his leadership the bank mortgage on the parsonage was liquidated, and the mortgage on the church hall was burned. Simultaneously a lot east of the parsonage was purchased from the Canton Company for $2,500. This amount was paid in full in June 1929. St. Peters Congregation then owned 190 feet of frontage on Eastern Avenue running to a depth of 140 feet. The total coast -- $4,167!
From the beginning of reverend Schmucker's pastorate, church and Sunday school attendance and membership increased steadily. In 1925 there were 50 church members, 110 Sunday school pupils and 15 on the Cradle Roll. By the end of 1928 there were 175 communicant members and the average Sunday School attendance was 191. On Palm Sunday 1929 there were 240 present at church. Twenty men remained outside because only 220 persons could be packed into the small wood church.
In September 1929, a congregational meeting to consider the matter of a new church building was held. After thorough consideration, it was voted to proceed with plans for the erection of a church to cost $50,000. Building and finance committees were elected. That year Wall Street crashed and was followed by the depression of the 1930; but the congregation was not deterred from doing the Lord's work. On December 12, the congregation developed working plans and specifications for "the new" St. Peters Church.
On July 5, 1931, 201 people bid goodbye to our old church; and the following Sunday, 221 attended the Ground Breaking Service. The cornerstone was laid on Sunday August 23, 1931. Sunday, February 21, 1932 began our Church Dedication Week. The Dedicatory Service consisted of a short service in the church hall followed by a procession to the doors of the new church. There were 642 present at the service, the largest number of people ever to attend a single service at St. Peters Church. Pastor Schmucker constantly taught us stewardship, tithing and the need to help others in America and the world.
The congregation always contributed to missions and there is no indication that it failed to meet any quota set to it. We contributed to flood and famine victims, Mountain Parish Work, missions in New Guinea and other fields and Lutheran World Action Program. In recent years we went over the top in the United Mission Appeal conducted by the American Lutheran Church. An our stewardship here at St. Peter has spread the love of God and his Salvation not only in our own community but in America and the world. Then followed the years of lean and plenty, sorrow and joy. Years that tested our faith in God and our zeal to do His will. With God's help we survived the years of financial strife and were able to meet all our obligations. Sixty-five of our boys were called upon to serve their country during World War II. Some of them never returned. During these years, St. Peters congregation took an active part in establishing mission churches in communities, which because of the war industries, had mushroomed in areas adjacent to Colgate (Eastpoint).
Our Forth-fifth Anniversary held in May 1948, sixteen years after the dedication of our new church, found us completely free of all debts. THANKS BE TO GOD! The realization of that goal was the inspiration we needed to take the next step forward. God's help and inspiration were with us and His flame was lighting the way for us to build for the future.
In June 1949, the Board of Directors presented to the congregation the suggestion of calling a parish worker as an assistant to the pastor. Linnette Schmucker agreed to accept the call and was installed on Pentecost, May 28, 1950. Linnette took over many of the tasks formerly assumed by our over-burdened pastor, planned and put into effect programs for our young people, instructed the Junior Catechism classes and visited the children of our Sunday School. On February 17, 1952, the congregation gave authority to the board of Directors to proceed with plans for a new educational building. We celebrated our fiftieth anniversary in May 1953, with appropriate services, banquet, music, and speakers. Statistics then showed that there were 375 active church members and 300 Sunday School scholars. During the 50 years 955 children were baptized in the faith.
There were times during his twenty-eight years of ministry that Pastor Schucker was gravely ill. Faithful members assumed responsibility for the catechetical classes. Mrs. Schmucker and Netta Muhlberger Baumgartner publish the Good Tidings. Reverend Schmucker gave his last sermon on Thanksgiving Day 1953 after which he suffered a relapse and died on Dec. 21, 1953.
A total of 29 pastors have served St. Peter over its 100+ year history. Pastor Schmucker's pastorate was easily the longest at 28 years. Prior to Pastor Schmuckers call, 12 different pastors served St. Peter in varying capacities all on a part-time basis. Many of the 29 pastors of St. Peter were either part-time, or interim pastors. To date there have been 8 pastors who have served St. Peter on a regular call, full-time basis.
In 1956 was decided that the sanctuary of the church be extended and the new educational building tied in with it. This would give us an "L" shaped building rather than two separate ones. The contract for the construction of the Educational Building was awarded and May 26, 1957, the ground breaking ceremonies were held, and on June 11, 1957 construction began. The new facilities were dedicated to Christ's service on May 11, 1958.
At the time Pastor Reeves was concerned more with the spiritual growth of the congregation than any other program. The "5 D" Spiritual Life Program was introduced to deepen spiritual life; lengthen social outreach; heighten attendance at church, Sunday School and communion; intensify stewardship conviction; and broaden organization participation. However, the program that had the deepest effect on individual members was the Bethel Bible Series.
The Bethel Bible Series was a systematic study of the scriptures, and Pastor Reeves was convinced that this program was essential to Christian living and encouraged the congregation to adopt it. Our church, together with 191 congregations throughout the nation began this exciting venture in November 1964.
The course was a two year study program designed to help adults obtain a deeper understanding of the scriptures.At St. Peter 90 person participated in the first Bethel Bible Series and was always a waiting list. Each person was committed to meet once a week for two years. The Bethel Bible Series was an on going process that lasted ten years. As the members delved deeper into the Bible the feeling of Christian love grew.
Pastor Reeves called 1959 "The Year of Our Youth". The Youth Program expanded. A Christian day school was started in 1957. It was approved by the Maryland State Department of Education. In 1958 a program of including seminarian interns (vicars as part of the pastoral ministry of St. Peter was began, That program continued for years at St. Peter. Over the years St. Peter has hosted many outside groups who have provided invaluable ministries to the Eastpoint, Dundalk and East Baltimore communities, including Boy Scouts (troop 409), Cub Scouts (Pack 409), Girl Scouts, The Colgate Golden Age Club, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and NarAnon.
Sunday School History
On Sunday afternoon May 31, 1903, not only did a small and zealous group of adults come together for their first worship service; but seventeen pupils formed the first Sunday School. The collection with seventeen present was $1.36. The second Sunday there were 42 present; the third Sunday there were 52 present. As the years passed our Sunday School grew, and more of the original Sunday School pupils became teachers.
When it was 25 years old our Sunday School revised its classes and reorganized generally. Nineteen classes were formed. Mrs. Butt, formerly Lydia Fitzell and Miss Alma Vandermast were among the teacher appointed. It was these two talented ladies who took over the Confirmation and Week-Day Bible School during the Pastor;s illness. In addition to our regular Sunday School various groups and classes were organized and conducted for the religious instruction of our children.
In the Fall of 1926 the first week-day Bible Class was organized. Those classes continued for over thirty years. They were an effective means of preparing the boys and girls to enter our confirmation classes. For many years we have followed the two year course in the catechism as a requirement for confirmation.
In 1929 a Junior Mission Band was organized and continued for a number of years with Mrs. Schmucker as the leader. During the summer of 1947, we held a tow week Vacation Bible School, which became an annual program, taught by the various members of our Sunday School teaching staff. We still conduct this program each summer.
The Ministry of Music
Music has always been an integral part of our Worship Service. Our first musical instrument was a one hundred dollar organ. Later when the stone church was erected, the congregation purchased a rebuilt Moller pipe organ. We are still using this same instrument which was originally installed in the Century Theatre in downtown Baltimore. It survived a fire and again the organ came through in repairable condition and was installed in our church building.
The first choir was organized in 1926 and directed by Reverend Luke Schmucker. In 1932 Mrs. Frieda Stumpf became our full time organist and choir directors. Since that time we have had several organists and choir directors. Through the years more choirs have been added. Thus excerpt by Martin Luther very appropriately sums up the part that music has in our Service and effect it produces upon those who worship in spirit: Music is one of the fairest and most glorious gifts of God: for it removes from the heart the weight of sorrows and fascination of evil thoughts. Music is a kind and gentle sort of discipline; it refines and passions and improves the understanding.