History of Holy Cross Lutheran Church

 

Holy Cross Lutheran Church is a member congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and has served Springfield for 68 years. The Holy Cross nursery school will celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2020.

In May of 1951 the first Lutheran church services in Springfield were conducted in the Raymond Chisholm School auditorium. Forty eight people attended the 3 o’clock service with the sermon being delivered by Rev. Henry von Spreckelsen, pastor and founder of Grace Lutheran Church of Union. Bette Haselmann of Springfield played the piano.

Under the direction of Rev. John Weber, pastor of St Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Newark, pastors from the area would serve as guest preachers in the months to come. By June of 1951 it was announced the services would be possible at a more convenient time of 11:00 AM.

In June of 1951 Holy Cross Lutheran Church would also call its first permanent pastor, Rev. Eric H. Rieker. By February 1952, Holy Cross would officially be organized as congregation of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod offering charter membership to those who attended services regularly.

In December of 1952 the Charter Members would raise funds to purchase a five room house and another building on the property of 639 Mountain Avenue in Springfield. The intention was to convert the additional building into a church which would have a seating capacity of 100 people by completion. That became a reality on June 7, 1953 with the dedication of Holy Cross Lutheran Church. The parish house virtually hid the view of the church, so in 1961 it was removed from the site. The original church still stands and serves the purposes of the congregation today.

In 1957 Rev. Lester P. Messerschmidt was called to serve at Holy Cross its second pastor. During his tenure Holy Cross expanded in many ways.

On October 3, 1960, Holy Cross opened Holy Cross Christian Nursery School for pre-kindergarten children of all faiths. The school was set up following all State of NJ requirements for nursery and childcare facilities. The school additionally promised to teach a fundamental awareness of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior as part of the curriculum, making it “distinctly different from other nursery schools.” The nursery school and its original mission statement still serve the Springfield community today.

In 1961 the congregation expanded their property ownership by purchasing the adjacent property 641 Mountain Avenue just west of the 639 property. Standing on that property was a five room house and garage which would give the growing membership additional space for bible studies, youth group and Sunday School.
As God is always good, the congregation continued to grow and a need for building expansion was discussed. By September 22, 1963, Holy Cross had completed the construction of a newer and larger church building just east of the original one. On September 22, 1963, the church dedication began with a door opening and a procession of sacred books and vessels being carried for the old sanctuary to the new. Today this section houses the Holy Cross Nursery School.

On February 6, 1996, Pastor Kenneth Stumpf was called as the congregation’s third pastor for five years while Holy Cross faithfully continued to serve the Springfield community.

Pastor Joel Yoss was called as pastor on November 1, 1971. Pastor Yoss would be Holy Cross’ fourth and longest tenured pastor, dynamically leading the congregation for 30 years through times of expansion and change. In 1978 Holy Cross would move its affiliation to the American Evangelical Lutheran Church, which in 1988 would merge with two other bodies to form the Evangelical Lutheran church in America.

As the numbers of members grew, the sanctuary was once again overflowing, and it became clear that services would need to move to a larger space. In 1996 Holy Cross began moving its services to Orange Avenue School in Cranford and then Jonathan Dayton in Springfield. Carrying equipment and back and forth proved to be difficult and members voted to build yet another, larger church to accommodate the many programs and services Holy Cross had to offer.

In the fall of 2000 the congregation moved the playground located behind the existing church, to the front of the building, and enlarged the rear parking lot. In October 2001 Pastor Yoss, and original charter members Anna and John Lissy, led a groundbreaking ceremony as plans for a newer and larger church moved forward.

Pastor Remo Madsen was called by Holy Cross to be its fifth pastor on September 1, 2002. He served as Chaplain to the Springfield Fire Department during his tenure. By November 10, 2002 Pastor Madsen, along with Anna and John Lissy led the dedication of the new Holy Cross sanctuary where Holy Cross’ main worship service is currently held 10am every Sunday.

On July 1, 2006 Interim Pastor Edward Schmidt was called to serve Holy Cross until a new permanent pastor would be found. On May 1, 2008 Pastor J. David Knecht was called serve as Holy Cross’ sixth pastor.

Pastor Knecht continues to lead Holy Cross Lutheran Church. Since 2014 The church is the home of a food pantry that provides food for local families in need. Holy Cross also provides space for other Christian congregations to worship when the building is available and participates in activities in the community Springfield. God has continued to provide for us at Holy Cross throughout the years and has allowed us to be a part of bringing the Good News of his love and grace into the world. Our most recent mission is to share our building with Lutheran Social Ministries which will provide medical and social services for senior citizens in Union County. Holy Cross looks forward to the new opportunities to faithfully follow God’s call as Springfield improves and grows.

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