History of Arndt's Church


This history of Arndt's Lutheran Church is the product of the editorial efforts of The Rev. Dennis S. Ritter, D.Min., who relied upon an earlier work of the Rev. D. F. Brendle, a former Reformed pastor who served the union church during the mid and late 1800's and an earlier work of Mr. Howard D. Siegfried, Sr., a life-long member of the Lutheran congregation at Arndt's who prepared a historical paper on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the congregation in 1926. This history was first read on September 24, 1989 at the 1st Annual Arndt's Founder's Day by Howard D. Siegfried, Jr.

In compiling a historical sketch of this kind it is necessary to go back a good many years for a starting point. I will go back to the year 1604 and confine these remarks to the direct line of descendants and also to Germany from where the majority of the ancestors of the natives of this locality came.

The old church records of the German Reformed Church of Zerbst, a town in Anhalt, Germany, show that in the year 1604 Hans Arndt was born. Among his children was a son, Hans Bernhard Arndt. In 1731, Hans Bernhard Arndt decided to leave Germany with his family and travel to America. Here an interesting story must be told.

In those days the subjects of the provinces were required to pay a tribute or tax on all state occasions. On the occasion in question at this point of the story, one of the princes married and the Arndt family was required to pay this tribute or tax. Having no money they they had to give up a pig which the mother had promised to the children for a feast if they would stay in Germany and not emigrate to America. As the pig had to be given up the mother's methods of persuasion were lost. By these and other influences and oppressions the Arndts decided to leave the homeland and go to the land of better prospects, AMERICA

They landed in Philadelphia in September 1731. They lived for some time in Germantown, but later they moved to the Perkionen valley. Once there Hans Arndt immediately connected with the Church of his fathers,for we find he was elected a trustee and later one of the building committee members to erect the church at Old Goshenhoppen. This was a Union Church-Lutheran and Reformed, the Cornerstone was laid May 14, 1744 and articles of Agreement were dated May 19, 1744.

Hans' marriage was blessed with three sons and one daughter. The youngest son was born during the voyage to this country. The second son, (Major) Jacob Arndt, was six years old when they moved to the farm in Rockhill Township, in Bucks County. He earned his Commission as Major for services on the frontier during the French and Indian Wars and other Indian uprisings. He was a close personal friend of Conrad Weiser the great humanitarian Indian Agent and noted leader of the Lutheran Church during the Colonial period.

On January 25, 1760 he acquired a tract of land along the Bushkill in Northampton County consisting of a house, Grist Mill and 148 acres of land. This brought the Arndt family to this immediate vicinity.

Major Arndt was married to Elizabeth Geiger who also emigrated from Germany. There were born of this union three sons and two daughters of who Captain John Arndt was the oldest. It is from Captain John Arndt that the Church here derives its name. It is evident that all the Arndt family were strict Christians. Captain Arndt subscribed to a Bible published in Philadelphia in 1798 in which he wrote of the history of his family.

On December 13, 1774, John married Elizabeth Feit of Greenwich Township Sussex County, New-Jersey. In his narrative written in his Bible he states "with her I lived of man", but alas, this felicity was of short duration. On the 15th day of January 1776 she gave birth to a female child which died the third day after her birth. This was the first interment in the family burying ground near the mill - "and then my good and much beloved wife soon after also departed this life on the 31st day of the same month, aged 17 years 8 months and 27 days and was buried by the side of our child."

He was married a second time to Elizabeth Ihrie of Forks Township. Of this union were born five sons and five daughters among whom were George Washington Arndt and Benjamin Franklin Arndt. Their names are evidence of the great influence the Founding Fathers of our nation had with the average people of the day.

On July 4, 1807 John Arndt executed a deed in trust granting burial rights to his son, George Washington and a nephew John Shoemaker. Four years later a deed for land adjacent to the Arndt family tract was recorded for J. Henry Messinger, the grandson of Michael Messinger who had emigrated to America in 1732 from Baslaw, Switzerland and became one of the largest landholders in Forks Township at that time. Thus the stage was set for the beginning of a Christian community in this place.

Reference has been made to the fact that the Arndt's were devoted Christians and this is evidenced by the fact that the early records of the First Reformed Church and St. Johns Lutheran Church of Easton and the Old Williams Church of Williams Township contain the baptism and confirmation records of the Arndt and Messinger families and also show the careful attention that the Pastors of Colonial times gave to their parishioners in these matters as well as the funeral services conducted by them at these outlying places.

These records show that numerous funeral services were conducted at the Arndt Burying Ground. There is no doubt that these early burying grounds provided shelter of some sort and from these the early congregations came into existence as these became places for the early preachers to give their exhortations and the people wanting better accommodations and more frequent services, soon saw to it that such places were provided.

That there was some sort of organization prior to the erection of the first church building in 1826, is evidenced by rules and regulations adopted January 16, 1818 by the Messinger and Arndt Graveyard Association. There are no further records until 1826 when regulations, dated August 14 1826, were adopted and signed by Philip Reaser, Henry Messinger, Joseph Nichlaus, George Weinberg, George Lesher, Conrad Kocher, John Messinger, Henry Abel, George Heineline, John Kocher, and Abraham Hay for a building to house a school and a church. Among the rules were the following two items.

"No strange preacher may preach in the church without the permission of the minister of the parish or the church council."

and

"He,who is only a member of the cemetery association shall not have the use of the church for his own funeral or for the numbers of his family."

Thus was the church planted overlooking the Bushkill.

In this first building the church and school roams were separated by large doors. These doors were hung on hinges and during religious services were fastened by hooks to the ceiling, thus throwing the whole interior into one room. The building was occupied for this double purpose for eleven years, from 1826 to 1837, when the school was discontinued. The exact year when the congregations worshiping at this church were organized is not known. It must have been soon after 1826. Who the first officers were the records do not tell. Soon a large industry brought a great many people to reside along the Bushkill, and as the population increased year by year, the old stone building became too small to accommodate all who wished to worship there.

In the spring of 1855 it was determined to take down the old building and to erect in its place a new and larger house of worship. The work was at once commenced and proceeded with under the direction of Thomas Michler, Frederick Schaffer and John Folkenson. The cornerstone of the present building was laid in the Sumner of 1855. The church was dedicated on Christmas of the same year.

During the early years of the congregations no catechetical instruction was given to the young; neither was the Lord's Supper administered to the Reformed people until 1847. The Lutherans had full pastoral services much earlier, and consequently a number of the young people of Reformed families united with the Lutherans. The Reformed congregation was a long time regarded as merely a branch of the 1st Reformed Church, on Third Street in Easton, and thus its progress was much retarded. It was as late as 1847 that the reformed worshipers at Arndt's church became an independent congregation.

An important insight into the relationship between the two congregations is found in an address made by the Rev. D. F. Brendle, pastor of the Reformed Congregation, in 1877. He said, "There is no church in Northampton County, perhaps none in Pennsylvania, that deserves so much the title of "Union Church" as does Arndt's Church. The members of the two congregations vote together in the election of pastors and in the choice of other church officers."

From 1871-1940 the Lutheran congregation was blessed with a very stable pastoral situation, having only two pastors serve those 69 years. The Reformed congregation too was fairly stable with one pastor serving for 53 years. During this time a major addition to the 1855 structure was begun in 1914 with the laying of the cornerstone for a Sunday School and Bell Tower addition.

Major renovations were made to the 1855 structure as well. The work was completed and consecrated in 1916. Later in 1926 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the congregations a new Moeller Pipe Organ was installed for $5,000.00 and dedicated.

The years following World War II were much less peaceful years for the congregation. The United States was changing and nowhere was this more apparent than at Arndt's. Suburbia began to transform the farmland which surrounded the church into yards. No longer were union churches thriving as they once had. Although Arndt's remained fairly strong, a number of short-term pastorates and efforts by both the Lutheran Synod and the Reformed Conference to dissolve the union church arrangement finally resulted in the then U.C.C. Congregation being disbanded and the Lutheran congregation assuming full ownership of the building in December 1971.

The Post-World War II period also saw more changes to the building. In 1947 additions were made to the 1926 organ. They were done in honor of those who served in the Armed Forces during World War II. A plaque is still located at the front of our

sanctuary. Through most of the 1950's members hand dug the area we now call our fellowship hall, paying Roy Fehnel $30,870.00 to finish it off,to add the former Narthex and stairway, and to build indoor bathroom facilities. This major addition and renovations were dedicated in June of 1959.

Immediately upon the dissolution of the union church in 1971, Arndt's encountered some stormy times. Membership declined and financial woes mounted. The Synod placed the congregation under synodical administration and sought to work with the membership to rejuvenate the congregation. In April 1977, The Rev. Dennis S. Ritter was called. In the years since then, we have grown in membership, financial support of the congregation and wider church, and in the variety of our programming. We have accomplished the renovation of the organ (1978) and the renovation of the worship facilities (1982). On Sunday, June 28, 1987 ground was officially broken for the new addition of a facility housing classrooms, choir room, offices, lounge and handicapped accessible bathrooms. A contract was signed on March 31, 1988 for the paving of our parking lot. On June 17, 1990, Pastor Ritter preached his final sermon at Arndt's, having received a call to St. John's Lutheran Church, Kutztown, PA.

On September 5, 1990 the doors to Arndt's Nursery School were opened to the first group of youngsters (14). Enrollment for the 1991-92 school year has more then doubled and community response has been very encouraging.

On September 24, 1990, the Rev. David W. Zellmer was called as pastor. Pastor Zellmer and his wife, Kristine, relocated from Nebraska. On June 19, 1994, Pastor Zellmer preached his final sermon as the pastor at Arndt's, having received a call to Kingo Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

On Sunday, January 8, 1995, the Rev. Sara E. Bechtel preached her call sermon at the 10:30 A.M. Worship Service. Following the service, she was unanimously elected to serve as pastor at Arndt's Lutheran Church. Pastor Bechtel and her spouse, Stephen Bueker, relocated from the Baltimore, Maryland area. Originally from Pottstown, PA, Pastor Bechtel brought her knowledge of the area and a commitment to service our congregation in community in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Pastor Bechtel preached her last service on September 29, 2002.

In October, 2002, Reverend Donald Billeck joined Arndt's as the interim pastor.  His new leadership role was to help the congregation gain a new focus and search for a new leader for the congregations.  He brought many years' experience in assisting congregations find a new Pastor.

During November, 2004, Reverend Jean L. Huber accepted the call to Arndt's Lutheran Church.  Before coming to Arndt's, Pastor Jean worked as the full-time Ministry Coordinator at St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Plainfield Township.  Before that she taught ESL and Adult Literacy at Northampton Community College.

Pastor Jean has a Master of Arts degree in Pastoral Counseling from Moravian Theological Seminary and a Master of Divinity Degree from Moravian and the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.

Pastor Jean has two grown children, Joshua and Jordan.  She and her husband Douglas enjoy most sports.  Pastor enjoys spoiling all of her grandchildren!.  Her daughter Jordan was married in August 2006 to Andrew Spatig.

Arndt's Lutheran Church was happy to congratulate their Director of Music, Jeff Kline, on the occasion of his twenty-fifth anniversary at the church, which occurred in January 2008.  The Congregation hosted a celebration which included Jeff's family members from Easton, Florida and Minnesota.  Jeff was totally surprised by the celebration and especially happy that is mom, Vi, was able to take part.  Jeff is honored to be part of the history of such a wonderfully celebrated and established tribute to God's Word.

During December 2010, the congregation unanimously agreed to make Arndt's a "Reconciling in Christ" congregation.  All are welcome to come as they are, and enjoy the riches of God's blessings.

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