As Good Hope Lutheran celebrates their 150th anniversary on July 30, they reflect on the church’s history:
Many German immigrants settled in Oil City in the 1800’s and were drawn together by common bonds of language and religion. Their religious needs were originally met by itinerant pastors, but on July 30, 1871, the German Good Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized. The first building was on East First Street at a cost of $5,000. For 16 1/2 years, they were pastored by Rev. Louis Vogelsang and services were conducted in German.
With an influx of English speaking people and the growing “younger generation,” the need for English services became obvious. Since Rev. Vogelsang felt incapable of conducting services in English, he resigned as pastor. Rev. H.J. Reimann succeeded Rev. Vogelsang in 1888 and English services were introduced. In 1897, after much debate and controversy, more English services were added. As a result, some withdrew memberships and formed what is now known as Christ Lutheran Church.
The church continued to grow and the question arose as to whether to enlarge, rebuild on the same site, or seek a new site. When it was decided to build, the original plan was to build at the same site but a very desirable location at the corner of West First and Petroleum Streets became available and was purchased. The old property was sold about the same time. The new church was dedicated on June 14, 1903. On January 28, 1928, a new parson house and parsonage was dedicated adjacent to the church and in June the church celebrated 25 years at that location.
Through the years, membership continued to grow and another change was going to be necessary; whether to expand and remodel or relocate to another new structure. In 1959, a fundraising campaign was launched to expand. On October 16, 1960, the church was reorganized, the Constitution revised, and the church was incorporated as the Good Hope Lutheran Church. Later that month, the new church parsonage on West Second Street was dedicated, a gift from the Henry Suhr family. In 1963, it was voted to relocate and build a new church. Ground was broken in January 1965 at the top of Moran Street and the new church was dedicated June 19, 1966.
The style of the newest structure is modern Gothic with exterior focal points including the bell tower with a cross and the unique roof peak. The pipe organ, originally donated by the Suhr family in 1938, was rebuilt on site in 1966. In August 1987, the American Lutheran Church, of which Good Hope was a member, and the Lutheran Church of America merged to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Good Hope will kick off their 150th Anniversary Year on July 25 at the 9:30am Sunday worship. Plans for the upcoming year include special music events, historical displays, and other celebrations. Any events will be publicized on the church website at: goodhopezionlutheranoilcity.org.
Good Hope Lutheran Church, along with its sister congregation Zion Lutheran Church, are currently served by the Rev. Dr. Sandra K. Jones and Rev. J. Michael Parsh. Good Hope Lutheran Church tries to live by its vision statement: We are a joyful, lifechanging Christian community that is willing to take risks to minister to our neighbors. We are especially committed to serving and sharing the good hope with seniors, youth, and their families in our communities.
Good Hope’s mission statement of “Serving all in the manner of Jesus.” is evident in the many community programs it hosts or is involved in. They boast a successful preschool program, youth outreach programs, senior ministry, free Thanksgiving dinner delivery, free Shrove Tuesday all day pancake meal, partnership with Zion Lutheran Church in the free community meal program, ongoing partnerships with other area churches, and much more. Good Hope has undergone many changes in the years and continues to be an exciting “work in progress.”
This article was published in the Venango Chamber’s July 2021 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.