Doors often capture my attention and cause me to pause a moment. These green doors are on a beautiful old church in downtown Marietta, Ohio.
Here’s another view.
The doors drew me in but the name above the door is what really captured my attention. You can’t read it in this image but it says Evanangelische St. Paul’s Kirche 1849.
How very German.
And yet, the name on the street sign is just plain old sounding St. Paul’s Evangelical Church.
The historic marker out front wasn’t a ton of help. It informs the passerby that this is the city’s second oldest church. Built in 1849, this kirche or church became St. Paul’s Evangelical in 1872 and that English sermons began in 1909.
One night when I couldn’t sleep I went searching for more information. Turns out that the congregation dates to 1838 when it was called the German Religious Society and was said to serve all the Protestant groups that had left the homeland for this brave new world in America.
This 1838 date makes a lot of sense. The city was built in large part by the German immigrants who arrived with assorted vital skills. The streets were once lined with German owned dry goods stores and butchers, bookstores and cobblers that were built by carpenters and bricklayers all of German heritage.
There would have been great demand for a house of worship.
Unfortunately, the church experienced such decline from the 1970s through the 1990s that they were forced to do some soul searching of sorts. The website says they “embarked on a deliberate pilgrimage of redevelopment in 1998.”
I can’t help but wonder how they’re doing today. I photograph a lot of abandoned churches and some with small congregations that are struggling to compete with the big mega churches that focus on recreation and activities.
Covid certainly hasn’t helped, driving people home to stay safe. Some are offering online services, drive-in services or socially distanced outdoor services where congregants are asked to BYOC. I saw that on a sign once and it took me a minute to figure out it’s “bring your own chair.”
A far cry from BYOB parties.
The Christian thing to do is to love thy neighbor by steering clear of them but I wonder what longterm effect will be had on aging congregations.
Hopefully that won’t be an issue for this one as I always root for the historic and the unique. This kirche certainly fits that bill.
In case you’re interested, Marietta is home to a number of beautiful and historic churches including this basilica I wrote about over the summer.