Reflections on the Hundred Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of
First Lutheran Church
—Taken from an address given by John Darrow, on Sunday, March 19, 2006 at First Lutheran Church of the Reformation.
One hundred twenty-five years ago on March 15, 1881, twenty-eight Swedish immigrants established the Swedish Evangelical “Maria” Church in New Britain.
Initially services were held in homes, in the basement of the Methodist Church, the Chapel of First Congregational Church, and in the Elihu Burritt Chapel on Cherry St.
Membership dues were charged the parishioners. Men paid 25 cents a month and women 15 cents. To Signe Swanson, our Church Historian for many years, I owe thanks for the following Treasurer’s Report for the first year—1881.
From 1883 to 1885 work was begun on a church building. This wooden structure was located at the corner of Elm and Chestnut Streets and was formally dedicated in March of 1885. The year 1924 was the year we became known as the First Lutheran Church of New Britain.Whatever happened to the twenty-eight? Some moved away. In fact one or two returned to Sweden. Some died very early in their lives. And the rest settled in New Britain.
Only one of the founders, Otto Bengtson, lived to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the church in 1931. It was written of him that “for 50 years he has faithfully taken part in the struggles and conquests of his beloved church and has served in a number of official positions, such as treasurer and as a member of the building committee.
Reflections on the Hundredth Anniversary of Reformation
—Taken form an address by John Darrow, given Sunday, February 19, 2006 at First Lutheran Church of the Reformation.
One hundred years ago on February 11, 1906 forty-two individuals officially organized the Reformation Lutheran Church in New Britain. It was the desire and wish of these 42 charter members to establish an English-speaking Lutheran Church. A woman, Mrs. Edward Senf, played a most significant role in bringing an English-speaking Lutheran Church to our community—and that was 14 years before women gained the right to vote in this country.
The first place of worship was at the YMCA Hall on Court Street. The rent—$5.00 each Sunday for a morning service and Sunday School.
The next major step in the history of Reformation Church occurred near the end of Pastor Schaefer’s ministry when the decision was made to purchase property of Stanley Street. Groundbreaking took place on August 15, 1954 under the leadership of The Reverend Stanley H. Knull who came to Reformation in January 1953. In July 1955 Pastor Knull presided over the first service held in the new building. In 1966 Pastor Knull accepted a call a congregation in new York and was succeeded by The Reverend Conrad L. Bergendoff who served until 1972.
Marjorie Senf, a daughter of two charter members, wrote a history of Reformation Church. This written history appears in A Century of Achievement in Faith which was published at the 100th anniversary of First Lutheran and the 75th anniversary of Reformation. She said:
After Pastor Bergendoff left, the question of the future of Reformation was uppermost in the thoughts of our members. It was a remarkable congregation, the members bound closely by their years together. We had weathered many storms, our faith in God and in one another keeping us together. But things change, even in churches, and the realization came that we could no longer continue as a separate entity.
In 1974 it was decided to merge with First Lutheran Church. Thus First Lutheran Church of the Reformation was born.