Church History

History of Our Church                                                                                     

St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church, founded in 1855, has a rich history. TIMG 6316he church is easily recognized by its location at the "top of the hill" on the main route through Dillsburg. Three larger than life stained glass windows, along with many single stained glass windows, give the building its character and charm. However, the real personality of the church is shaped by the people who gather for worship, Christian Education, outreach projects, and other ministries that serve in the name of Jesus Christ.


Most church histories begin with the date of incorporation, which for St. Paul's was April 4, 1857. However, our history is unique because, prior to organization, the congregation built and dedicated a church building on November 16, 1856. Additionally, the founding of the congregation traces to March 5, 1855, the date when the first pastor, the Rev. Joseph R. Focht, accepted a call to the Dillsburg Lutheran Charge.


Certainly the years of history form the foundation of the church. A detailed account of the church's history is available, free of charge, upon request. The first 36 years were marked by searches for a new pastor. On June 18, 1913, the most destructive fire in the history of the community consumed eight buildings, including the church and the parsonage. The congregation met this challenge with determination and voted to build on the present site, which was a lot purchased in April 1909. The present church was dedicated on Sunday, September 13, 1914, fifteen months after the fire.

We will celebrate 100 years on the weekend of September 13-14, 2014 with historical talks, an art show and other special events to mark this milestone in the life of the congregation. 


The congregation has experienced periods of varied growth under different pastoral leadership, carrying the congregation through challenging times.


More recent history is marked by difficult decisions to forego a major building expansion and to focus on renovations to the current structure. In prepration for the 100th year celebration, the Chancel and Choir areas were renovated in February 2014.  Photos of this project can be found on the Renovations photo page. In August 2014, Chuck Rhodes from abc27's "Let's Go Places" visited St. Paul's and did a story about the renovation and 100th Anniversary.  You can view a video of the broadcast and read more about it.

Discernment of ways to live out our mission has been shaping our decisions for ministry, leading to the Congregation Council's most recent approval to add a Youth and Family Minister to lead our chidren and youth in July of 2013.


The congregation celebrates and nurtures the call of members to positions of ministry on the roster of the ELCA. The Rev. Roy Stetler, currently serving Faith United Lutheran Parish, a three point parish south of Dillsburg, was ordained on August 8, 2009. Sister Cynthia Jones, a member of the ELCA Deaconness community, graduated from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in May 2010. George Scott graduated from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg on May 17, 2013 and the Lower Susquehanna Synod called him to serve as pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in East Berlin, PA.  Ursula Schreffler graduated from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg on May 16, 2014 and was ordained on June 6, 2014 at the annual Assembly of the Lower Susquehanna Synod and accepted a call to Zion Lutheran Church, Union Deposit, PA.


History of the ELCA

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was formed over 20 years ago. This new church was formed from three separate and well-established North American church bodies:

  • The American Lutheran Church
  • The Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, and
  • The Lutheran Church in America.

Beginning January 1, 1988, these churches, with shared beliefs and missions, officially formed the ELCA. Two decades later, this energized church is composed of 4.8 million members and nearly 10,500 congregations across the U.S. and Caribbean. Today, the ELCA reflects the rich and diverse heritage of the people it serves.


But to understand our heritage fully, one must trace our roots back through the mid-17th century, when early Lutherans came to America from Europe, settling in the Virgin Islands and the area that is now known as New York. Even before that, Martin Luther sought reform for the church in the 16th century, laying the framework for our beliefs.

September 20, 2020


Services of Holy Communion

10:00 a.m. Facebook Live spoken service in the Chapel



Sunday School - 9:00 a.m.

Classes for Preschool - Middle School


Bible Study for Adults:

1:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Tuesdays

8:00 a.m. Saturdays

Bibles & Bagels - at the Square Bean

Online Giving Instructions

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About St. Paul's Dillsburg

Come to the About Us section and find out what we're all about!


Join Us!

Are you curious about what a truly nurturing community of believers is like? Visit the Worship News, Ministries, and First Time Visitor sections to find out how you can get involved. We look forward to seeing you soon.

What is the ELCA?

Find out about the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the history of this wonderful organization on our About the ELCA page.

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