St. Paul's Lutheran Church
Between 1734 John Caspar Stoever Jr., the first German Lutheran Minister in Virginia, made seven trips through the Shenandoah Valley to baptize individuals and organize churches. He, and his successor George Klug, must have been extremely successful for during the 1740s, 50s, and 60s Lutheran fervor in the area expanded dramatically.
By 1772 the number of Lutherans was strong enough that they could call their first minister, John Peter Grabiel Muhlenberg.
One of the churches he preached at was in Strasburg Virginia. There, in the late 1760s, a congregation had built a wooden structure on what is now Washington Street complete with a large organ to serve their needs. They chose not to provide heat for the building since they felt heat was a comfort not needed by the truly devout.
During its early years, and at times when Muhlenberg was away, the church was led by Simon Harr. As a lay worker who was authorized by the church, Simon had conducted Lutheran services during the late 18th century and performed over 300 wedding ceremonies. He also operated the church’s school, which was the first in town. His service ended in 1796.
Soon after this the church was divided by a schism. Like most Lutheran congregations in the area, they had a tradition of German language services. However, more progressive members hoped to introduce English services as its use expanded. Strasburg Lutherans compromised by having two ministers, one who preached English services and one who preached German services, during the bulk of the 19th century. This decision allowed the church to continue undivided. However, many other Lutheran congregations in the Valley were not so lucky.
This congregation had also operated a church farm starting in 1747. At the time, it was popular for religious groups to own land and farm it to generate funds for their operations and to support their minister.
The farm would operate until 1844 when it, being in a dilapidated state, was sold.
The proceeds from this farm and the sale of the original church in 1844 allowed Strasburg Lutheran’s to build a new church. This was the first building named “St. Paul’s Lutheran.” Though the Lutheran Church opposed slavery on moral grounds, this building did have a separate gallery for African Americans and strictly segregated seating. It also had separate seating and entrances for men and women.
During the Civil War St. Paul’s was gutted by Union and Confederate troops who used it as a hospital, arsenal, and stable. Other local churches suffered the same fate as both sides looked for large buildings that could meet their needs. After the war the damage was so extensive the Virginia Synod provided support to the congregation for two years. It was finally rededicated in 1867.That same year 100 members were on the roll.
In 1902 the church was dramatically altered by the addition of a bell tower and renovation of the church in accordance with the principals of the new-Gothic style that are still used today. This project was financed by funds received from the Federal government for damages caused during the war.
The end of the 20th century saw extensive changes. In 1953 a large education week was constructed. It was designed to meet the needs of the church as it expanded its social and spiritual outreach programs. Inside was a library, social room, lounge, kitchen, auditorium and recreation room.
In the 1980s these programs again expanded when the church opened a pre-school and child care center. Today it is operated in a church owned property on King Street.