Evangelical Lutheran

Sunday School











Dedicated September 23, 1923

REV. PAUL L. REASER, B. D., Pastor



History of Bethany Lutheran Sunday School




BETHANY Lutheran Sunday School was organized in 1891. A thorough canvass of the Eighth and Tenth Wards of the city, to ascertain the needs of the people who were of Lutheran background, warranted the organization of a Sunday School in that section of the city. As a result of this canvass, a first meeting was called to meet in Kline's Hall at 330 Sixth Avenue on Sunday, November 22, 1891, where Bethany Lutheran Sunday School was organized with seventy-four charter members. The canvass had been carried on by six persons: William S. Tomlinson and Joseph W. Wilson of First Lutheran Church, Altoona; Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Harpster, and Mr. and Mrs. James H. White.

  The following officers were chosen to guide the infant organization: James H. White, Superintendent; John D. Rickabaugh, Secretary; Harvey C. Keith, Treasurer.

  The school grew so rapidly that in less than a year it became necessary to seek larger quarters, and the third floor of the I. O. 0. F. building, 401 Sixth Avenue, was rented for the weekly meetings of the school. This continued to be the place of Sunday School and, later, church worship, until Bethany congregation erected their own first building.

  Such interest and growth was manifested that it was decided to organize a full-fledged congregation. On June 25, 1893, Bethany Evangelical Lutheran Church was formally organized with forty-eight charter members, and the work placed in the hands of the Rev. Elmer E. Parsons, then a theological student in the college at Gettysburg.

  On September seventh of the same year Bethany Church was received into the Allegheny Synod, and all was now in readiness for the great work that should be done. On September 21st the Rev. H. M. Heilman was called as the first pastor of the congregation. Steps were at once taken to secure a church home. David K. Ramey donated a lot, 50 by I20 feet, at the northwest corner of Third Avenue and Second Street. To this was added the adjoining lot on which the parsonage was located, at present replaced by the new one.

  Appeals for funds soon brought response enough to justify the starting of a building, and within the first year of the first pastorate, ground was broken and construction was begun. On November 12, 1893, the corner stone was laid. This original building was of wooden frame construction, later encased by brick walls. On Sunday, April 1, 1894, the church building was dedicated to the glory of God, the dedicatory sermon being preached by the Rev. Joseph F. Hartman, D.D., then pastor of the Second Lutheran Church, Altoona.

  During the next several years little is known of the work done and progress made. Progress there was, however. Within four years after the Sunday School was organized, additional officers were elected to the staff of workers to help care for the work. On December 15, 1895, an amendment was added to the constitution providing for two assistants to the superintendent, where one previously had been sufficient. At the same time, we find that two librarians were elected to office, apparently to conduct a lending library which the Sunday School sponsored for a while. Then, in 1897, an assistant was elected to help with the secretarial work. Gradually, officers were called to serve as needed by the increasing attendance in the school.

  In the Altoona Mirror daily paper dated November 9, 1901, we find the following church announcement: "Bethany Lutheran Church to worship in the Third Presbyterian Church at 10:30 and 7:30. (No school)." The reason for this we find in the announcement a week later. At the close of that notice we






Dedicated April 1, 1894 Used 1894-1922


find this line, "Arrangements have been made for proper heating equipment." To make the matter complete, the notice for November 23, 1901, ended with this assuring statement, "The church will be properly heated."

  On November 16, 1901, the notice read, "Sunday School at 10:00 a.m. Sermon - 'The Lutheran Church'- at 11:00 a.m. Sermon -'How the First Church Was Built'- at 7:30 p.m." By those sermon subjects we note that Pastor Heilman was recognizing the 10th anniversary of the Sunday School.

  The Silver Anniversary of the organization of Bethany Lutheran Sunday School was announced in the Altoona Mirror on November 18, 1916, by the following article: "At eleven o'clock the pastor will speak on 'Looking Backward' and in the evening `Looking Forward.' Monday evening the Rev. S. J. Taylor, D. D., will speak. Tuesday, a great Bible School Rally, with an address by the Rev. Dr. A. B. Van Ormer. The program for the remainder of the week will consist of a Holy Communion service on Wednesday evening, the anniversary night. At the first table the charter members of the Sunday School will commune. All who commune this evening will have their names enrolled on parchment to be placed in the corner stone of the new church. The same hymns will he used as at the first meeting. Thursday, the Rev. M. J. Kline will preach Friday evening the sermon will be delivered by the Rev. Julius Seebach of Hollidaysburg."

  The congregation for a number of years had looked forward to and planned for a new church building. The membership of both Sunday School and Church had grown beyond the capacity of the old building. For more effective educational work, space was needed for departments and classes. Early in the spring of 1922 it was decided to proceed with the building. Funds had been gathering for more than a decade. Arrangements were made for the congregation to worship in the Third Presbyterian Church.




  The old church building having been torn down, ground was broken for the new edifice on May 27, 1922. Two charter members of the congregation were given the honor of removing the first spadeful of earth: Mr. Isaac Harpster, representing the men, and Mrs. Christine B. Beecher, representing the women. The corner stone was laid September 10, 1922, with the Rev. Dr. Sanford N. Carpenter, president of the Allegheny Synod, as the principal speaker. The Rev. A. J. Rudisill, pastor of the congregation, placed the corner stone.

  At the time of dedication, on September 23, 1923, the Sunday School turned over $5,000 to the New Church Fund. The Sunday School classes had been busy for a number of years raising money to help make the hope for a new church come true. The Branches of the Vine class led the list of donors on this occasion with a gift of $1,740. Ten classes each gave $100 or more.

  The next expansion of the Sunday School was in the direction of providing room for a separate children's division. Heretofore all classes were meeting on the first floor and gallery of the educational section of the building. The basement of the church was planned to accommodate the children's departments, and on October 18, 1928, this newly finished floor was dedicated and opened. The cost was $10,000.

  In 1929 the Kindergarten Department was added to the regular work of the school, and in September of 1935 the Intermediate Department was begun as a distinct organization. It was also about 1929-30 that the Sunday School orchestra was organized.

  In this fashion, slowly, but gradually and surely, Bethany Sunday School has grown from the original seventy-four members to a regular enrollment of about six hundred persons. It has become quite evident that in this community with an industry that employs so many men on Sunday, the attendance in Sunday School varies conversely with working conditions. When employment improves, attendance decreases. When work is slack, attendance shows a definite increase. The average weekly attendance in Bethany Sunday School throughout the year is nearly four hundred.

  Those six persons who fifty years ago canvassed the homes of our neighborhood hardly hoped for a growth in interest and devotion as has been witnessed during these fifty years. They were acting more wisely than they knew. The Church still grows as the apostle described it in writing to the Corinthians: "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase." Bethany Lutheran Sunday School now stands, under God, as a permanent agency of Christian education.




November 22, 1891   Bethany Sunday School organized; Kline's Hall
Sometime in 1892   Bethany Sunday School moved into its second home
June 25, 1893   Bethany Lutheran Church organized
April 1, 1894   Bethany Sunday School moved into its first church building
November 22, 1901   Musical program held for 10th anniversary of S. S.
November 1916   Silver Anniversary of Sunday School observed
September 23, 1923   Dedicated new church
October 18, 1928   Opened basement floor for educational purposes
Sometime in 1929   Kindergarten Department added to Sunday School
Sometime in 1930   New S. S. constitution adopted
Sometime in 1931   Christian Life Course introduced in Children's Dept.
September 1933   Senior Young People's Department organized
September 1935   Intermediate Department organized
July 1940   Adopted Parish Abroad - Gboymah, Liberia
November 1941   Golden Anniversary observed






"Home-coming Night"


7:30 P. M.

Mr. J. Arthur Geisinger, Presiding


Prelude by the Sunday School Orchestra

Song Service

Responsive Reading No. 313, page 267


Song by the Men's Bible Class

Scripture Reading


Song by the Men's Bible Class

Address by the Rev. Harry L. Saul, D.D., Former Pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church Anthem by the Senior Choir Doxology



"Lutheran Night"


7:30 P. M.

Rev. Paul L. Reaser, Presiding


Organ Prelude

Song Service

Responsive Reading No. 335, page 278



Address - The Rev. Ross H. Stover, D.D., Pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church, Philadelphia, Pa.


Prayer - Rev. Ralph Birk, President, Altoona Lutheran Ministerial Association.

Hymn 27 - "The Church's One Foundation"







"Bethany Fellowship Night"


6:30 P. M.

Bethany Social Room

Mr. David Perry, Toastmaster


Selections by Sunday School Orchestra

Invocation - Rev. Paul L. Reaser

The Fellowship Dinner



"Community Night"


7:30 P. M.

Mr. John W. Moody, Jr., Presiding


Organ Prelude

Song Service

Scripture - Psalms 1 and 23 in unison


Greetings - Mr. Howard Hoover, Vice President, Blair County Sunday School Association., Rev. F. W. Davis, Pastor Second Avenue U. B. Church


Greetings - Rev. M. H. Crawford, Pastor Fifth Avenue Methodist Church. Rev. John C. Hare, Pastor Third Presbyterian Church.

The Offering

Greetings - The Rev. S. Clay Shaffer, Pastor Emmanuel Evangelical Church. Rev. W. M. Taylor, Pastor First Methodist Church and President Altoona and Blair County Ministerial Association.

Hymn 18 "Blest Be the Tie That Binds"







"Youth Night"


7:30 P. M.

Planned and conducted by young people.


Call to Worship


Scripture Reading

Hymn 98 "My Faith Looks Up to Thee"

Address - Rev. George K. Bowers, Pastor St. Stephen's Lutheran Church, Washington, D.C., Supply Pastor of Bethany Church, summer of 1939.


Offertory Anthem - Senior Choir


Hymn 26 "Day is Dying in the West"



"Bethany Birthday Get-Together"



7:00 P. M.








Combined Sunday School-Church Service


9:30 A. M.


Selection by Sunday School Orchestra


Taking of Class Records

Processional Into Church Sanctuary

Hymn 111 "Beautiful Saviour"

The Service, Page 43

Apostle's Creed, Page 53

Scripture Lessons for the Day



Anthem - Bethany Youth Choir

Sermon - Rev. Joseph D. Krout, D.D., Secretary Central Pa. Synod, United Lutheran Church in America

Hymn 67 "God Be With You 'Til We Meet Again"




7:30 P. M.


Drama - "The Lost Church"






Pastor, 1939


Sunday School Officers - 1941


General Superintendent, J. Arthur Geisinger

Assistant General Superintendent, John W. Moody, Jr.

Adult Superintendent, Harry T. Smith

Young People's Superintendent, Harold Zeigler

Children's Division Superintendent, Anna Fleck

Treasurer, Chester Yeager

Secretary, Herbert Pine

First Assistant Secretary, O. W. Hanson

Second Assistant Secretary, Robert Hiner

Third Assistant Secretary, Sheldon Reigh

Pianist, Mrs. Fred Schauer

Assistant Pianist, Mrs. Calvin Wolfe

Chorister, Clayton Herbster

Assistant Chorister, Harold Laughlin

Intermediate Superintendent, Clarence Stiffler

Assistant Intermediate Superintendent, Robert Gleichert

Secretary, William Tromm

Assistant Secretary, Wendell Anderson

Junior Department Superintendent, Mrs. Edith Mearkle

Junior Department Secretary, Pearl Lee

Primary Department Superintendent, Emily Zeigler

Primary Department Secretary, Myra Kepler

Beginners' Department Superintendent, Hazel Bohn

Beginners' Department Secretary, Alice Albright

Cradle Roll Superintendent, Mrs. C. R. Grassmyer

Assistant Superintendent, Mary Jane Moyer

Secretary, Betty Belle Harris

Home Department Superintendent, Mrs. C. L. Dunn

Assistant Superintendent, Mrs. Samuel Grassmyer





by Departments and Classes


Children's Division

General Superintendent, Miss Anna Fleck




Superintendent ,Mrs. Edna Grassmyer

Assistant Superintendent, Mary Jane Moyer

Secretary, Betty Belle Harris

Enrollment - 22




Superintendent, Miss Hazel Bohn

Secretary, Miss Alice Albright

Teachers - Agnes Fuoss, Harriet Meredith, Mrs. Harold Gearhart

Enrollment - 30




Superintendent ,Miss Emily Zeigler

Secretary, Miss Myra Kepler

Teachers - Mrs. Elmer Aucker, Euretta Shaw, Irma Albright, Mary Elvey, Lois Wible, Jean Hiner

Enrollment - 55




Superintendent, Mrs. Edith Mearkle

Secretary, Miss Pearl Lee

Teachers - Helyn Rice, Helen Watts, Mary Ellen Mearkle, Ruth Croft, Paul Rice

Enrollment - 58


Intermediate Department

Superintendent Clarence Stiffler


Assistant Superintendent, Robert Gleichert

Secretary, William Tromm

Assistant Secretary Wendell Anderson

Teachers - Esther Myers, Virginia Herr, Mrs. Joseph Bratton, Messrs. William Herr, Ed. Hancok, Robert Wright Enrollment - 60




Young People's Department

Superintendent, Mr. Harold Zeigler


Teacher   Name of class   Organized   Enrolled
Miss Eva Fuoss   Semper Fidelis   1937    
Miss Geraldine Gibbons   "Followers of Jesus"   1937   16
Mrs. Clayton Herbster       1940   19
Miss Nellie Hess            
Mr. Clayton Herbster           50
Mr. Max Gramley           15
Mrs. Ralph Smith            


Adult Department

Superintendent, Mr. Harry Smith


Teacher   Name of Class   Organized   Enrolled
Miss Stella Isett   Win-a-chum        
Mrs. T. M. Elvey   Daughters of Luther   1923   60
Mrs. D. R. Strayer   Willing Workers       12
Mr. Roy Hiner   Young Men's Bible Class   1924   50
Mrs. Roy Hiner   Tabitha   1918   15
Mrs. S. W. Kepler   Bethany Girls   1916   50
Mrs. Ed. Fleck   Branches of the Vine   1911   66
Mrs. R. D. Hoffheins   Keystone   1913   36
Mr. A. U. Kerns   Men's Brotherhood   1914   140




Home Department


Superintendent, Mrs. Charles Dunn

Assistant Superintendent, Mrs. Samuel Grassmyer


  There are sixteen members in the Home Department. The duty of the officers is to visit these members of the Sunday School who are shut in their homes, and distribute various pieces of religious literature among them.


Sunshine Group


  A committee of four women is assigned each month, and at the beginning of each month they request the names of sick and shut-ins from the pastor. They make up and deliver some sort of "sunshine" package to each sick person.


Parish Abroad


  In July of 1940 at a meeting of the Sunday School teachers and officers, it was suggested that the Sunday School as a whole take up some missionary work, either at home or abroad. A committee was appointed to select a place to center this work.

  After prayer and some discussion, it was decided to center attention on the work in Africa, helping to support the work of Rev. Louis Bowers who was stationed in Liberia, Africa in the Gboymah area.

  Each year $100.00 is sent by Bethany Lutheran Sunday School to the work being done in Africa. This helps to pay for an evangelist (a native man) also to help in any way that the money may be best used.

  For a year now, we have been hearing from Mrs. Louis Bowers, but at present Rev. and Mrs. Bowers are on furlough in the United States.






  About 1928 or 1930, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Schauer organized the Sunday School orchestra. The present members of the orchestra were all original members. This orchestra played for Sunday School and for other organizations such as P.T.A., banquets, and others. It also played for the Christmas Sunday radio broadcasts for the Altoona Ministerium. During 1932 and 1933, three full Sunday Evening services were played.

  From 1934 until 1937 or 1938 the orchestra was disbanded. During these years Herbert Mack and others had orchestras from time to time.

  The orchestra was then reorganized and has continued until the present. The present personnel is:


Mrs. Fred Schauer, Piano

Mr. Fred Schauer, Violin

Mr. Edgar Pross, Violin

Mr. Foster Johnson, Flute

Mr. Paul Heess, Clarinet

Mr. Charles Pross, Cornet

Mr. Harold Zeigler, Trumpet

Mr. John Pross, French Horn

Mr. David White, Trombone




Superintendents of Bethany Sunday School


James H. White   1891-1893
Isaac Harpster   1894-1897
Luther Watts   1898-1899
Isaac Harpster   1900-1904
Edward Baker   1905-1909
David Landis   1910-1911
William Gleichert   1912-1919
David Landis   1920-1926
John W. Moody, Jr.   1927-1928
David Perry   1929-1930
William Gleichert   1931-1932
Charles Shingler   1933
J. Arthur Geisinger   1934-1941


   Note: The Sunday School minute book for the period 1910-1921 cannot be found. The length of term served by David Landis when elected in 1910 is not certain. Mr. William Gleichert began his term of office immediately following Mr. Landis.


Pastors Who Have Served Bethany


Rev. H. M. Heilman, D.D.   1893-1903
Rev. T. B. Thomas   1903-1905
Rev. M. H. Stine, Ph.D.   1905-1908
Rev. R. H. Bergstresser, D.D.   1908-1917
Rev. A. J. Rudisill, D.D.   1917-1927
Rev. H. L. Saul, D. D.   1927-1939
Rev. P. L. Reaser, B.D.   1939


Sons of Bethany Sunday School who have given their lives to the Gospel ministry:


Clay Bergstresser   Roy McCorkle   Donald G. Raup
Hillis Berkey       John Garhart







  Reading left to right - Emily Zeigler, Myra Kepler, Ruth Croft, Hazel Bohn, Mrs. Robert Mearkle, Mary Elvey, Mary Ellen Mearkle, Clayton Herbster, Jean Hiner, Lois Wible, Robert Hiner, Alice Albrlght, Sheldon Reigh, Erma Albright, Eva Fuoss, Agnes Fuoss, Robert Wright, Herbert Pine, Geraldine Gibbons, Harold Zeigler, Mrs. Ella Fleck, William Herr, J. Arthur Geisinger, O. W. Hanson, Harry T. Smith, Rev. Paul L. Reaser, Clarence Stiffler, A. U. Kerns, Robert Gleichert, Mrs. T. M. Elvey, Mrs. Charles R. Grassmyer, Mrs. S. W. Kepler, Mary Jane Moyer, Mrs. Clayton Herbster, Mrs. Luther Bratton, Helen Watts, Esther Myers, Euretta Shaw, Mrs. Samuel Grassmyer, Mrs. R. D. Hoffheins, Helyn Rice, Virginia Herr, Mrs. D. R. Strayer, Anna Fleck, Paul Rice, John W. Moody, Jr.

  Additional list of Officers and Teachers - Roy F. Hiner, Mrs. Roy F. Hiner, Max R. Gramly. Mrs. Ralph Smith, Nellie Hess, Stella Isett, E. A. Hancock, Mrs. E. E. Acker, Mrs. H. E. Gerhart, Harriet Meredith, Chester Yeager, Mrs. Fred Schauer, Harold Laughlin, Wendell Anderson, Pearl Lee, Betty Belle Harris, Mrs. Charles L. Dunn, William Acker, Mrs. Calvin Wolfe, William Tromm.




Golden Anniversary Committee


General Chairman, John W. Moody, Jr.

Advisory Member, A. U. Kerns



R. F. Hiner, Chairman



Harry Smith

Arthur Geisinger

Mrs. Carl Gamber

Anna Fleck



Mrs. S. W. Kepler

Mrs. Ed. Fleck



Mrs. W. L. Zeiders, Chairman



Alice Albright

C. S. Romig



Harold Zeigler, Chairman



Clarence Stiffler, Chairman



Ruth Croft



Harold Laughlin






  Acknowledgments are hereby given to those to whom they are due for special reasons:

  To the general anniversary committee who served faithfully and efficiently in making arrangements for our Sunday School Golden Anniversary.

  To the speakers who throughout the week are giving their time and effort to bring messages of inspiration and courage.

  To those Sunday School classes and individuals who have contributed to the anniversary fund - and to those who will yet give a donation.

  To those who serve in kitchen and dining hall, contributing in a material way to the joy and fellowship of our gatherings.

  To the Altoona Mirror for opening to us their library of old editions of the paper, assisting us in collecting historical data of Bethany Sunday School.

  To the many others who in innumerable ways have given their support and assistance in making our anniversary observance a happy and fruitful occasion.


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