By David Yarger
Western New York is known for its historic churches in the area. Many have deep pasts rooted in history, but one of those is set to celebrate year 175.
The St. Martin Lutheran Church will celebrate its 175th anniversary on Sunday, Nov. 11. A worship service will begin at 10:30 p.m. at the church, 322 Old Falls Blvd., North Tonawanda, and will be followed by a catered banquet at Adams Fire Hall, 7113 Nash Road, at 12:30 p.m. Adult admission is $20; children 6-18 years of age: $10; and children under 5 years enter free.
The church dates back to 1843, when ancestors from Nipperwiese, Pomerania, Prussia, embarked on a three-month journey across the Atlantic Ocean seeking religious freedom. Upon arrival, 1,600 Prussian Lutherans formed three different congregations within (what was at that time) the Town of Wheatfield.
Dennis Sattelberg, a member of the church his whole life, other than four years, due to moving across the country, was baptized at the church in 1947 and is a descendant of a group of Sattelberg's whom were Prussian Lutherans, which made the long journey across the ocean. For the church to celebrate 175 years, he felt the event should really reflect the goal of those who came to America in 1843 and formed the congregation.
"It means the dreams of our ancestors needs to be remembered and all the souls who survived the trip across the Atlantic. This was 1843 - you can probably guess the conditions on the ship. It was not your typical cruise liner," Sattelberg said.
Sattelberg added, it's important that children and grandchildren remember and worship the reason why the group made the move they did, with government oversight looming every religious move that was made in Prussia.
Pastor Devie Ellis also said it's an impressive feat to see the church celebrate 175 years.
"It's a joyous occasion as we celebrate the ministry and mission of St. Martin for 175 years. We see around us: churches closing, people who just don't take their faith seriously anymore, and to say that this church has been blessed for 175 years - we look forward that this will continue," Ellis said.
St. Martin Lutheran is in elite company when it comes to churches still standing tall in Western New York. While Ellis noted that churches have begun closing around the area, she said it's a blessing that St. Martin Lutheran has been able to worship for so many years.
"Thank God. He has blessed us," Ellis said. "We can't say we did it ourselves, even though, he gave us his spirit and we have a mission and ministry that he has enabled us to do, and it's because of God that we are here, because of his presence with us and that we continue to go on and we celebrate that."
Sattelberg, in a trip down memory lane, said the founders of the congregation purchased land along the Erie Canal upon arrival, because it reminded them of living close to the river in their homeland. Sattelberg added, the original plan was to go to Wisconsin, but due to it being late fall, conditions would've been too difficult to continue travel.
Upon purchasing the land, a schoolhouse was built immediately in 1844 to teach without government intrusion. There, the group worshipped until the first church was dedicated in 1850, with the groundbreaking in 1848. The current church building was constructed in 1915.
Sattelberg also presented a historic plaque created by his uncle to celebrate the 150th anniversary. The plaque was made from a piece of wood from an oak tree, which was standing upon the Prussian Lutherans arrival in 1843. Because Sattelberg said there were over 150 rings counted on the wood. On the oak, a piece of steel was nailed on with names inscribed into it, which read the members who made the journey to America.
At the church, there is a historic cemetery in the back. Sattelberg said, buried in the cemetery are several parishioners who formed the congregation.
"Some of them (tombs) are so worn, because they've been there so long," Sattelberg said. "It's a reminder that they came for a reason. We still have members here that are descendants of those who made the trip."
In 25 years with the church, Ellis said she's seen the St. Martin Lutheran take big strides.
"We have grown in mission - reaching out to those outside our four walls. We have a community luncheon the first Saturday of the month. It's free to whoever wants to be with us. ... We have really grown in our faith in the past years and we continue to do that," Ellis said.
Sattelberg said the congregation is a big, happy bunch that is always welcome to new members.
"We are a very welcoming congregation. Several new members stay because we welcome them with open arms. They'll be greeted on the way into service and greeted when they leave, as well. Most of the congregation will welcome them and introduce themselves to new members and tell them to come back," Sattelberg said.
Ellis agreed, and welcomed people to celebrate 175 years, and to come worship with the congregation.
"We are an inclusive church. We know god loves us, and we are called to love others and they are invited to be part of this ministry," Ellis said. "We are a welcoming church and we include all people."
The church worships at 9 a.m. on Sundays, with Sunday school for all ages at 10:15 a.m.
Along with worship service on Sundays, the church also has a Youth Ministry, Bible study, choir, which Sattelberg called "very good" and consists of 25-30 members; a piecemakers group, and Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America group. To learn more about the church, any of the groups, or the 175th
anniversary celebration, one can email [email protected]
, call the church at 693-4415, or visit http://www.stmartinlutheran.org/.