With the theme, "Led by the spirit through grateful generations," Holy Ghost Lutheran Church and School celebrated 175 years of its establishment in Bergholz.
The Prussian Lutheran ancestors were commonly known as "Old Lutherans," because they held to the traditional Lutheran doctrines and practices. When Lutheran worship was no longer permitted under threat of penalty or imprisonment, firm dedication to God's true word led them to consider leaving their Prussian homeland for America. Here, the Prussian Lutherans could worship freely and teach their religious beliefs to their children without fear of government intervention.
In the spring of 1843, the Prussian Lutheran forefathers made the decision to emigrate. Their decision was based on the words in Acts 5:29 which states, "We ought to obey God rather than men." They were convinced that "God wants it so."
Leaving everything familiar behind - family, friends and property - 1,600 souls embarked on a treacherous 5,000-mile journey, all on water, as they faced perilous unknown conditions. A total of 17 sailing ships arrived at the Port of New York in 1843 with Prussian Lutheran immigrants aboard. Eleven of these ships had sailed from Hamburg and carried passengers that originally settled in Wheatfield. Regular worship services and school classes were held aboard the ships during the crossing, and none of the ships bearing Old Lutherans to America were lost. Before going ashore, they knelt on the deck thanking God for bringing them safely to America.
Holy Ghost Lutheran Church and School were established on Nov. 19, 1843 in the newly-founded settlement of Bergholz, in the Town of Wheatfield, and have remained a strong and vibrant source of Christian worship and education through eight generations. Two other Prussian Lutheran congregations and settlements were established that year in Wheatfield, namely St. Peter in Walmore an St. Martin in Martinsville near the Erie Canal. They are also celebrating 175 years. In these three congregations, there are still many who are descendants of the original 1843 settlers.
The 175th anniversary celebration of Holy Ghost Lutheran Church and School took place on Nov. 17, with a special joint service led by Rev. Denton White and guest preacher Rev. Dr. Herbert C. Mueller Jr., first vice-president and member of the praesidium of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
Mueller began his ministry 40 years ago when he served as vicar to the congregation. It warmed attendees hearts to hear his message of God's love and faithfulness.
Also in attendance was former pastor Rev. Phillip Sallach, now retired, and his wife Marilyn, a former teacher at Holy Ghost, as well as Rev. Dr. Chris Wisher and his wife Bev. Wisher is the district president of the Eastern District.
Special musical selections with choirs and hand bells were featured, and a worship service in the tradition of Martin Luther was conducted. The school children contributed to the event with singing and personal narrations of our church history.
Following the service, the congregation celebrated with a traditional pot luck luncheon in the Fellowship Hall. After the meal, White led the assembly in songs of thankfulness and praise including the hymn by Dr. Martin Luther, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God." In closing, White displayed a treasured artifact - an iron cross brought over from Prussia in 1843 by the ancestors and used for ship board services and early worship services in barns here in Bergholz. He said the cross was a symbol of God's protection for our ancestors in leading them to America and is a reminder for us all of God's great love in sending his son, Jesus, to sacrifice his life for the sins of the world.
The church and school have continued to preach the true word of God and the congregation said it is by his grace that they have endured and flourished for 175 years.