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ST. PAUL EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH

15 W. Somerset St., Raritan, NJ 08869

Rev. Joseph P. Weatherell, Pastor

 

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History of the St. Paul Congregation

 

Arrival in America

In or about 1882, the first Slovak Lutherans arrived in the then small town of Raritan, New Jersey. At first it was the Slovak men alone, looking for better living conditions and new opportunities. Among the very first to arrive in Raritan were Michael Tkacik, George Kovac, Andrew Mazak, John Kral, Andrew Yuhas, Andrew Straka, and George Liptak. In 1883, the Slovak women began arriving: Mary Yuhas, wife of Andrew Yuhas Sr., and Mrs. John Kovac, Mrs. John Azud, and Anna Tkacik. From 1883 to about 1887, there was a steady stream of Slovak Lutheran immigrants, both men and women, from places like Trebejov, Obysovce, and Kysak.

 

Congregational beginnings

In these early days, spiritual life was limited to the family altar. There were no Slovak speaking Lutheran churches in the area, very few Slovak speaking pastors, and little opportunity for public worship. There was, however, a longing to hear the preached Gospel of Jesus Christ and to receive the Sacrament of the Altar. In the year 1883, they became acquainted with a Czech pastor named Karol Horak, who had recently finished his theological studies at Muehlenberg in Allentown, Pennsylvania. They called him and he came to Raritan on an irregular basis. Pastor Horak was the first Slovak speaking Lutheran minister to preach and administer the Lord's Supper to the Slovak Lutherans in Raritan. Rev. Cyrill Doppa came from Streator, Illinois, to serve the Church in Freeland, Pennsylvania. He succeeded Rev. Horak in visiting the Lutherans in Raritan. It is not known how often these early ministers visited.

 

After Rev. Doppa left for Europe, Rev. Ludevit Novomesky succeeded him in 1887. Pastor Novomesky visited the Raritan community for several years. The Slovak Lutherans worshipped in the local Reformed Church Sunday School Chapel. For many years he also instructed these children in religion and taught them in Sunday School. The latter brought little gain and great loss, for when the Slovak Lutherans finally organized and formed their own congregation, some of these young people, taught in the Reformed church, became its members.

 

Founding of the congregation

By mid-1893 many Slovak Lutheran families had settled in Raritan. The desire to organize a Slovak Lutheran church began to grow. On September 12, 1894, twenty-four laymen met in the home of George Kovac and formally organized a congregation, which was to be the First Slovak Evangelical Lutheran Church. For several years the newly organized congregation worshipped in the Dutch Reformed Sunday School Chapel, which stood on the current site of St. Paul's Church. Rev. Novomesky continued to serve the church by visiting on an irregular basis from his home congregation in New York.

 

Their first church building

At a meeting on March 6, 1898, a serious step was put to a vote: purchase the Sunday School Chapel or build a new church. Four votes were cast to build, 30 to purchase the existing chapel. A year and a half elapsed. Finally, on October 3, 1899, the Sunday School Chapel was purchased from the Dutch Reformed Church. This wooden building had been erected in the 1850s on the southeast corner of Stebbins (now Doughty) and novomeskyenglersmall.gifSomerset streets. The price of $2,500 included all the furnishings except the organ.

 

As with all newly formed organizations, some conflict arose. The members separated into two groups, one favoring a Rev. Orbach, who had preached once in Raritan, while the other group favored Rev. Novomesky. It was decided not to call either minister to serve. On May 23, 1899, Rev. Karol Hauser from Freeland, Pennsylvania was chosen to preach. He continued to be resident pastor of the Freeland Church and came to Raritan at least once a month. The congregation in Raritan was under his leadership until July 1902. On August 31, 1902, Rev. L. Engler began to serve the Raritan congregation on a monthly basis.

 

In 1903, the Sunday School Chapel was redecorated and refurbished. A special service was held after its completion on May 3, 1903. Rev. Hauser, Rev. Engler and Rev. Novomesky officiated. Membership was increasing, so divine services were held every Sunday. One service each month was conducted by a pastor, the other weeks' were performed by laymen. John Mihok and Andrew Sabol, who were both founders of the church, led the congregation in singing hymns, praying, and reading the Postilla. Laymen also instructed the children of the congregation. Rev. John Hudry served from 1906 to 1908.

 

Ready for their first pastor

There was a desire for a deeper spiritual life and wider spiritual activity. A Slovak congregation in Garfield united with the Raritan congregation. The two groups wanted to be served by the same pastor and jointly provide for him. During 1907 the Raritan congregation joined the Slovak Evangelical Lutheran Church. On December 8th a call was sent to John Murcek, then a theological student in Springfield. The call was accepted and Rev. Murcek began serving the two congregations on July 29, 1908. He served the two churches for four years.

 

In January 1912, the Garfield congregation felt strong enough to support its own pastor and Rev. Murcek ceased visiting the Raritan congregation. During the summer of that year, a seminary student named Paul Rajcok conducted services and taught religious education in Raritan. In August Rajcok returned to seminary school. Rev. L.J. Karlovsky was the administrator of the church during this period. In March 1913 a house behind the church was purchased for use as a parsonage for $4,000. Rev. Karlovsky introduced the Tranoscius, a worship services guide and hymnal, to the congregation.

 

Rev. Rajcok, first resident pastor

rajcoksmall.gifUpon completion of his seminary studies, the Rev. Paul Rajcok was installed as the first resident pastor of the Raritan congregation on June 29, 1913. Rev. Tuhy, Rev. Karlovsky and Rev. Hudry officiated. Pastor Rajcok was young, ambitious and anxious.

church1925.jpg

By May 1924, after a sizeable sum of money was collected and plans were approved, groundbreaking for the present stone church took place. On July 27th the cornerstone was laid. While the church was being constructed, the congregation met at the Methodist church on Wall Street. On June 21, 1925 the completed building was dedicated to the glory of God.

 

On May 26, 1927 Pastor Rajcok suddenly passed away. The loss of their young and dedicated pastor was deeply felt. He had served the congregation for almost 14 years. In addition to the new building, many great things happened under his guidance, including the organization of a choir and the Ladies' Aid Society.

 

Rev. Kolarik served next

kolariksmall.gifThe Rev. Joseph Kolarik was called from Cole Ridge, Ohio. He accepted the call and was installed on November 20, 1927. He began English services for the congregation on the first and third Sundays of the month. Sunday School for the children was initiated. In the fall of 1936 Pastor Kolarik accepted a call to Pittsburgh.

 

 

 

 

Then Rev. Liptak served

liptak.jpgIn February 1937 a call was extended to theological student John Liptak. Pastor Liptak was ordained and installed on September 12, 1937. In 1939 a second, English language service was added to Sunday morning Slovak worship service. In 1940 a new organ was donated by the Young People's Society. In 1941 The church interior was completely renovated.

 

During World War II thirty-seven young men and women of the congregation served in the armed forces. Two of our men gave their lives for our country: John Genda in WWII and William Horensky in the Korean War.

 

 

 

50th Anniversary

In September 1944 the church observed the 50th anniversary of its founding with a special worship service and dinner. One of the guest pastors was Rev. John Bayus, spiritual son of the Raritan congregation.

 

New Parsonage and New Name

In the autumn of 1952 construction began on a new parsonage. It was completed in the February 1953 at a cost of $42,000. The brick ranch home is situated on the corner of Rhine Boulevard and First Avenue. The old parsonage was demolished in the spring of 1960, and a parking lot created.

 

In the spring of 1959 the name of the congregation was changed from First Slovak Evangelical Lutheran Church to St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church. The name St. Paul was chosen to honor the memory of the first full-time pastor.

 

Expansion and Growth

In 1961 the congregation voted to enlarge and extend our Church and Sunday School facilities. The balcony was extended to provide additional seating space and a two-story addition to the church was built. In June 1961 spiritual son Rev. Robert Villani was ordained at an afternoon worship service. On February 1964 Rev Liptak was suddenly called home to his Lord. He had served the congregation 27 years.

 

Rev. Hinlicky served 19 years

hinlicky.jpgA call was extended to Rev. William P. Hinlicky who had served our congregation as Administrator during the vacancy. Rev. Hinlicky was installed in 1964. Rev. Anthony Douches, a son of the congregation, was ordained at St. Paul in June 1967. Rev. Hinlicky's son Paul was ordained in 1978. In 1984 Rev. Hinlicky retired due to disability. He passed away May 31, 2000.

 

 

 

 

 

Rev. Miksad followed

miksad.jpgA call was extended and accepted by Rev. Phillip Miksad. He was installed in 1984. He was raised in Yonkers, NY and had previously served in Lakefield, MN. In 1985 the youth group was revived and hosted the annual Luther League Convention. The church's constitution and by-laws were revised. In 1992 a new addition to the educational wing was built. It includes new offices and provides access for the disabled. The 100th anniversary was celebrated in 1994. Rev. Miksad accepted a call to serve a sister congregation in 2001.

 

 

 

 

The New Millennium - Rev. Jones is called

pastorjones.gifRev. Dr. Ronald Jones was installed in July 2002. Pastor Jones' pastoral vocation to share the Gospel message has called him to serve in three different capacities: as pastor of individual churches; as pastor, professor, and administrative official on college campuses; and as chaplain in the Texas Army National Guard and, later, in the United States Army Reserve. In addition, he has written articles and editorials reflecting upon Christian faith and life. Pastor Jones served for 13 years as St. Paul's pastor before retiring in September 2015. He and his family relocated to Minnesota to be close to family.

 

 

 

 

A New Partnership - Rev. Weatherell serves the Dual Parish

brandnewMe2.jpgIn October 2016 St. Paul Raritan, NJ and St. John Bound Brook, NJ officially formed a dual parish. Rev. Joseph Weatherell, the pastor of St. John served at St. Paul during the vacancy after Pastor Jones retired. As part of the dual parish agreement he was called by the congregation and installed at St. Paul by District President Andrew Dzurovcik during a celebration service to become the permanent pastor of both parishes. Pastor Weatherell served at St. John for 8 years prior to becoming the dual parish pastor.

 

 

 

 

 

Office Hours: 9am-Noon Tue & Thur  |  Phone: 908-722-6111  |  Fax: 908-722-6114

Email: stpaulraritan@gmail.com