ST. PAUL EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
15 W. Somerset St., Raritan, NJ 08869
Rev. Joseph P. Weatherell, Pastor
History of the St. Paul Congregation
Arrival in America
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,
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
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.
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.
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 Somerset
streets. The price of $2,500 included all the furnishings except the organ.
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.
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.
their first pastor
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.
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
Upon 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.
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.
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
The 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
In 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
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.
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
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.
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.
Hinlicky served 19 years
A 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
A 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.
New Millennium - Rev. Jones is called
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.
New Partnership - Rev. Weatherell serves the Dual Parish
In 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.