The History of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church
42 Guy Park Ave. Amsterdam, NY

Trinity Church

The beginning of Trinity Lutheran Church dates back to the year 1863, when pastors from local towns came to Amsterdam to bring the Gospel message to the few German Lutheran settlers. In a room over Bartlett’s Shoe Store on East Main Street, the first prayer meeting was held. The services of these out-of-town ministers was only of a short duration; they were non-Lutheran and could not satisfy Lutheran piety. In 1867, a pastor by the name of Peters (or Peterson) came from Herkimer. The Rev. Peterson, as many called him, after a careful study of the field, accepted a called tendered to him by the German Lutherans. He organized a mission and held the first divine service in the Old Stone School House on Division street, and somewhat later in the Sunday School Auditorium of the Second Presbyterian Church on Grove Street.

A lot on Grove street was purchased with plans to purchase a church and parsonage. In 1869, the Rev. Mattchat was called. Under his leadership, the First German Lutheran Church was built on Grove Street. It was the Presbyterian Pastor, Dr. Goodale, who guided the Lutherans by advising them to go to Albany to meet with the president of the Lutheran Synod of New York and New Jersey, the Rev. Dr. Pohlman. Dr. Pohlman, as soon as he met the German Lutherans in Amsterdam, commissioned Mr. Klarg, a student at the Hartwick Seminary, to supply the mission during the interim. The mission was given every possible assistance, and in September of 1869, Dr. Pholman, assisted by Dr. Severinghause, dedicated the newly erected church.

In 1885, a lot of 144 x 130 feet was purchased on Guy Park Ave. for $4,500, and on June 5, 1887, the cornerstone was laid for the present church building in honor of the Holy Trinity. The cost of the building was approximately $28,000. In 1881, fifty-eight members of Trinity Lutheran, desiring to follow the growing tendency for the use of the English language in the liturgy rather than German, left and organized St. Luke’s English Evangelical Lutheran Church, which began to meet on November 29, 1891 in the Y.M.C.A. on Market Street. On January 1 1888, the Rev. O.C. Konrad was elected pastor of Trinity, and on April 29 of the same year, the new house of worship was dedicated by the Secretary of the Synod of New York, the Rev. R. Hafer. The present parsonage was built in 1889 and cost $5,000.00. The entire cost for the lot, building the church and the parsonage, and the furnishings needed came to some $54,000.00.

In August 1902, a call was extended to the Rev. G. W. Fritsch, who began his duties that same month. During his pastorate, many improvements to the church were made. A steam heating plant was installed, the interior of the church building was re-decorated, electric lights were installed and a new organ, costing $8,000 was placed in the chancel. The Rev. Fritsch was a good shepherd and did much for the spiritual development of the congregation. It was during his years as pastor that the Synod of New York and New Jersey merged to form the New York Synod in 1908, later becoming part of the Evangelical Lutheran General Synod of the United States of America. In August of 1915, finding that his own health was deteriorating, Pastor Fritsch returned his office into the hands of the congregation.

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The Rev. Dr. Ernest H. von Hahmann, pastor of Salem’s Lutheran Church in Baltimore, MD, was chosen to fill the vacancy. He accepted the call, and on September 9, 1915 arrived in Amsterdam with his family. During his pastorate, many costly improvements were made to the church property. The interior of the church was remodeled; the organ was moved from the chancel to the gallery in the rear; a steam heating plant was installed in the parsonage; and a garage was built. Additionally, a new gothic altar and pulpit were secured as memorials, and an altar railing, angel lectern, heavy chancel chairs, along with several other items were acquired in order to beautify the church. Sunday School was conducted in both German and English, and the parish numbered 649 contributing members. It was during Dr. von Hahmann’s tenure that the Evangelical Lutheran General Synod of the United States of America joined with two other large Synods to form the United Lutheran Church in America in 1918. Dr. von Hahmann preached his farewell sermon on April 16, 1950 after serving Trinity Lutheran Church for thirty-five years.

The Rev. Paul J. Strenge of Atonement Lutheran Church, Oneonta, N.Y. was called to fill the vacancy and was installed on June 18, 1950. During his tenure, the church parsonage was renovated and the organ in the church electrified. Sound proof ceilings were also installed in the Sunday School. It was in 1962, during the pastorate of Pastor Strenge, that Trinity Evangelical Lutheran, along with the United Lutheran Church in America, merged into the newly formed Lutheran Church in America. Pastor Strenge served Trinity Lutheran for twenty-one years, and after a prolonged illness, went to his eternal reward on Monday June 28, 1971.

Pastor Donald Marxhausen was ordained and then installed as the pastor of Trinity by the Upper New York Synod of the Lutheran Church in America on September 23, 1972. Under his leadership, a program for the Mental Health Association was started and began to meet in Trinity’s Fellowship Hall. To help the hungry, a Kitchen Cupboard was established. More and more Trinity began to offer the use of its Fellowship Hall for community events and social functions. Pastor Marxhausen resigned on January 18, 1977 to accept a call at a mission church in Glyn Ellyn, IL.

The Rev. William E. Siis accompanied by his wife Bonnie, accepted a call to Trinity and was installed on May 22, 1977. During his pastorate, two Lutheran lay renewals were held in 1982, and in 1993. This resulted in the forming of a number of home Bible Study groups. In addition, a telephone Prayer Chain was instituted, and a Mission ‘90 Bible Study was held in the Fellowship Hall. It was during his tenure that the Kitchen Cupboard was given over to Catholic Charities and became a community-wide project. Under Pastor Siss’ leadership, a Deacon program was established, with lay persons attending training classes at the Hartwick Summer Institute of Theology held at Hartwick College in Oneonta. Deacons served as Assisting Ministers during worship as well as supporting the pastor in communion services at Park Hill and Hillcrest Spring Adult Care Homes. He also began Healing Services as a part of the Service of the Word. The 10:30 a.m. liturgy was broadcast every Sunday over the local radio station, WCSS. Because Pastor Siis and his wife had purchased their own home, renovations were made to the parsonage so that the upstairs became one of the Upstate NY Synod’s three regional synodical offices, and the downstairs was converted into a hospice office. During Pastor Siis’ tenure Holy Communion went from being administered once a month, to twice a month. It was also during his pastorate that Trinity and the Lutheran Church in America joined with two other bodies to become the current Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 1987.

On September 1, 2004 Trinity welcomed its Intentional Interim Pastor, The Rev. M. Elaine Berg. She was instrumental in helping Trinity to work through their emotions and expectations in having to seek a new full-time pastor after twenty-seven years. She also introduced the Prayer Shawl Ministry to the members of Trinity. Pastor Berg left her position at Trinity, on February 28, 2006, after a new pastor was found. The Rev. Richard George Eddy was called to Trinity on March 1, 2006. He was installed on March 26, 2006. During his tenure, Pastor Daniel Swanson made the decision to move the Synodically Authorized Worshipping Community, Todos Los Hijos de Dios, which had worshipped in various places, to St. Luke’s Lutheran Church. On August 23, 2006, Pastor Eddy resigned his office for health reasons. The Rev. Gail Wolling of St. John’s / St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Canajoharie took over all pastoral duties for Trinity until a new Pastor was found.

The Rev. William T. Hodgetts, Jr., who studied at the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church in Manhattan, and graduated from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, was called to be Trinity's current pastor at a congregational meeting following worship on June 3, 2007. He was ordained to the office of Word and Sacrament by Bishop Marie Jerge on July 27, 2007 at his home church, Trinity Lutheran Church in Long Island City, N.Y. The Rev. Michael Church, pastor of Trinity, L.I.C., preached on the occasion. Pastor Hodgetts was installed on September 30, 2007, during a Eucharist at Trinity Lutheran Church, Amsterdam, with the Rev. Kenneth Dingman preaching, followed by a banquet in the Martin Luther Hall.

Pastor Hodgetts had been called to Amsterdam, N.Y. by bishop Marie Jerge to be the shepherd of Trinity and of Todos Los Hijos de Dios (TLHDD) because of his fluency in both English and Spanish; this due to his mixed heritage: English, Irish, Chilean, and Dominican. As the TEAM process at TLHDD failed to produce leadership from within the Spanish speaking congregation, the members decided in 2013 to move back to Trinity Lutheran Church. After a Farewell and Godspeed offered by Pastor John Califano and the people at St. Luke’s the Spanish-speaking congregation began to worship at Trinity. In 2015, TLHDD ceased to be a Synodically Authorized Worshipping Community and became members of Trinity Lutheran Church, thus forming one community in which worship is offered in two languages. Pastor Hodgetts was also instrumental in the formation of the Comfort Zone Ministry (CZM), a ministry based at Trinity which distributes soap, toilet paper, paper towels, tissues, shampoo and non-food daily necessities to those who need them in them in the community.

During his years at Trinity, Pastor Hodgetts has focused on preaching and teaching the Bible, and on instruction regarding our Lutheran beliefs and practices. He restored many of the catholic practices in the celebration of the liturgy which were retained by Lutherans, but had fallen into disuse due to the influence of American Protestants. These included the celebration of Holy Days observed by the ELCA, the observation of Ash Wednesday with optional imposition of ashes, and the use of the historic vestments such as the chasuble. Additionally, he has encouraged more lay participation by inviting a greater number of parishioners to be lectors, communion assistants, ushers, acolytes, and by bringing up the gifts of bread and wine at the Eucharist. He has also encouraged ecumenical relations with neighboring churches, beginning with joint Bible studies held with the Rev. Dr. John M. Medwid and the parishioners of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, during his tenure at St. Mary’s from 2008 until 2014.

Where God will take Trinity in the future no one can know. What we do know is that by his Grace, the One who began a good work among the Lutheran Christians who initially formed this community more than one hundred and fifty years ago, will continue to work in and among us and those who follow us, as the Gospel is proclaimed, and the Sacraments administered; so that Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church may continue to be a living and vital witness of God’s love to the people of the community in which God has placed us! Amen.

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