Our History

It began modestly enough, with a short announcement in the local newspaper on February 19, 1953:

"Lutheran services will be held in the county service building, 18 church street, newton, starting sunday, march 8, at 2:30 p.m. ... if sufficient interest is shown it is planned to organize a congregation on a permanent basis and expand services and facilities."

From that first meeting grew Redeemer Lutheran Church, which stands as the oldest Lutheran Church in Sussex County. The 60 adults and eight children who attended that first worship service planted the seeds for a church that now serves over 500 members from more than 200 families, and that was responsible for the growth of a daughter parish in Blairstown.

The Rev. Ewald Mueller, pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran Church of Ridgewood, conducted that first service. He was invited to Sussex County by Mr. and Mrs. Herman Kleindienst Sr., who had left the Ridgewood church when they moved from Bergen County to Stillwater in 1947. The family frequently made the long trip to Ridgewood to worship in their own tradition.

The intention was to meet monthly. However, with such a large gathering in attendance at the first service, it was apparent that there was a need and desire for a church to serve the Lutherans in the greater Sussex County area.

Pastor Mueller and a number of other pastors conducted worship services on a rotating basis each Sunday, until that summer, when the congregation was able to call its first pastor. The Rev. Frederick Chapman, a graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield, Illinois, received his appointment as pastor from the Missouri Synod Atlantic District. He arrived at Newton in August and was ordained into the ministry on October 3. Over 200 Lutherans from around the state attended the ordination service. Music for the service was provided by Mrs. Edith A. Rights and the choir of the Ridgewood church.

At that time, the name "Redeemer Lutheran Church" was adopted unanimously.

During the months since the first meeting, the congregation had moved into the Grange Hall in Newton, and an organizing committee had been formed. Officers were Herman Kleindienst Sr., chairman; Waiter L. Codon, vice chairman; C. Burnett Freas, treasurer, and Ruth Ritter, secretary. The members of the committee were John Gaisler, Onrille Matthies, Paul Hilburn, George Rost, Robert Moore, Newton Woodruff, Willard Klemm, William Epstein, Richard J. Stark and C.F.W. Stanton.

The congregation was chartered with 92 members on January 10, 1954, and incorporated on October 31, 1954. By 1956, when Mr. and Mrs. Henry Dahlen donated two-and-a-half acres as a building site for a church, the congregation stood at 230 baptized members and 145 communicants.

After the property was received, Mr. Dahlen built a parsonage on the site. The property and parsonage were dedicated an September 23, 1956.


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