The Bachman Era: 1878 to 1960

In June 1878, the Rev. Adam Jacob Bachman became the pastor of St. Paul’s Church. Educated at the Keystone Normal School (modern-day Kutztown University) and originally a resident of the Lehigh Valley, Bachman was a teacher before his licensing for ministry in 1878. The first pastor to use the on-site home as a parsonage, A. J. Bachman organized his charge by splitting the area covered by his pastorate into districts, overseen by different members of the church’s consistory—the body that we today call the Church Council. Some groups farther from the town’s center were organized into independent Sunday Schools by the consistory and Rev. Bachman.

The new pastor was concerned with growing his population and with restoring members who had fallen away from regular church attendance and participation. After several years, the outlying Sunday Schools were discontinued, restoring the church to a singular body. A special effort was undertaken to bring in lapsed members for Communion services in the fall and spring, welcoming residents from as far away as central Berks County who otherwise never attended St. Paul’s.

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A painted depiction of St. John

Language became a schism which divided the church. Members of the church’s council paid little heed to the bi-weekly English services, as many members were still primarily German-speaking, or at the least Pennsylvania German. A second consistory was elected to address the issue, and eventually the German-language services were reduced to one week per month, and finally one week per year until the practice was discontinued in the late 1920s.

Visitors to St. Paul’s will notice the beautiful and ornate decorative paintings adorning our walls and ceilings. The first painting of the church was undertaken by Berthold Imhoff, late of Germany and who would move to the Canadian prairie province of Saskatchewan ten years after he was contracted to decorate the interior of this German Reformed church. For a cost of under $900 (approximately $22,000 in 2011 dollars), Imhoff created images beginning in 1903 that last to this day, leaving an indelible mark on all members and visitors to visit and worship in the beautified sanctuary. Other churches painted by Imhoff include St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church in Reading, Pennsylvania; Assumption Church in Marysburg, Saskatchewan; and Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Paradise Hill, Saskatchewan.

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The Rev. A. J. Bachman

The Rev. Bachman was married to the former Permilla Zeller in 1881; he and his wife had six children, including a son, Adam R. Bachman. The younger Adam Bachman began to assist his father with the church’s ministry in 1916, around the same time that the Sunday School classes at the church began to make improvements to their teaching areas, adding rooms for new classes and changing the styles of furniture used.

In the 1920s, the church saw a wide variety of changes and improvements: the parsonage’s first telephone, installed in 1922; a new stone walk and front steps, constructed in 1924; the back porch at the pastor’s home enclosed in 1928; and a renovated steeple, begun in 1929 after it was found to be unsafe and completed in 1930. Also in 1928, the church celebrated the elder Rev. Bachman’s 50th anniversary as St. Paul’s pastor with a series of special services, during which he was presented with a variety of gifts.

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The Rev. A. R. Bachman

After 59 years of service to St. Paul’s, Adam J. Bachman died in February 1937. His son, now a graduate of Lancaster Theological Seminary, was installed as the church’s new minister in January 1938, although he continued to fill his father’s position informally in the interim, as he had been growing more active in the church’s ministries as his father aged. One of the younger Bachman’s first contributions was to organize the summer vesper services which still take place yearly in Fountain Park. He also organized and codified specific guidelines for many church events which were previously determined by tradition, congregational vote, or consistorial discussion—for example, the Sunday ringing of the church’s bell.

In 1939, the Easter dawn service, which continues to this day and which many members claim as their favorite service of the church year, was established by Rev. A. R. Bachman. The church’s new organ, purchased from Host Union Church, was installed in 1942, and during this time, the local Girl and Boy Scouts began to utilize the church and the social hall, which had been converted from the old Heidelberg School House attached to the property in 1940.

In 1950, the church re-organized under a new charter to better conform with state guidelines for non-profit organizations; the new charter also gave women the right to vote on church matters. Many more capital improvements to the church building and property were overseen by Rev. A. R. Bachman in the 1950s, such as the installation of a new furnace and the construction of a room to house it, landscaping, and, at the end of the decade, touching up of the Imhoff paintings and murals in the sanctuary by Berthold Imhoff’s son.

In June of 1959, the younger Rev. Bachman took ill and was unable to resume his duties for several months. He attempted to return to his pastorate in September 1959, and was still the church’s pastor on the dedication of its Gundling organ, which was first opened for use in the church in May 1960; this organ is still in use today and was joined at the time of its installation by new music director Margaret Kline Hatt. Eventually, Rev. Bachman was incapacitated by his illness and resigned his position in August 1960. He continued to perform baptismal, wedding, and funeral services, in addition to the provision of Communion after his retirement. Thus ended over 80 years of service by the Bachman family in the ministry of St. Paul’s church. [more…]

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The Revs. Bachman in front of the newly constructed front entrance and stone steps

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