The 100th Anniversary and the Cornerstone
On June 25, 2000, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church celebrated its 100th anniversary in the “Gray Stone Church” at the 10:15 AM service. Rev. Kenneth Ensminger, retired, a son of the congregation, who had been brought up as a child and confirmed in St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, preached the sermon. He recalled his childhood and youth in the church with some of its customs and traditions in the earlier part of the past century. Rev. William Fluck, predecessor to the Rev. Charles Romanowski, current pastor, also participated in the service.
A Brass Ensemble consisting of Bill Folk, Jeff Ney, Jeff Oxenford, Ben Reigner, Andy Hill, and Crystal Cammauf provided special music. This ensemble played stirring old hymns as the congregation gathered at the front entrance to the church. A brief service was conducted by the three robed pastors in front of the cornerstone in sweltering heat. Then Harold Hieter, Church Council President, removed four previously loosened stones to expose the interior of the cornerstone. Narona Gebert, who has researched the history of the church, retrieved a metal box representative of the one believed placed into the stone 100 years ago. The service then continued in the sanctuary.
During the service, Narona Gebert read the following statement.“On June 3, 1900, one hundred years ago this month, dedication services were held here for the new church building of St. Mark’s Lutheran congregation. It is 100 years since they left the Union Church building at South Pennsburg and moved into this building, their very own church.
In researching the church history, we came across a page in the Church Council Minutes that listed items put into the cornerstone on October 2, 1898. We though it appropriate to open the cornerstone and examine its contents at the celebration of this 100th Anniversary. The page from the minutes reads as follows:
October 2nd A.D. 1898. The cornerstone of the new church edifice was laid by which Rev. W.B. Fox the pastor of this congregation preached an impressive sermon.
The following articles were placed in the cornerstone:
A copy of the Charter of the Congregation
A Lutheran Hymn Book
A copy of the First Rules of the Congregation
A copy of the Lutheran Herald
A copy of the Bauern Freund
A copy of the Perkiomen Valley Press
A copy of the Perkiomen Ledger
A copy of the Schwenksville Item
The names of the officers and members of the Consistory
The names of the Building Committee
The names of the Architects
The name of the Contractor
The names of the officers and teachers of the Sunday School
No information concerning anything about the cornerstone could be found in the archives; only that it was made in Emmaus and brought to Pennsburg on a horse drawn wagon. We had no clue as to how thick the cornerstone would be or just where the vault for the contents was placed. We hoped that the stone was merely a flat slab placed in front of a prepared space, which held the listed items.
In preparation for the event today, Pastor Chuck had asked David Baver [a member] to cut around the cornerstone. Without a clue as to what to expect, we thought it best to peak inside prior to this morning’s service. After David cut around the stone, he found that he could not begin to budge it. Two stonemasons were engaged for more extensive stonework. On Wednesday, June 21, about 10:00 AM, they removed two King of Prussia stones to the right of the cornerstone. Now we had a view of the inside. To our amazement, we found that the cornerstone was 18 inches thick. The masons estimated that the stone must weigh about a half ton! How would we ever pull out the stone to get at the contents? And if we did get it out, would we ever be able to get it back in place? Decisions, decisions – Harold Hieter was out of town and only Pastor Chuck and myself on hand. Then one of the masons remembered a cornerstone, that he had removed before, had a chamber within itself. With that in mind, we decided to extract two stones above the cornerstone. Even if the cornerstone had no opening, we still needed to remove more stones in order to get a better grasp on it.
At last, good news! After removing the additional stones, we found that the cornerstone did contain an opening within itself and we would not have to move the cornerstone at all.
The vault holding the items was rectangular in shape and when measured later, was found to be 6 by 12 inches and 9 ½ inches deep. With the aid of a mirror, we were able to see that it was filled with mortar, sand, and pebbles. Quickly we gathered some simple tools at home, and resumed work, very carefully removing the debris. Then much to our disappointment, we noted that the metal box and its contents were badly deteriorated.
Now we knew that time would not allow for the removal of these very fragile items at Sunday morning’s service. We decided to carefully empty the contents then and there, taking all the time that was needed. Later they were prepared in such a manner suitable to be presented in the Fellowship Hall this morning.
What you saw in this morning’s ceremony at the opening of the cornerstone was a metal box substituted for the deteriorated one. Some of the
remains of the original contents were placed inside. We hope that you will understand why we had to do it in this way.
On October 22, 2000, St. Mark’s looks forward to placing new items back into the cornerstone. Mark your calendar. It will be another memorable day in the history of the church.”
All persons attending the service were invited to the Fellowship Hall after the service. Refreshments were served and the remains of the contents of the cornerstone were displayed. Also displayed were other early artifacts of the church including communion vessels, offering box
es, copies of transcripts from old ledgers and council minutes. A highlight of the refreshments was the large and quite accurate cake replica of the church made by Gail Schmoyer. The Time Capsule
Items for the time capsule were chosen from the suggestions given by the members of the congregation. Size of the article had to be considered as well as whether the object was appropriate. The following items were chosen:
These items will be placed into polypropylene bags and sleeves for added protection. They will then be placed into the stainless steel box, specially constructed by Edward Reed of St. Mark's for this purpose. The welded seams and the edge of the closed lid will be sealed with silicone for added protection. Insulation sheets will be placed around the exterior sides of the box inside the cornerstone chamber. It is our sincere hope that with all this protection from water and air, these articles will survive until such time as the congregation members of the future choose to examine them.
- A Hometown Collectable of the church
- A pictorial directory of the year 1999
- A CD containing digital photos of our present church interior and exterior; of the opening of the cornerstone, service of June 25, 2000; newspaper items from the 1900 Town & Country; the present web pages with pictures; Pastor Fluck's citation appointing him Pastor Emeritus and the Annual Report of the congregation for 1999.
- Items from the newsletter and other pertinent information
- a green hymnal and service book
- With One Voice hymnal
- A copy of the Constitution and Bylaws
- A copy of the Annual Report of 1999
- A copy of Who's Who at St. Mark's
- A copy of the WELCA directory
- A copy of the church history by Rev. Henry M. Kistler
- A copy of the 1980 church history update
- A copy of the Sunday School History 1869 to 1999 by Narona Gebert
- Two proof sets of 2000 US coins
- A small pipe from the 1934 Moeller organ
- A message from Pastor Charles Romanowski
- A message on behalf of the congregation by Narona Gebert
The time capsule was placed into the cornerstone in November 2000. Due to weather, the stone was mortared back into place on May 12, 2001. The following are pictures of the box being placed into the stone and the protective cap in place. David Baver and his men then mortared the stones back in place. Hopefully, the congregation 100 years from now will find the box and contents in good shape.