Salem Lutheran Church, Reamstown PA, was organized in 1817. The congregation shared facilities with Salem Reformed Church (now Salem United Church of Christ). In 1967, the congregations ended the sharing of facilities when Salem Lutheran moved to its own building on South Main Street.
St. John Lutheran Church, Denver, was organized in 1890. The congregation shared facilities with St. John Reformed Church (now St. John United Church of Christ). In 1913, the congregations ended the sharing of facilities when St. John Lutheran moved to its own building across the alley on Walnut Street.
Salem and St John were friendly neighbors. They participated together in some joint activities; for example, they joined with six other Lutheran congregations in the 1970s to participate in Lenten Worship Services. In 1997 Salem and St. John founded the Cocalico Area Lutheran Ministry (CALM) for cooperative ministry projects. Eventually Swamp, Reinholds and St. Paul, Adamstown, joined CALM.
The congregations of CALM worked together on several projects. In 2002, they embarked on an area mission study. The results of the study indicated further ways the congregations could work together.
At the same time, the pastors started working in a closer relationship and shared their expertise in the other congregations.
When Pastor Beard resigned as pastor of Salem to become a chaplain at Hospice of Lancaster County, it seemed natural that Pastor Hummer of St. John and Pastor Trout of Swamp would serve as Salem’s interim pastors.
In September of 2003, Salem and St. John combined their Sunday Schools, at the recommendation of each Christian Education Committee. Following the usual procedure at the time of a pastoral vacancy, Salem formed a Call Committee. The Call Committee soon determined that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for Salem to call its own full-time pastor. So the Call Committee recommended to the Congregation Council that Salem explore a joint ministry with St. John.
Salem’s Council agreed with the recommendation; St. John’s Council concurred. Each Council appointed three people, along with Pastor Hummer, to a Task Force to explore joint ministry possibilities. The Task Force began meeting at the end of 2002. The Task Force considered numerous alternatives, but none seemed workable.
Finally, the Task Force considered a possibility they had previously consciously avoided-merger. Once the Task Force started thinking of a merger, they felt the leading of the Holy Spirit as pieces of the puzzle came together.
A plan of consolidation was developed and presented to both Congregation Councils in the Spring of 2003. After some fine tuning, the plan was presented to both congregations in June. Forums for the purpose of discussion and clarification followed in both congregations. After allowing time for reflection and discernment, a vote on the proposal was held in each congregation September 21. Both congregations approved the motion for consolidation with The Rev. Larry Hummer to serve as the pastor, effective January 1, 2004.
Eight Transition Teams were formed to discuss the details of consolidation. The original Task Force provided oversight. There was little dissension in the Transition Teams as participants eagerly worked to prepare for the consolidation. The Transition Teams made appropriate recommendations to the Congregation Councils, which were adopted.
The first significant transition issue was selecting a name for the new congregation. Ideas were solicited from members of both congregations. When the Transition Team met, they began discussing and eliminating some suggestions. Then, in another moment of clarity being led by the Spirit, it seemed to the Transition Team that the best name was Faith United Evangelical Lutheran Church. The name felt so right, the Committee didn’t even feel the need to suggest an alternative. The name was adopted as proposed.
January 1, 2004, came, and we began our life together. The first Worship Services were held Sunday, January 4. The attendance was excellent; the spirit of the worshipers was wonderful.
The Congregation Councils had previously decided that the membership for Faith United would not be set until Easter Sunday, 2004. Previous members of both Salem and St. John, as well as anyone else, could indicate in the first three months if they wanted to be a charter member of the new congregation.
During the first four months of its existence, the people attending Faith United were getting to know each other and were forming into a congregation. The final details of organization were completed. Then on April 25, 2004, we were officially organized as a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church In America, Lower Susquehanna Synod, by our Bishop, The Rev. Carol Hendrix.