170 years: First Lutheran Church celebrating anniversary

First Lutheran Church, 300 Melmore St., is celebrating its 170th anniversary this year. The festivities are to begin June 23 with a 10 a.m. worship service, followed by a covered dish meal and program. Pastor Allen Dietz, who served the church from 1982 to 1994, is to return for the event.

The celebration is to continue Oct. 20 when the Rev. Mary Caniff-Kuhn and the Rev. Tim Caniff-Kuhn, who were interns here in 1982-83, return.

Nov. 24, the Rev. Dr. Marcus Lohrmann, bishop of the Northwest Ohio Synod, is to conclude the anniversary celebration by leading Sunday morning worship.

A timeline of the church’s history is on display at the church, and various items from the archive are to be displayed Sunday mornings throughout the year. Area residents may attend any of the events or visit during the time of the celebration.

“We want the community to know that we are proud of our church and what we have accomplished. One hundred-seventy years is a long time, and we thank God,” said church member Beverly Wheatley, 86.

Historical records describe how the residents of the Tiffin community were called to the ministry of the gospel and how this call is lived out among the members of the church today. The earliest printed reference to the church is an invitation printed in The Seneca Advertiser June 16, 1843: “The Rev. J. Livengood, of the English Lutheran Synod of Ohio, will preach in the brick school house (on West Market Street) in Tiffin, on Sabbath the 25th of June, at 10 o’clock a.m.”

Initially, the founding group was part of a German-speaking congregation but separated to form an English-speaking congregation. In the spring of 1844, part of a lot was purchased at the northeast corner of Madison and Jefferson streets. A plain frame house 30 by 40 feet was constructed and dedicated in 1845 as the Luther Chapel.

By 1866, the congregation outgrew its meeting space and built a new brick structure on its site, moving the Luther Chapel to Melmore Street (where it still stands today). The congregation was legally incorporated Dec. 31, 1866, as “The First English Evangelical Lutheran Church, of Tiffin, Seneca County, Ohio.”

The church timeline displayed in the Dietz Room at the church provides a way to view pictures and read highlights of First Lutheran Church’s 170 years of ministry. It is a history filled with challenges during and after the Civil War, times of growth and dynamic ministry, periods of transition as it adapted to changes, and the witness of the faith and dedication of its pastors and members to the calling of the gospel.

From its earliest decision to associate itself as an English-speaking congregation of worship, to the founding of its preschool and extended care ministry of 45 years, to the establishment of the Christian Counseling Center of 20 years, First Lutheran Church is a ministry that has served the community of Tiffin and surrounding area.

During the month of June, members have had the chance to gather with its current pastor, the Rev. Kenneth Gillikin, to review the pictures and stories of 170 years of ministry.