Second German German Congregational Church 1913-1961
Evangelical Congregational Church 1961-Present
Second German Congregational Church in 1913. The church is located at 4236 NE 8th Avenue in Portland.
With a love for the Lord and a deep passion for souls, a small band of Believers, 29 in number, under the direction of Rev. Heinrich Hagelganz, met on June 22, 1913, to organize the Second German Congregational Church. In the same year it became affiliated with the Congregational denomination. Of the original 29 members, only two are still living and members of the church: Mrs. Eva Leonhardt and Mrs. Adam Bihn, Sr.
The new congregation made arrangements with a Seventh Day Adventist Church to use their building on Sunday as a place of worship, while their own new building was being erected on the newly acquired lot at NE 8th and Skidmore Streets. This lot was purchased at a cost of $1,850.00. The structure 36’ by 42’ in size was erected at a cost of $4,000.00. This was the humble beginning of the faithful few who immediately inscribed their accepted motto over the chancel of the church: "We Preach Christ and Him Crucified." With this purpose in mind, the group set to work.
God honored and blessed this dedicated band of believers by adding regularly to the church such as should be saved as well as numerous families moving into Portland from Canada and the Mid-west. Many were attracted to the church by the Bible-centered gospel messages and the beautiful singing voice of Pastor Hagelganz. Soon the church became too small.
In 1921, the church voted to enlarge their structure by lengthening it 30 feet, and by putting in a full basement to house the rapidly growing Sunday school. The cost of this project was $7,500.00.
In the year 1927, Rev. Hagelganz accepted a call to Fort Collins, Colorado, and the congregation called Rev. H. G. Zorn to be its pastor. At this time a parsonage was purchased next to the church, bringing the property size to 100' by 100'.
Second German Congregational Church after the improvements made in 1927
After the resignation of Rev. Zorn in 1929, Pastor Hagelganz was called for a second term of service. The church again made rapid strides of growth in all departments so that it became necessary to enlarge the church a second time. In 1931, the building was widened by 22 feet, bringing the total size of the structure to 58’ by 72’, providing a seating capacity of almost 600 people. The cost of this venture was $8,000.00.
Second German Congregational Church - 1932
A beautiful pipe organ was purchased through the combined efforts of the young people of the Christian Endeavor and the Sunshine Circle. The church became known down through the years as a "Singing Church", due to the many fine singers and talented musicians who were led and encouraged by their faithful pastor to devote their God-given talents to the service of their wonderful Lord.
Sorrow struck the church family on Sunday, January 23, 1949, when just a few minutes before the hour to start the morning worship service, Pastor Hagelganz suffered a heart seizure. Six days later on January 29, the Lord called him hone to his eternal reward. His loss was keenly felt, not only in his own church, but also in the entire community as well as the Congregational denomination where had become known as a fiery gospel preacher with a deep passion for lost souls.
Before his home going, Rev, Hagelganz, through his keen vision and insight, saw in advance the trend of the denomination toward liberalism and the possible merger of fundamental churches with non-fundamental groups who did not share common views. He warned and instructed his people. As a result of his careful groundwork, the congregation unanimously voted not to remain in the Conference, once it was evident the merger would be culminated. Following the wise counsel of their pastor, the church became a free and independent Congregational Church.
A call was sent to Pastor J.S. Gyorog of Kelowna, British Columbia, which was accepted in October of 1949. He served the church faithfully for 8 1/2 years. During his pastorate it was voted to remodel the chancel by lowering the choir loft, building a new pastor's study, and changing the platform in general.
With the building of the Memorial Coliseum and the vast Freeway system on the eastside of Portland, a tremendous population shift was started in the area. It became evident that if the church wanted to remain intact, it would have to relocate. In 1952 the membership voted to purchase 2 acres of ground at NE 55th and Alberta for a future building site.
Rev. Gyorog resigned and completed his ministry as pastor of the church on Easter Sunday of 1958 (Note: Reverend Gyorog left to administer the Ebenezer church). Shortly thereafter, the congregation decided to rewrite and translate the Constitution from German to English and have copies printed in sufficient quantity so that every member could have a copy to study and better understand the cardinal truths upon which the church was founded.
In June of 1949 the congregation voted to build a parsonage on the new building site and to use the old parsonage for Sunday school rooms.
A call was sent to Rev. Fred Heydel of the Los Angeles, California area. He accepted the ca11 and began his ministry in August of 1958.
In 1960 with further and more rapid population shifts, the old church was put up for sale and sold for $45,000.00. The services of an architect Mr. Don Eby were secured, and plans were formulated for a new church. Ground- breaking ceremonies were held in January 1961. It was a momentous occasion for which the Lord gave a beautiful sunny day in the midst of a season of inclement weather. The last service was held in the old church on the last Sunday of April 1961 and regular services were held at the Cascade College Chapel until the new church was completed.
The new church was completed enough for occupancy in September 1961 and the Dedication was held on October 8, 1961. The Reverend D.K. Schmidt of Walla Walla spoke at the morning service, and the Reverend James Hagelganz (the grandson of Rev. Heinrich Hagelganz) addressed the afternoon service. By congregational vote the name of the church was changed at this time to "The Evangelical Congregational Church." There were approximately 200 members in 1961. At this time all church services were conducted in English. The church voted not to join the United Church of Christ.
This beautiful new Sanctuary and Annex, erected at a cost of $152,000.00 (this amount did not include donated labor) was truly a miracle of God's Grace. Time does not permit to go into detail to explain how wonderfully God blessed and directed, giving wisdom and strength to the men of the church as they faithfully labored together to erect this fine edifice to God's glory and praise. "To God Be the Glory, Great things He has done!"
Interior of the Evangelical Congregational Church located at 4927 NE 55th Avenue and Alberta Street
Rev. Heydel resigned and completed his ministry in March of 1963, having accepted a call to Kulm, North Dakota. Rev. Heydel as well as the other pastors of the church down through the years served the congregation faithfully with their varying gifts and talents God bestowed upon them.
The congregation engaged Rev. John Groenlund of Multnomah School of the Bible to serve as interim pastor until a new permanent pastor should be called. He served for about one year and his clear-cut teaching and preaching ministry was a real blessing.
On Palm Sunday, 1964, Rev. Melvin Dahlstrom from Seattle, Washington was welcomed as pastor. He served until March of 1969 when he resigned to accept a call to Yakima, Washington. He will be long remembered for his eloquent and forceful messages, centered in the Word of God. He had a-real passion for preaching the Word. It was during his ministry that the final payment on the Mortgage on the Church was paid and a Victory Banquet was held in the Fellowship Hall in October 1967.
Words cannot express the praise and thanks to the Blessed Lord for His manifold blessings, enabling the small congregation to pay off the indebtedness on the beautiful church complex in just 7 ½ years. During the year of 1968, the entire parking facilities around the church were blacktopped. In 1969, the parsonage was renovated and the outside of the church painted. There was also a new roof coating on the Annex and Foyer portions of the church as well as extensive concrete repair work.
Additional Historical Notes from Joanne Krieger:
In May of 1969, a call was sent to Rev. Donald Bletscher of St. Joseph, Missouri to become the pastor of the church and the call was accepted. It was joyous occasion on August 10, 1969 to welcome Reverend and Mrs. Bletscher and son, Mark, to the church with an impressive Installation Service, followed by a reception and fellowship dinner. It was especially gratifying that even in the midst of vacation time, practically the entire church family was present for the happy day.
On November 2, 1980, Reverend John Schneider was installed as the eighth pastor in the 67-year history of the Evangelical Congregational Church.
The church is known today as the Central Evangelical Church and celebrated its 85th anniversary in 1998.
The church was known for their excellent music and choir programs, concern for missions, and a strong softball team.
The Chronicle of the Church
Here are shown all important events, the references on the development of the church:
On June 1st 1913, Brothers G. Hohnstein, C. Wacker, L. Deines and Christian Baecker (all members of the Free Evangelical Brethren Church) came on a visit out to Beaverton, Oregon where we were stationed at the time and gave us the opportunity to share their thoughts besides the ideas of many other families of the above‑mentioned church concerning their dissatisfaction in regards to certain members who were in control of the activities within the church group so their only alternative lay in the fact of seeking another location.
We advised the Brothers, above all things to keep in mind the Lord and to handle everything in love and if the members of the congregation cannot see eye-to-eye, then they were to follow the command of the leader with people in the church to unite. For instance, the Brothers reasoned that their best belief was not to be able to continue any longer with this group that we then conceded to their wishes to organize a Congregational Church and we were to lend a helping hand.
All efforts of the above‑mentioned congregation to work out their problems for a change failed. So it happened that a certain number of members broke away from the church to join the unhappy men so that at least 29 people organized the Second German Congregational Church of Portland, OR on June 22, 1913. After reaching this decision, the following officers were voted into the controlling positions such as: Sunday School Supt., Georg Hohnstein; Deacons: Mel Krieger and Henry Lenhardt; Trustees: Geo. Knippel, Conrad Wacker and L. Deines. Secretary: Adam Bihn and Treasurer: Nicolaus Koehler. Pastor Hagelganz was called to be the spiritual adviser (clergyman) of the Congregation. Then on July 9, 1913, the council of the newly organized was sworn in and the church was accepted as a united Congregational church.
The assignment which the minister undertook of this church was to be given the privilege via an understanding that he could live out in Beaverton was no easy decision. From all sides there was opposition to reckon with especially from those who were to assist from the very beginning of the organization of the congregation but none reneged about continuing with the project. At all times, thanks to the strength of the brothers working too‑ether, the Lord soon allowed us His Honor to celebrate the victory. Also, to the Beaverton Congregation (which the minister served at the same time he served the 2nd Church in Portland) belongs all recognition and honor for their strong assistance in building our church; in the fact, that they felt they belonged to the new edifice and allowed their minister to travel to Portland every second Sunday to administer and continue to build the work of the Lord.
Especially did Miss Elisabeth Boeckel (now Mrs. Yost) make herself available by giving her time and energy to arrange for an organist. Miss Boeckel did resign her membership, an obligation as a member from the Christian Endeavor of the Ebenezer Church and took the not so very‑prized position to become organist of our church. The leaders of this church praised the services of Mrs. Yost very highly.
The group purchased a lot on N.E. 8th and Skidmore St. and still built in the summer of 1913 at the cost of $4000.00, a building (God's House) in the neighborhood of 32’ x 42’. For the collection to finance this building, the members supported the project very well and so the work of the Lord continued to be blessed. Since the number of members increased all the time, God's house in time, became too small and we became aware of the fact that we needed to increase the facilities which occurred in the year 1921. The main sanctuary was enlarged 30 more feet and the entire building received a basement as it all stands today. The total cost of this remodeling project reached the mark of $7500.00 of which the contractor came up with a grant of $1000.00 and a $1700.00 loan.
Ladies Aid Society of the Second German Congregational Church. Mrs. Hagelganz is in the center of the front row looking down.
The Ladies Aid which already in the fall of 1913 was organized with only 12 women grew into a large group and gained members during this entire time; its best main factor via the building of the congregation. The Sunday School that was organized with 30 members counts over 250 members today. The Christian‑Endeavor at the time of our organizing totaled 25 members and now counts over 100 members today. Not less than 150 souls are known of the 14 age group to walk in the Forgiveness of the Blood of the Lamb.
In the Year 1927, the congregation purchased the parsonage and paid $4100.00 for it. The entire property of the congregation then consisted of 100’ x 100’.
Interior of the Second German Church. Photo courtesy of Frederick Schreiber
In 1927, Pastor Hagelganz left the church and Pastor H. G. Zorn was called to replace him to serve the church only from 1927‑1929. During this time the congregation lost 60 members. Pastor Zorn left the church in the spring of 1929 to be replaced by the Rev. Hagelganz who returned to his flock again. He accepted the position on June 1, 1929. From June 1929 to June 1930, the church won 66 new members. In‑between, God's House needed to be enlarged again so it was decided to accomplish that in July 1932; so it was begun on August 1, 1932. Under the leadership of Mr. Henry Miller as architect and L. A. Wick with O. M. Martinson as the builder, the church was enlarged sideways adding 16' to the south of the building giving space of 58’ by 72’ beside the choir loft. This new addition cost $8000.00 besides the pipe organ. The building committee consisted of the following persons: Pastor Hagelganz, H. Wolf, P. Emmert, John Miller, Phil. Sittner, D. Metzler, John Schleuning, J.A. Krieger, Henry Schneider, John Mueller and George Mill. An 8‑set pipe organ with chimes was acquired by the Junior Ladies Aid and the Christian Endeavor Group from the Guenther Organ Co. for the low price of $2,000.00. In normal times the cost of this organ would have been twice this much.
Webmaster note: The First German Congregational Ebenezer Church (Ersten Deutschen Kongregationalen Ebenezer Kirche) was the first and mother church in Portland, organized on April 24, 1892. When Second German Congregational Church was founded in 1913, it was indeed the second German Congregational Church in Portland having joined the Congregational Conference at the time of it's beginning in 1913.
Second German Congregational Church (Portland, Oregon) 1938 Confirmation Class. Top row from left to right: Irene Kniss, Clifford Lorenz, unknown, Reverend Hagelganz, unknown, Kenneth Hume, Esther Will. The two girls listed as unknown are Louisa Hinkel and Helen Gabel, but it is unknown which one is which. Middle row from left to right: Ernest Stephan, Roy Axt, church building, Herbert Frank, Henry Funk. Bottom row from left to right: Alvin Leichner, Edward Miller, Neoma Sinner, Wilhelm Stricker, Roy Schneider.
Confirmation Class photo of 1934 courtesy of Frederick Schreiber
Names of those pictured in the confirmation photo: Emma Rady, Lorena Krieger, Emma Weitzel, Elenora Fritzler, Esther Metzler, Amalia Schneider, Lydia Sittner, Esther Burbach, Frieda Schimpf, Margaret Kiltow, Esther Miller, Rose Grasmick, Emilie Meier, Marcell Weitzel, Henrich Wolf, Rudolf Schlotthauer, Victor Gomer, Walter Schreiber, Carlen Wensrich, Conrad Leichner and Pastor Heinrich Hagelganz.
1932 confirmation class photo and program courtesy of Vickie Willman Burns