History

It began modestly enough, with a short announcement in the local newspaper on February 19, 1953:
“Lutheran services will be held in the county service building, 18 Church Street, Newton, starting Sunday, march 8, at 2:30 p.m. if sufficient interest is shown it is planned to organize a congregation on a permanent basis and expand services and facilities.”

From that first meeting grew Redeemer Lutheran Church, which stands as the oldest Lutheran Church in Sussex County. The 60 adults and eight children who attended that first worship service planted the seeds for a church that continues to serve several communities in lower Sussex County.


The Rev. Ewald Mueller, pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran Church of Ridgewood, conducted that first service. He was invited to Sussex County by Mr. and Mrs. Herman Kleindienst Sr., who had left the Ridgewood church when they moved from Bergen County to Stillwater in 1947. The family frequently made the long trip to Ridgewood to worship in their own tradition.

The intention was to meet monthly. However, with such a large gathering in attendance at the first service, it was apparent that there was a need and desire for a church to serve the Lutherans in the greater Sussex County area.

Pastor Mueller and a number of other pastors conducted worship services on a rotating basis each Sunday, until that summer, when the congregation was able to call its first pastor. The Rev. Frederick Chapman, a graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield, Illinois, received his appointment as pastor from the Missouri Synod Atlantic District. He arrived at Newton in August 1954 and was ordained into the ministry on October 3, 1954. Over 200 Lutherans from around the state attended the ordination service.


At that time, the name “Redeemer Lutheran Church” was adopted unanimously. During the months since the first meeting, the congregation had moved into the Grange Hall in Newton, and an organizing committee was formed.


The congregation was chartered with 92 members on January 10, 1954, and incorporated on October 31, 1954. By 1956, when Mr. and Mrs. Henry Dahlen donated two-and-a-half acres as a building site for a church, the congregation stood at 230 baptized members and 145 communicants.


After the property was received, Mr. Dahlen built a parsonage on the site. The property and parsonage were dedicated an September 23, 1956.  A building fund campaign had been started in August of that year to raise $30,000 for the construction of a church edifice. In December, the church received an endowment of $4,000 toward the purchase of an organ for the future church.


In June 1958, contracts were signed for the construction of the church, and a ground breaking ceremony was held July 22, with 200 persons in attendance. The new church would be of modern contemporary design, consisting of two buildings, joined by a long loggia. The main body of the church is designed with a steep roof, rising from seven to 57 feet. The plans also called for classroom and office facilities, and a fellowship hall with a kitchen. The hall was also to be used for Sunday School classes. The main church would seat approximately 250 persons.


Construction proceeded quickly and smoothly, and the cornerstone was laid during the worship service on October 12, 1958. A time capsule placed in the cornerstone contained a list of all communicant members of the church and biographies of the pastor, church council and building committee members, the architect and the builder. Also in the capsule were a Bible and a copy of that week’s New Jersey Herald. Redeemer Lutheran Church was dedicated May 31, 1959.


In December 1961, Pastor Chapman accepted a call to Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Jamaica, N.Y. He had served the parish for seven years. The Rev. Arthur W. Lesslie, pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, Middletown, Conn., accepted the call to Redeemer and began his ministry here in June 1962. He stayed at Redeemer until 1971, when he accepted a call to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Amityville. N.Y. During his pastorate at Redeemer, the congregation increased by 300 adults and children. 


In February 1972, the Rev. Bruce E. Rudolf accepted the call to Redeemer, and stayed with the congregation for almost 13 years. During his pastorate, Redeemer began Redeemer Nursery School which continues to be a premier preschool to this day. Other key activities included a Youth Canteen to serve the participates of SCARC and the resettlement of refugees from Southeast Asia dispersed by the consequences of the Vietnam war.

Another significant accomplishment was the launching of a mission congregation in Blairstown. The first pastor of the mission church , The Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, was the Rev. Edward J. Grant, assistant pastor at Redeemer. Many members of Redeemer who lived in the Blairstown area transferred their membership to Good Shepherd when it was organized in 1977.

Miss Gloria Klawiter was installed as a deaconess of Redeemer in September 1982. Deaconess Gloria, as she was known in the congregation, served as youth minister. She left the staff in July 1987 but remained an active member or the congregation until October 1994, when she moved back to California. Dennis Meyers joined the staff in September 1987 as Director of Christian Education and youth minister, and served in that position until 2003. During this time, Redeemer established a strong family ministry program.

Pastor Rudolf left Redeemer to accept a call to become pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Patchogue, N.Y. The Reverend Lynn A. Podoll came to Redeemer on June 15, 1985, from Purdue University, where he served as associate campus minister while pursuing post-graduate studies in theology and counseling.

In May 1993, Redeemer dedicated the first major expansion of its facilities. The project enclosed the loggia,

In May 1993, Redeemer dedicated the first major expansion of its facilities. The project enclosed the loggia, redesigned the office space and constructed a large multi-purpose addition called Redeemer Hall and a new office for the pastor.


In June of 1998 Pastor Podoll left Redeemer to answer a call to Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Broadlands Illinois. After more than one and a half years without a pastor, the Rev. Thomas Diamond was installed as the pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church on February 13, 2000.


After 10 years Pastor Diamond retired to North Carolina. In September 2010 the Reverend Brian Handrich was installed as Redeemer’s new pastor.  In January 2022, Redeemer entered into a partnership with The Lutheran Church of Our Savior in Stanhope to share the Pastoral Ministries.  Pastor Handrich is now serving as the pastor of both congregations.