History of Hillcrest Baptist Church
One Hundred Years
The history of our church had its beginning 107 years ago when, in 1877, a Sunday School was started in the old German Baptist Publication House on Payne Avenue at E. 38th. Street under the guidance of the first German Baptist Church. Every Sunday afternoon from 2 to 3 the children of the community gathered for Bible study under the leadership of Mr. H. Schulte. Eventually a worship service was added from 3 to 4 under the leadership of the pastor of the First German Baptist Church.
In March of 1883 the afternoon services were changed to evening services and the work entered a new stage. The Rev. J. E. Haselhuhn, who was the editor of our German paper "Der Sendbote," was prevailed upon to take over the leadership of this promising mission work. The Sunday School grew very rapidly so that soon available space in the Publication House was no longer adequate. The matter was presented to the Cleveland Baptist Union, and, through its help, land was bought on Case Street, and the first church was built and dedicated on December 9, 1883. This was a frame structure built at a cost of $6492.00. In February of 1884 the Mother Church granted this new mission the right to conduct its own affairs and elect its own officers.
The next step was soon to follow. On June 17,1884 this mission organized itself as a church with 47 members. Forty-five of these were released from the Mother Church to form the Second German Baptist Church of Cleveland. The church made rapid progress under the leadership of devoted and consecrated pastors. In the first ten years it grew from 47 members to 144. In the next ten years it grew to 215 members. During this period the church organized a mission work among the Hungarian-speaking people which was later to become the first Hungarian Baptist Church of Cleveland. The next step was soon to follow. On June 17,1884 this mission organized itself as a church with 47 members. Forty-five of these were released from the Mother Church to form the Second German Baptist Church of Cleveland. The church made rapid progress under the leadership of evoted and consecrated pastors. In the first ten years it grew from 47 members to 144. In the next ten years it grew to 215 members. During this period the church organized a mission work among the Hungarian-speaking people which was later to become the first Hungarian Baptist Church of Cleveland.
At the turn of the century the church was faced with the problem of relocation. The area in which the church was located became hemmed in by large factory buildings. The work of the church became increasingly difficult. The church sought guidance from above. A building fund was started and the goal was set to raise $5000.00 by January of 1903. Although this goal was not reached at the time, the church, nevertheless, purchased a piece of ground on the corner of Willson Avenue and White Avenue. Willson Avenue later became E. 55th. Street. The old church on Case Avenue was sold for $3000.00. The Cleveland Baptist Union gave $3000.00 and, together with what was in the building fund, a new church was erected.
According to old records, this beautiful new building was built for a total cost of $19,137.93 including land, construction, decorating, pews, taxes, and insurance. Pastor Herman Von Berge and the congregation saw their new church dedicated on April 9, 1905. Later,when Rev. Haemel was pastor a parsonage was built on White venue. In 1958 this church was appraised at a replacement cost of $179,000.00.
In 1906 Miss Anna Brinkman was engaged as Church Missionary and served until 1930. She was instrumental in bringing to the Sunday School many children of the neighborhood and helping the Pastors with visitation,especially the sick and elderly. During the pastorate of Rev. O. R. Schroeder, the church was modernized and a new badly needed organ installed. Also a beautiful memorial window was given by the Young Men's Bible Class and installed on the front wall of the auditorium with the year 1923 inscribed thereon.Mr. H. P. Donner was the teacher of this large class for many years.
Up to the end of the First World War, the work of the church was conducted in the German language, but English became more and more necessary, so that in 1929 all the services, Sunday School, morning and evening services, along with mid-week prayer, were conducted entirely in English. However, both the men and women's Bible classes continued in German.
In 1931 the name of the church was changed to White Avenue Baptist Church and remained so until the present edifice was built in 1960. The name then was changed to Hillcrest Baptist Church.
For 54 years the White Avenue Baptist Church carried on a successful spiritual ministry in what was to become an "Inner City" work as the city of Cleveland grew to a sprawling metropolis. Many prominent and leading men and women in various churches in Cleveland received their early spiritual training in this church.
After the Second World War, many young German couples move to the suburbs. The leadership of the church made the decision to relocate.On December 18, 1957 the church purchased 3.3 acres of ground on Ridgebury Boulevard in Highland Heights, one of the fastest growing communitiesof metropolitan Cleveland. On April 29, 1959 theold White Avenue Baptist Church was sold for $65,000.00 and on July 5, 1959 we had our last service there.
The next 18 months were to prove to be difficult ones. We were fortunate in that we were able to rent the American Legion Hall in South Euclid where we could conduct our services but we always felt like strangers in a foreign land. The high cost of building made it necessary to revise our plans time after time. On April 27, 1960 the final plans were approved and the building contract was signed.
Ground was broken for this new church building on June 5, 1960 and the cornerstone laid on October 16 with an outdoor ceremony. The building was finished enough to hold the first service Sunday, February 12, 1961, but the dedication service did not take place until April 9, just exactly 56 years after the 1905 dedication on White Avenue.
While the initial cost estimate to build the new church was $90,000.00, by the time work began these costs of labor and materials had risen substantially.This situation was somewhat relieved by the men of the congregation doing much volunteer work - including all external and internal painting, finishing woodwork, and laying floor tile.
Rev. Edward Kary was pastor of White Ave./Hillcrest Baptist throughout the years of planning and building the new church in Highland Hts. He served 16 years, from 1954 through 1970 when he retired to a new home in Sonora, California.
Through the faithful stewardship of the members and a financial bequest from one Gustav Romond, a Mortgage Burning Service was held in the fall of 1970. Rev.Edward Kary officiated with Area Minister Rubin Kern and Church Treasurer Clarence Adams present as the prematurely paid up second mortgage from North American Baptist Headquarters was ceremoniously reduced to ashes.
In the spring of 1971, the parsonage in Cleveland Heights was sold for $19,453.52. Therefore, the remaining balance of $20,874.44 on the National City Bank first mortgage was also paid off long before its maturity date. This allowed the congregation to have that rare good feeling of being debt free.
A 90th. Anniversary of the founding of our church was held on October 25, 1974 during the pastorate of Rev. Paul Meister. The banquet meal was followed by a program of slides and pictures, with much sharing between former and current members. Included among those former members present were Alberta Helfrich, granddaughter of Rev. Haselhuhn our first pastor, and Grace Vormelker, daughter of Rev. Krueger who served us from 1925 to 1929.
We were reminded that Ella Boettger's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Gerhard Lobsack, were charter members of our church at the very beginning in 1884, and that Mrs. Boettger was our longest time member. A voice tape greeting was heard from Rev. Edward Kary (retired) in California.
Ministers who have served the church from the beginning are as follows:
J. C. Haselhuhn 1884 - 1886
A. J. Ramaker 1886 - 1889
F. A. Licht 1889 - 1894
H. Hilzinger 1894 - 1900
H. Von Berge 1901 - 1907
D. Hamel 1908 - 1920
O. R. Schroeder 1920 - 1925
O. R. Krueger 1925 - 1929
H. F. Schade 1929 - 1933
W. L. Schoeffel 1933 - 1943
Emanuel Wolff 1943 - 1947
Paul F. Zoschke 1948 - 1954
Edward Kary 1954 - 1970
Paul Meister 1971 - 1977
William R. L. McLatchie 1978 - 2009
A MESSAGE FROM THE PASTOR
"Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city the wathmen stand guard in vain." Psalm 127:1
There are not many structures of men -- buildings, organizations, institutions -- which endure for centuries. Paul the apostle wrote about building on the only true foundation of the church -- Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). That is building for eternity.
On June 17, 1984 it will be one hundred years since forty-seven baptized believers banded together to form the Second German Baptist Church of Cleveland. The founders have all passed into the presence of the Lord, and they are waiting for the resurrection day, but they and the following generation built some things that have lasted for the first century. " Others have done the hard work, and we have reaped the benefits of their labor" (John 4:38).
The Psalmist (Psalm 127 above) wrote of watching as well as building. The world changes as history moves toward its God-appointed goal, but the foundation of faith remains the same: "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, forever" (Hebrews 13:8). May God grant that, faithfully proclaiming His gospel, we may continue to reap what our forefathers have sown. Let us "give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord, knowing that our labor in the Lord is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:58). Rev. William R. L. McLatchie Pastor, 1978-2009.