HOPE
UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
St. Louis, Missouri
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Our History

 

After World War II, the St. Louis Hills neighborhood was growing, with more homes being built and families moving in each year. Surveys had been done and showed that this new area of St. Louis would be a good place to start an Evangelical and Reformed (E & R) church. With the help of ministers from Eden Seminary, sixty-three persons gathered for worship for 6 months in the portable buildings that would eventually become Nottingham School at the northwest corner of Francis Park.

Pastor Norman C. Zulauf from Miami, Florida, was called to be the organizing minister, and on June 25, 1944, Hope Evangelical and Reformed Church held its first “official” service, by invitation, at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. Eventually, 154 persons were united with the congregation as charter members of Hope Church. Ellamay Rall is Hope’s surviving Charter Member.

Later in 1944 a home at 6503 Murdoch Avenue was purchased to become the church parsonage. While worship services continued to be held in the Nottingham portable buildings, week-day activities were held in the “rathskeller” of the parsonage. The rathskeller was very busy with meetings, suppers, choir practice, and, of course, the Quilters!

The first choir was directed by Ibsen Boyce, who had a small portable organ that he brought to every service. The first choir consisted of 5 members: 2 sopranos, 2 altos, and a bass/baritone. A young single adult group, Alpha Iota, was formed and over the years, they were busy with many activities, including staging a melodrama and a play.

In 1945 land at the southeast corner of Francis Park was purchased for $16,800 and ground was broken for the new church on August 9, 1948. The Chapel and Education Building were dedicated in 1950; membership at that time had grown to 266!

 

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By 1955 membership was over 800 and a larger Sanctuary and more educational space was needed. Sunday School was growing; the Primary group at times had more than 50 children. When the new building, which was joined to the first building by an 87-foot tower, was dedicated in 1957, 100 new members were welcomed into the Hope family, bringing the total membership to 1100!

The next years saw tremendous growth and prosperity for Hope Church. In 1957 the E & R Church merged with the Congregational Christian Churches to become the United Church of Christ. In 1963 a 2200-pound Memorial Bell was imported from Holland and placed in the church tower. The entire building was air conditioned in 1964.

During the summer of 1961 Reverend Zulauf participated in a European pulpit exchange. Reverend Zulauf and his family went to England, and Reverend Derek Stockwell and his family came to serve Hope Church. Mrs. Stockwell loved the modern conveniences she had here in the United States. Reverend Stockwell, a prim and proper English pastor, was rather observant of the Hope congregation when he remarked, “when you people get together, all you do is eat!” That’s still a tradition here at Hope!

In 1964 a 20th Anniversary celebration was held with services and events scheduled from late April into June. Reverend Zulauf wrote the following in the booklet that was published on this occasion: “Our traditions … date back only a few years but they are good traditions created by loyal and far-seeing people who have believed in and have sought to have been guided by the Holy Spirit. For the ‘builders’ of the past we are grateful! Let us in turn consecrate ourselves to the building of ever ‘more stately mansions’ for the sake of His Beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ … ”

 

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The 1970s and 1980s were active years here at Hope United Church of Christ. Many strong programs were developed and implemented, including HopeMark Preschool, which was formed in 1971. Among the activities were dinners, mission projects near and far, candlelight Christmas Eves, plays, quilting, picnics, confirmations, weddings, funerals, and music to uplift and inspire in every season of life.

In the late 1990s, it became clear that the 30-year-old electronic organ in the main sanctuary transept was seriously deteriorating. Replacement parts for the instrument no longer existed, and repair costs seemed prohibitive as a wise long-term investment. As Hope UCC continued in a time of resurgence, the congregation formed three broad-based, short-term working groups to address critical issues of a church poised for renewal at the beginning of the 21st century. The Hope Renewal Campaign began.

Hope’s people embraced the problem of a dying electronic organ in the sanctuary by bringing together more than 40 people to think, dream, and plan. It seemed an opportune time to gain the biggest picture possible! The church established a Long-Range Planning Team, an Organ Renewal Team, and a Sanctuary Renewal Team. These teams began working collaboratively to assess long-term needs and goals of the congregation—architectural, theological, financial, and programmatic.

By early 2000, the Organ Renewal Team decided, with guidance from Scoff Riedel & Associates, the organ consultant, that the purchase of a pipe organ would be a far better, longer-lasting investment for the church. After a year and a half of intensive research, the Organ Team recommended the purchase of a pipe organ from Harrison & Harrison, of Durham, England. Harrison & Harrison has built fine pipe organs, large and small, all over the world since 1861.

In the fall of 2002, the organ, the first of its kind in the St Louis region, was installed and it continues to attract praise and admiration from the musical community far and wide. Numerous organ recitals, concerts featuring organ and orchestra, and regular weekly worship convinced the congregation of the wisdom of the purchase of this marvelous instrument. In June 2015, during the North Central Regional Convention of the American Guild of Organists, Hope was privileged to host one of the week’s organ recitals.

Specifications of the Harrison & Harrison Pipe Organ

As the new pipe organ was designed and installed, the Sanctuary Renewal Team, with the leadership of local architect, Gary Deddeke, renewed the main sanctuary space with a more flexible chancel area—not just to accommodate the nearly 2,000 organ pipes and organ technology—but also to bring together handbells, adult and children’s choirs, instrumentalists, vocalists, interpretive dance, artwork, and many other expressions of faith into our weekly services and outreach to the larger community. Better acoustics and lighting, fresh paint, and new carpeting and pew cushions have brightened the sanctuary and made the area more welcoming and inviting. The narthex is nearly double its original size, and the addition of Emil Frei glass between the Nave and Narthex enhances the experience of welcome and worship.

In subsequent years since the 1960s, the church has been served by Pastors John Trnka, Donald Mayer, Dennis Lindberg, Arthur Ellersieck, Joan Dippel, Donald Henderson, David E. Mehl and Ed Zumwinkel. Pastoral leadership is now provided by Sarah McCann.