St. Philip Evangelical Lutheran Church - A Brief History
The Lutheran Hour was and continues to be a strong Christian message on radio that attracts a vast listening audience. With this as a backdrop, the Rev. Katz was in charge of developing Lutheran Missions in the Greater Cleveland area.
In 1928, Rev. Katz had a discussion with Sallie O’Bryant, a domestic worker in his home, regarding the possibility of starting a Black Lutheran mission in the Cleveland area. The first meeting was held in her home at 6012 Kinsman. Later in 1928 the Mission was organized into a congregation, with Pastor Huffenberger being sent to pastor the mission for a short period of time.
Rev. Ernst Mueller, a missionary at heart, became the pastor of the congregation in 1929. Under Pastor Mueller’s leadership, the congregation chose to move into a school house behind St. Peter’s Sanctuary, a church located at East 79th Street and Sherman Avenue. In 1938, St. Philip purchased the entire property from the Women’s Missionary Society.
In 1945, after laying the foundation for a solid congregation, Pastor Mueller accepted a call to Canada, some ninety miles from his birth place. This left the church without a pastor, for about one year.
At this time the war was coming to a close, and many soldiers were returning to their homes. In April of 1946, Luther H. Robinson, an Army chaplain with the rank of Captain, was called as the pastor of St. Philip Lutheran Church.
Under the leadership of Reverend Robinson St. Philip broke ground for our present building in 1957 and St. Philip became a self-supporting congregation in 1960. One of Rev. Robinson’s greatest strengths was his firm commitment for equality among all Lutherans. He was instrumental in pushing for and being accepted into the Central District of the Missouri Synod as a congregation and as its minister. In 1961, after 17 years as Pastor of St. Philip, Rev. Robinson accepted a call to Cincinnati, Ohio.
In the 1960’s our country was undergoing many rapid changes. The bid for Black equality in this nation was led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, and the Lord once again blessed this congregation by sending us another shepherd who was relevant for the times in which we lived. In October, 1963, Pastor Floyd T. McAdoo came to us from Jacksonville, Florida. Under his leadership much of the renovation of our present sanctuary took place. Rev. McAdoo led our congregation for twenty-two years. Not only was Rev. McAdoo an inspirational preacher with respect to doctrine and scripture, but he was an activist in the Civil Rights movements. His ability to relate to all ages, was outstanding. One of his most memorable achievements was to equip the lay members of our congregation to do the job that God would have them to do. Also under his leadership St. Philip was able to call a vicar, Lloyd Gaines. But to his, and our misfortune, a disease robbed Rev. McAdoo of much of his eyesight, and he retired from the active ministry to return to his hometown of Greensboro, North Carolina.
Still our congregation was under the blessing of the Lord, for Vicar Lloyd Gaines, after his graduation, became our pastor in 1984 and led our congregation for four years. In 1988, Pastor Gaines accepted a call to Washington, D.C. which left St. Philip again without a pastor. Following Pastor Gaines departure, God sent the Reverend Edward Hessler as vacancy pastor. He served in this capacity until 1990.
After much searching by our Call Committee the Reverend Bertram B. Lewis, who had served in various lay positions in his home congregation, Our Savior, in Indianapolis, Indiana accepted our call. Pastor Lewis graduated from Fort Wayne Theological Seminary in 1990. He was officially installed as pastor of St. Philip on June 24, 1990. During his tenure and under his leadership five men in our congregation were moved by the Holy Spirit to become ministers in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. They are the Reverends Hosea Ekong, Larry Frazier, Richard Robinson, Lay Minister George Wilcox and Bryan Reeves
In October of 2000, St. Philip was again without a shepherd, as Pastor Lewis accepted a call to another congregation. However, the Lord continued to bless our congregation as we were served by some outstanding vacancy pastors. Pastor Edward Zacharias, Pastor Timothy Landskroener, and Pastor James Jasper. Pastor Alton Bruning filled our pulpit for over a year preaching the Word in all its truth and purity. A special recognition must be given to Pastor Bruning who, though at times in great physical pain, also served in the capacity of District Counselor until moving out of state.
The Lord continued to send dedicated shepherds to us such as Pastor Alan Trapp (pastor of St. John Lutheran Church, South Euclid) who served as a replacement for Pastor Bruning. He consistently made sure we received the Word each Sunday preached in purity and truth. When Pastor Trapp became ill and was unable to continue assisting our congregation, we were blessed to be under the spiritual guidance of Pastor Jeffrey Stephens of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Shaker Heights who not only provided us with spiritual guidance but who also assisted us in another Call Process as we continually prayed for and sought our own shepherd. In addition the Reverend John Vitello ably and fervently served as our Assisting Pastor. He was a source of many inspiring and spirit-filled sermons. Through the years God has never forsaken us and we believed He had great plans for us as we continue to work in His kingdom.
After being without our own shepherd since the year 2000, on Sunday, July 30, Ray W. Long III was ordained and installed as our newly God-sent pastor. Pastor Long completed his seminary training at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana in June, 2006, and on June 19, accepted a call to St. Philip Evangelical Lutheran Church as our sixth pastor. He brings to St. Philip an impressive background of experiences which promises to bring much strength of conviction and boldness of faith to our church and the community. His background includes service in the United States Air Force which began in 1981. He is married to Harla, and has two children, daughter Rayna and son Jared. We will be eternally grateful for those pastors that ministered to our spiritual needs in the absence of our own shepherd: Pastors Alton Brunning, Timothy Landskroener, Alan Trapp, James Jasper, Jeffrey Stephens and John Vitello. May the Lord continually to bless all of you and pour out his Grace to such "good and faithful servants."