Mattituck’s Advent Lutheran Church turns 80 this year, which was quite a feat for a small parish that began its ministry in a converted donut shop on what is now Route 48.
Some of the congregation’s 100 members recently dined on hotdogs and potato salad during a picnic to celebrate the auspicious occasion.
The church was founded on Dec. 17, 1931 by 19 local Lutherans who didn’t want to make the then-arduous trip to St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Greenport, according to a history of the church provided by the Rev. George Summers.
“It was a different world,” the pastor said. “People didn’t have cars, and if people were Lutheran and wanted to practice their faith, they had to drive to Greenport. Many felt that was difficult, particularly when the depression began to get deeper and deeper.”
In 1929, Mrs. Carrie Baldwin organized a Lutheran Sunday School in her Mattituck home, and eventually moved it to the top floor of a building behind what is now Orlowski’s Hardware on Pike Street.
In 1931, the Mattituck group, of which Ms. Baldwin was a member, began meeting in a former donut shop on Route 48, which was then known as Hamilton Avenue. Under the guidance of the Rev. Charles Menge, who was also the pastor at St. Peter’s, the group continued to gather there until 1944, as their numbers grew slightly from 19 to 25 members.
The church wasn’t a mission of St. Peter’s, said Pastor Summers, but a separate church that shared a pastor. Pastor Menge would preach in Greenport Sunday morning, and then take the train to Mattituck for an evening service.
In 1944, strapped by financial difficulties during the war, the group left the donut shop and began using the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer building on Old Sound Ave. until 1951 when the group acquired a lot on Legion Avenue and dug a basement by hand.
“It was an act of faith for the first group, who dug hole and built the foundation,” Pastor Summers said. “Someone rented a bulldozer, they got the blocks did it themselves and with friends. They covered it over with a floor and used the basement as a meeting space for three years.”
That changed after engineer Gordon Ahlers designed and Harold Reeve Construction built an A-frame structure that has served the church ever since. During that time the congregation grew to 87 adult members and 29 children.
“We had to settle on an A-frame because the walls would not have supported a roof. So it was supported by trusses,” said Pastor Summers. “It was a little ahead of its time architecturally in the 1950s, but it’s served us well since then.”
The building was dedicated on Dec. 15, 1957, the third Sunday in Advent. But the church did not have its own pastor until 1962, when The Rev. Richard Van Wyckhouse was called. Pastor H. William Johnson took the reigns in 1963, and was succeeded by Pastor Harry Pfunke in 1967.
Pastor Summers has been spiritual leader since 1970.
“It’s changed substantially. We’ve had to adapt with the times as best we can,” he said. “Our church is an example that you can be a small church and be active, exciting and alive. All of us are going to need to figure out how to work on a smaller basis. Everybody pitches in and does a little more financially and physically. People volunteer to mow the lawn and paint the building.
“We’re very proud to be able to keep the Lutheran understanding of the scriptures alive in Mattituck.”