Conscious of how completely I had overlooked the churches in my old home town of Fayetteville, Texas, I made a point of checking out St. Paul Lutheran Church. Two things stood out, the historic marker, and the tarp up in the steeple. The Texas Historical Commission marker notes the long history of this congregation. The church traces its origin to 1851 when a pastor from Basel Switzerland, J. C. Roehm, established a Lutheran synod in Texas. By 1859, he organized St. John Lutheran Church in nearby Ross Prairie. In 1894, the congregation located on this site in Fayetteville and constructed a new building.
It’s not clear whether some or any portion of the current church building dates from that time. Over the ensuing years, the congregation changed synod affiliations several times. In the 1930’s, they joined the American Lutheran Synod and several years later changed their name to St. Paul Lutheran Church. Until the 1940’s, services were held in both German and English. The current congregation is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and is connected with three other local churches in the combined Shared Lutheran Ministry of Fayette County.
When I walked around taking photos, a neighbor explained why there was a tarp covering one of the belfry louvers. From my earliest memories, St. Paul has had a neon light outlining the cross on its steeple. That distinctive feature is one of the few embellishments on what is otherwise a very modest, understated church. Somehow the wiring to that neon lamp got shorted out by the metal roof and a spark caught fire in the belfry. Fortunately, a passerby noticed the smoke and the Fayetteville Volunteer Fire Department, only one block away, responded immediately. Their quick work saved the church, and the bell, but the fire still did a lot of damage.
I was told that the good news after the fire is that the steeple is being rebuilt and the bell will be ringing again soon. And the illuminated cross will be back as well, but without neon. Instead, they’ll be using LED lighting!
St. Paul Lutheran Church, 201 N. Rusk Street, Fayetteville, Texas