Early in the summer of 1859, several Shelby Lutherans, primarily from Perry County, Pennsylvania, approached the Rev. John Stouch of Ashland about the possibility of establishing a Lutheran church in Shelby. During that summer, Rev. A. R. Brown of Mansfield held services in the “homes of interested families,” culminating in the organization of First Lutheran Church of Shelby on September 1, 1859.
Pastor Brown resigned his charge in 1861 to serve as a Union army chaplain during the Civil War, and on December 1, Rev. Daniel Summers accepted the charge. During Pastor Summer’s pastorate (1861-68), the congregation grew to such an extent that the trustees decided to no longer rent the facilities of the Reformed Church (now the United Church of Christ), but to erect a building for the sole use of First Church. Subscriptions were taken starting in 1863, and sometime in September 1867, the new church was dedicated on “two lots on Depot Street” purchased from Samuel Sutter. This still remains the present church site.
For the next thrity years, no major additions were made to the physical plant; however, there was “the evidence of a healthy atmosphere, a steady growth, and of increasing power and blessing” under Rev. J. F. Shearer (1868-72), Rev. D. J. Foust (1872-76), Rev. Daniel Summers (2nd pastorate 1876-85), Rev. M. L. Kunkleman, D. D. (1885-88), Rev. J. E. Lerch (1889-90), and Rev. M. L. Wilhelm (1890-97).
When Rev. W. H. Shingley, D.D., was called in 1897, the rolls had grown to 160 members, and the need for a larger building was evident. During Pastor Shingley’s pastorate, the church was incorporated (February 25, 1898), and the church building was removed to the rear of the lot to allow construction on a new edifice. This second church building, dedicated on March 12, 1899, “an American adaptation of Romanesque and Gothic architecture,” included the original church building, which was brick-veneered and served as the Sunday School quarters.
During the early years of this century, the church building was improved by the installation of electricity (1911) and the completion of the church basement. Pastors serving in this period included Rev. George S. Bright (1901-02), Rev. A. B. Shrader (1902-04), Rev. Henry C. Funk (1904-11), Rev. J. H. Neuhauser (1911-16), Rev. W. H. Hackenberg (1916-23), and Rev. John S. Tome (1923-25).
By 1926, when Dr. D. Bruce Young accepted First Church’s call, the congregation numbered 827. During Dr. Young’s thirty-seven year pastorate, the membership increased substantially and church facilities were expanded accordingly with the addition of an educational building in 1939 and demolition of the church building, the present structure being built on the same site and dedicated on May 10, 1959. Associate pastors during Dr. Young’s pastorate were Rev. M. P. Paetznick (1934-40) and Rev. C. B. A. Stacey (1957-60).
After Dr. Young’s retirement in 1962, he was named Pastor Emeritus of the Shelby church. In 1963, Rev. James L. Lumadue accepted the call and remained until 1983. Under his ministry the church parking facilities were expanded by the purchase and razing of Grant School, the former Nazarene Church was purchased and remodeled for parish offices and meeting facilities, and the northwest corner of the block was transformed from the decaying houses into a beautiful garden and lawn with a massive rough-hewn cross as its focal point.
In 1984, a call was extended to Dr. Carl L. Johnson of Illinois. He began his ministry here on April 1, 1984. Under his pastorate, Rev. Lynn T. Williamson served as associate pastor from 1985-89, Rev. Steven C. Bond from 1989 -93, and Rev. June M. Fryman from 1993-2001. Dr. Johnson resigned in 1994 to accept a position with the Ohio Synod.
In June 1995, Rev. D. Evan Houck of Illinois accepted the call. He was with us until November 2005.
Pastor Steven C. Bond came back to Shelby in December 2001 to serve as Senior Pastor. The church then had a membership of 871. God saw fit to bless us many times with able leadership and compassion. We were also blessed with a paved parking lot, an elevator, air conditioning, and a child care facility (the First Lutheran ABC Learning Center). Pastor Steve left on April 25, 2010 to accept a call to Advent Lutheran Church in Mentor, Ohio.
Rev. Russel T. Yoak was called as Pastor on December 12, 2010. He was installed on May 1, 2011.