It was February 1901 when Holy Trinity called Dr. John E. Whitteker to be our new pastor. Rev. Whitteker was a native of Ontario, Canada and a graduate of Thiel College of Pennsylvania. Upon graduation, he became a teacher of Latin, first in Canadian Public Schools and later in Thiel College. He was ordained in 1877, and served two Lutheran congregations in Pennsylvania and one in New York. In 1901, Theil College conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Divinity. Also in that year he accepted a call to Trinity at a salary of $1,800 per annum. In accepting the call, Dr. Whitteker was moved to write that “the responsibilities of assuming the pastoral care of so large a congregation, with so many interest, is all but overwhelming, and would be completely so were it not for the comforting words of the Master ‘My grace is sufficient for thee.’”
Seven month after his arrival, the nation suffered a tragic loss when President William McKinley was shot by a crank during a public reception at the Buffalo World’s Fair. The President died nine days later. This was the third assignation of the chief executive of our nation. A memorial service was held in our sanctuary. Dr. Whitteker used as the basis of his talk the words of Mr. McKinley, “Let no man harm him”, which were addressed to those who assaulted the assassin immediately after the shooting.
In 1903, Dr. Whitteker proposed the installation of Memorial Windows and vestry voted affirmatively to the suggestion. Mr. Joseph Lauber of New York was engaged in 1904 to design the first window which was known as “The Transfiguration Window”. It is located on the west side of the sanctuary. So pleasing was the first window that Mr. Lauber was retained to design seventeen more in the sanctuary. He also designed those in the narthex.
Memorial windows, installed beginning in 1904
In 1905, the church celebrated their 175th Anniversary. The celebration was attended by 500 delegates to the annual convention of the Ministerium, which was meeting in Lancaster in order to participate in the notable festivities.
New in 1911 was an intensive every-member canvass, where solicitations were made to secure pledges to meet anticipated expenses in 1912. As a result, $6,100 was secured. Added to this would be $2,400 from pew rents and $500 from the basket collections. Trinity’s active membership at this time was 891.
In 1914, young men in the congregation petitioned for the use of space in the rear of the cemetery for tennis and quoits pitching. After some hesitation, the request was granted and a tennis court was duly laid out. Tennis continued to be played there for the next 25 years. Also in 1914, electricity was installed to operate a motor blower for the organ bellows. Because of doubts as to its safety, the electric switch was placed in a watertight box in the Duke Street lawn, and the current was only turned on when the organ was to be played.
In 1915, Vestry became aware that the church property was in need of renovation, improvement and restoration. However, all planning for that work stopped when the United States became a participant in the conflict now known as World War I. As Trinity men and women entered the various service branches, Dr. Whitteker kept in touch with them by mailing church literature, and on one occasion made a trip to Camp Hancock to visit sons of the congregation who were in training there. In May 1918, the National Colors were placed in the church for the first time in history, and since then the flag of our nation has had an honored place there. One hundred and three members of the congregation served, and two gave up their lives in devotion to country.
In 1920, after nineteen years and eight months of service, Dr. Whitteker resigned Trinity’s pulpit to accept the presidency of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Chicago. At that time the congregation numbered 932, which is remarkable in view of the inroads made upon the congregation through the development of other city congregations. In 25 years, six other Lutheran congregations of the city had been formed and had built churches; and while Trinity rejoiced in the success of the newer churches, they could not shut their eyes to the fact that the progress had been at Trinity’s expense. Sunday School attendance and catechetical class enrollment had both decreased, but attendance at worship services had not suffered and income had more than doubled during the years Dr. Whitteker had been pastor. Dr. Whitteker remained in the post of President of the Chicago Lutheran Seminary until his death in 1925.
It was fitting that the man who first proposed memorial windows in our sanctuary in 1903 was recognized in 1947 with the installation of one of the last two stained glass windows in our sanctuary. The window of Saint John at Patmos is located closest to the organ on the east balcony.
The window of Saint John at Patmos
The memorial reads:
Rev. John E. Whitteker D.D.
Pastor 1901 – 1920
Scholar, Preacher, Pastor and Friend
By the Congregation and Friends
Note: George L. Heiges history on Holy Trinity was referenced for historical details.
Lloyd E. Bull, Property Committee Chairperson