St. Matthew Lutheran Church History
St. Matthew Ev. Lutheran Church was organized on Dec. 11, 1896. Under the leadership of the Rev. Daniel Laucek, Pastor of St. John’s Slovak Lutheran Church, Nanticoke, Pa.; thirty-seven men, led by the spirit of God established this our beloved St. Matthew’s. The men, though none are living any longer, are worthy of mention and include: John Balla, John Balogh, John Botko, John Calvin, George Chopak, John Chopko, Andrew Gaydos, John Handza, George Hriko, Andrew Horensky, Andrew Janasov, George Jevin, John Kerestes, John Kmetz, George Korecko, Andrew Lorinc, John Lorinc, John Machina, Paul Machina,John Matej, Michael Matej, John Mazak, Martin Mikula, Andrew Mirola, Michael Novak, Michael Ritoch, Andrew Roskos, John Sabanis, Michael Sabanos, George Sabol, Andrew Saraka, John Sekel, John Tomchik, Andrew Vancak, Andrew Volansky.
Divine services were conducted Sunday afternoons first in Landmasser ‘s Hall, South Main Street, and then in the basement of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, downtown.
On Easter Sunday, 1897, the congregation voted to purchase three lots from the Delaware & Hudson Coal Co. for $400 each lot. Ground breaking took place in the early spring of 1904, with approximately $80 in the church treasury. Members did actually mortgage their homes to help erect St. Matthew’s Church at a cost of $5,500. Some even came after work to help dig the foundation. Individuals and families paid for the colored art glass windows and their names were etched into the panels. Pews and sanctuary appointments were also donated. On May 4, 1904, the congregation officially received its charter of incorporation in Luzerne County Court. On Sept. 5, 1904, St. Matthew Ev. Lutheran Church was dedicated to the glory of God, with Pastor Laucek, Nanticoke, Engler, of New York, and Hauser, of Freeland, in charge of the service.
Members At the annual meeting in January 1905, the voted to assess each family $40 a year to pay off the debts. Also at this meeting a solemn call was extended to Rev. Karol Hauser. He and his family arrived in February 1905. The present parsonage was built in 1905 at a cost of $4,500. In 1906, the present bell, cast in 1865, was purchased from the then First Presbyterian Church.
In August of 1910. a solemn call was sent to the Rev. Stephen Tuhy, who in September of that year began his long and fruitful ministry at St. Matthew’s. He arrived with his family on September 13, 1910.
In the fall of 1922, a pipe organ was purchased and installed. In 1925, a 20 foot addition was built at the rear of the church, the balcony was extended, and the church interior completely renovated at a cost of $28,000. On Dec. 28, 1961, the Rev. Stephen Tuhy was called to his eternal reward. In his memory, in November 1962, the congregation established the Rev. Stephen Tuhy Memorial Scholarship Fund. Also in memory, a memorial bronze plaque was dedicated on December 25, 1971.
On November 4, 1962, Reverend Paul Visoky and his family arrived in Wilkes-Barre. Pastor Visoky served as pastor of St. Matthew Ev. Lutheran Church until his retirement on Dec. 31, 1995. Pastor Visoky’s ministry at St. Matthew’s lasted for 33 years.
In 1963, St. Matthew’, remembering her deceased members, installed the Schulmerich Carrilon, which daily plays from the church towers. In February 1972, the parsonage renovation was completed. Lots in the vicinity of the church have been purchased to provide off street parking. St. Matthew’s also ownsacres of land in Nuangola, donated by Mr. Michael Matanin. The congregation utilizes these facilities for their Annual Picnic and other Events.
St. Matthew has also given sons into the Holy Ministry. Rev. Stephen Tuhy, Rev. Stephen Mazak, Rev. Bohuslev Tuhy, Rev. Francis Machina, Rev. Thomas Soltis, Rev.Richard Partilla, Rev. William Hughes, and Rev. Amandus Derr. We wish to acknowledge at this time Miss Zlata Tuhy, who for 63 years served as organist and choir director.
There have been many notable people and families over the past century at St. Matthew’s. Many families have died out or have moved on to new locations. But the memories live on and some of the names of the past will live on also. They include: Joseph Hirko, George Hreha, John Havir, Andrew Sabol, John Vanta, Andrew Mirola, A.J. Mirola, Michael Matanin, Paul Machina, Andrew Humenik, Daniel Hreha, Sam Chergosky, Amandus Derr, Steve Horensky, John Partilla, Nick Sabol, Mike Sabol Jr., George “Pete” Handzo. And we can’t forget the ladies: Mrs. Tuhy, E. Zlata Tuhy,Mrs. Mary Wanta, Mrs. Anna Hirko, Mrs. Mary Wayda, Mrs. Hreha, Mrs. Lehet, Mrs. Petrik, Mrs. Anna Saraka, Mrs. Anna Sabol, Vera Tuhy, Anna Partilla Handzo, Sue Chorba Klimek, Mrs., Katherine Sofranko
In May of 1976, renovations were begun. This included the beautiful front glass door, cry room, bulletin board, and breezeway. In December 1977, the church was rededicated with a special service.
In March 1996, Pastor Sheldon Kerstner and his wife Arlene arrived in Wilkes-Barre to begin his ministry at St. Matthew Ev. Lutheran Church in the 100th year of our dedication to God. Pastor Sheldon Kerstner left St. Matthew Ev. Lutheran Church August 8, 1999 to accept a call in his home State of Wisconsin.
St. Matthew Evangelical Church recieved a new Pastor on July 8, 2001 with the Ordination and Installation of Rev. Hugh A. Pillsbury. Pastor Pillsbury and his wife Janet will now be a part of the History of St. Matthew Ev. Lutheran Church. Pastor Pillsbury retired to Maine in July, 2006.
Pastor Gary J. Scharrer and his wife Sara, children Oscar, Simon, and Toby arrived in Wilkes-Barre on April 21, 2007. Pastor Gary was Installed as pastor of St. Matthew on April 28, 2007.
In February 2016, Pastor Peter J. Haenftling was installed as pastor at St. Matthew. His wife, Marie, and children, Joshua and Elizabeth, joined with the church later that year.