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Trinity Lutheran in Niles turns 100

NILES — Trinity Lutheran Church in Niles has marked a special milestone of 100 years in the community.

With the theme “100 Years of Caring,” the church recently was able to mark the 100 years of the church, which was established in 1920.

Pastor David Conrad said 2020 was a challenging year for all churches and ministries with the coronavirus pandemic, but the congregation still wanted to mark the anniversary.

Conrad, pastor there for the past five years, said the church has had many different pastors.

“This is a great milestone for the church,” he said.

Meredith Elliott, director of music at the church, said originally plans were for a large event with a musical program and dinner in November, but those plans will be postponed to this year. Elliott said the church was established on Nov. 20, 1920.

Conrad said the new bishop for the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran churches was to have been installed but it had to be postponed.

“We will see what we can do in 2021. Hopefully we will be able to to do something,” Elliott said.

She said the church started at the present location on North Chestnut Avenue with a chapel. Then in 1929 the sanctuary was built and connected to the chapel, which became a Sunday school room.

“We have always been at this location since 1920,” Elliott said noting the corner property was acquired by the church in the 1960s.

In 1966, additions were made to the church.

Elliott said over the years many pastors have served an average of five years.

The church was able to hold in-person worship in the fall but by late November had returned to an online format as it had earlier in the year.

“We dedicated a banner in November to mark 100 years and also put a sign in front of the church.” Elliott said.

A series of articles on the history of the church and highlights of events that have happened over the years have appeared in the church newsletter. Topics included altar guild, vacation Bible school, Sunday school and its music program.

The church is known for its stained-glass windows at the front of the building made possible with donations from area businessmen in Niles after World War II.

“That made it unique that local business people donated the money for the stained-glass windows and not the members of the church, which is usually how it is done. The stained-glass windows have always been an attraction,” Elliott said.

Over the years the church has held a Niles churches concert, bringing all the churches together for a community musical performance. The live Nativity, which has been held at the church for 50 years, has also brought people to the church at the holidays although this year it could not be held.

Elliott said Pastor Richard Elliott started the live Nativity in 1970. It includes animals as well as members of the church taking turns portraying characters from the birth of Jesus Christ. Cookies and hot chocolate were provided to the public.

“I was a teenager when they first started doing the Nativity; we had everyone stand and be perfectly still. People traveling on Church Street would come to Chestnut Street and see the Nativity, and they would start to drive by and their brake lights would come on to see what we were doing. Some would even back up and look again,” Elliott said.

The church has a membership of between 60 and 70 people,

Chris Elliott said he has been at the church for almost 40 years.

“I grew up in the church. Most people here are like second family to me. I have known most of them my entire life,” he said.

Starting at age 4 he was a part of the church Nativity until his late teens portraying shepherds, angels and Joseph.

“I can remember helping to feed the animals, which was fun.

“The Nativity was a big part of my life growing up,” Elliott said.

Elliott said since his mother was the director of the choir he became a member.

bcoupland@tribtoday.com

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