Palm Lutheran Church 11 West Cherry Street Palmyra, PA 17078
Lutherans have been in Palmyra since its beginning. The town’s founder, John Palm, worshipped at Bindnagle’s Lutheran Church north of Palmyra between 1776 and 1799. However, as the area grew in population and infrastructure, Lutheran and Reformed worshippers joined to create the first “Palm” church. In 1845 Palm Evangelical Lutheran Church was constructed in the 700 block of West Main Street.
In 1890 another congregation was organized by Lutheran’s from other churches in the area. The construction of St. John’s Lutheran Church, on North College Street, was completed in 1891. Two other area congregations joined St. John’s under the charge of one pastor, and remained so until 1925. Both Palm and St. John’s congregations expanded for 3 decades. Finally, in 1911, Palm built a new church on the northwest corner of Cherry and Railroad Streets, on a portion of its current site.
In 1925 the use of the small cemetery adjoining the original Palm Church on West Main Street was discontinued. Permission was given by the Palmyra Borough to reinter those bodies in the Palmyra Cemetery on West Cherry Street. It was also in 1925 that a realignment at the Lutheran Synodical level caused Palm and St. John’s to merge becoming Palm United Lutheran Church. Since the facilities of neither of the churches seemed adequate for the new congregation, additional property was purchased adjacent to Palm, and a three-story education building was erected in 1929 to serve the larger congregation.
The 1960’s brought additional changes to Palm, in physical and corporate structure. In 1962, four national Lutheran Church bodies merged to form the Lutheran Church in America, and Palm United Lutheran Church became Palm Lutheran Church. In 1963 the congregation voted to construct a new sanctuary and was on its way to realizing a forty-year dream. The expansive sanctuary was dedicated in 1967. Gerhard Dietrich was the presiding Pastor at the time, and the beautiful stained glass windows were designed with his input. Some congregants today insist that the artist included a likeness of Dietrich in one of the windows.
At this time, “Old Palm Church” still stood on the property with the education building and the new sanctuary. It was with mixed emotions that the congregation watched the removal of the old sanctuary in 1969, to be replaced with a small prayer chapel. Three cornerstones have been preserved to honor Palm’s history: the 1845 stone from Palm Evangelical Lutheran Church, the 1891 stone from St. John’s Lutheran Church, and the 1910 stone from Palm United Lutheran Church.
As four more decades passed, the congregation saw changes that needed to be made to better accommodate all those attending worship and fellowship activities. In 2013 the 1929 three-story education building and 1969 prayer chapel were leveled, and a fully handicapped accessible education building was constructed. As the town of Palmyra has grown, so has Palm Lutheran Church grown to meet the worship and fellowship needs of the surrounding community.