Humble Beginnings: Concordia Celebrates 130 Years of Service

July 5, 2011

This year Concordia Lutheran Ministries marks the 130th anniversary of service to others a milestone we're both proud of and humbled by.

We're proud of our resilience through difficult times, the number of lives touched in some way by our care, our commitment to spreading God's Word, our careful stewardship? But through all this, we're humbled by the fact that it's all the work of our Creator. Everything we have belongs to God we're just the temporary caretakers.

Throughout our 130 years, we've seen and been through a lot. We've also changed a good deal. Did you know Concordia was originally a home for orphans? Talk about two extremes!

Over the course of the next six months, we'll periodically post an excerpt from our history book, along with some historical pictures of the organization. Additionally, each issue of our magazine Faith in Caring will feature a page on our continually shaping history.

Enjoy feel free to comment or contact us for more information.


Christian Oertel

...As early as 1878, Rev. Wilhelm (pastor at St. Luke Lutheran Church in Cabot at the time) had a dream to house and care for orphans in a Christian setting. Now, the pastor was very popular with the people of the congregation, two of whom were Christian Gottlieb Oertel and his wife, Margaretha. Mr. Oertel was a farmer in nearby Delano Station (later to be called Marwood). The Oertels were not blessed with children and Rev. Wilhelm suggested to Mr. Oertel that the farm, which consisted of 46 acres, would be a wonderful legacy to provide for orphan children.

The Oertels agreed, and after Mr. Oertel's death, Mrs. Oertel made plans to carry out her husband's wishes. On December 4, 1882, Mrs. Oertel executed and signed a deed releasing her farm to Rev. Wilhelm, Rev. Peter Brand of Pittsburgh, and Rev. Kilian Walz of Sharpsburg, Pa.:

In trust for the following uses and purposes, to wit: to provide thereon and therewith a home for orphan children and other children in need, and aged and indigent men and women, under the consent, direction, and authority of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Pennsylvania and Other States.

(ed. note: Although the deed was officially signed in 1882, the Oertels "unofficially" donated the land in 1881, and work was started to prepare the land and construct the orphanage. That's why 1881 has traditionally been the year referred to as the beginning of what is now Concordia Lutheran Ministries.)

In the event that the Synod should be dissolved, all its rights to the property and Home would be forfeited.

It's not clear when or why the Oertels decided to provide for the aged along with the children; perhaps, as a childless couple themselves, they understood how precarious old age might be for people without close relatives to help later in life.

Organizing for the future

The pastor-trustees wasted no time in organizing the Home. They asked their fellow pastors and congregations to elect delegates to a meeting where they could establish a formal structure for the Home and determine how it would operate. The following pastors and laymen met on the evening of December 19, 1882, at the schoolhouse of the former First German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Pittsburgh, now known as First Trinity Lutheran Church of Pittsburgh, on North Neville Street in Oakland:

Pastor Frederick A. Ahner and Mr. Ernest H. Myers - First Ger. Ev. Luth. Church (Downtown)

Pastor Fr. Lindeman and Mr. John Backoefer - Sec. St. Paul's Luth. Church (Uptown)

Pastor M. Hein and Mr. J. Keil - Zion's Lutheran Church (Lawrenceville)

Pastor P. Brand and Mr. H.F. Voigt - First St. Paul's Church (South Side)

Pastor Fr. Wambsganss and Mr. G.E. Niemann - St. Matt. Luth. Church (North Side)

Pastor Richmann and Mr. H. Huber - St. Peter's Luth. Church (East Liberty)

Pastor K. Walz and Mr. W.C. Meyer - First. Luth. Church (Sharpsburg)

The Home's official name became the Evangelical Lutheran Concordia Home for Orphans and the Aged. The pastors named above served as the first Board of Directors and elected officers:

President: Pastor Peter Brand

Secretary: Pastor Killian Walz

Treasurer: Mr. E.H. Myers


Celebrating 130 years of service, Concordia Lutheran Ministries is one of only nine CARF-CCAC accredited Aging Services Networks in the world and recipient of the inaugural Pennsylvania Department of Aging Excellence in Quality Care Award. As one of the largest, most financially secure senior care providers in the country, the organization serves over 20,000 people in the western PA region annually. Concordia offers a lifetime continuum of care that includes adult day services, home care, hospice, medical and rehabilitation services, memory support, personal care, respite care, retirement living, skilled nursing, and medical equipment capabilities. For more information, call us at 724.352.1571, e-mail us here or visit our website.

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