A History of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church
Howell, New Jersey
Prince of Peace Lutheran Church was organized in Howell during the latter part of 1960. The Cossack Welfare Hall on East 4th Street in Freewood Acres was rented to hold services, and on November 27th, 1960, the mission church held its first service.
The first organization formed was the Altar Guild, started by two of the ladies. Later it was officially named the Mary and Martha Altar Guild. Then came the first Sunday School with nine children enrolled, the first adult choir rehearsal, and our first Candlelight Service on Christmas Eve at 11 P.M., December 24th, 1960.
We continued to grow slowly, and in late November 1962, with money loaned by the Atlantic District LCMS, the congregation purchased the property at Aldrich Road and Woodland Drive, where our Parish Hall was built in 1963, and our current church was later erected.
On April 22nd, 1963, we became officially incorporated under the laws of this state. On May 19th the Voters’ Assembly extended the Solemn Call to the Rev. Norman G. Brinkmann to become our first pastor, he having served as a missionary up to that time, and on July 14th that call was accepted.
Our church continued to grow, and in 1964 we had three choirs, started our monthly newsletter, which is the present “Prints of Peace,” and held our first Youth Service with the teens and teenage choirs participating in a regular worship service. On July 19th Pastor Brinkmann left Prince of Peace, accepting a call to Westwood. The Rev. Paul A. Voitko (Good Shepherd, Point Pleasant) served as our Vacancy Pastor for over a year.
The vacancy lasted fifteen months, with many calls extended. On October 11th, 1965, the Rev. Frank P. Jorcke accepted our call and was installed on November 14th. In June of 1966 we began conducting two services each Sunday morning, and in December Holy Communion was changed from once a month to each Sunday, alternating the services.
1967 was a year of growth for our Sunday School. We reached the long sought goal of over two hundred present on most Sunday mornings. Overall church attendance also increased, with a 44% growth over 1966.
During the next few years we saw the start of a Nursery School for pre-school children (which became state-approved in 1972), the acceptance of women into voting membership, our 10th Anniversary celebration, and a change in the order of service to use contemporary as well as traditional forms. We became a congregation who broadened its outreach program with education, public seminars, to local hospitals, AA, OA, and performing arts groups, to mention a few.
In 1982, Prince of Peace once again experienced a vacancy. Pastor Jorcke left us to accept a call on Long Island; however, this time the vacancy was shorter, from July to January. After much thought and prayer, a call was extended to the Rev. James Pierce, who accepted on November 15th and was installed on January 2nd, 1983.
We have since seen another period of growth not just in the Howell community, but also in our church. We realized our most cherished dream that in the not-too-distant future we could build a sanctuary on the corner of our property. On January 27, 1985, we broke ground for our new church. Our dedication service participants included the Rev. Dr. Donald W. Sandmann, President NJ District LCMS as Preacher; the Rev. James R. Pierce, Pastor Prince of Peace Church as Officiant; and the Rev. Norman G. Brinkmann, Pastor Zion Westwood and Founding Pastor Prince of Peace as the Assistant.
From 1987-90 the church continued to expand existing programs for adults and youth alike. Sundays in the summer included family education with youngsters through seniors gathering in family groups, with families taking turns in leading the sessions. The stained glass in the chancel was installed through the efforts of a Stained Glass Committee and many helpers who designed the pattern, donated the material, cut and leaded the glass, and installed the window. A vote was taken on the liturgy setting, with the result being that the first setting would be our regular liturgy, although both settings would be used. Also, family mail boxes were established in the narthex. In 1989 we had our first Chancel Drama presented by the Covenant Players. The parking lot was finally paved and lined, and the organ debt was repaid. Also, members of the Coptic Church began renting our sanctuary for worship one Saturday each month.
During the next decade, we added a Saturday evening service, installed an electronic carillon, began offering individual communion cups, made all of our buildings smoke-free and installed a new pitched roof over the Parish Hall classroom wing and later over the Parish Hall. This was also a decade of financial challenges, which led us to refinance our mortgage. On December 2, 1990 Prince of Peace celebrated its 30th Anniversary.
In 1992 we started our Shepherding program. Recognizing the great growth potential around us, in April of 1995 we asked Dr. Donald Sandmann (our district president) to act as a consultant and to help us develop a mission statement and five goals over the following two years. In September our new mission statement, The mission of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church is to know Christ and inspire people to be caring instruments of God in spreading Christ’s love, with joyous enthusiasm, by word and deed. became official. In May of 1995 two of our charter members, Russ Fritz, who served as our treasurer for many years and after his retirement virtually lived at the church, and Mary Hotte, who was 101 years old died. During this time we also tried to start a Jackson Mission, and Pastor Pierce led them in their first service on October 15, 1995. The Rev. Scott Kirchoff was installed as an assistant pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church, Manchester, and as mission developer for the new Peace in Christ Lutheran Church in Jackson. He utilized office space at Prince of Peace Church for a period of time, and joined us in several joint ventures with our youth.
In March of 1996 we held our first congregational-wide fair during the summer. The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), of which our congregation is a member, celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1997, and the New Jersey District celebrated its 25th anniversary. In November of 1997 we installed a new sound system in the church building and added With One Voice as a hymnal supplement. We also raised the option of a Lutheran elementary school in the area. On March 22, 1988 the mission in Jackson became a chartered congregation of the District and cooperative plans began between Prince of Peace, Howell; Peace in Christ, Jackson; and Redeemer, Manchester, to study the feasibility of starting a Lutheran school in Jackson. In 1999, Prince of Peace networked, through the effort of several of our members, with the Jackson Community Alliance to help build a playground in Jackson.
We started the twenty-first century by celebrating Prince of Peace’s 40th Anniversary in December. Also in 2000 Dee Lepley, who had faithfully served as the choir director for 24 years, left that position, and we began to plan and raise funds for stained glass around the church front doors. In September of 2001 we mourned the loss of Valerie Simmler, our organist for over 15 years. In 2002 Pastor made a report at the Annual Meeting showing that we have been at a statistical plateau for several years; specifically our worship attendance has remained the same. Studies show that this is a critical point in a congregation’s life. Also that year the stained glass was installed around the front doors, and the congregation voted to allow Pastor & Linda Pierce to find their own home instead of having to live in the parsonage which was too large for two people. It was decided to put the parsonage up for sale, after needed renovations could be completed. In 2002 the Parish Hall kitchen was renovated with new cabinets, countertops, appliances and flooring. In June of 2002 we began our participation in the Interfaith Hospitality Network.
In 2003 Pastor represented us at an organizational meeting of Howell Churches to set up an alliance of churches with the goal being to better serve our Lord in our community while recognizing that participation would be guided by their denominations’ guidelines and teachings. On Sunday, February 2nd District President William Klettke, a member of POP since 2001, lead the Sunday services as we officially celebrated the January 2nd date which was Pastor Pierce’s 20th anniversary of his installation at Prince of Peace. In May of that year the New Jersey District purchased the parsonage to be the home of the Rev. Steinbronn, his wife Carol and their children. We also benefited by having the Steinbronn family join our congregation. The Congregation voted to put a minimum of $200,000 from the sale of the parsonage into investments with the hope that the return on the investment could help finance the future hiring of an additional part-time pastor. In June of 2003 we celebrated President Klettke’s 30 years of ministry, as members from the New Jersey District joined us at POP for a celebration. In December of 2003 the Board of Directors of our nursery school, Prince of Peace Educational Center, voted to have the nursery become a Christian school beginning in September 2004.
In February 2004 we realized we could not purchase land for a Christian K-8 school due to rising land costs, and we formed a new committee to look at Christian day care centers at Prince of Peace, Howell, and Redeemer, Lakehurst (since the beginning of this plan, Peace in Christ, Jackson had dissolved) with the profits going into a fund for an eventual school. Ultimately Redeemer, Lakehurst dropped out since they realized their area needed concentration on services for their senior population, but Prince of Peace hopes to move forward and build a Christian day care/multi-purpose building on our existing property. In the summer of 2004 we purchased bells and began adult and youth bell choirs. We also continued to move ahead on “Your Congregation’s Future”, which is a program offered by the District to help churches with goal-setting and long-range planning. A District worker is helping us to coordinate studies, information sessions, and dates for our church, with the culmination being long-range planning workshops held in January of 2005.
On Sunday, June 18th, 2006, Pastor Pierce announced his retirement and on Friday, August 25, 2006, he retired after 23 ½ years at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church. After a brief vacancy, Pastor Philip R. Matarazzo was called to serve at Prince of Peace. His installation service was on August 26, 2007.
Prince of Peace Lutheran Church celebrated its 50th Anniversary of its charter with a service and luncheon on December 4, 2011.
On Sunday January 27, 2013 Pastor Matarazzo announced he had received a Divine Call from Redeemer Lutheran Church in Manchester NJ. Pastor announced his last day would be the next Sunday February 3, 2013. We are currently in a period of Pastoral Vacancy.
In February 2016, Reverend Kenneth Fosse joined our church family at Prince of Peace as our Vacancy Pastor.