The first Lutheran Church in Keyport came about from the results of a survey by Frederick Flotheimer, a seminary student. The congregation was founded by 60 charter members who met for the first time on Sunday, September 13, 1931 and were officially recognized by the New Jersey Conference of the New York Synod on September 27, 1931. The Rev. William T. Heil became our first official pastor on June 1, 1932 with 37 members worshipping at the Masonic Temple in Keyport.
During Pastor Heil’s tenure, branch work was begun in Keansburg on Myrtle Avenue, which would continue until 1944. With Pastor Heil’s resignation on March 1, 1937, the church called the Rev. Russell T. McCullough on October 1, 1937. The following year, services were moved from the Masonic Temple to the Presbyterian Church on Broad Street in Keyport. In 1939, the property on the corner of Main Street and Maple Place was purchased for $3,000. The Parish Hall was built for $12,500 and dedicated on December 21, 1941, becoming the permanent home for the ten year old congregation.
With Pastor McCullough’s resignation in November 1943 the church called its third pastor, the Rev. Russell Hale in February 1944. Although he stayed for less than three years, the church continued to grow and purchased its first parsonage on Broad Street for $8,500. In March 1947, after a year of interim pastors, the Rev. John V. Peters accepted our call and moved into the parsonage.
Pastor Peters only stayed for two years, resigning in February 1949 to join the U.S. Army Chaplaincy. The following month Rev. Frederick Boos accepted the congregation’s call and began a tenure that would span eighteen years.
In the decades that followed, Gethsemane experienced a period of rapid growth. On the congregation’s 20th Anniversary in 1951, the mortgage payments on the parsonage were complete. In 1953, the Broad Street parsonage was sold and the present house adjacent to the church was purchased. By the following year, the mortgage on the Parish Hall was paid off and the congregation began saving for the construction of the long awaited church sanctuary. This goal was reached two years and the church was dedicated in April 1956. The cost of the new church was $52,000.
On March 5, 1961, ground was broken for the Parish Education Building behind the church. That afternoon also saw the dedication of the new pipe organ.
In September 1967, Pastor Boos resigned. Four months later he was replaced by the Rev. Henry W. Kircher. During his tenure, the church and education buildings were connected. After 33 years, the church building plan was realized with dedication of the connecting wing on May 26, 1974.
In 1981, Gethsemane celebrated its 50th Anniversary. The year was celebrated with a year of activities and special events, culminating in return visits of several of the congregation’s former pastors.
Following the retirement of Pastor Kircher in 1985, the church experienced a period of adjustment. The congregation was not as large as it had once been and members prayed for one year for a new beginning.
Gethsemane’s first woman pastor, the Rev. Joyce Seip, was installed on June 8, 1986. That same year marked the church’s 55th Anniversary, celebrated as “A New Beginning.” This effort set the congregation on a mission of renewal, both internally and externally. Gethsemane became sponsors of Manna House and the Keyport Food Pantry.
This renewal continued for several years, and continued despite Pastor Seip’s resignation on December 1, 1990. On the eve of our 60th Anniversary, the church family called the Rev. John M. DiMatteo to be our new pastor. On June 16, 1991, he became our eighth pastor and we embraced a new motto: Come Grow With Us.
The six years that followed saw the completion of important physical repairs to the church and an increased level of engagement with the community. Pastor DiMatteo resigned in July 1997 to accept a Hospice Chaplaincy.
The church’s call was answered on May 3, 1998 by the Rev. Matt A. Thiringer.
Today, members of the congregation continue our tradition of community support and outreach while working together to grow in God’s Grace and His Love, both for ourselves and those around us.