The first Scandinavians came to Berlin in 1854 when John L. Oswald, Carl Oleson, John Gilson, and Nelson Evans arrived to lay track for the Grand Trunk Railroad. Descendants of some of these families are still a part of the worshipping community of St. Paul.
The first Lutheran services in the area, conducted in Norwegian, were held in the Paul A. Gade house by Pastor N.J, Elstad from First Lutheran Church in Portland, Maine in 1885. Eighty-seven people were involved in those beginnings of our church life. When St. Paul Lutheran Church was officially organized on May 16, 1887 by Pastor G.A. Rygh, There were 150 charter members, all having come form Norway, Sweden, or Finland.
The first permanent pastor was called to serve the congregation was Pastor J.H. Lawrence. Services were then held in the Berlin Mills Hall and occasionally in the Berlin Congregational Church. On August 31, 1889, the cornerstone was laid for the present church; and on May 17, 1895 the church building was dedicated. This beautiful house of god, literally “built on a rock”, has stood the test of time and is a tribute to the foresight of early parishioners. The Sunday School wing was added in 1904-1905. The parsonage at 44 Seventh Street, Across Norway Street from the church, has been the gracious home to seventeen pastors and their families since it was built in 1900.
An early historian has thoughtfully noted that alongside the above-named men, stood women as true and firm in their beliefs and values, bringing up their families in surroundings devoid of many comforts but giving themselves in selfless love, convinced of the need to bring guidance and love of Christ Jesus in to daily lives.
In 1943, the congregation of St. Paul took a bold step to be more inclusive in its ministry, voting to hold services in English. That bold tradition has continued to this day. In 1986, St. Paul entered into partnership with Lutheran Church of the Nativity in Conway, New Hampshire, assisting them in providing regular ongoing ministry.
In 1987, St. Paul celebrated its 100th Anniversary, making many improvements and additions to the physical plant and grounds. Shortly after the merger of the former Lutheran bodies into the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, both St. Paul and Nativity called new full-time pastors to begin the Second Century of Mission.
Every confirmand since 1991 has been linked with an adult mentor from the congregation to help the confirmand make the transition from baptized member to confirmed, communing, contributing (a “voting”) member of St. Paul. In 1992, the Handbell Choir was re-formed, adding a third octave of bells in 1997. The Choir is presently under the direction of Gary Rothe.
At the New England Synod Assembly, June 1993, The Lutheran Church of the Nativity was recognized as a congregation of the Synod and of the ELCA. St. Paul continues to be a Partner Congregation with Nativity and has also entered a Partner relationship with Advent Lutheran Church in Rindge, New Hampshire.
In 1994, St. Paul entered the church-wide Parish Nurse Program emphasizing holistic and preventive health care and education. Our parish nurse and director of the program is Donna Gagne, RN, who gives most graciously of her time and expertise.
On May 27, 2001 a vision of many years became a reality thanks to the gifts of many, the leadership of many council members, and contributions of time and labor and the guidance of the holy Spirit, the worship and fellowship areas of St. Paul became handicap accessible with the addition of ramps and a bathroom on the main floor. A special service of dedication was held at the worship hour on May 27th with Rev. Hans Arneson, assistant to the Bishop; Margaret Payne, helping Pastor Conway; and Nancy Stone cut the ribbon and the congregation marched in. We have truly opened our church telling “all” people, you are welcome at St. Paul.
At the November 2000 congregational meeting the congregation acted on a proposal to replace the Norway-Seventh Street wall surrounding the Church. They were challenged to build the wall brick by brick at an estimated cost of 600 bricks at $5.00 each to complete the wall, not including the cost of removing the old wall or the labor and other materials needed to build the new one. Praise be to God the challenge was met “brick by brick” and the new wall was dedicated on May 19, 2002.