Christ Evangelical 04092024 4

Jeff Rule explains his work over multiple years on the renovation of All Saints Chapel on April 9, 2024. Rule spent weekends reconstructing the buttresses with were originally built into the chapel.

Every Saturday, beginning in 2021, Jeff Rule and P. Wesley Burrows climbed the stairs in Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church to a largely ignored area of the church. Cluttered with boxes of items collected over 132 years, it was difficult to envision the space as the church’s original place of worship: a chapel built in 1892.

Through hours of planning, construction and tracking down authentic items, Rule and Burrows have transformed it once again into a place of worship that pays homage to Christ Evangelical Lutheran’s history while creating a space to be used by future generations of worshipers.

Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, 2 W. Strawberry St. in Lancaster, will hold a dedication ceremony for the space, which will be named All Saints Chapel, at 2 p.m. May 5. Community members are welcome to attend, but space will be limited.

Rule, an experienced carpenter who has been a member of the congregation for 42 years, undertook the renovation of the church’s main sanctuary in 2017. Rule did the vast majority of that renovation himself. After completing the sanctuary, Rule and Burrows, a fellow church member and former visual merchandiser, turned their attention to the church’s neglected chapel.

“I went through pictures of the church and spoke to some of the older members who were here in the 1940s about what it looked like,” Burrows says. “When we started tearing down the walls, you could see the lining of the buttresses on the wall.”

Rule and Burrows share a passion for the church’s history and worked in tandem to transform the space back into a chapel.

“He (Burrows) would do the research and envision the space,” Rule says. “He told me what to do and I did it.”

“Jeff (Rule) is very talented,” Burrows says. “There isn’t anything that I came up with that he couldn’t do. He was up on scaffolding working for hours. He just kept at it. It was perfection.”

Rule and Burrows repurposed leftover items from the sanctuary’s renovation and found discarded items from storage. The result is a space that tells the history of the church through its items: hymnal boards from the 1960s, a piano that was remembered by generations of Sunday school students and an altar that had been collecting dust in storage for so long that congregation members forgot they still had it.

“Everything here has a story behind it,” says the Rev. H. James Tanner, the church’s pastor. “It’s a culmination of a lot of love and passion for the history of this church.”

Church history

The Christ Lutheran Church was founded in 1867 in the predominantly German neighborhood of Cabbage Hill, named due to the extensive number of cabbage patches found in neighborhood gardens. The church began as an outreach from Trinity Lutheran Church on South Duke Street.

Originally meeting in a shoemaker’s shop, a small chapel was built for the congregation to meet while the main church sanctuary was being constructed.

Many of the initial members of the church’s vestry were German-American veterans from the Civil War, and church records note that many of the church’s first pastors came from the post-war southern states.

“They probably were not too anxious to have a southern pastor,” Tanner says.

Despite that potential tension, the congregation grew from meeting in the modest chapel to the large sanctuary where services have been held continuously for 129 years.

Over the years, the chapel has had a variety of functions. In the 1940s, it became a space for Sunday school classes, and in the 1960s, served as a meeting space for a local Boy Scout troop.

Over time, the chapel became unrecognizable. Stained glass had been covered up, buttresses were removed and the original stenciling had been painted over.

Rule and Burrows tried to keep their restoration as authentic as possible to the original space, but have added a few modern amenities.

“We added air conditioning, which will make a big difference,” Burrows says.

All Saints Chapel will be used by the congregation for worship in the summer and services will be held there throughout the year.

“It means a lot to the members of the church to be able to have a restored worship space with air conditioning that we can use throughout the year,” Tanner says, “It took a lot of hard work to create.”

What to Read Next