Scholla: The Smoke Church March 4, 1942

3/4/1942              The Smoke Church

A few miles east of the Hamburg Sanatorium is situated St. Paul’s Reformed Church, universally known as the “Smoke Church,” The nickname is of ancient origin. E. Douglas Kains, of Wyomissing sends us the following account of how the “Smoke Church” got its odd nickname. Kains does not state that his account is historically accurate, but gives us an interesting and amusing legend.

St. Paul’s had engaged a long winded minister. As time went on his sermons grew longer and longer each successive Sunday and, obviously, his audiences became smaller and smaller. It was noticeable that the men folks were boycotting the services.

A funeral feast in the neighborhood of Hamburg drew many of the men of the congregation and the parson found opportunity to speak to them about their backsliding ways, upraiding them for their non-attendance at services. For some time the sinners took their drubbing silently, until one of the more courageous of them spoke up:

“Yah! Parre, awwer witt du wise was der Druwvel iss?”

“Was iss es?” asked the parson.

“Ei, du breddichscht ganz zullang, un mer kenne net duh unne die Peif schmoke.”

(You preach too long and we cannot do without our smoke pipes.)

The resourceful preacher then made a bargain with his parishioners. Those who could not wait until the sermon was concluded were to be permitted to light up their pipes at the beginning of the exhortation from the pulpit. On the following Sunday the church was crowded. Every smoker in the neighborhood brought his pipe to church and many other wayward ones in the community came to the services out of “wunnerfitz,” curiosity.

When the sermon began an air of suppressed excitement pervaded the church. All eyes were fastened upon the pipe-smoking men folks, would they dare? They certainly did.

As soon as the test was announced someone struck a match – another – then another, all over the church matches flickered and pipes went into action. In a short time the smoke was so thick that the minister could scarcely be seen. Hence the nickname “Smoke Church”.

“Smoke Church” St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Hamburg, PA. Courtesy of the Historical Society of Berks County.