In 1879 Pisgah Evangelical Lutheran Church was born. Indications are that worship services were held in the community prior to the date of organization. It is a bit ironic, but true that the cemetery (which is the property of the congregation) pre-dates the organization of the church. The oldest visible grave marker in the cemetery dates to 1858. It is also note worthy that an unidentified victim of the Civil War was buried in 1865.
A Brief History of
Pisgah Lutheran Church
The name of the congregation is most significant. The word "Pisgah" is a Biblical name, and has much to say about the faith and vision of those brave Christian souls who lived in the reconstruction days of the Civil War."Pisgah"; in Hebrew means "top" or "head." Sometimes it may be translated to mean "spring." Scripture never refers to the name "Mt. Pisgah," as some are led to believe, but rather as a part of Mt. Nebo. One might conclude from the translation of the word as "top" that Pisgah was a designated place at the highest peak of Mt. Nebo, from which flowed refreshing springs of water. It is most significant that God called Moses to stand on Pisgah where he could have a clear vision of the Promised Land. It was also here that God called Moses out of this world to dwell eternally with Him in Heaven.
Though Pisgah is located on a level plain, it is also a high plain in a beautiful and fertile county. Let the name Pisgah always suggest to us that here, we too can stand at the top of our destiny with God and drink of the refreshing water of life.
Pisgah was organized under the pastoral leadership of the Rev. Barnabus (Barney) Kreps. Pastor Kreps was born in 1829 in Newberry County, and was educated at the Southern Lutheran Theological Seminary. He preached for several years as a licensed preacher before his ordination in 1865. According to the history of the South Carolina Lutheran Synod, Pastor Kreps was serving a parish in Orangeburg County, known as Orange Chapel, at the time Pisgah was organized. Other congregations in the parish were Union, Leesville, and Bethlehem, Leesville. His ministry continued for five years. Pastor Kreps died in 1887.
The first parish register of the congregation, containing many helpful and historical facts, was begun in 1880. The original constitution containing ten articles was adopted at the date of the organization. This constitution, written in long hand, reveals that there were twenty-three communing members at this time. This listing we recognize as the charter members of the congregation. They were as follows:
M. L. Kyzer, elder
M. S. Wingard, elder
I. I. Kyzer
John J. Taylor, deacon
C. M. Wingard
J. W. Kleckley, deacon
G. M. C. Kyzer
D. P. Seay
E. A. Kreps
S. C. Caughman
Emma R. Kyzer
S. E. Caughman
Ann D. Rawl
R. F. Cleckly
Mary E. Caughman
Fanny R. Wingard
Mary .L Kyzer
E. R. Kyzer
Janette O. B. Kreps
The Rev. Drewry Kyzer, born in 1819 in Lexington County, was the second Pastor at Pisgah. He served from 1885-1888. Under his leadership, the congregation was in a parish with Bethany, Lexington. Records do not indicate when the first church building was completed. It is known, however, that on Sunday, September 25, 1886, the first sanctuary was dedicated, which in that day indicated that it was free of debt. The dedication was performed by the Rev. L. E. Busby, Secretary of the South Carolina Lutheran Synod, the Rev. J. H. Bailey and the Rev. Drewry Kyzer. Pastor Kyzer died in 1895 and is buried in St. John’s Cemetery, Lexington.
For the next eight years the congregation experienced a constant turnover in pastoral leadership, and the records indicate that most of the services were on a supply basis. This must have been a trying period for the congregation, because supply leadership is inadequate leadership. The Rev. John G. Graichen, born in 1892 in Baltimore, MD, supplied the congregation from 1889-1891, He was the Pastor of St. Stephen’s, Lexington, at the time. The Rev. Drewry Kyzer (a former pastor) supplied from 1892-1893, and was the Pastor of St, Matthew’s, Lexington. Next in order was the Rev. S. P. Shumpert, who supplied the congregation from 1894-1895. (We have no record of his date of birth or place of burial.) The Rev. Jefferson D. Shealy, born in 1896 near Leesville, supplied Pisgah in 1896. He was the Pastor of St. Matthew’s at the time.
For almost a decade (1896-1905), the history of Pisgah is a closed chapter. The dense fog of the valley rose to the top of the mountain, and the vision was obscured. The Church was dying. Periodic services were conducted, but under the leadership of the Methodist Church. Let all who share in the history of Pisgah be reminded of all the words of Proverbs 29:18, “Without a vision, the people perish.” However, God would not allow Pisgah to die. The congregation was in His hands. In the year 1905 the shadows lifted, and the Spirit of God was breathing into her body the breath of life.
The Rev. Jacob W. Nease, born in Ebenezer, GA was called to serve the congregation in 1905. At this time a parish was formed with Providence, Nazareth, and St. John’s (all of Lexington). Pastor Nease served the congregation for two years. He died in 1910, and is buried in Marlow, GA.
In 1907 the Rev. Benjamin W. Cronk, born in 1857 in Floyd County, VA, was called to serve the congregation. He served for three years. Pastor Cronk died in 1934, and is buried at Pembroke, VA.
In 1911 the Rev. Paul D. Risinger, born in 1870 in Leesville, SC, became the Pastor. Pastor Risinger served the congregation until 1916. He died in 1950 and is buried in Leesville, SC.
For the next seventeen years Pisgah enjoyed the longest pastoral leadership in her history. The Rev. Oswell B. Shearouse, born in 1861 in Springfield, GA, served the congregation from 1917-1934. Pastor Shearouse died in 1934, and is buried in the Providence Cemetery, Lexington.
In 1934 the Rev. L. Legare Swygert, born in 1905 in Leesville, SC, became the Pastor of Pisgah and served the congregation until 1941. Under the leadership of Pastor Swygert, the church building was redecorated and the liturgical appointments were updated. In 1941 additional Sunday school rooms were added.
In 1942 a new parish relationship was formed which included St. Peter’s, St. John’s and Pisgah. The Rev. Edger T. Chrismer, born in 1914 in Steelton, PA, became the new parish Pastor and served until 1952. Soon after Pastor Chrismer took over the new formed parish, the old parsonage on Chapin Road was sold, and a new parsonage was built on the adjoining lot.
In 1953 St. Peter’s dissolved pastoral relationships with Pisgah and St. John’s. The Rev. Vernon A. Frick, born in 1925 in Chapin, SC, became the Pastor of the new formed parish. He served the congregation for four years. Under the leadership of Pastor Frick, a new educational building was built. It was dedicated on Sunday, October 24, 1954.
In 1958 the Rev. Thomas H. Weeks, born in 1905 at Elloree, SC, became the Pastor of Pisgah. Pastor Weeks served the Pisgah-St. John’s parish until 1964. Under the leadership of Pastor Weeks, the congregation paid off the indebtedness on the parish building. To celebrate the occasion the corner stone was laid on Sunday, October 11, 1959. In January 1964 the old frame church building, which had undergone three different renovations, and had served the congregation for eighty-four years, ceased to be used as a place of worship. The building was inadequately heated, and the cold winter forced the congregation to move into the assembly room of the parish building. In 1966 the old landmark was torn down. Pastor Weeks died in 1969, and is buried in the Mt. Herman Cemetery, West Columbia, SC.
Following the resignation of Pastor Weeks, the congregation took the most progressive action in her long and struggling history. The dreams of its members who had longed for the day when Pisgah could be a self-supporting congregation became a reality.
During the first year as a self-supporting congregation, the church was without a regular Pastor. The worship services were conducted primarily by students and faculty of the Southern Lutheran Theological Seminary in Columbia.
It was in the same year that the parsonage, which was jointly owned by Pisgah and St. John's, was bought outright by Pisgah. At long last the congregation now owned a parsonage.
On June 6, 1966, the Rev. William E. Stone became the first full-time Pastor of Pisgah. Pastor Stone was born in 1941 in Augusta, GA. Under the leadership of Pastor Stone, a special planning council was named to make a comprehensive study of the needs for a new church. Pastor Stone served Pisgah until April 1969.
On July 20, 1969, the Rev. Dermont F. Swicegood became Pastor of Pisgah. Pastor Swicegood was born in Lexington, NC, and under his leadership, plans for a new church were presented to the congregation on June 28, 1970.
Ground-breaking for the new sanctuary was conducted on Sunday, October 4, 1970. Two weeks later, construction began, and her dedication was on Sunday, November 21, 1971.
In January, 1972, the parsonage was sold, since Pastor Swicegood owned his own home. With this sale and other monies raised, the church was officially debt free in March 1972. A gymnasium was completed to add space for basketball and other youth activities to occur. Pastor Swicegood retired from Pisgah in December 1979.
On Saturday afternoon, August 9, 1980…thunder…bolts of lightning… The community went about its usual business until a local member of the church noticed a halo of smoke encircling the church steeple.
The alarm went out. One fire department after another answered the call until almost every unit in Lexington County was desperately trying to save Pisgah. A concerned church family hovered around realizing much damage had been done. Several hours later in the smoldering ashes, the educational building was a total loss, and extensive damage had been done to the sanctuary.
Many members worked into the night guarding the ruins to insure a fire did not rekindle. St. Matthews Lutheran loaned chairs, and the gym was transformed overnight into a makeshift sanctuary with an improvised altar, candles, and even the eternal light hanging from the basketball goal.
With brushes, mops, soap and muscle power, the sanctuary was scrubbed and temporary repairs made. The first service held after the fire was August 19, 1980. It was a funeral service for John J. Roof, who was the oldest member of the congregation at the time. Many members worked into the wee hours of the morning in order that the church would have electricity and air conditioning.
Ironic as it may seem, a few weeks prior to the fire, the Rev. Henry M. Moody had been contacted to fill Pisgah's need for a pastor. After much consideration, Rev. Moody accepted the call in October, 1980.
Ground was broken for the new building on February 15, 1981. With a generosity of giving from members and the community, the new building and furnishings were paid for upon completion, and extra monies became an endowment fund for the congregation. The new building was dedicated Sunday, August 9, 1981, exactly one year to the day of the tragic fire. Rev. Moody left Pisgah in 1990.
In 1990 Rev. Clarence Derrick was called by Pisgah. Most notable during Pastor Derrick’s time at Pisgah was the beginning of multiple services at Pisgah to add variety to worship. Rev. Derrick retired from Pisgah in 1995.
In 1996 Rev. Daniel Bacon was called to Pisgah. Rev. Bacon continues to serve Pisgah today.
"...with a vision of ministry
that extends beyond our community to all people."