St. Paul's Church
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Not unto us, OH Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake. Psalm 115, 1.
This scripture passage is the keynote of our celebration on this joyful occasion. For, if we behold the history of our St. Paul's Church we perceive how days of joy and days of sorrow, days of sunshine and days of storms alternated with each other, threatening to destroy the peace and growth of the Church in an attempt to lead it the small Congregation into strange channels unknown to the Leader himself who was prompted by selfish motives. But yet, in due time the Lord always appeared unto his Desciples and in His presence the storms of envy and jealousy were stilled. Thus we have all reason to join in the above prayer of the Man of God.
The origin of our Evan. Lutheran, St. Paul's Church dates back to the year 1860. In that year the Rev. Gran of Beardstown and the Rev. Reis of Arenzville preached to the German settlers of Petersburg and vicinity, monthly services being held alternately in the Courthouse and City Schoolhouse. The congregation did not organize until the fall of the same year. After a service in the Courthouse a meeting was called and it was decided to organize. The Charter members or organizers, as far as is known were: Jerry Bontied, Johann Stegemann, J. H. Stegemann, H. Missmann, H. Meyling, J. O. Harms and Henry Schirding. Of these gentlemen, Mr. Hy. Schirding has been a member of the Church Board for the last fifty years and is still serving in that capacity always having the welfare of our Church at heart. In this first meeting a resolution was adopted ordering the purchase of two lots with the improvements thereon situated on the northwest corner of Third and Market Streets at the cost of $1700.00 the carpenter shop on the South lot was converted into a Church and the buildings on the North lot were rebuilt to serve as a Parsonage. This sum seems insignificant for the present time but at that time the small congregation whose members were not blessed with worldly goods, found it indeed difficult to raise the required amount. In the meantime the congregation sought a Pastor and extended a call to the Rev. Lorenz of Beardstown who accepted. This godly man worked faithfully and concientously for the uplifting and upbuilding of this young Congregation. After two years he resigned and accepted a call to St. Louis, Mo. After his departure a period of hardship came upon the Congregation. Another Pastor was called who served but three months when it was found necessary to request his resignation. In the following 25 years the Congregation fared no better for they had 14 Pastors of various denominations.
In the year 1864 the Pastor attempted to force the doctrine of the Missouri Lutheran Church upon the Congregation yet the majority of the members adhered to their constitution and remained an independent Church. The minority withdrew and formed a Missouri Lutheran Congregation in this city.
After having had the sad experiences with Pastors of different denominations it is easily understood why our Church resolved to be served by free and independent Pastors only. By following this resolution conditions were not in the least improved. These free Pastors, with the honorable exception of Rev. Schmidt and Rev. Kaminski, did not have the welfare of our Church at heart, but followed their own selfish motives, and lived up to the motto: "Let us eat and drink,; for tomorrow we shall die." The membership decreased and it was difficult to raise the Pastor's salary of $400.00. The old Church building became very decapidated, debts accumulated with no money in the Treasury. Under these conditions we can readily understand the necessity of the Congregation to free itself of the independent Pastors. Consequently, in the year 1888, they applied to the Evang. Synod of North America for a Pastor. This call was answered by the Rev. A. Hammer who was just graduating from the Theological Seminary of Eden College. A time of progress and prosperity now began. Rev. Hammer was a true and God-fearing man, working with zeal and energy and the people again took heart and hope., In this same year it was found necessary to build a new Church and work was started at once. Henry Schirding, Hermann Harms and Fred. Miller were named as a building committee. This Church, which was erected at the cost of $4500.00 was dedicated to the service of the Triune God in the year 1889. The independent Evang. Church of Greenview linked itself with this congregation and wre served by the same Pastor, services being held alternately. In the summer months instruction was given in German and religion. Rev. Hammer resigned after ten years service and was succeeded by Rev. P. Weil of Hammond, Ind., who entered upon his work on March 1st, 1899. In this year the parsonage was enlarged by an addition of four rooms. In this year also the Pastor organized the Tabea Ladies Society of ten members. As the years have rolled by this Society has increased and proved itself a great blessing to our Church. Rev. Weil deemed it necessary to hand in his resignation on January 1st, 1909. A call was extended to the Rev. Theo F. Krueger of Geneseo, Ill, who accepted and entered upon his duties April 1st, 1906, and is still Pastor of the Church. During his ministry many changes and improvements have been made. In 1907 a cement walk was laid on the south side of the Church and cement steps were put at the entrance of the same. In 1909 a slate roof was put on the Church, an addition was built, the inside of the Church was redecorated and a pipe organ was installed all at the cost of $2375.04. In 1909 the parsonage was extensively enlarged and modern improvements installed incurring an expense of $2723.06 and in the present year the school house is being remodeled into a parish hall at a cost of $950.00. This history would not be complete without mentioning the name of our deceased friend, Casper G. A. Mey, who gave to us the new pipe-organ and left a legacy of about $6000.00 to be held in trust and the interest on same to be used for Church purposes only. Up to the year 1909 out Congregation was linked with the Evan. Lutheran Church in Greenview. In this year it was decided to sever this connection in order that the Pastor might serve this Congregation only and have services in English as well as German every Sunday. This resolution proved to be a blessing for us for, although during Rev. Krueger's ministry English services were held in the evening it was found that the younger members desired English services in the morning. We have now established these services holding them alternately with the German. The young now take a vital interest for we can see a decided improvement in trained Choir and Maennerchor embellish all of our services with their uplifting anthems. Our Ladies Society is faithfully laboring for the welfare of our Church and the charitable institutions of our Synod.
The Church books under the ministry of the independent Pastors are very incomplete and therefore we have no record of charitable contributions. The record of Confirmands and Communicants is also very deficient. As far as can be ascertained the following report is made:
Baptisms - 751
Marriages - 315
Funerals - 292
Confirmands since 1888 - 137
Communicants since 1888 - 2076
Offerings for charitable purposes since 1888 - $1768.09
Of this amount $1408.38 was offered since 1906. Certainly this is a splendid progress. The membership of the Church is 86. The Sunday school has a membership of 75 scholars with six teachers. The Ladies Society has 54 members.
Surely our gracious God has looked upon our Congregation with a fatherly compassion and has guided and guarded us through many storms, always blessing the labors of our hands. It is our wish on this Anniversal day that He may be with us in the future as He has been in the past until all our labors will cease and our faith is turned into a blissful sight.
Yea, may the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us;
And establish the work of our hands upon us;
Yea, the work of our hand may he establish.
Transcribed by:Pam Ross