ONE HUNDRED FIFTY YEARS, continued
The School Reopens and the Church is Remodeled in the 1960’s
fter Pastor Oberndorfer retired following the dedication of the new Christian education building in 1956, the time was ripe for the congregation to consider anew the question of reopening the day school. Early in the following year, Rev. Paul A. Koehneke of Lawrenceville, Illinois, accepted the congregation’s call to become pastor, and “brought his organizational and directive abilities” with him. Pastor Koeneke was eager to convince the congregation that their first and foremost obligation to God was Christian education. Within two years under his leadership, in September of 1959, the Christian day school reopened its doors. At first there was just a kindergarten. Miss Catherine Zessin, who came to St. Paul’s from Pontiac, Michigan, to direct its beginning. In 1960, Miss Anita Papenberg of Red Bud, Illinois was added to the faculty, to teach 1st Grade. In 1961, Leroy Erdman came from Chester, Illinois, to teach 2nd and 3rd grade. The new building was bustling with children.
Meanwhile the congregation began looking ahead to its centennial celebration in 1962. Chief among the plans was the decision to move forward with an extensive renovation of the church. Some changes had already been made to the building over the years, as the original pipe organ had been replaced in 1935, and in 1945 the side balconies had been removed. Now plans were enacted for extensive remodeling, including a new altar, pulpit, and lectern, and the complete alteration of the wall behind them. The rose window was removed and altered to fit above the church doors. A communion railing of Swedish iron and bronze, with kneeling cushions, was installed. Two sedilia (chancel chairs) were added, and two credence tables placed on either side of the altar. Two massive candlesticks were placed on the altar, and towering over it an eleven foot crucifix affixed to the wall, in the Christus Rex (Christ the King) style, representing Jesus in priestly garments not only as the Crucified, but as our Great High Priest. The crucifix was hand carved out of oak and shipped from Ortese, Italy. On each side of it were placed sixteen foot long ceramic, enameled plaques with images designating the creation of the world and the life of the Savior. Above all a large canopy was placed. New pews and carpeting were installed, and the entire interior was painted.
On Judica Sunday, April 8, 1962, the rededication was observed in morning and afternoon services. During the morning services, a rite of rededication was held during the service, and Pastor Koehneke preached. In the evening Vespers was held, at which Pastor Oberndorfer returned to preach. Miss Zessin played organ for both services. Trumpeters played and the church’s choirs sang. The chronicler reports, “We shall never forget that first breath-taking and inspirational impression as we stepped into our ‘new’ House of God on April 8, 1962.”
In the fall of 1963, as a final and crowning ingredient in this remodeling, a majestic new Cassavant organ was installed and dedicated. Cassavant organs are considered to be among the very finest of pipe organs made. Ours was installed with the counsel of Dr. Paul Bunjes of Concordia College in River Forest, Illinois. This organ is still in use today.
In 1964, Pastor Koehneke followed a call to Michigan, and a vacancy ensued for several months. Then in 1965, Rev. Robert Thoelke of Center, Iowa accepted the call to St. Paul’s. Under Pastor Thoelke’s leadership the church and school continued to grow. By 1969 the membership had grown to 880 souls, 625 of which were communicant members.
Mrs. Melvin Toepke was now the kindergarten teacher, while Miss Zessen moved to 3rd and 4th Grades in place of Mr. Erdman, and Mr. Owen Boettcher began teaching 5th and 6th Grades. Pastor Thoelke, who with his wife Nancy raised eight children in Kewanee, served faithfully for eight prosperous years. By 1973, St. Paul’s had grown to 927 baptized members, of which 624 were communicants. The average worship attendance per Sunday was 366.
During the 1970’s, the school situation began to deteriorate. Teachers came and went rather rapidly. Mrs. Toepke resigned in 1971 to care for her mother, and another recent hire resigned to start a family. Suddenly the Board of Education found itself scrambling to maintain sufficient faculty for the school. The congregation decided in 1972 to combine Grades 1-3 and Grades 4-6, noting that the school was experiencing a gradual decline in enrollment, and, facing financial challenges, also began to charge tuition for non-members’ children.
In 1972 the voters also began to discuss the sale of the parsonage, as the newer practice of pastors owning their own homes was becoming more popular.
In the same year, it was also first suggested that women be allowed to vote in congregational meetings.
On the national scene, trouble was brewing in the Missouri Synod. Pastor Thoelke reported to the congregation on unrest in Lutheran colleges.
When Dr. Jacob Preus was elected to the Synodical Presidency in 1969 in a surprising upset of incumbent Dr. Oliver Harms, it would mark the beginning of a resurgence of Synodical conservatism which had been eroding over the previous decade. In particular, the seminary in St. Louis had become a hotbed of controversy, as the faculty majority had begun questioning the historical veracity of the Scriptures. The election of Dr. Preus led to an investigation of the St. Louis faculty, and although the faculty was ultimately cleared of false doctrine, the election of a new Board of Regents at the 1973 convention led to the suspension of Seminary President Dr. John Tietjen. This resulted in a nationally publicized and televised walkout in January of 1974, in which the majority of faculty and students left the seminary to form “Seminex” (a self-designation as a “seminary-in-exile”) and eventually a new Synod, the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AELC). But a minority remnant of faculty and students dug in their heels, determined to maintain the St. Louis seminary as a stronghold of conservative and confessional Lutheranism. With help from professors from the sister seminary in Springfield, Illinois doing double duty, the seminary survived. Within just a few years, predictions of seminary’s demise proved beyond all doubt to be premature, as the enrollment returned to its previous levels. The Missouri Synod had weathered the storm. Meanwhile the AELC would at length merge with two larger American Lutheran church bodies to form what is today the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
The Wegener Years
In February of 1973, Pastor Thoelke followed a call to Buena Park, California. Pastor Eldor Haake of Rock Island served faithfully as vacancy pastor, and guided the congregation through a short-lived vacancy. By August, Rev. Kenneth Wegener of Mattoon, Illinois had accepted the congregation’s call to become the next pastor. He would become St. Paul’s’ second-longest serving pastor, with a tenure second in length only to Pastor Oberndorfer’s.
The parsonage was completely redecorated before the arrival of Pastor Wegener with his wife Yvonne and two children, but as matters played out, the redecoration would ultimately serve to raise the sale value, as the new pastor and congregational leaders would in just a few years follow through on plans for him to purchase his own home.
In April of 1975, the word “male” was finally omitted from the constitution under voters’ eligibility, and women’s suffrage was inaugurated at St. Pauls, by a 13 to 2 vote, though an expressed stipulation was added that Elders and the Chairman must be male. At the October 1975 meeting, four of the 23 members in attendance at the voters’ assembly were women.
In 1978 the congregation observed the 75th anniversary of the building’s dedication. Pastor Koehneke returned to preach for the service.
During these years the Elders confronted the tricky issue of how to deal with the “very delinquent members on our church membership rolls,” while at the same time “cottage meetings” began to be held in various members’ homes, for all church members to attend, intended for “spiritual benefit and fellowship.”
In the late ’70s, the Trustees were busy. The parsonage was sold. Repairs were made to the church’s stained glass windows, and the steeple was also repaired.
In 1986 a new sound system for the church was installed, and in 1987 the interior of the church was plastered and painted, and a narthex expansion was considered.
In 1974, with school enrollment in the low 50s, years of a high turnover rate of teachers, and of two principals in two consecutive school years, Mr. Lloyd Luehmann came to St. Paul’s to be teacher and principal. He would remain for 19 years. Another new teacher, Miss Lois Frerking, would also come to stay for 15 years.
With this new stability the school began to grow again. The growth was also attributed to an increase in the kindergarten population. By 1985, total school enrollment had more than doubled, to 128.
But the problem of funding for the school remained, and in 1985, the Board of Education began considering the adaptation of a tuition paying policy for members. Although this did not materialize, the tuition for non-members and the registration fee for members began to see significant increases. These increases led to a loss of 17 students, but by 1988, the school had recovered, with a record enrollment of 139 students.
In 1989, the preschool program was still burgeoning, the 1st and 2nd grade class was made into two separate classes, and the congregation even began to discuss the addition of a 7th and 8th grade. But the necessary startup funds could not be raised, so that dream never became reality. Meanwhile Miss Frerking left St. Paul’s for Murphysboro, Illinois, after 15 years of service here.
The school’s financial dilemma still loomed, and by 1991 the faculty was reduced in size, as 1st and 2nd grades were combined again. Then in 1993, Mr. Luehmann took a new position at Austin, Minnesota, and Miss Frerking was called back to St. Paul’s from Murphysboro to replace him as principal.  Yet the problem of insufficient funds festered. This led to the beginning of occasional “minute man” talks by lay leaders following Sunday services, in hopes of increasing donations.
The end of 1994 marked the retirement of Pastor Wegener, after serving St. Paul’s for 21 years. The call process was initiated in the fall of that year, and Rev. Dean Dummer of Geneseo became the vacancy pastor. A call was extended to Rev. Timothy Quill, but he declined, and the call process continued. Late that winter a call was extended to Rev. Burnell Eckardt of Berlin, Wisconsin, and he accepted, bringing his wife Carol and six sons to Kewanee in the summer of 1995.
-to be concluded in the July Newsletter.
A letter from Jean Russell
Dear Friends at St. Paul's
Mere words cannot express my gratitude for the wonderful surprise party given in my honor for my retirement from the organist position. The food, decorations, cake and beautiful picture was way more than I ever would have expected, so it is all greatly appreciated. Having the green paraments with my name on them is really truly very special for me. I have considered it a joy and an honor to play the organ for St. Paul's and a gift I will cherish forever. Thank you for allowing me to serve the Lord in this respect for so long.
I still can’t figure out how all of you kept it a secret from me.
In Christ's Love,
Trinity Sunday June 3rd
Our traditional Mass for this First Class Feast, which always comes at the end of the Pentecost Octave, will be preceded by a recitation of the Athanasian Creed.
6/17/1967 Robert and Mary Beth Jones
6/18/1960 Sandra and John Verplaetse
6/18/1977 Fr. Burnell and Carol Eckardt
6/18/1966 Don and Sue Murphy
6/19/1977 Dana and Carol McReynolds
6/19/1966 William and Judy Thompson
6/24/1989 Tony and Mindie Fisher
6/27/1954 Monroe and Lucille Kemerling
6/27/1981 Steve and Gail Peart
6/28/1958 Dale and Anna Baker
June Ushers: Alan Kraklow (chairman), Steve Kraklow, Tom Wells, Bob Bock
A letter from US Farm Report Church Salute
We have received your email with the requested [sesquicentennial] information on your Church, St. Paul’s Evangelical-Lutheran. The Church is scheduled to air the weekend of August 11th – 12th, 2012 on U.S. Farm Report in the Church Salute segment.
Please check your local TV listings for actual day and time. If you are unable to view via television, please go to our website www.usfarmreport.com. The website is updated each Monday morning with the most recent show available after that time.
Farm Journal Media
54516 Indiana State Route 933 N
South Bend, IN 46637
6/5 Mirilda Greiert
6/5 Linda Rowe
6/15 Jill Powers
6/16 Berniece Harris
First Tuesday activity moved
As Pastor and Carol will be on their 35th anniversary vacation during the first week in June, we have moved first Tuesday activities to the second Tuesday of June: Altar Guild, Vespers, and Elders will be held on June 12, beginning as usual at with Altar Guild at 6 pm, Vepers at 6:45, and Elders at 7:15.
July 1st, Big Day!
Sesquicentennial Celebration and Ordination Anniversary
Three events in one day:
1) St. Paul’s, 150 years
Mark your calendars! We will be observing the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul (normally on June 29th) on Sunday, July 1st, this year, to coincide with our sesquicentennial festivities. This is our congregation’s Feast of Title, locally a First Class Feast. This is the second of three sesquicentennial observances. The first was a midweek service last January (the conversion of St. Paul, January 24th), and the last will be at Oktoberfest.
2) Church Picnic
Our annual church picnic, normally scheduled for the last week in June, is also scheduled this year for July 1st, at the shelter house at Northeast Park, to coincide with our celebration. We’ll head out there right after church for brats etc. as usual, and a day of frolicking in the sun and some good times together. Bring your Frisbees, your tennis rackets, your bats and balls, or whatever else you’d like to bring, to have some fun.
The third and final celebration will come at this year’s Oktoberfest, on October 7th. Pastor Kenneth Wegener, who served here for 21 years, will be our special guest preacher at the 5 pm Vespers service, and he and his wife Yvonne our honored guests at the Oktoberfest banquet that Sunday night.
At this second (July 1st) celebration, Pastor Eckardt will preach.
3) Pastor Eckardt’s ministry, 30 years
Then at 5 pm on the same day, by a decision of the Elders and Church Council, a special Vespers service will be held to observe Pastor Eckardt’s 30th anniversary of his ordination. A special guest preacher will be here, the Rev. Dr. Karl Fabrizius from Our Father Lutheran Church in Greenfield, Wisconsin. Pastor Fabrizius, a close personal friend of Pastor Eckardt, was the preacher at Pastor Eckardt’s installation here in 1995.
Following the 5:00 service a pizza party is planned in the cafeteria (there should be other food for people who don’t want pizza).
What a great excuse for a party! Make a day of it!
Mary Hamilton at home; Mark Baker at home; Anna Baker at home; Mirilda Greiert at Kewanee Care; Ruth Snider at Hillcrest Home in Geneseo; Emmy Wear at Williamsfield Home in Williamsfield.
Altar Guild notes
· No mass on the weekdays of June 4-8, or on Saturday evening, June 9.
· No mass on Wednesday, June 20th.
· No mass on Saturday evening, June 30th.
· Altar color is WHITE for Trinity Sunday (June 3) and its octave (including Sunday, June 10).
· After Sunday mass June 10, Altar color changes to GREEN, for weekday services that week, and for Sunday, June 17th and the week following.
· Sunday, June 24th is The Nativity of St. John the Baptist. Altar color is WHITE for this day. The color goes back to green for the weekday services.
· No mass on Saturday evening, June 30th. Sunday, July 1st we observe the Feast of SS Peter and Paul, and the altar color is RED.
· Sunday evening vespers July 1st a Vespers is scheduled for 5 pm to observe Pastor Eckardt’s 30th ordination. The color is RED.
· Altar color goes back to green following July 1st.
Council Meets Second Wed.
Due to scheduling conflicts, the Church Council will meet the second Wednesday this month.
Pastor and Carol to observe anniversary in California
Pastor and Carol will be observing their 35th anniversary this month, and so have planned a trip to Yosemite National Park in California. They plan to leave Sunday afternoon, June 3rd, and return late Satuday night, June 9th. No services are scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday that week.
Concordia Catechetical Academy
The Concordia Catechetical Academy is holding its annual conference at Waukesha, Wisconsin, June 20-22. Pastor is a scheduled speaker at the event this year. Mass will not be held here on Wednesday the 20th. Anyone interested in details for this fine conference (which many lay people attend) log on at www.peacesussex.org or consult pastor.
This series, containing brief liturgical questions and Pastor Eckardt’s answers, began to appear in 1995, as a regular feature in this newsletter. It is being temporarily suspended due to a long history section in this newsletter.
 Teachers that came and went over the next fifteen years included Miss Beth Doversberger, Miss Letitia Koepke, Miss Sara Schwefel, Mrs. Darla Scharz, Mrs. Glenda Rittmeyer, Mrs. Donna Krahn, Mrs. Peggy Kord, Mrs. Diane Ward, and Miss Sherry Anderson.
 Other teachers during these later years included Miss Tammy Brock, Mrs. Miriam Luehmann (wife of the principal), Miss Tracy Gehrke, Mrs. Shelly Dartmann, Miss Jena Boltmann, Mrs. Carmen Foster, Mr. Joseph Cleland, and Mr. Stephen Benson.