St. Peters' United Church of Christ

The Evangelical St. Peter's Church in German Township

by John Dekker

This congregation was organized on the 31st day of October, 1867. The first pastor was A. Eisenhauer. In March, 1868, H. Rahmeier became their pastor, who was then succeeded by G. L. Thaden from March, 1870, to December, 1871. From January, 1872, until March, 1874, D. M. Ficken was in charge of the congregation. In the same year, the present church was built. In October, 1874, G. Loeffler became pastor, and in December, 1874, this church was dedicated.

On the 6th day of November, 1877, H. H. Dekker took charge of the congregation until April, 1900, and was then succeeded by R. Kuehne, who served from September, 1900, until September, 1907. In March, 1908, M. Kleinau became pastor, and was in charge until November, 1908, when he was succeeded by H. Rixmann, who is pastor of the congregation at the present time.

--Atlas of Grundy County, Iowa, 1911, pg 98

German Township Church Observes Centennial

Former Pastors To Return For Sunday Program

St. Peter's United Church of Christ, located 6 1/4 miles northwest of Wellsburg in German township, will observe its 100th anniversary next Sunday with three special services during the morning, afternoon and evening.

Three former pastors plus the president of the United Church of Christ, Dr. Ben M. Herbstra of New York, will be among the speakers taking part in the programs.

The services will begin at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Rev. Gerhard Hesse of Ackley and Rev. C. Jankowsyk of Bensonville, Illinois, two former pastors will speak during the morning service.

Associate minister of the Iowa Conference of the United Church of Christ of Des Moines, Rev. Cyril M. Hicks, and another former pastor, Rev. Keith Klosterman of St. Jacob, Illinois, will speak in the afternoon.

The featured speaker of the day will be Dr. Herbstra, who will deliver the evening sermon.

Also during the afternoon and evening, pastors of neighboring churches will attend the programs to give their greetings.

Ladies of the church will prepare and serve meals both at noon and following the afternoon service, plus a light lunch at the conclusion of the evening service.

St. Peter's United Church of Christ can trace its origin back to Christmas evening of 1863 when 10 persons of the Evangelical Lutheran faith gathered together for Holy Communion.

For a number of years this group worshipped in a country schoolhouse about two miles west of the present church.

The church was officially organized on October 31, 1867, as St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church of German township.

Rev. A. Eisenhauer was the first pastor to serve the congregation, and he was succeeded in March, 1868, by H. Rahmeier. Rev. G. L. Thaden followed in 1870-71.

It was during the pastorate of Rev. D. M. Ficken, from January, 1872 to March, 1874, that plans were drawn up for a church building 24x40, with a bell tower 46 feet high, and a 22 by 14 parsonage.

The church building was completed in 1874 and dedicated in December of that year. Rev. G. Loeffler was by then the pastor, having arrived in October to succeed Rev. Ficken.

Also during that memorable year of 1874, the church cemetery was platted, and lots cost for family burial plots.

The sixth minister to serve St. Peter's, Rev. H. H. Dekker, arrived in November, 1877, and he remained with the congregation until April, 1900.

Annual mission festivals, which are still a popular event, were first begun in 1901.

In 1908 St. Peter's changed its affiliation from the Evangelical Lutheran denomination to the Northern Synod of Evangelical churches.

With the merger of the German Reformed and Evangelical churches in 1934, the name was changed to St. Peter's Evangelical and Reformed church. Still another merger with the Congregational Christian churches in January, 1962, resulted in the present name of the church--St. Peter's United Church of Christ (Evangelical and Reformed).

Services were conducted in the German language until 1933, when it was decided to use English and German on alternate Sundays. This was later modified to use both English and German every Sunday. Today only English is used.

From the original 10 members, the church has grown to a memberhsip of 110 persons.

Twenty-five ministers have served St. Peter's during its 100 year history. The present pastor is Rev. John F. Schortinghuis, 68, who came to German township in June, 1961, and is now in his 35th year in the ministry.

The original church building, though enlarged and much improved, is still in use today. St. Peter's is one of only a few churches in Grundy county to be in existence 100 years.

--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 11 June 1964, sec 2, pg 1

St. Peter's Church Will Mark Quasquicentennial

Plans for the quasquicentennial celebration have been nearly completed at St. Peter's United Church of Christ northwest of Wellsburg. This small country church had its beginning with the religious meeting of 10 of the early settlers in German Township, Grundy County, on Christimas Day in 1863.

The records at the church, all kept in an obsolete German script until 1930, are sketchy at best and unreadable at the worst. At the time of the church's centennial in 1964 the late Rev. G. Hesse, then retired, and Mrs. A. Krull from Aplington translated enough of the records to clearly indicate the accuracy of the date and the names of the first 10. They were Theodore and Julie Koberle, Ainka, Johan, Ubbe and Antje Janssen, Wilhelm and Frau Tjaden, Topke Hickman and Ahlrich Steenblock.

More and more members joined this group in 1864 when the meetings started to be held regularly. They organized as an Evangelical Lutheran Church under the leadership of their first pastor, Rev. A. Eisenhauer. A constitution was written and adopted.

It had always been thought that the meetings were held in a schoolhouse 2 miles west of the church. Closer study of the records for this anniversary however, indicate the meetings may have been held in the Schutjer School which would have been just north of the present church.

It was not until 1874 that a church was built on Hickman land. Ludwig Neesen bought 2 acres and Jurgen Muller bought 1 for the church. With that the building could begin. A church and a parsonage were built that year. The first church remains as part of the church today. It has been remodeled, enlarged and improved a number of times. The parsonage, too, was added onto and improved. In the mid 1970's it had stood unused for a number of years and had fallen into such disrepair that the congregation chose to destroy it rather than fix it. All the outbuildings have been moved away, also.

Articles of Incorporation were filed with the County Recorder's Office in 1874. Sunday School and catchism were started soon thereafter.

Several names of early families of the church remain. The Spiekers were there from 1864 although they were not among the original 10. The Riekens arrived in 1866 and the Lindamans in 1867. Other families still there that are known to have become members upon their arrival from Germany are the Kruses, the Boelmans and the Vanderwerfs.

Several name changes have occurred. In 1908 the church affiliated itself with the Evangelical Synod of North America to become known as an Evangelical Church. The Evangelical and the Reformed denominations ironed out minor differences and merged in 1934. Then the name was St. Peter's Evangelical and Reformed. The latest change came in 1962 with the joining of the Evangelical and Reformed with the Congregational Christian Churches to become a United Church of Christ.

Including supply and interim pastors, 25 ministers have served the church. The present pastor, Ronald Fisher, is the 26th. Rev. Dekker who arrived in 1877 served the longest. He stayed 23 years. The church was known as "Dekker's Church" for many years after that. Pastor Fisher has been there almost 22 years and Rev. Hesse served 14 years.

The congregation has held Mission Festivals annually since 1907. The fests have proven to be a time of good fellowship and a sort of homecoming event. It is a time of inspiration to support the denomination's mission program.

The first of the social organizations was the Frauen Verein which began in 1924. The name of this ladies' society changed from Frauen Verein to Ladies' Aid and finally to Women's Guild. A second ladies' group was organized in the 1950's. It is called the Gleaners. The Women's Guild disbanded in 1964 and the Gleaners took over the work they had done.

The young folks started their society in the 1930's under the leadership of Rev. Hesse. That name was the Young People's League, then simply The Youth, and now it is the United Disciples.

The men, too, have their fellowship. It is the Men's Brotherhood.

The Consistory is a group of 6 members who with the help of the pastor form the governing body of St. Peter's Church.

Since early in this century there have been choirs from time to time. The present choir of adults is under the direction of Vivian Fisher.

Sunday School, catechism and Bible School are still important parts of the education in the church. Ladies of the church meet once a month for Bible Study. This group also forms a prayer chain which can be activated upon request.

The German language was used in the early days of the church until the 1930's when it gradually gave way to English.

The present pastor, Ron Fisher, along with his family, has led, inspired and ecouraged the congregation now for nearly 22 years. Many of the old customs prevail and those that needed changing have been changed under his guidance.

Celebration of the 125 year history will be held on June 18 and 25. Three former members, Vivolyn (Toomsen) Kenninger, Lois (Hesse) Miller and Bernard Eilderts will speak at the June 18 morning service which will start at 10 o'clock. A historical pageant will be presented by members of the congregation at 1:30 in the afternoon. A coffee fellowship will be held after the pageant.

Dr. Donald Gall, the United Church of Christ Iowa Conference minister, will speak at the 10 a.m. and the 1:30 p.m. services on June 25. That afternoon service will be followed by a birthday cake party, a bit of entertainment and the drawing for the quilt the Gleaners have made.

Snapshots, photos and paintings depicting scenes of the past will be on display throughout the celebration.

Everyone is welcome to any or all of these events. A noon meal will be served both days. The June 18 dinner will be catered and those wishing to share in that must make reservations by calling Marlys Vanderwerf. A donation will be accepted to cover the cost. This cost can be made known upon request.

The ladies of the church will provide a dinner on June 25. Reservations for this meal are not necessary.

--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 25 May 1989, pg 16

List of Ministers

NameYears Served
Rev. A. EisenhauerOct 1867 - Mar 1868
H. RahmeierMar 1868 -
Rev. G. L. Thaden1870 - 1871
Rev. D. M. FickenJan 1872 - Mar 1874
Rev. G. LoefflerOct 1874
Rev. H. H. DekkerNov 1877 - Apr 1900
Rev. John F. SchortinghuisJun 1961 -
Ronald Fisher