July 18, 2024

Immanuel Lutheran Church celebrates 150 years of ministry

Rev. Tom Queck, the grandson of former pastor Dr. George Vogel, gives the sermon at Immanuel Lutheran Church's 150th anniversary service.

A room full of jubilant people celebrated 150 years of ministry Sunday, June 30 at Immanuel Lutheran Church.

The celebration was, in part, the result of much work done by the late Pam Wiggins, who passed away in the May 21, with her husband Dean, and two others in the Greenfield community.

“Pam was active everywhere she went. She was in this office a lot,” said Rev. Dr. Keith Schweitzer, who has pastored Immanuel Lutheran Church since 2002, in an interview last week in his office. “She was leading the charge of our 150th anniversary. She was leading the meetings and had all the details worked out.”

Rana Crees assumed leadership of the event after Wiggins’ passing. Part of the event was that attendees received a gift bag. In it was a bookmark that Crees left a message on.

“Pastor Schweitzer and the members of Immanuel Lutheran Church have given a tremendous amount of time and talent to organize this celebration of our Lord’s many blessings,” Crees wrote. “With much love and sincerity, we give our heartfelt thank you in memory of Pam Wiggins, who was the cornerstone of the planning of this anniversary.”

Carol Hall was instrumental to the celebration by producing a confirmation video. Lois Hoadley committed herself to organizing the church history that was available for viewing in the church library at the event.

Colorful history

Schweitzer describes Immanuel’s history as one that is colorful.

The congregation was birthed in 1874 by a number of German Lutheran families that resided in Prussia Township. Pastors from Fontanelle and Dexter helped organize the congregation of eight founding families, which early on, worshiped in a schoolhouse.

Two congregations united when Immanuel moved into Greenfield in the mid 1920s, which led to a church being built, which is now the home of Greenfield Gospel Chapel on East Iowa Street. Their previous building of 14 years was dismantled.

One trademark of the congregation has been faithful leadership, including many pastors who have served long tenures. When Pastor C.H. Jabker retired after 50 years in the ministry, serving Immanuel and other congregations leading up to 1941, when Pastor George Vogel was installed. He served up until 1964, when he had 49 years logged in the ministry.

Vogel was the one that dedicated the current church building on NE 6th Street in Greenfield, which opened in 1963.

The May 15, 1963 Adair County Free Press reports that the most noteworthy damage done by a tornado that struck Greenfield that week was to the almost-new Immanuel Lutheran Church. The roof came off a portion of the building and other damage was done less than six weeks after the Palm Sunday that it opened.

Rev. Carl Droegemueller was installed Oct. 7, 1973, and served until shortly before Schweitzer was installed. Schweitzer, a Texan turned Iowan, is additionally celebrating 35 years in the ministry this year.

Faithful, yet outreach-minded

Schweitzer also said that Immanuel Lutheran Church has been faithful to its conservative Missouri Synold Lutheran heritage while also being outreach-minded. A derecho-type event several years ago helped the congregation to know how to respond to this year’s tornado, when several resources were available through the church and its wider network.

Countless children have attended Little Lambs Preschool, now led by Kristen Walker, who also runs B-F Pre-Kindergarten at the Bridgewater Activity Center. There are now alumni who have been sending their children to the preschool. Walker sets up and tears down the preschool each time, as it doubles as other functions for the church on the weekend.

For many years Immanuel has had a faithful group of quilters who impact the world with the work of their hands.

Immanuel gave birth to Faith Lutheran Church, at the Madison County Historical Complex in Winterset, which Schweitzer also pastors.

The church’s walls have been home to sacred music, such as the organ music of longtime organists Zelda Paullin and Maxine Hodges, in addition to others.

During Schweitzer’s time in Greenfield, he helped start the Nodaway Valley Ministerial Alliance, which is an organized non-profit organization of local pastors who meet regularly and seek to help those in need within the Nodaway Valley Community School District.

The congregation has also given birth to other pastors like Thomas Queck, who gavee the sermon at Sunday’s sesquicentennial service.

Queck, who pastors in Minnesota, is the grandson of Pastor Vogel. During his sermon, Queck talked about hope in the midst of tragedy and struggle during his sermon.

“How can one celebrate in the midst of tragedy? This congregation has been working hard for months to bring about this very special and happy day to celebrate 150 years of God’s grace upon the congregation of Immanuel Lutheran Church of Greenfield, Iowa,” Queck said. “Not in the plans were to have a tragedy that would strike not just the congregation, but the entire community, only weeks before this day.”

Queck said things that gave life, purpose and happiness were taken by the tornado in a matter of moments.

“So, how can we celebrate in the midst of such tragedy? The people of this congregation have always been able to celebrate year after year, week after week births and baptisms, confirmations and communions graduations and marriages, holidays and anniversaries,” Queck said, still asking his original question. “We can celebrate because our hope and treasure is not found in what we have done or what has been done to us, but in what our God and Savior has done with His life for His church for all believers in Christ.”

The future

Schweitzer said that as the congregation celebrates 150 years, their goal is to carry on with what they are doing.

Current elders are Ted Wallace, Mark Wallace, Doug Brown and Jerry Walker.

The congregation has said goodbye to several pillar members throughout the years and has also had its share of times of joy.

Schweitzer said he believes the oldest member of the congregation to date is Lois Hoadley.

“We still have a good group of people,” Schweitzer said.

“The Lord has given us these opportunities like the preschool, the church in Winterset and being involved in the community as we are,” Schweitzer said. “We don’t have a stragetic plan, but we want to keep doing what we’re doing.”

Schweitzer said there will come a time when he’s no longer able to serve the congregation due to his health or age, but that time has not come yet. The LCMS is in dire need of pastors.

Though he is at retirement age, both of Schweitzer’s congregations have asked him to continue serving them.

Looking back at Immanuel’s legacy to this date, Schweitzer commented, “A lot of people are in heaven because of this congregation.”

Caleb Nelson

Caleb Nelson

Caleb Nelson has served as News Editor of the Adair County Free Press and Fontanelle Observer since Oct. 2017. He and his wife Kilee live in Greenfield. In Greenfield and the greater Adair County area, he values the opportunity to tell peoples' stories, enjoys playing guitar, following all levels of sports, and being a part of his local church.