Immanuel Lutheran Church recalls 50 years of history
Immanuel Lutheran Church in Fairfield will observe its 50th anniversary during the 9 a.m. service Sunday, with the Rev. Mark Brase, the church pastor.
Brase will be assisted by the Rev. Dr. Herbert Mueller Jr., first vice president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Also in attendance will be former pastors the Rev. Warren Schmidt, the Rev. Herman Kramer and the Rev. John Temple, as well as the Rev. Wesley Gillaspie, a former member of Immanuel who serves as a pastor in Michigan. He is the son of members Robert and Joy Gillaspie.
A luncheon and recognition of surviving charter members will follow the service.
Immanuel Lutheran’s roots are in St. John’s Lutheran Church erected in 1893 at Four Corners near Fairfield. Services were held there until 1951. A nucleus of members spearheaded services in Fairfield. One of these was Otto Hildebrand, father of Inez Hisel, now a member of Immanuel.
Lenten services were held at the McElhinny House in Fairfield by the Rev. Alton Koch, then pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Mt. Pleasant. Iowa District East saw the need for a mission to be established, and the first service was held Oct. 8, 1961. Warren Schmidt was the first pastor assigned as a missionary-at-large to serve the church and to help find a building site.
A 5-acre tract was purchased at the present location south of Fairfield on Highway 1. The cornerstone was laid Nov. 24, 1963, the same weekend President John F. Kennedy was slain.
Immanuel Lutheran was dedicated formally June 14, 1964, with “46 communicants and 68 souls” as charter members.
Of those charter members, the following are still members: Inez Hisel, Lois Hisel, Michael Parker, Sheri Hisel Smith and Rhonda Hisel Young.
Schmidt accepted a call to Hays, Kansas, and was followed by the Rev. Herman Kramer in 1965 and by the Rev. Karl Barwin from 1969-1972.
In February 1968, the church purchased the parsonage at 710 W. Tyler Ave. The Rev. John F. Temple served as worker-priest, serving Immanuel half time and managing the produce section at Easter’s grocery store half time. In 1976, he began serving a mission congregation in Van Buren County and became pastor of a dual parish until 1978.
An addition was added to the original building with most of the work done by members of the church. The service of dedication of the multipurpose room was in July 1980, with the Rev. John W. Sattler as pastor at the time. The Delbert Horman family presented a memorial bell in 1977.
The Mother’s Day Out program began in September 1983, with 18 children and two teachers meeting one day a week.
Sattler went to Munster, Indiana, in 1984 and was followed by Terrance K. Ellis from 1985-1989. Alan Hafner was ordained and installed at Immanuel in June 1989, becoming the first full-time pastor. For the first time in Immanuel’s history, it became self-supporting.
In September, Immanuel started offering two worship Sunday services at 8 and 10:30 a.m. The change was due to growth. A new organ and expanded parking lot were added. On Palm Sunday 1995, Hafner announced he was accepting a call to Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Troy, Wisconsin, and the Rev. Earl Kinnee from Melcher, accepted the call as interim pastor. The Rev. Thomas Phillips was installed as pastor Dec. 3, 1995.
In January 1996, a nine-member building committee was formed and directed to study the church facility and explore the feasibility of an expansion project. An architect was hired, and a master plan was developed. The first fundraiser for the new building project was the “infamous” potato bar during RAGBRAI’s 1997 visit. As member Karl Schewe was quoted, “many showed up to cook, but few showed up to eat.” Despite that, in 1999, the congregation voted to proceed with the building project. In September 1999, the construction of the 4,300- square-foot educational addition began.
By late fall 2000, the building addition was a shell, and the task of doing the inside finish work was ahead of the congregation. Members donated more than 3,300 hours of labor to the project. On May 13, 2001, papers were signed that the building project was complete.
A prekindergarten afternoon program was added to the Mother’s Day Out Program in the fall of 1999.
In 2013, the church celebrated 30 years of Immanuel Lutheran’s Early Childhood Education.
Phillips accepted a call to a new congregation after serving 5.5 years. The Rev. Keith Haerer from Mt. Pleasant served as vacancy pastor until June 2002, when the Rev. Mark Brase accepted the call and was ordained and installed as pastor of Immanuel.
April 17, 2013, Immanuel Lutheran’s sanctuary was hit by lightning. Through heroic efforts by local fire departments and divine intervention, the church structure was saved, but suffered extensive smoke and water damage. Services were temporarily held in the multi-purpose room as repairs and rebuilding was completed. The rededication of the new sanctuary was Feb. 22, with an open house following.
Today, Immanuel has 147 communicant members and 181 baptized members. Church officers are Arik Rasmussen, president; Dennis Engbrecht, vice president; Cindy Scearcy, secretary; Joanne Hietpas, treasurer; Peggy Mottet, assistant treasurer; and Ron Stearns, financial secretary.