History of St. Petri Church
Many years ago, families from Ostfriesland, Germany came to the United States, looking to start a new life. Since the lowlands of Illinois resembled their homeland, they chose to settle there in Adams County.
In 1864, many families resettled in Nebraska Township near Flanagan, IL. These hardy Germans established a viable community. IN 1866, these families erected a schoolhouse and hired a teacher. Within four years, their numbers grew to the point they could establish a Christian congregation.
On February 29, 1868, the "Evanelisch Lutherische St. Petri Gemeinde" was founded. The schoolhouse was remodeled and served as the parsonage. We called Pastor H. Klookemeyer to be our first minister, delivering his first sermon on April 26, 1868. The church building was completed that same year at the cost of $1,600. Dedication of the church was on September 27, 1868. A new school house was built at the cost of $250.
In January 1869 , after serving nine months, Pastor Klookemeyer left and we called Pastor Simon Eggert and he delivered his first sermon on September 19, 1869. That same year, a wind-powered grist mill was constructed across the road from the church. Although the mill remained there only three years, the area is still called "Windtown" in its honor. Pastor Eggert served the congregation for five years, resigning on November 2, 1874.
Pastor Henry Dageforde arrived from Germany and was called to be our new minister on May 117, 1875. He was ordained and installed on August 19, 1875. Soon the congregation outgrew their place of worship. On March 5, 1883 it was decided to enlarge the building and add a balcony. Nine years later the steeple was built at a cost of $321. The congregation pledged $1763 for a bell tower and bells. The larger bell weighs 2000 lbs. and the smaller one weighs 1000 lbs. On December 11, 1892, the bells were dedicated and heard for the first time.
In early 1911, Rev. Herman Telthorster became the next minister of St. Petri's. During his tenure a new parsonage was built in 1912. The following year a German schoolhouse was built. Then, on March 13, 1916, we broke ground for the construction of the church we have today. It was constructed of brick and iron with a slate roof by A.B. Kipp & Co. of Minonk, IL. The structure is 87 x 47 with 20 ft. side walls, a full basement, a bell tower and a 100 foot tall steeple. Total construction was nearly $30,000, not including the windows which were donated by member of the congregation. Dedication of the church took place in May of 1918.
After Rev. Telthorster served 12 years, he resigned in August of 1923. On June 15, 1924, the Rev. E.V. Schroeder was installed as our next minister. The congregation continued to grow under his leadership.
On February 8, 1959 it was decided to add on a new addition. The new building was called the Parish Hall. The first floor is devoted to Sunday School and contains 10 classrooms, Supt. office and assembly hall. The second floor contains a larger assembly hall, kitchen, and Pastor's study. The building was dedicated on May 7, 1961.
After serving 38 years, the Rev. E.V. Schroeder retired in January 1963. A call was exteded to Pastor Marvin Krueger whoi was serving Illanuel Lutheran near Carthage, IL. He accepted and was installed March 17, 1963. He served the congregation faithfully for 10 years.
In August of 1973, the congregation called pastor Ronald Kruger from near by Toluca IL to become its next minister. He was installed on Sept. 2, 1973. Because there was no resident pastor in June of that year, Vacation Bible School was shortened to 2 weeks for all students. Prior to 1973, there had been 2 weeks of VBS in the morning for younger students, and 4 weeks of all-day instruction for the older students. This revised 1973 schedule lasted quire a few years until it became difficult to find teachers and helpers. In 1994, Vacation Bible School was changed to one week for all students.
In 1974, the landmark sign with points the way to St. Petri Windtown Church was installed at the Rt. 166 corner. In 1977we saw many changes in the worship life of the congregation. Holy Communion was changed by celebrating the Sacrament once per month. Inserts containing the scripture readings for the day were included in the bulletin.
Youth began to take an active role as worship leaders by conducting the Easter sunrise service. They also conducted the candlelight service on Christmas Eve. The VBS program was moved primarily indoors, as previously it had a picnic-like setting. On Easter Sunday in 1979, after nearly 50 years of worshipping out of the American Lutheran Hymnal, the congregation became one of the early users of the Lutheran Book of Worship, which we still use today. In 1998 we added the red "Worship His Majesty" hymnal, and we also use the blue "With One Voice" supplement to the LBW.
During the 1980's the parish hall and parsonage were air-conditioned. Ceiling fans were installed in the church sanctuary and the 2nd floor of the Parish Hall. The steeple was repaired as well as the cross, which was blown down in a storm. New exterior doors were installed, and the stained glass transom over the entryway was rebuilt. The church also got a new roof and landscaping.
In 1986, the last service spoken in German was held at St. Petri. Previously, there had been three services with the afternoon service spoken in German only. However, fewer parishioners understood it, and it was difficult to find a pastor to preach in German. In 1987 the Mission festival was consolidated into two services, and takes place in one service today.
In 1991, Pastor Ronald Kruger resigned for health reasons. Pastor Dennis Scoville was installed in 1992 as our next pastor, serving for six years.
In 1993, we celebrated our 125th anniversary. In 1996, a new entryway (narthex) was built onto the church. It includes an elevator for access to the basement, and the main floor (nave) of the church. Pastor Scoville resigned in April 1998 after serving six years. Interim Pastor Norbert Hellrud served out congregation from June 1998 to October 1999. Pastor Paul Lellelid was installed as our next pastor in 1999 and served until 2018 when the congregation celebrated its 150th anniversary.
In the year 2000 we realized updates to the church were needed. In April 2001 we added air conditioning to the church and in 2006 it was added to the narthex as well. The old school house was re-roofed in 2002 and also got new siding and windows. The interior was painted by the LYO which began using the building in 2013. Electricity was added to the schoolhouse in 2016. In 2005, choir chimes and belles were added to our worship services and in November 2011 a new choir loft raiing was added made of beautiful wood.
For many years we had a real Christmas tree in the church, but due to the struggle brining it in and out, it was decided in 2007 to get an artificial tree. Many congregation members donated ornaments for the tree which we still put up each year.
In 2013 we celebrated 75 years of our Christmas pageant, which began in 1938. In June of 2009, Jane (Kalkwarf) Diaz painted our new sign to display our Rt. 116 and for the display in front of the church. In February 2010 we remodeled the Parish Hall, and the next year installed new playground equipment for the children. In 2015, the boilers for the furnace were replaced with more efficient units.
In 2019, Pastor Amy Berger was installed at St. Petri. She was with us as we encountered COVID-19, and had to adjust the way services were done several times. From spacing out in church, masking, parking lot and other outdoor serves, and of course live streaming on Facebook, we kept worshipping as was possible. Pastor Berger resigned in 2022.
On January 1st, 2023 the Rev. Brian Moeller was installed as our Pastor. The congregation at St. Petri Lutheran Church is looking forward to what the future holds for us, as we seek to continue our legacy of letting our light shine before others.
To God be the Glory!