Sunday, October 21 will be the day Peace United Church of Christ will celebrate the 125th anniversary of the church. A special service recognizing former pastors, organists and choir members will be held. A mass choir of present and former members will present a special number. A program, "The Autobiography of An Old Church Pew" will be presented.
A potluck dinner will follow the 10:30 AM services. The public is invited to attend both events.
The congregation has a unique history as it was first organized as "Evangelical Lutheran". It began in 1887 when a group of German families requested that Rev. Scheidemann of Hubbard come to Gladbrook to organize the congregation and become their first minister. The families had been meeting once a month in Mann's Hall.
Peace Church in the beginning
January 2, 1888 a resolution was passed by a group of German families in the Gladbrook area to build the church pictured. The cost was $1,500 and the cornerstone laying was held on August 25, 1889 and dedicated on November 24, 1889. The church was called 'Evangelical Lutheran'. In 1892 the congregation joined the Evangelical Synod of North America. During the early 1890's marriage and burial rites were moved to the church rather than having a Justice of the Peace perform the rites. This church was renovated in 1900 and was raised five feet allowing for classrooms and the installation of a furnace.
Services were conducted in German and then an English service was held once a month. The beginning of World War I forced the congregation to have only English services. In 1931 the church was remolded at a cost of $9,000. The sanctuary was rearranged and a brick exterior added.
The cornerstone was laid in August of 1889 at the very site where the present church stands. This is unusual for a church to have grown in structural and congregational size and yet remain in one location. A number of renovations have taken place during the 125 years. The accompanying photos and captions tell the story.
The 25th anniversary of the church was observed in 1913 with Rev. Rall at the helm. He was the one who helped the women receive equal rights and votes in the church. He also unsuccessfully tried to introduce the English language into services. However, he did start by having one English service per month. Then World War I erupted and the little congregation was force to use only English.
In 1929 the Women's Fellowship was organized and monthly contribution envelopes were introduced. Adult Fellowship was begun.
Rev. Barten became minister and in 1947 the congregation took in 105 new members by transfer or profession of faith. A new parsonage was built in 1949 at a cost of $19,000. In 1951 the congregation became known as the Evangelical and Reformed Church.
In 1957 members pledged $35,000 to build an educational wing on the west side of the church. Rev. Poeschel organized the Junior Youth Fellowship and the Evening Guild in 1958. Mrs. Poeschel led the first Junior Choir in 1960.
In 1962 another name change took place. Our denomination merged with the Congregational Christian churches and the church became Peace United Church of Christ.
In 1971, under the leadership of Rev. Robert Marquardt, a major building project was begun. The sanctuary was enlarged, with the altar changed from the east side to the north end. A new entryway was added with the steep outside steps being eliminated. Throughout the years as Peace Church has remodeled the structure the congregation has volunteered untold hours of labor to help keep the costs in check.
Members held services in the EUB Church and in June of 1975 the $108,000 mortgage was burned. This was bittersweet, as Rev. Marquardt succumbed to his battle with cancer in May of 1975. His services were held in the newly remodeled church.
The Memorial committee was organized in 1971 and through their efforts a lighted cross on the steeple, altar cloths, new sound system and a confirmation photo display gallery came into being. Easter of 1986 the window, "Garden of Resurrection" was dedicated. More stained glass windows have been added in the sanctuary and a special protective cover has been added in recent years to the window exterior to prevent breakage.
Rev. Leroy Franz came to Peace Church in 1975. The pastor's office was moved from the parsonage to the church, a secretary was hired and a new heating system installed. Rev. Franz served the congregation until 1985.
Rev. Al Volle served as interim pastor from 1985 until Pastor John Saxton came in 1986. Rev. Volle spent a great deal of time working on attendance and participation and with the committees making preparations for the 100th anniversary celebration.
To celebrate the centennial year special events were planned for the first Sunday of each month from September of 1986 through June of 1987. The slogan was "Century of Faith, Worship and Service".
Pastor John Saxton led the congregation into the second century of faith and service. His wife, Pat, was a talented musician in instrument and voice. It was also the first time in a long time that very young children came with the pastor. In the mid nineties Peace Church acquired land in the west part of town and built a new parsonage. After ten and a half years Rev. Saxton left to pastor a church at Hubbard.
In 1997 Rev. John Chapple came to serve as interim pastor. He served the church until the arrival of Rev. Robert Doner.
Rev. Doner, his wife Susan and daughter, Alyssa moved into the parsonage in the fall of 1999. Daughter, Andrea, stayed in Pennsylvania to attend college. Rev. Doner brought new life to the congregation as he introduced puppet ministry and wonderful plays that he wrote and adapted.
Who can forget his adaptation of "The Wizard of Oz" with Dorothy, Tin Man, Lion and all the other fun characters. The children's sermons with the puppets became a delight to the children and congregants gathered.
The Bell Choir became a reality and a men's chorus was a pleasing addition. A new organ was installed in 2001.
Three icons of Peace Church were honored in 2011 as the 100th birthday of Dr. L.G. Schaeferle was celebrated; the 40th year of June Bessman playing organ; and the 35 year of Rev. Robert Doner's ordination. A special service and potluck was held.
Peace Church continues to serve God and reach out to others. Those first German families who had the foresight to begin the church 125 years ago would be pleased to see the fruits of their vision and faith.
This article was written with information from the Gladbrook Centennial Book, church historical records and some wonderful memories of Peace Church members.