Immanuel Lutheran celebrating 150th anniversary

News Photo by Darby Hinkley Immanuel Lutheran Church in Alpena is celebrating its 150th anniversary with a special dinner on Saturday at the APlex. Above, Associate Pastor Joshua Schultz, Senior Pastor Jim Erickson, and Immanual Lutheran School Principal Jim Grulke stand in the sanctuary of the church, 351 Wilson St., Alpena.

ALPENA — Immanuel Lutheran Church has been in Alpena for 150 years, and the public is welcome to come celebrate at a special dinner on Saturday at the APlex.

Dinner will be provided by JJ’s Catering starting at 5:30 p.m. The celebration will feature live music, slideshow presentations, photographs, memorabilia, scrapbooks, T-shirts, a cash bar, and door prizes.

Special guest Pastor Jeffrey Nickel will be at the event, and will also present a sermon at the 10 a.m. service at Immanuel Lutheran on Sunday. There will only be one service on Sunday morning this week.

Tickets are $15 each. Call the church office at 989-354-3443.

The Rev. Jim Erickson has been the pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church for more than 40 years.

“I came as an intern in 1980,” Erickson said. “Intern/vicar … It’s a third year of seminary training. So, this is where I got my training.”

He was in Alpena from 1980 to 1981, then went back to seminary in St. Louis.

“I never dreamed that I’d wind up coming back to where I interned, as associate pastor,” Erickson said. “Yet, here I am, since ’82.”

He loves the people who attend Immanuel Lutheran, which has about 1,500 members, and he loves the Alpena community.

“The people are just wonderful,” Erickson said. “Very supportive, very kind. It’s been a wonderful community to be part of.”

He said people in Northeast Michigan are genuine and sincere, and not ashamed to be themselves.

“People are who they are,” Erickson said. “You know, in some places, you feel like people put on facade, and they aren’t who they really are. In Alpena, I’ve found that people are genuinely kind. They appreciate one another, they help one another, and we see that in the community, as well as in the church, when there are needs. People come rushing to help.”

He also appreciates the location on “the big lake” and the way Alpena is surrounded by waterways and natural resources.

“It’s just a beautiful place to live,” Erickson said. “I love the woods, I love the lakes, I love the open spaces.”

That’s why he stayed. Erickson grew up in various places, since his dad was also a pastor, moving the family all over the country as he was called to serve, from Faith, South Dakota to central Iowa (Radcliffe) to Ferndale, Washington. Erickson’s family is from southern Minnesota, near Rochester.

Erickson is happy to be able to celebrate the 150th anniversary of a church that has been his home since 1982.

“We have an average weekend attendance of right around 400,” Erickson said. “It’s a good-sized congregation.”

He explained some of Immanuel’s history, and how it came to be at 351 Wilson St. in Alpena today.

“Down on 2nd Avenue is really where it began,” Erickson said.

Immanuel was started by Pastor Sievers, who came to Alpena in 1870, ministering to a small group of Lutherans, and organizing a small congregation of about 30 members in 1872. Immanuel was incorporated in 1874, and a small wooden church was built on 2nd Avenue. A fire destroyed that church in 1888, and a new church was erected in 1889 for $700. A parsonage was also constructed, with the second story being used as a school. A new stone church was built there in 1939, after the necessary funding of $15,000 was raised. A new school was built in 1958.

Erickson said the 1939 church is the current Salvation Army building.

As for the present location, a 1993 groundbreaking was held for the new $2 million church to be built at 351 Wilson St., attached to the school.

“Pastor Nickel turned the earth at the site of the altar, the center of our worship,” a pamphlet on the church’s history explains. “Pastor Erickson turned the earth at the site of the pulpit where the Word is preached. President Marvin Hopp turned the earth where the site of our baptismal font stands representing ‘The Church.’ Martin Neumann, surviving member of the 1939 Building Committee, turned the earth at the site of the main entrance.”

The cornerstone was laid on Dec. 8, 1993. The contents of Immanuel’s 1939 cornerstone were displayed and then placed into the new cornerstone, along with new items. The new church was dedicated to the Lord on July 10, 1994.

“Jesse Besser had given land to the congregation to build a school,” Erickson said. “Jesse Besser gave enough land so that if they ever wanted to build a church, they could build one next to the school. So, that finally took place then, in 1993.”

Erickson explained why he leads the Immanuel congregation. It’s a calling.

“My whole life has really been here,” he said. “The Lord called me, and this is where he placed me. I’d only been in Michigan once in my life before I came here.”

He’s so glad he followed God’s calling.

“It’s endless work, being a pastor,” he said, adding that it’s always worth it. “It wasn’t until I was a junior in college that the Lord just put a fire in my soul. The Word of God changes hearts and lives. What a wonderful way to invest a life into proclaiming the Gospel message that, through the working of the Holy Spirit, turns people around.”

The church is hosting special events all year long to celebrate its 150th anniversary.

Upcoming events include:

∫ A Mother’s Day breakfast on May 12 at the church;

∫ A Grand Lake Beach House potluck from noon to 8 p.m. on June 29;

∫ An Immanuel Lutheran float in the Fourth of July parade, and possibly a church service at the Alpena Bandshell;

∫ A family carnival in August at the Alpena Bandshell;

∫ An ice cream social on Sept. 22 at the church;

∫ Trunk or Treat on Oct. 31 at the church;

∫ A float in the Christmas parade on Nov. 28;

∫ A December event with cookies, games, music, and decorating the church for Christmas;

∫ A New Year’s Eve special event with a potluck, sledding, and hot cocoa on Dec. 31.

“The steering committee started working in February or March of last year,” Erickson said “We’ve been at this for quite a while.”


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