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St. Paul Lutheran celebrating 150 years in Alpena

News Photos by Darby Hinkley A showcase in the church basement features past pastors and memorabilia, including a statue of Jesus that was pulled from a prior St. Paul’s church as it was burning.

ALPENA — St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church is celebrating its sesquicentennial anniversary this year, with the main celebration in July, but more festivities are planned in May and June.

“We have a big day planned for the 18th of July, but prior to that, we have a couple of other celebrations,” said Iris Arthur, chairperson of the 150th Anniversary Committee. “Understand, when this committee began a year-and-a-half ago, we had many things planned, but then COVID came along and changed all of that. So it’s grown and it’s shrunk, and it’s grown and it’s shrunk.”

The first event is this weekend, with three special services honoring past and present veterans and active military for Memorial Day. Worship services are at 5:30 p.m. today, and at 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Sunday.

“On Memorial Day weekend, we are going to celebrate the military,” Arthur said.

She explained that she and another member rediscovered an old repository case that had originally been established as a memorial to those who served in World War II. “It’s been restored, and that is going to be rededicated, as well as honoring all those who have served, past and present.”

150th Committee Chair Iris Arthur points to her name on a quilt made by the ladies of the church, featuring over 200 families.

The second event is a block party on Father’s Day, the same day church members will be asked to wear their 150th Anniversary T-shirts.

“We have permission from the city, and we’re going to have a block party on Father’s Day,” said committee member Linda Collins. “We’re going to rope off our block on Mirre Street, so we’re going to party in the street there. We’re going to invite our neighbors around the church area so they can share in our celebration of our anniversary and get to know us a little better.”

The June 20 celebration will be from 1 to 4 p.m., with hot dogs, cotton candy and popcorn, as well as live music.

“We bought stuff for the kids to do sidewalk art and bubbles, and just kind of socialize,” Collins said. “We are having live music. Right now it is scheduled with Dr. Weeks. It’s called ‘House Calls.'”

She said the outdoor party will have to be canceled if it rains. People should bring their own lawn chairs.

The main event

The main celebration will be held at the church on July 18, with a host of activities planned that day.

“The most important part of this is celebrating worship and bringing back pastors who were here before,” said Pastor John Shipman. “On July 18, we are inviting our Bishop from our synod and all of the former pastors — four have responded and they plan on being here — and also having a time during the service to meet and greet with them and talk about where their lives have taken them and how what they have done has inspired people and continues to inspire people for 150 years and beyond.”

The pastors who plan to be there so far are Pastor Deutsch, Pastor Sleziak, Pastor Bessert, and Pastor Vance.

Arthur said July 18 is as close as they could get to the actual anniversary.

“I tried my best to find out, hoping that we would find a charter or a covenant, and I went so far as to check the central office of the ELCA Lutheran church, and there’s nothing at all,” Arthur explained. “We only have some information that was written down years ago about the history of when it was started. A group got together sometime in June of 1871, and six weeks later, the church was organized. That kind of puts it somewhere in July. So we picked July 18.”

Committe member Andrea Dutcher explained the day’s plans.

She said the church service will likely run long that day, and festivities will begin after that, around 11 a.m.

“We are going to have a play up in the sanctuary, kind of a history of the church, and then in the dining room we’re going to have a fashion show,” Dutcher said. “We are going to have 15 different fashions — one for every decade for the past 150 years. Then, in the basement and up in the multipurpose room, we’re going to have artifacts and histories and a loop running of different things of the church.”

In the back of the church there will be a tent and a band, and a popcorn machine.

A boxed lunch will be catered by JJ’s, so people can go wherever they would like inside or outside the church to eat their lunch.

“So again, we’re not all congregating in one place, because of COVID,” Dutcher noted. “So we can all enjoy a meal and a celebration, and just really learn the history of the church. Oh, and we’re going to have ice cream.”

“The pageant that Esther Kindt is creating — she is writing the whole thing, writing, directing and getting the costumes, and getting the actors — and it’s going to illustrate the history from the beginning up until today,” Arthur said. “She has 11 or 12 people who are going to represent different things within our history. And she’s posing them as Biblical characters.”

All the actors are from the church.

“There’s going to be, maybe, a couple of surprises that most people don’t know about yet,” Arthur said. “It’s going to be a fun day.”

“It’s significant that we have proclaimed the Gospel for this long, and hopefully for generations to come,” Shipman said.

He added that St. Paul has about 160 active members.

“I would say (this church) is a big part of my life,” Arthur said. “I grew up in this church, sitting in a pew with my parents and grandparents, as some of you have … It’s great to be involved, and I can’t think of a better project than celebrating 150 years of this church.”

A bit of history

The original church was founded in a house on Lockwood Street.

“It started the same year as the city,” Dutcher noted. “The city’s 150 years old. So it coincides.”

“Once the church was moved from Lockwood Street, it stayed in this place,” Arthur said. “But there were three churches. We are now on the third building in the same location.”

Fire destroyed St. Paul Lutheran Church on March 29, 1923, which was Maundy Thursday. Easter services were held at Grace Norwegian Church that year.

St. Paul Pastors

Rev. H. Brueckner, Sr. 1871-1873; Rev. C. Probst 1873-1876; Rev. C. Schwann 1876-1878; Candidate Buchner 1878-1880; Rev. F. W. Wendt 1880-1901; Rev. H. Brueckner, Jr. 1902-1911; Rev. M.W. Brueckner 1911-1926; Rev. Wm. G. Sodt 1926-1931; Rev. Paul Moeller 1931-1945: Rev. Fred Schnaible Fall 1945; Rev. William B. Belk 1946-1961; Rev. Hilmer Krause, Jr. 1959-1960; Rev. Victor J. Luetzow — Senior Pastor 1961-1973; Rev. Lynn Neiswander — Associate Pastor 1963-1969; Rev. James P. Hughes — Assoc/Senior Pastor 1969-1978; Rev. Laurin G. Vance — Associate Pastor 1974-1977; Rev. Clyde O. Cress — Senior Pastor 1978-1987; Rev. Patricia J. Lull — Associate Pastor 1979-1984; Rev. John E. Sleziak — Associate Pastor 1985-1988; Rev. Ronald C. Bessert — Senior Pastor 1987-1998; Rev. Kurt M. Peterson — Associate Pastor 1989-1994; Vicar Scott Bartz — Intern Trinity Seminary 1994-1995; Vicar Naomi Hawkins — Intern Chicago Seminary 1995-1996; Rev. Daniel Deutsch –Associate/Senior Pastor 1995-2002; Vicar Leslie Nye 1999-2001; Rev. Kurt Jensen — Associate Pastor 2000-2004; Rev. Paul Owens — Senior Pastor 2002-2010; Rev. Rodney Haselhuhn — Senior Pastor 2007-2010; Rev. Tom Orth — Interim Pastor 2011-2012; Rev. Shirley Ross-Jones — Senior Pastor 2012 -2018; Rev. John Shipman — Senior Pastor 2019 – Present; Vicar Troy Spencer — Intern The Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago 2020 – 2021.

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