The Emmanuel Lutheran Congregation of Dwight will celebrate 150 years in Dwight with a special service Sunday, July 9.
As part of the service, Dwight native son Peter Kirby will give the sermon.
“I never forget my roots,” Kirby said in an email message to The Paper last week.
“The Lord has blessed me to be able to travel widely in his service, but this place will always be home for me as long as I live in this world.”
The church, located at 325 East Mazon Avenue in Dwight, was originally organized in 1867, then being served by Rev. Franz Schmitt of Trinity Congregation of Goodfarm.
At that time, land sold for $1 an acre, according to the church history.
“On March 19, 1893, during a voters meeting of Emmanuel, a call was extended to Rev. G. F. W. Westerkamp,” the church history said. “He was installed as the first pastor of Emmanuel on Sept. 3, 1893.”
Prior to that, Emmanuel shared pastors with other area congregations.
The Rev. Paul Hartmann, grandfather of Peter Kirby, the scheduled speaker July 9, was installed Feb. 1, 1953 where he remained until 1977. Kirby followed in grandfather’s footsteps, now running the Lutheran Hour Ministries, travelled to Jamaica, Latvia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Turkey.
On July 9, coffee and fellowship, open to the public, begins at 8 a.m. at the church.
Historic memorabilia of the church will be on display, according to Linda Andersen, church secretary.
Kirby’s sermon, also open to the public, begins at 9 a.m.
Kirby’s parents, Jim and Elaine Kirby, are currently residents of Oregon.
The 250-member congregation has also invited former pastors to the event.
On May 6, 1956, the current building was dedicated, which cost $214,000 to build at the time (costs included furnishings).
“The Lord had more plans for Emmanuel,” the church history continues. “In 2004, Emmanuel Lutheran Church was notified that former member, Louise Tock Bowman, had left a sizeable bequest to the church.”
This bequest was used to build a multi-purpose addition to the east side of the church building. It was dedicated April 6, 2008 and includes rooms for Christian education and a half-court gym.
The current vacancy pastor, Harvey Nicholson of St. Anne, has been serving in Dwight since Jan. 1. The church is still in the process of securing a full-time pastor.
“The congregation can be proud of the fact that for 150 years it has spoken the good news of Jesus Christ and has been very active in the community,” said Nicholson.
And Dwight holds a place in the hearts of those returning for the event too, such as Kirby.
“It’s always exciting to me to be coming home to Dwight,” Kirby explained. “The church holds so many memories for me growing up — confirmation, Sunday school, vacation bible school, dartball, special events with my grandfather. I’m sure all the members have those same connections with the church, but for those of us who have been away for a long time, it is very special to come home.”