History of St. Paul's Lutheran Church (1924 - 2014)
written and compiled by Normajean Grabau (with light edits)
- Lutherans in Early America (1519-1923)
- Lutherans in Early Iowa and Marion (1892-1923)
- Forming a Congregation (1923-1930)
- Building of a Church (the 1930s)
- Growth and Change (the 1940s)
- New Faces, New Spaces (the 1950s)
- Doing the Lord's Work (the 1960s)
- Improving the Church and Splitting of the Congregation (the 1970s)
- A Busy Congregation (the 1980s)
- The Lord's Work, a Re-instituted Vicar Program, and 75 Years to Celebrate (the 1990s)
- Eye on 75 Years
- A New Century (the 2000s and beyond)
Lutherans in Early America (1519-1923)
“In the beginning God created..." We know the age old story, but what about the creation of the church we now know as St. Paul's Lutheran Church of Marion, Iowa? Certainly St. Paul's had its beginning as early as 1519, when it is known that a Lutheran minister was with an expedition that explored the Hudson Bay area of Canada. In that expedition of sixty-six Lutherans, the first Lutheran pastor in North America, Rasmus Jensen of Denmark, took possession of the Hudson Bay area for the Danish Crown. In his “dagbog” or daybook, Jensen gives an account of the celebration of the first Christmas and the celebration of the first holy communion held in America on December 25, 1519. It is unfortunate, however, that most of the people in the expedition are believed to have perished during that first winter. In 1628, nearly 50 years before the treaty made by William Penn with Native Americans, a ship laden with Swedish Lutherans arrived on the North American continent and settled in Delaware after buying the land from the Native Americans. According to legend and tradition, Betsy Ross, who is believed to have designed the American flag, was a member of Gloria Dei, the oldest Lutheran Church of Philadelphia. It was in 1703, that the first ordination of a minister was performed at Gloria Dei. Wilmington Trinity, another Lutheran Church is thought to be the oldest Protestant church in the United States. (top)
Lutherans in Early Iowa and Marion (1892-1923)
The Lutheran church was a pioneer in Linn County. In the summer of 1838, the first officiating German Lutheran minister, Rev. Christian Trout, began preaching in his cabin near the mouth of Spring Creek every Sunday. (This writer has since this writing seen this same story claimed by another church in the area as it was written in the ‘Marion Times’ during the late 1990’s. There is some archival history written in news articles as found in the scrapbook kept by our Pastor Krog to authenticate this story.) This creek is located southwest of the city of Mt. Vernon. The first marriage ceremony in Linn County is believed to have been performed by a Lutheran minister in 1839, when Sarah Haines married Richard Osborn.
And as for Marion, Iowa, by 1892, a few Lutheran families were meeting on Sunday afternoons for worship and fellowship in the Seventh Day Adventist Church. That church building now houses the Church of Christ and is located at 610 9th Avenue. In the early 1900s Lutheran families in Marion began asking the Missouri Synod to help them establish a church. The synod answered, “No!” to the many requests, stating that financing was the main reason. Fortunately, Mr. William Krueger, Mr. William Schwab, Mr. Jake Domer, and Mr. B. F. Haeussler continued to ask until the synod finally agreed to call a missionary to explore the area and possibly start a church. By July 7, l923, a call had been extended for missionary work in Marion and Vinton. The call was accepted by Rev. Carl E. Krog who had grown to manhood in Atkins, Iowa. He was the eldest son of Rev. Carl A. Krog, also a Lutheran minister.
Pastor Krog had graduated from Concordia College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and from Concordia Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. He had been ordained into the ministry at St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church of New Orleans, Louisiana, on August 28, 1921, and had gone to serve as a missionary in Santa Barbara, Isles of Pines, Cuba, almost immediately. On one occasion he related how important he felt when he was appointed pastor of a whole island, which was in reality about the size of Linn County. That feeling quickly faded when he found, upon arrival in Cuba, that his congregation consisted of two men, two women, and four girls. According to one of Pastor Krog's speeches, part of the island was populated by people who had come to Cuba to make a fortune growing citrus fruit, but no fortune had materialized. These unfortunate people were then told they would have to find their own way back home. Since they no longer had any resources, they were forced to stay. The rest of the island was peopled by the descendants of buccaneers, the descendants of a wrecked Negro slave ship, and the descendants of the Inca. This made for a rather interesting combination of skin colors, moral ideals, and religious beliefs, even within a single family unit. Pastor Krog returned to the states after two years of ministry on the island mainly due to his ill health.
Pastor Krog was informed that the work in the Marion area would be very difficult as he would have to start from nearly the ground up. He answered that he was not afraid of hard work or difficult challenges as he had already successfully kept scorpions out of his clerical robes and crocodiles from living in his wading pool. Pastor Krog's installation was held at Trinity Lutheran Church in Cedar Rapids on August 5, l923. Guest speakers for the occasion were the Rev. H. Steger of Newhall, who delivered a sermon in English, and the Rev. G. Rickels of Atkins, who gave his sermon in German. Rev. N. P. Uhlig of Cedar Rapids served as officiate for the occasion. (top)
Forming a Congregation (1923-1930)
Pastor Krog immediately began the work of creating a mission church in Marion. When he talked with the Marion city fathers about his plan, he was informed that the city already had quite enough churches and the community probably could not support another. Pastor Krog was undaunted as he began holding services for a few Lutheran families on the second floor of the Memorial Hall (760 Eleventh Street). One wonders how warm the hall might have been on that August day when the little group climbed those forty or so steps to worship together for the first time. No doubt Pastor was very excited to see thirty-three parishioners ready to hear the word of God; and they, him. Unfortunately only nine came for the next Sunday's service. Pastor reasoned that the people had perhaps merely come at first out of curiosity to see the new minister and to find out what a Lutheran service was like; or of course there was always the possibility that the first sermon had diminished the second Sunday’s attendance.
For several months Pastor Krog did exploratory work and conducted services in both Marion and in Vinton. Sermons were usually delivered in English but were sometimes preached in high German. Early in 1924, the District Mission Board was satisfied that the prospects for future development were good in Vinton and they called a resident pastor: Rev. Theodore Schliepsiek. He was installed by Pastor Krog on February 17, 1924.
It now became possible for Pastor Krog to concentrate his efforts upon the work in Marion. The Lord blessed his labors so that on Sunday, May 15, 1924, a congregation was organized with fifteen voting members, a constitution was adopted, and the name St. Paul's was chosen. The congregation was received into membership in the Iowa District of the Missouri Synod, which was meeting in session at Williamsburg, Iowa, August 16-24, 1924. Pastor Krog notes that the Lord’s work continued as fifty-one attended Easter Communion that year. A Ladies’ Aid and Missionary Society was organized. It was reported that during that first church year, $127.98 was collected with $107.00 paid for renting the hall and paying the pianist. Sometimes the pianist was whoever happened to be available that particular day, and that was not always the most talented person in the congregation. A poorly tuned piano did little to add to the situation. The collection plate was called the "klingelbeutel". One parishioner recalls that when the collection plate was passed she reached into the wrong pocket and instead of giving Jesus a nickel; she gave him a gumdrop!
By now hymnals and a communion set had been purchased. The Ladies' Aid donated the necessary Fair Linen needed to complete the appointments for the communion service. Of course, the congregation's greatest desire was to have a real church home. It was to that end that a piece of property on the corner of Tenth Avenue and Thirteenth Street was purchased in 1925 for $1000.00.
The census figures for 1926, showed a membership of 152 including 26 children, however, an established Sunday School program had not yet been instituted. Expenditures for that year were $592.00. In addition to furnishing the wine for communion, the pastor also provided for his own home, his own car, and if he could afford one, his own secretary. (top)
Building of a Church (the 1930s)
The Great Depression of the 1930’s brought real challenges for Pastor Krog. Eighteen of the families were forced to move away from the area. Synod requested that the missionary efforts in Marion be discontinued. Pastor asked that he be allowed to continue his work, and his request was granted. He was just sure a thriving congregation could be found in Marion. On March 8, 1931, he opened another mission field in Central City. Bi-weekly services were conducted in the Christian Church for Lutheran families in the area who attended neither of the other churches in the town. It was not long until weekly services were instituted. Pastor Krog was considered a great missionary worker and a friendly, personable man. Both congregations were pleased with his presence and his work. Despite not having a church home, the congregations grew steadily. In the fall of 1931, Synod gave permission to build a church along with the money needed for construction. The money came from the Church Extension Board in the form of an interest free $2500.00 loan. Interest free meant that repayment of at least $250.00 a year was expected or interest would be accrued. The fact that the lot had been bought for $1000 and paid for was considered a bonus to the plan.
How excited the congregation was when permission was finally received. Clarence Raetz laughed as he reported to Normajean Grabau he had immediately harnessed his team of horses, Prince and Charlie, and trotted them all the way to the Marion building site, several miles from his farm home. He soon was joined by several other very excited people and three more teams of horses. Anyone who had a shovel and could dig came to work on the basement. Horses and men worked faithfully and diligently to complete the small frame chapel on the southeast corner of 13th Street and 10th Avenue.
The members of the building committee were Pastor Krog, William Schwab, John Haeussler, and Ed Kemme, who was also the contractor and a member of the congregation. The new white frame church was completed and dedicated after just a few months of work. What a beautiful building it was! The sanctuary measured 20 by 30 feet had a seating capacity of 100. Due to its small size, it soon became known as the “doll” church. The furnishings were made of mission oak, and the walls had a buff colored-sand finish. The ceiling was dark brown, paneled, and beamed. Two Gothic lantern lights, were suspended by chains from the ceiling beams, using opalescent glass to illuminate the main sanctuary. The windows were stained glass in shades of yellow and blue (costing $7.50). The chancel at the north end of the building was lighted by a concealed floodlight. The furnishings were in white and gold with a wine colored carpet (purchased from Killian and Co. for $16.67). The chancel furnishings were a gift of the Keystone Lutheran church designed by Edwin Bruns, a well known artist from Cedar Rapids, and rebuilt by H. Bruns of Cedar Rapids. The altar was white, trimmed in gold, and backed by three Gothic windows designed to symbolize the Trinity. A plain white cross was placed above the altar.
At the west end of the chancel was an organ room enclosed by a grill (cost $1.80) carrying a Gothic motif having been created by H. Luber also of Cedar Rapids. The organ was a gift of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Monticello. The pews were a gift of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church of Cedar Rapids. (Normajean Grabau was told a story about a conversation between a couple of the congregation’s young men, who were refinishing the pews. One commented that there must be something more exciting for a couple of sixteen-year olds to do than refinish church pews in their spare time. The others agreed, laughed to themselves, and continued to work.) The vestry lay east of the chancel. There was also a basement that housed a small but fully equipped kitchen, a furnace room (cost $56.67), men’s and women’s lounge areas, and a meeting room for Sunday school classes. All of that for the $2500.00, which covered most of the construction costs. The congregation’s long term plans included ways to enlarge the facility if and when the size of the congregation warranted.
The congregation and the community were rightly proud of their complete and modern church and attended the dedication in large numbers. An estimated 500 people attended at least one of the three services (morning, afternoon, and evening) which were held on February 14, 1932. Guest preachers at the dedication received an average of $2.50 for their efforts. The new church was so full at the dedication that the basement’s social room had to be used and loud speakers were put up to accommodate the afternoon’s overflow crowd. The excitement of the dedication was followed by another depression which caused hardship for the church and for the congregational members. All looked forward to better times and continued work to further God’s kingdom.
St. Paul’s was a mission church, and though it was supported by Synod, it did have its own pastor and its own home. Pastor Krog continued to hold services in neighboring churches. His Sundays were filled with registering the people in his congregation for the communion that would be given the next week. Since most of the parishioners were farmers and came to town only once a week, he would visit with each of them about their families and their faith. He also quizzed them on the chief parts of the Lutheran Doctrine. Yet despite his busy life, Pastor Krog married Hazel Schminkey in 1934. She automatically became his secretary and after much scrimping and saving, they purchased a home on 7th Avenue and 6th Street in Marion at a cost of $1400.00. This was quite an investment since his salary was only $60.00 a month.
Pastor began sending letters to the parishioners to report on happenings within the congregation and to encourage them in their church attendance and faith. It was noted that in 1936, the Ladies’ Aid was collecting money for subscriptions to the “Lutheran Witness” which was sent to each member’s home for 75 cents a year. The ladies were also responsible for the purchase of a copy machine, altar linen, and two Colorado Blue Spruces. The church’s budget was about $1400.00 a year by now. Pastor believed that a congregation with 100 members should be self-supporting and exhorted the members to increase their weekly gift by 5, 10, 25, or 50 cents. The ladies of the congregation worked to spread the work of the Lord by raising their dues from 10 cents to 25. At first they had met in their homes once a month where Pastor led the devotions, and then they met in the church. The ladies also raised money for the church. One method involved selling sponges. Another was to collect old newspaper and magazines, which they sold for $3.30 per 100 pounds. They discussed buying a dust proof bag for storing the pastor’s robes but chose instead to build a cupboard for a cost of $3.43. The women also sent birthday cards to members, fruit to the ill, and baby blankets to the new born. (top)
Growth and Change (the 1940s)
By the 1940s, St. Paul's had been an established church for nearly a dozen years, but changes were on the horizon. In 1941, Pastor Krog’s congregational letters indicated that the ladies were planning to buy a new organ and were celebrating birthdays with gifts to the organ fund. New hymnals could be purchased for $0.81, but soon the price would be $1.30. A treasurer’s report showed $21.01 set aside for the new organ. Compare that with the $94.02 received as income and $118.96 as expenses for the year. Other notable expenses that year included $9.18 for a ton of coal to heat the church, payments to the church debt, which (God willing) would be paid off the next year.
By January 1942, the church had 250 baptized members, 145 communicant members, and 33 members in the Voter’s Assembly. Since it was during the war, an Army-Navy Commission Fund was added to the Mission Fund. The LWML also sent $5.00 to Camp Tallahoma for food for the soldiers. The Missouri Synod was the only group of churches that checked up on its men in the armed forces. St. Paul’s was the first church to have a service flag to represent the military members serving its country. The ladies’ group had reorganized on May 10, 1931, and a new constitution was adopted. On October 13, 1942, the women of St. Paul’s voted 16 to 6 to join a new organization called Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (L.W.M.L.). Pastor Krog and Mrs. OraLee Grabau attended a gathering in Waterloo, Iowa, when the LWML held their initial organizational meeting. This group is still actively supporting local and synod-wide mission activities. There was also an actively functioning Walther League made up of young people who had been confirmed by the congregation.
In the fall of 1942, the Sunday School boasted an enrollment of 57 children. During the summer of 1943, it was decided to have a summer Bible School on a two week trial basis. Because it was felt that more religion was needed for the young, a Saturday afternoon class was established for those of confirmation age. The congregation had set a minimum study of two years for those interested in becoming confirmed. Ladies were reminded that the custom of wearing hats to church was an old and proper custom and had divine approval as stated in 1st Corinthians 11:5-6. It was Pastor’s habit to quote scripture along with his requests to his parishioners. The men were reminded that those having been confirmed and 21 years of age should be at the Voter’s Assemblies.
Pastor Krog had served the congregation in Marion for twenty years when he decided to accept a call to Reinbeck, Iowa, in 1944. Under Krog’s leadership the congregation had grown from 9 to 355, and now the church needed two Sunday services to accommodate all of the parishioners. The Krogs had two children while living in Marion: Carl Edward (now 8 years) and Lois (5 months). It was quite a leap of faith to move to an unknown and unseen area to serve his calling. For the first time in its history, St. Paul’s congregation had to search for a pastor. During the months of August and September, the Rev. E. W. Wuggazer, pastor of neighboring Bethany congregation in Cedar Rapids, served as vacancy pastor. It was at this time that St. Paul’s congregation extended a call to the Rev. Carl T. Wuerffel, then serving the congregations of Presho, Draper, and Murdo, South Dakota. He accepted the call and was installed on October 1, 1944, by Pastor Wuggazer, with the new pastor’s brother, the Rev. L. C. Wuerffel of Iowa City, delivering the sermon for the occasion. Calling a pastor also focused attention upon another need for the church. Up to this time, the church did not own a parsonage. With the help of a $4000.00 loan from the District Church Extension Board, a home was acquired on the southwest corner of 10th Street and 9th Avenue. The new parsonage cost $5000.00.
When Pastor arrived in Marion, he had brought his wife, Thelma, and two children, Ruth and Ted. Mrs. Wuerffel reports that when her husband accepted the call to Marion, she already had a knowledge of the area. Her sister had earlier sent her a ticket to visit her in St. Louis so their daughters, who are about the same age, could get to know each other. On the trip to St. Louis, Mrs. Wuerffel and her daughter, Ruth, had been forced to spend several hours in Marion while the engine of the train was repaired. While living in Marion, John, Janet, Lois, Mark, and Carolyn were added to the family. The congregation enjoyed seeing the well-groomed little family come to church on Sunday morning. After the family took another call in the 1950s to St. Ansgar, Jim and David were born. Ted and John would follow their father into the ministry.
Under Pastor Wuerffel’s leadership, the congregation continued to grow. In January 1945, the congregation decided the financial help of the mission board was no longer needed, and for the first time it became self-supporting. Due to the congregation's continued growth, property was purchased across the street from the church on the southwest corner of 10th Avenue and 13th Street. Here, it was believed, would be enough room to build a new church. The dream of a new building never materialized due partly to the war and also to the fact that by the time the construction plans were completed, the cost of a new structure was prohibitive.
Many changes took place during Pastor Wuerffel’s years at St. Paul’s. One decision was to celebrate communion the first Sunday of each month The baby boom had hit Marion by 1945, and the church was getting more crowded each Sunday. The last few pews in the church were reserved for mothers with babies. The church had a Men’s Club, which later joined the Lutheran Laymen’s League. In that year there was also a Junior Walther League and Family Club. The Friendship Club was organized for young married couples. This was also a time when a collection was taken to buy powdered milk for needy children in Poland. Visual aids were used more extensively in the Sunday School classes. The attendance at the children’s Christmas program was larger than the church could accommodate, so for the next few years it was held at the Lincoln School Auditorium. (This building was torn down and replaced by the current playground at the corner of 5th Avenue and 12th Street, located west of the current Vernon Middle School). The year 1949 saw the purchase of a Minshall-Estey electronic organ due to the foresight of the LWML. At that time the ladies’ group served the church at home and at large through the Birthday Club which met monthly as a sewing circle.
Throughout the decade, it was becoming increasingly apparent that more space was needed for the growing congregation which required two Sunday morning services. The original building stood at the south end of the church property, and it was decided to build an addition on the north end. In the summer of 1949, the sanctuary was extensively remodeled and enlarged into the shape of a cross at a cost of nearly $15,000. The new addition measured 37 feet across and gave an over all length of 70 feet. The addition included a new and larger chancel, a sacristy, and office rooms. Mahogany stained open trusses were used throughout the new addition which corresponded to the decor of the original building. The basement included a fully equipped kitchen with double sinks, a large area for Sunday School classes, laboratories, and a new automatic gas heating system. A new entrance in the east wing provided ready access to the sacristy, the nave, and the basement. A copper-covered spire with a six foot cross stood on the transept. The seating capacity was increased to 225 with overflow seating for 150 in the basement auditorium. Chris Haerther of Atkins was the contractor with Thorsen and Thorsen of Waterloo, the architects. The building committee included Mark Linse of Mt. Vernon, Leonard Grabau and O. W. Lundquist of Marion, Alfred Schmidt of Springville, and A. A. Happel of Cedar Rapids.
The new addition was dedicated in August 1949. Two dedicatory services were held, and the ladies were in charge of a basket lunch served in the church basement. Shortly thereafter, on September 18, the congregation celebrated the 25th anniversary of the founding of the church, again marked by overflow crowds. Pastor Krog returned to speak at the joyous occasion.
When asked about some of the things that the congregation remembered about those early years, the thing that seemed to stand out was how hard the people worked to make their church home prosper. After all, it was at this time that a large package of Tide sold for 27 cents and two dozen cans of Florida Orange Juice sold for 49 cents. While the congregation as a whole had little money, they gave what they did have, which was time and energy. This created great camaraderie within the group. The young people, Walther Leaguers, along with their parents might enjoy hunting pigeons in farmers’ barns. This was not only a way of getting together but was also a necessity as the pigeons could damage the hay stored in the mow for the animals' winter feed. Of course a meal of pigeon pie followed the hunt. Monthly dinners were held either in the home of a member or in someone’s pasture. Three-legged races, softball, and other games were played and enjoyed by all. All day Vacation Bible School was held and was followed by the annual church picnic in Thomas Park.
Dick Schmid felt a great kinship with Pastor Wuerffel. He fondly recalls going pheasant hunting with several men. He was not very old, maybe 10 or 12. He and Pastor Wuerffel had smaller guns than those carried by the other adults. The two of them were in the center of a line of hunters, probably to make sure that if a bird did fly up, the others would be there to help them out. The day had gone fairly well when suddenly a pheasant flew up between Dick and Pastor. Both aimed and fired. The bird dropped to the ground. The rule of the hunt was that you cleaned what you shot, so Pastor helped Dick clean the bird. As they worked and talked, Pastor commented on how good he felt on having bagged such a fine bird. Dick stared at pastor and said, “But I shot this bird.” To him it was obvious that there was a hole in the side of the bird corresponding to where Dick had been standing when they both had fired. To this Pastor replied, “Now, Dick, think about it. Remember just as we fired, didn’t you notice how the bird turned over and flew along upside down! My bullet went right there!” Needless to say Dick is still laughing about that one to this day. (top)
New Faces, New Spaces (the 1950s)
In June 1954, Pastor Wuerffel accepted a call to St. Ansgar, Iowa. After a vacancy of approximately five months, the members welcomed Rev. Eldon Brandt, who was installed on October 3, 1954. Pastor Brandt was born February 19, 1925, and attended Concordia Teacher’s College for one year at Seward, Nebraska. He then went to St. Paul’s College, Concordia, Missouri, graduating in 1945. He continued his studies at Concordia Seminary until he graduated in 1949. After that, he served the mission congregation of Bethany Lutheran in Sioux City, Iowa. He married Arlene on June 5, 1949. Two children, Timothy and Deborah, came to Marion with Pastor and Arlene. Three children more children, Ruth, Mark, and Daniel, were born in Marion. Mark was later ordained into the ministry.
With a shared feeling of great jubilation, the St. Paul's mortgage was burned in 1952. Mr. Nathan Bast was Master of Ceremonies. Elder Alfred Rinderknecht of Marion, and Mr. Carl Schoenfelder of Cedar Rapids, helped with the celebration’s activities. Yet as the years went on, the church kept on growing. On January 1, 1953, there were 423 souls in the congregation, 278 of whom were communicant members. Two years later, worship services were so crowded that there was little room for visitors. Sunday School enrollment was at 128, and space could no longer not be found for the required number classrooms. Normajean Grabau can remember the basement being filled with pews. Two rows were set aside for each of the classes, and the teachers stood at the end of the rows to teach the children. Everyone learned to concentrate early. Two Sunday morning services were introduced as a temporary measure. Plans were made to purchase property with enough acreage to build adequately for the future. In March 1955, a plot near Longfellow School of approximately 5 and 4/10 acres fronting 366 feet on 10th Avenue, 370 feet on 8th Avenue and 645 feet, more or less on 27th Street, was purchased for $8,000.00.
Since the greater need was for a new parsonage, it was built first on the southwest corner of the new property. The congregation gave a great deal of their time to help construct it. The new parsonage was of ranch style design with a a two-stall garage to the east of the parsonage of the same type construction. Its exterior boasts a frame construction, wood siding, and a concrete foundation. It has a large, well-arranged living room with an adjacent large dining area. At the southern entrance is a built-in planter. There are three good sized bedrooms, each with a closet, and a pastor’s study with a separate entrance directly to the outside. The kitchen was well-equipped with excellent cabinets of fir and a two compartment sink. Its full basement allowed for a variety of uses. Floors are oak throughout the house except in the kitchen and bath. These two rooms are trimmed in birch. When it came time to do the floors, the young men of the congregation were given the task of finishing the closets assuming that if they made a mistake, it would be less noticeable there. As of 1999, the building was heated by Climatrol, forced air, and gas fired. The congregation was very proud to help the Brandt family move into the modern new parsonage in April 1956.
It had been hoped that building the new church could be delayed until a large portion of the financing needed could be collected, however, the costs of delaying the project made this a financially poor decision. For this reason and because of the continued growth of the congregation, in 1958, the long range planning committee was disbanded and replaced with a church project committee. The church project committee was authorized to construct a new church building, which would be located on the purchased property. The members of the congregation who served their Lord on the various building committees, which were rumored to have met into the late hours of the evening, were Dale Thran, Al Schmid, Earl Schuettpelz, Al Oswald, Fred Damm, Lloyd Winter, E. D. Vesey, Howard Davis, Glenn Merritt, Mark Linse, Vernon Haas, Neil Garnatz, Norman Fitzgerald, Don Tietjen, Eugene Dunn, Henry Peters, and Bruno Rinas. The architects, Kohlmann and Eckham were asked to design a building 108 ft. x 80 ft. at an approximate cost of $175,000. The contractor was O. F. Paulson Construction Co. The Well’s Organization was hired to help with the raising of the necessary funds for the building. A loyalty dinner was held as kick off to the fund raising on October 5, 1958.
After much planning, on June 21, 1959, at 2:30 P.M. the congregation gathered to break ground for the new church building. The audience was seated on what would be the new walls of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Marion, Iowa. The Rev. E. Koberg, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church of Cedar Rapids, spoke at the ceremony. The building began in earnest during the first part of July. Excessive moisture caused a slight delay during and after the basement excavation. To forestall any future moisture problems in the basement, additional tile and gravel were placed under the floor.
On October 25, 1959, a ceremony was held to lay the building's cornerstone. Many were invited to the ceremony held at 2:30 p. m., which proved to be a cold and blustery afternoon. The Rev. J. Koch, counselor to the Cedar Rapids Circuit was the featured speaker The cornerstone’s contents include a Bible, a Lutheran hymnal, a Luther’s Small Catechism, a copy of the church's constitution, a list of communicant members, a list of the officers of the church, an October 6, 1959, issue of the Lutheran Witness, an October 21 issue of the Marion Sentinel, and an October 24 issue of the Cedar Rapids Gazette. The following names were also added:
the president of the United States--Dwight Eisenhower; the governor of Iowa--Herschel G. Loveless; the mayor of Marion--George H. Brewer; the contractor--O. F. Paulson Construction Co.; the building committee--Dale Thran, Alfred Schmid, and Earl Schuettpelz. Construction progressed as quickly as the weather would permit. November forced a slow-down, but good weather followed in December allowing for speedier construction.
In a brochure distributed to the congregation, the building was described as follows. Construction: brick exterior, aluminum, and stone trim; shingle and built-up roofs; light weight block interior walls, painted; concrete floor slabs with asphalt tile, ceramic tile and quarry tile finished floors; steel sash; hollow metal door frames; hollow metal exterior doors; oak interior doors and trim; light weight block and concrete joist floor system with painted exposed ceilings; wood arches and deck over the nave; hot water heating system. Rooms: nave and chancel; narthex and overflow; pastor’s study; mother’s room; ten classrooms, social hall to be divided into 10 additional classrooms; kitchen; storage rooms; boiler room; and an organ chamber for a future organ. The one-story building and complete basement would be 117 feet by 76 feet, 8 inches with a seating capacity in the nave and balcony of 400. The social hall dining capacity would give an additional seating of 250.
The brochure also noted the furnishings needed for the church. It was hoped that members would give a gift or a memorial in the form of one of the following items:
- 38 Northern Red Oak Pews (14’) @ $100.00
- 4 Northern Red Oak Pews (19’), balcony @ $135.00
- 2 Hymn Boards @ $16.00
- 1 Altar @ $300.00
- 1 Cross (12’ X 4’) @ $50.00
- 1 Pulpit @ $175.00
- 1 Lectern @ $140.00
- 1 Baptismal Font @ $135.00
- 2 Pew Screens @ $133.00
- 1 Communion Rail @ $450.00
- 2 Pulpit Chairs @ $85.00
As construction continued, the need for more financing became a major problem. Where possible, the congregation itself worked on the building to save money, such as hauling dirt away and seeding grassy areas. Originally a First Mortgage Real Estate Loan was obtained from R. G. Mills Co. of St. Louis at 5 ½% interest. Later the congregation arranged to borrow $48,000.00 on a ten year term from the First National Bank located northwest of Marion. In addition, a fifteen year commitment for $16,000.00 had been secured from the Linn County Building and Loan Association. The contractor, O. F. Paulson, had agreed to carry the balance of the indebtedness. Whenever there was not enough money to meet the current monthly bill from Mr. Paulson, he would accept a note @ 6% in the amount of the bill. At completion of the building, all such notes, with accumulated interest, would be payable in twenty-four equal monthly payments, also @ 6 % interest. It was thought that after the building was completed all the indebtedness could be refinanced elsewhere on a long term basis. Approximately $4449.28 in contributions was needed each month in order to meet the financial obligation of the new church building. John Wagner of Tait and Wagner Company performed an appraisal that showed the valuation of the church property as:
- Church building, 181,305 cubic feet @ $1.06, including architect’s fees: $192,200
- Site-land ($17,800) and improvements ($4200): $22,000
- Built-in Kitchen cabinets: $4500
- Personal property, church furnishings, etc.: $9600
- Parsonage and garage: $22,000
- Total Valuation $250,300
According to the publicity committee, about $12,000 more was needed to meet the obligation of the new building. Additional funding was obtained from Aid Association for Lutherans. Interestingly about 7% of the congregation’s envelope holders contributed 50 % of the total building fund collections while 93% contributed the other 50 %. One week prior to the dedication, the congregation was asked to help move the church furnishings to the new location. Dedication plates were sold for $1.75, plaques for $1.25, and stationery for $1.00. The original church on 10th Avenue was sold for $18,000. Currently the building houses the Baxter Funeral Home, and an apartment was added to the north end of that building for living quarters for the Baxter’s.
Finally, the building was completed, and the dedication was held June 19, 1960. Before the morning dedicatory service, the congregation assembled in front of the church and entered the new edifice in the following order: the pastors; the architects; the builder; the building committee; the choirs; the ushers; the elders bearing the Bibles, the Sacred Vessels, and the altar brasses; the other members of the church council; and the congregation. The first pastor of St. Paul’s, Rev. Carl E. Krog also spoke at this service. In the afternoon, a inspirational service was held. At this service, Rev. Carl T. Wuerffel, the second pastor of St. Paul’s delivered the sermon. A reconsecration service was held on Wednesday, June 22, with the sermon delivered by the Rev. Marcus T. Zill, coordinating counselor to Iowa District East, Missouri Synod. Assisting with all the services was the church’s current pastor, Rev. E. L. Brandt. The number of baptized members was then 764 with a communicant membership of 450.
It should be noted that more was happening during this time than the building of a new church. In 1958, the congregation was pleased when Garth Baker and Harold Scheer decided to enter study for the ministry. Those interested in softball formed a league and competed against other church groups. A continued favorite winter fellowship form for the men of the congregation was the dartball tournaments held competitively between area churches. Members were also engaged in Synodical Evangelism Preaching-Teaching-Reaching Mission and Spiritual Life Mission where each member of the congregation did an in-depth self study. (top)
Doing the Lord's Work (the 1960s)
With the advent of the 1960s, the Lord continued to bless the congregation. In 1961, the various ladies’ groups reorganized to form the St. Paul’s Women’s League. It consisted of twelve “circles” to allow for greater participation in the programs of Christian education, service, and fellowship. The ladies purchased new dishes and supplies for the kitchen along with an eight burner Silverstone Stone. New altar parments and fair linen was also contributed. In the same year, the congregation decided that pastor needed full time secretarial help. Esther Schuettpelz had been helping him for some time, and it was decided to hire her on a full time basis for $110 a month.
In November 1961, the Sunday School had a total enrollment of 233 in November along with a congregational membership of 875 and communicant members of 523. The congregation and pastor felt the need for greater communication, so in July, 1962, “The Lantern”, a weekly newsletter, was published. The value of the newsletter has been proven as it continues to be sent to the homes of the congregation to this day. At this time 45% of the members lived within a mile of the church and another 21% lived more than five miles from the church. Due to the muddy parking lot, it was suggested that when coming to the church, the parishioners be dropped at the front porch by the driver and perhaps then the driver needed to wear boots to get to the church building itself. A brick sign was built on the west side of the building to identify the church and show service times.
In 1963, the Friendship Club sent money to St. John’s Lutheran, Monticello, Iowa, to help purchase 60 Bibles for the Anamosa Reformatory. Garth Baker, a son of the congregation, was ordained on June 23, 1963, at the church by Pastor Brandt. He had been supported in his ministerial studies by the congregation. On December 16, the first choral concert was given by the choir. The members of the church became involved in the Church Extension Stamp Plan. The children were encouraged to help in the building of mission churches by purchasing 25 cent stamps which were kept in a booklet. These were mainly purchased by the children, but the adults were not excluded from the activity. When the booklet was filled, it could be redeemed for a $25.00 bond. Interest could then be earned by the holder of the bond, and in turn the money was invested in building other churches.
With the encouragement of the congregation, Pastor Brandt began in 1964, an in-depth study of the Old and New Testament called the Bethel Bible Series. The study involved over 100 hours of intensive study, and pastor was the first to receive the training. He then began passing along his training to a few dedicated members of the congregation who in turn passed their knowledge on to the congregation in a series of studies which would take two years to complete. Future teachers of the congregation would be: Arlene Brandt, Arley Blankenberg, Ruth Ann Dunn, Eugene Dunn, Russell Elam, Larry Mulbrook, Mrs. Donald Schantz, Walter Veal, Esther Schuettpelz, Mrs. Elwin Sievers, and Lee Alhouse. The congregation would then take the Bethel classes which were divided into sessions and these sessions would continue until all members had received the training. By the end of the first year, 111 people had participated and gotten a clearer picture of the history found in the Bible.
In January, 1966, the congregation called a deaconess, Miss Audrey Vanderbles, whose duties centered on making calls and assisting with the young people and the various activities of the church’s variety of schools. Under her direction the weekday classes began. That year the Vacation Bible School had an enrollment of 300 students for two sessions. 88 adults were enrolled in Bethel Bible classes.
The annual Christmas Program was held again, and the Christmas committee reported the following in the 1966 yearly report: “Departing from past practices, only one tree was placed on the altar at a cost of $17.50 which included the delivery charges of $2.50. A Christmas sack of goodies was given to each child in attendance at either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day services. 400 sacks were made up and distributed. Costs incurred were: 5 boxes of apples (@$5.50) & 100 lb., roasted peanuts (@ .36 lb.), 60 lb.. chocolate drops (@ .27
cents), 40 lb.. hard candy--$14.78, 20 boxes Wrigley gum (@ 65 cents), 2 boxes chocolate balls (@$1.50), 9 boxes of chocolate medallions (@$1.50), 15 lb. hard candy--$5.54, 500 #6 paper bags and 500 #4 paper bags. Other expenses: one string of lights--$4.07, 25 bulb decorations--$2.90, 12 boxes of icicles--$1.22, one extension cord--$.81.”
A point of interest and the only such report found in the collection of annual reports was the ‘Report from the church office’ from 1966. It is included for your enjoyment. This is copied pretty much as it was reported in the annual report. “During 1966, the church office personnel attempted to keep up the records of Communions, Baptisms, Confirmations, Marriages, Burials; to keep an up-to-date record of our 1100 members, their names, addresses, telephone numbers, and their status as to officer, usher, organist, Sunday School teacher, organization officer, deacon, voting member, etc.; to take charge of the church library; to over-see the mimeographing, address-o-graphing, stenciling, mailing and compiling of 400 copies of the Annual Report, 200 Christmas practice books, 400 Christmas Eve Orders of Service, etc..; assembling and compiling statistics of all members for EBENEEZER, print the weekly bulletin, special bulletins, calendars, financial forms, agendas, subscription lists to the Witness and Portals of Prayer; prepare “welcome kits” for new members, and other routine office procedures. In the accomplishment of these tasks the office used 10,000 - 4 cent and
1500 5 cent stamped envelopes, 1000 - 4 cent stamps, 165 -5 cent stamps plus $31.38 in other postage for larger envelopes and packages; 22 quire stencils, 14 tubes ink, and approx. 100 reams (500 sheets per ream) paper, plus 32 reams more for the Annual report.
“Each month the office sends out: 750 bulletins to absent and distant members and 85-100 cards for council, board and committee members, voters, deacons, and teachers. Each month the secretary makes at least 20 personal (not phone) calls to the post office for pre-canceled stamps and special mailings to: Pioneer Lith, Bond Letter Shop, Cockings Co. , Address-O-Graph Corp, etc. for supplies and maintenance of office machines, and confers with many members of various boards, committees and organizations in connections with special tasks and programs. Parish Secretary”
In May 1967, Pastor Brandt accepted a call to St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Columbus, Indiana. He frequently stated that the congregation must remember to care for the Lord’s work and the rest will come. He can be remembered also for a spiritual reawakening and a strong dedicated mission program. He encouraged many of the young people of the congregation to dedicate their life to Christ. Harold Scheer entered the preaching ministry in 1970. Marlene Schmid began teaching ministry in 1952 to be followed by Carol Schmid in 1956. Mary Ellen Pech followed her husband, Dr. James McArthur, in medical-missionary ministry in Mambisanda, New Guinea as a registered nurse. Teresa Knussman graduated from Concordia, St. Paul, Minnesota and taught in Minnesota after 1971. Pastor Brandt believed a church that wasn’t strong in mission work wasn’t a church.
As the congregation anticipated the arrival of a new pastor, the rental of Longfellow School was arranged since the Sunday School facilities was again becoming crowded. Eight classes were using the facilities as the average Sunday attendance was 243. On November 19, 1967, the Rev. John D. Huber, Jr. of Amarillo, Texas, was installed as St. Paul’s fourth pastor. His family included his wife, Maryanne, and children Jane and John. Their third child, Ellen, was born in Marion. Pastor Huber was born April 10, 1933, in Albany, Texas. He attended Concordia Academy, Austin, Texas; St. John’s College, Winfield, Kansas; Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, graduating in 1958. He was missionary-at-large in Jackson, Mississippi, until 1962. He then went to Amarillo, Texas, and served in Christ Lutheran Church until coming to Marion in 1967. When Pastor Huber came to Marion, there were 1143 baptized members. There were 20 Sunday school classes with approximately 400 students enrolled. Weekday classes had 74 children enrolled in grades 1-6. VBS had an enrollment of 351. The young people’s group changed the name from Walther League to Luther League. Teacher training continued as well as more adult classes both in the Bethel Bible Series and other topics. Pastor had deep convictions that the worship service must touch the heart of every individual, so the services began to use different forms of liturgy and hymns as well as folk services, chancel dramas, chancel dialogues, and children’s talks. Thomas Wenndt began ministerial studies.
In 1969, the Luther League became Young Lutherans for Christ. New worship forms and folk liturgies were used. A new young adult group predominately for the 18-35 age group known as the SPARKS began meeting. The LWML made new gold and white decorations for the Christmas trees called Chrismons which are monograms of Christ. (top)
Improving the Church and Splitting of the Congregation (the 1970s)
The year 1970 was busy at the church. An altar guild was formed to care for the appointments of the altar and to be sure it was carefully ready for each function. Baptismal candelabra and a sanctuary lamp were placed on the altar. A committee was appointed to study the classroom needs of the congregation. It was decided to divide the fellowship hall into classrooms and there was a unanimous recommendation to consider a building program. During the summer, a mentally retarded class was formed to give recreation and Christian education to those in need of it. Missy Brandt, a child of the congregation, was given extra help by members in the form of ‘patterning’ which is labor intensive physical exercise that attempts to solve physical handicaps. The Sunday School children adopted a Bolivian foster child, Wilma Vargas, and sent aide to her. New lights were placed in the fellowship hall, conference, and projection rooms. New bulletin boards and chalkboards were installed in the classrooms. Members of the church helped repair and beautify Headstart Centers in Holmes County, Mississippi. In an effort to help the congregation grow closer together, a variety of groups met for fellowship purposes, including: SPARKS, Klinkers, and Silver Seniors. The youth again chose to ‘trick or treat’ for UNICEF. The church began a vicar program. St. Paul's first vicar, Donald Mohr, was also installed. He was followed by Ronald Krug in 1971 and Dwight Hellmers in 1972. In 1973, the vicar was David Beese who stayed for two years. This would be the last of the vicars for several years.
In 1971, the members of St. Paul’s began planting trees as Living Memorials. They wanted the surroundings of the House of God to be attractive to the community. When the present site was bought, it was a cornfield and hence there were no trees. Soon a variety of trees--maple, locust, pin oak, linden, plum, ash, and spruce--lined the driveway and parking lot. Many of these trees were planted by confirmation classes. The church debt had been retired. A Community Concern committee was created with the purpose of helping with the needs of the people in Marion and Cedar Rapids. The promotion of the Community Food Bank was met with generous response.
In 1972, the yellow stained glass windows in the sanctuary were replaced with colorful faceted windows as a private gift from one of the families of the congregation. The windows differ from stained glass in the fact that they are pieces of hand cut French glass placed in an epoxy resin base. The Hoosier Studios of Winona, Wisconsin, was selected to design the windows under the direction of Pastor Huber. Each of the six brightly colored windows depict one of the chief parts of the Christian faith: the Ten Commandments, the Apostle’s Creed, the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, the Office of the Keys and Confession, the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, and the Sacrament of the Altar. Men and, for the first time, women began attending and voting in the General Assembly once called the Voter’s Assembly. Movable partitions (air walls), were installed in the fellowship hall to give additional classrooms.
Vacation Bible School of 1973 employed the special talents of Martin Bangert of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As an added feature for the 220 enrolled VBS students, Mr. Bangert brought with him a Schlickter pipe organ to help lead the singing and music. The pews of the church were refinished this year. One exciting business for the year was the Key ‘73 Bible Study in which people in the community opened their homes for opportunities to pray and study together without regard to religious preference.
It was at this time, 1974, that the Synodical Convention met in New Orleans, and the dissent over interpretations of the Bible among the faculty of the St. Louis Seminary became obvious. As a result of the dissent many faculty and students left the seminary and formed what became known as Seminary in Exile.
This year was also exciting because it was the church's 50th anniversary. The congregation decided on a celebration entitled “Let Us Praise His Glory”. A pictorial directory was created and celebrations were held to rejoice in the blessings given to the congregation. Former pastors returned to speak, and many memories were shared by those in attendance. At the first celebration the congregation’s first pastor’s wife, Mrs. Carl Krog, and the second pastor, the Rev. Carl Wuerffel, were in attendance. Pastor Wuerffel spoke at the first celebration held on June 2, which also honored the confirmation classes from 1924 to 1954. The second celebration was held on August 18. Former pastor E. L. Brandt returned to speak and the confirmation classes from 1955 to 1974 were honored. Pastor John Huber, Jr. also took part in the festivities.
The celebration of 50 years as a growing congregation could not be complete without noting the work of its various organizations: the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League with its seven circles performing 1001 services within and without the congregation; the Sparks meeting for fellowship and providing greeters at the church services; the Friendship Group; the Silver Seniors; the Young Lutherans for Christ. During that year, the congregation helped with the relocation of a Vietnamese family, Huy Quang Nguyen, to our area. The Young Lutherans for Christ became the Active Christian Teens. The congregation collected and delivered toys and other supplies to children in Holmes County, Mississippi. Along with other new activities was the decision to stop the vicar program and call an assistant pastor. The problem of crowded Sunday School classes led to consideration of building a 6000 sq. ft. addition to the church. It was hoped that by adding space the congregation would no longer need to rent additional classrooms at Longfellow School. By this time, the confirmation class numbered thirty-five, the largest class in church history.
Donald Mohr, the first vicar at St. Paul’s, was installed as an associate pastor in 1975. He was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on August 20, 1946. He attended Lutheran elementary and high schools. In preparation for the Holy Ministry, he attended St. Paul’s College at Concordia, Missouri, Concordia Senior College at Ft. Wayne, Indiana, and Concordia Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, where he graduated in 1972. He was ordained and installed as the pastor of Trinity and St. Paul’s Lutheran Churches at Trolley and Flaxton, North Dakota until accepting the call to Marion. He and his wife, Evelyn, a registered nurse, have three daughters: Janelle, Kathleen, and Dana.
In the year 1975, the congregation was also pleased to begin using a new organ. The idea to replace the old organ was floated several years before at the 1972 choir Christmas party. Mr. Howard Burton found an advertisement for an organ for sale in a home in Ottumwa, Iowa, so a delegation of six people went to look at it one Sunday afternoon. Apparently it looked rather decrepit, but was also very impressive. When Mr. Burton agreed that it could be reclaimed to work in the church, negotiations to purchase it from Mr. and Mrs. Bob Sawyer began. Two members of St. Paul’s donated the funds to purchase it. The organ had a classical design and was originally built in for the 1935 World’s Fair by the Kilgen Organ Company of St. Louis, Missouri. It was played at the fair by the great Jesse Crawford, organist impresario. From there, it was carted back to St. Louis and installed in three different churches with the instrument's last move to Ottumwa. St. Paul’s came provided all the help to dismantle, pack, and cart the great old instrument from a home's basement in Ottumwa to a double garage north of Marion. This was accomplished largely by a member who just happened to be a former driver for Mayflower Van Lines. With his former employer’s generosity, the organ was transported to Marion. From then on, it was clean up, fix up, releather, recork, and in general overhaul the fine old organ. The new home for the organ would be in the choir loft, which had been cleverly planned by those who had years earlier designed the choir loft adequately both in height and space.
Next came building the scaffolding for the chests that held the pipes, the air piping work, and hooking up of the myriad of wires. Everything went fairly smoothly, allowing only for the normal problems connected with a piece of machinery of this size and complexity. Finally, on the most joyous of evenings, just before Christmas 1974, with the right combination of + and - on all cables, lo and behold, the instrument came to life. A faint tune could be played upon it. From then on renewed enthusiasm took over and each rank was completed and checked out. Just before Christmas 1975, the organ was ready. A final and professional tuning was required, but it could be played. The organist, Louise Wolf, said she would attempt a postulate of Christmas carols on it for the Christmas Eve Service. Even with the off-color sounds it made, it still sounded forth with overwhelming power and strength. Transporting, cleaning, and again moving of the organ from the garage to the church was accomplished by the members and friends of members of the church. The congregation enjoyed the fine instrument for several years.
In 1976, disputes between conservative and moderate factions within the church continued to grow. At the heart of the matter were differences of the basic interpretation of the Bible. The convention in New Orleans passed a resolution condemning the Concordia faculty majority position for preaching doctrine which should not be tolerated by the church. Evangelical Lutherans in Mission (ELIM) believed that interpretation was causing members to disagree on Biblical history, and as a result students and faculty formed their own school. Back in Iowa, St. Paul's was no longer able to use the entire Longfellow School for Sunday School classes. A motion to build a 5200 sq. ft. addition to the church was tabled at the general assembly. This was likely because the problems within the synod had worked themselves into the congregation. The building committee was disbanded as a result despite the work that had gone into the planning. The synod's problems continued to cause distention within the congregation. By March 1977, the church officers met and after much discussion passed a resolution that St. Paul’s withdraw from the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod and to vote on a new synodical affiliation within six months. A general assembly meeting was called on April 17 to decide on the future of the church. After discussion on both sides, a vote was taken. The vote was 167 to 211. The church majority would stay in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and at St. Paul’s.
On April 23, Pastor John Huber resigned his clerical position due to his sympathy with the beliefs of ELIM. Approximately one-third to one-half of the congregation left St. Paul’s with Huber or transferred to other congregations. Those choosing to follow the teachings of Pastor Huber met to form a new congregation. This group eventually became Faith Lutheran now located on the corner of Alburnett Road and Boyson Road. It should be noted the split was fairly amicable, it was not pain-free. Some families broke apart when they could not agree on which doctrinal path to follow. It was a heart wrenching Sunday as families and life-long friends separated, knowing that they would no longer worship together. Those remaining at St. Paul’s were suddenly faced with the problems of vacant offices and people needed to fill them. Many members confidently came forward and responded confidently to work for the Lord.
In May 1978, the family of Leonard H. A. Grabau presented a 600 lb. bronze and silver bell to hang in the church’s belfry. It had been a long time dream of the family to do so. The bell is inscribed: “Presented to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, to the glory of God” It rang for many years at various times of the day until the vibrations caused serious problems to the tower's structure and its lovely sound had to be seriously curtailed to Sunday morning calls to worship and other special occasions.
Pastor Donald Mohr, who had stayed with the congregation after the breakup, left St. Paul’s for Palson and Roman, Montana, in 1978. Pastors Randolph Mueller of Center Point and Richard Thompson of Trinity in Cedar Rapids served the church during the approximately six-month vacancy.
In June 1978, Pastor Steven J. Melvin came to serve the congregation. He was born June 20, 1949, in Beldon, Texas. He attended Concordia College in Austin, Texas; Concordia Senior College, Fort Wayne, Indiana; and Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, graduating on May 24, 1974, with a Master of Divinity. He came to Marion from Good Shepherd Lutheran in Franklin, Indiana. His wife was the former Elizabeth Webber, a teacher. Since Pastor Melvin was a Texan, many of the congregational dinners were planned around foods with a Texas flair. One stewardship dinner featured Texas chili cooked by Pastor himself. Some of the ladies thought perhaps those attending might prefer Iowa chili, which comes with kidney beans. Texas chili does not. Most attendees preferred Iowa chili much to the frustration of Pastor. The ladies finally combined the chili into one recipe. All in all, a fine time was had by the record attendance of 200. Such fellowship created a gain as the adult Bible class was one of the largest for many years. (top)
A Busy Congregation (the 1980s)
During the 1980s, the congregation became involved in a plan called Iowa/India which was designed to build Lutheran churches in India. As early as 1895, the LCMS had sent missionaries to India, but it was several years before the first person of Indian descent was baptized. The Iowa/India plan was to send $3000, over the course of two years, to build a church. Its exact location would not be assigned until the money had been raised. During the two years that money was collected, a sum of $5657.00 was sent to the country with the congregation meeting their goal in less than the two years. A congregation member, Mr. Lowell Temme, has traveled in the area and has seen the church, the India Evangelical Lutheran Church of Mittalam, India, at a distance. He reports that it is a simple cement block structure, painted white, but a nice looking edifice. It is located in the Ambur District, in the southern quarter of India between Madras and Bangalore. Keep in mind the building is located where the temperature ranges from 80 to 110 degrees with 24 inches of rain a year. The ladies of the congregation also sent $229.00 to buy four or five sewing machines so the women of India could help with the finances of their families by doing sewing. Later, and with the guidance of Dr. Al Barry, $283.70 was sent to purchase six more sewing machines The LWML continued working with the Iowa/India Plan and in 1981 sent $83.64 to the people of Mitland, India, to purchase a goat. Over the years that Pastor Melvin led the congregation, there was a continued emphasis on evangelism. Darla Ring was hired to assist Pastor by working with the various groups in the congregation. A tape ministry was created for the shut-in members. There were welcome packets given to families new to Marion using the Chamber of Commerce listings of newcomers. The Kennedy Evangelism Program was started so that training and teaching of a few members would lead to the training and teaching of others interested in calling on the community to find those desiring a church home.
After a successful study to see if a preschool would be self-supporting, the church’s first preschool was begun in 1981 under the able leadership of Miss Karen Sands. Six four-year olds enrolled and attended M-W-F mornings in the church basement. Sunday School enrollment was soaring to 211, indicating the largest growth in recent history. At this time the Children’s Christmas Program was a slide program in which the children recreated the scenes of the Christmas story by using various areas in the community to represent the places in the Bible at the time of the birth of Jesus. More space for the children was needed, so two classrooms were rented at Longfellow School. The Voter’s Assembly resolved to begin a study of a possible parochial school.
Also in this year, some significant improvements were made to the church, including a new roof, carpeting, and kitchen counters. The ACT purchased an artificial Christmas tree for the church basement. Pastor Randolph Mueller was hired as a visitation pastor to help handle the large number of calls required to ensure population growth. Pastor Mueller had retired from full time service to the Lord most recently in Center Point, Iowa. He would fill a need in the congregation where more calling on individuals was a greatly needed. Pastor’s son, John, was a missionary in Africa, and the LWML supported his efforts there. Pastor Melvin’s great desire was to have a congregation who was more proficient in reading and understanding the Bible. His classes attempted to give the people greater Biblical confidence. A new liturgy was introduced to the congregation. It was very difficult to learn all the new songs and services. The choir worked diligently to learn the liturgy and in turn to help the congregation learn as quickly as possible. Diane Smith was added to the musical department and proved to be a very proficient organist, thus allowing Diana Lensch to have more time to spend with her growing family.
A new organ was purchased, installed, and dedicated in Spring 1982. A puppet ministry was initiated under the able direction of Connie Mays. Not only did the puppets minister to the congregation but also to other congregations and organizations. The number attending Sunday School classes were growing, and the parsonage basement as well as two rooms at Longfellow School were needed to handle the enrollment. The preschool enrolled 14 students, and classes were held every weekday morning. During Vacation Bible School, balloons were released by the children. Inside each balloon was a message to the finder and a request that the message be returned to the church. The children were very excited when the messages began to be returned along with a comment from the finder as to where, how, and when each balloon was found. Several months passed as the messages came from many places in neighboring states and as far away as Michigan. The balloons were returned by people who had found them in a variety of places as along farm fields when planting was being done.
The year 1982 also saw pastoral changes. Pastor Melvin had left the congregation in 1981. The vacancy pastor was Pastor Thompson from Cedar Rapids, and the congregation was thankful for the presence of Pastor Mueller, who even though his position did not change, many felt that his responsibilities did. Pastor Cunningham came to the congregation in the fall of 1982. He had a wife, a daughter, and a son, who later entered the ministry as well.
Many activities kept the congregation busy in the early 1980s. It was the fifth year of canvassing the Marion area in the hope of spreading the word of God. A great deal of time and study had been spent on the idea of opening a parochial school. This idea was finally dropped, but the need for more Sunday School room was not. Classes were doubled up and plans were put into motion for the R.K. Construction Inc. of Marion to proceed with building an educational wing on the south side of the church and just to the west of the parking lot. The educational wing included five classrooms, two offices, and a meeting room. Plans were to have the use of the addition by November 1983. Monies from memorials were used to help furnish the new addition. A great deal of excitement was generated when the congregation took on the responsibility of managing a food tent at the Farm Progress Show held at a few farms east of Marion. Working with St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, the members cooked and served sausages, hot dogs, and a variety of other food items. The congregation even loaned refrigerators and pots and pans to help with the food preparations and save on expenses. They volunteered for daily shifts for the three-day run of the show. The congregation raised $11,505.91 for its efforts.
The choir began Christmas caroling at various member’s homes. The ACT continued to meet and were active with lock-ins, trips, barn dancing, snow skiing, camping, and water-skiing. This group continued to create a live Nativity scene on the lawn of the church, their members playing the main characters in the Christmas story. Sometimes live animals were brought in by congregational members who had sheep and cows tame enough to be handled by the teenagers. Some of those nights the weather was extremely cold and copious amounts of hot chocolate was consumed.
The LWML held a Mother/Daughter Dessert Fellowship and served 122 even though only 80 programs were printed. They celebrated 40 years as an organization with the following charter members still attending services at St. Paul’s: Esther Schuttpeltz, Irene Rinderknecht, OraLee Grabau, Irene Ness, Wilma Pech, Hannah Wickham, Alice McDoniels, Emma Lutz, and Whilma Schmid. Another of their activities was the formation of a banner committee to create banners for hanging at the front of the church. In the beginning the money for the banners came from the memorials of Neil Garnetz and Louise Soenksen. The Women’s League added to the efforts until a full set of banners for each of the church’s festivals was completed. The first Harvest Bazaar was held in 1983, and the women of the congregation planned to make this a yearly effort to support more mission activities as well as supporting programs within the church. Miriam Circle continued the practice of calling on shut-ins and the hospitalized. The ladies also began the task of overseeing the remodel of the old pastor’s office into a sacristy. The original had been located off the nave, but a new one was created in the new addition. For several years, bazaar money was set aside for this purpose until the closets, shelving and storage areas were finally complete.
The year 1984 was also quite busy. A committee of twelve men, called deacons, was formed to assist the elders in calls and visitation. Each family in the congregation would now be assigned an elder and a deacon. Stewardship began to focus on the need for ongoing awareness of the responsibilities as stewards of God’s Word and His church. King of Kings Lutheran Church started in northern Cedar Rapids and several of the members transferred membership as a means of helping to create a stronger base for the new church. The trustees became a three person board. Pastor Cunningham left St. Paul’s and in 1986, after what seemed like a lengthy period of time, Pastor Thomas Hedtke accepted the call. Pastor Hedtke had begun to study in Concordia Seminary, but withdrew from the program, feeling at the time that a religious calling was not for him. He worked in accounting and in engineering before realizing that the ministry was truly where he belonged. He graduated from Concordia Theological Seminary in 1972. He served as pastor of churches in Kermet and Monahaus, Texas, and in Wausau, Wisconsin, before coming to Marion. His wife, Mary Jane, is a registered nurse. He also has a married daughter, Deborah, and a son, Phillip.
During 1987, members of the church discussed the possibility of purchasing Longfellow School for future expansion. Many uses were considered, but the purchase was ruled out. A pictorial directory was created under the able guidance of Annette Hammer. Pastor also began to use the students in the confirmation class as acolytes for the Sunday morning services. From 1987 to 1989, the church council did long range planning for the future and studied ways to increase member involvement and to move the church forward. In large part, many of the goals were met. New groups began to meet, including the Men’s Breakfast and the Silver Seniors. Easter Holy Week was celebrated with a Passover meal with the help of Diane Smith and Faith Hein. Support for the Marion Food Pantry was given. As a way to spread our message and the Lord’s work, many people put together a float for Marion’s annual Swamp Fox parade and celebration. This was to become a fun annual event. (top)
The Lord's Work, a Re-instituted Vicar Program, and 75 Years to Celebrate (the 1990s)
In 1991, the Evangelism Committee put a colorful message on a billboard on Blairs Ferry Road that told of the Lord's work. It was also the first time the congregation participated in the annual Good Friday services in Veteran’s Coliseum in Cedar Rapids. These services were open to the public and held during the noon hour to accommodate working people in the community. After a study, the church decided to end the preschool due to the inability of locating more students. The Sunday School began to collect pennies in hopes of collecting a “mile of pennies” that would be given to the Lutheran Bible Translators. Pastor Mueller resigned from his position as visitation pastor after ten years and also from the ministry after 50 years of work for the Lord. A new Public Address system was installed in the church. Pastor Hedtke decided to build his own home and as a result the parsonage was vacated. The parsonage was then used to house the vicar in the newly re-instituted vicar program. Vicar Westby and his wife, Twanya, came to be a great addition to the work at St. Paul’s.
In 1992, due to many financial problems that resulted in severe cut-backs in spending, a vicar was not called and the parsonage was rented. The bell tower needed major repairs: the faces of the brick tower were falling off, cracks were developing in the walls, and it was discovered during a cleaning that about a half ton of bird droppings was in the base. So the bell tower was cleaned and repaired, and to quote one of the trustees, “We don’t want to do that again!”
The Senior Men had been meeting for five years and now the Silver Seniors were six years old. With the cutbacks, the loan was paid off in 1993. Congregants who were 18 years old could now vote in the general assembly. To pay for longer lasting candles and other needs of the Altar Guild, several annual cookie and candy sales were held in which ladies of the congregation served as personnel shoppers for those unable to resist the tempting goodies. In 1994, the exterior of the church was tuckpointed and the sacristy roof was turned into a peaked roof to alleviate water problems. The vicar program was reinstated, and Vicar David and Sharon Thompson and their three daughters came to live in the parsonage and spent a year learning about the workings of the church. Pastor Hedtke became a Circuit Counselor for the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Circuit. There was an increase in the time given by the congregation toward Habitat for Humanity, a new project both in the community and in the church.
In the year 1995, a new vicar arrived: Vicar Bradley Bowlds, his wife, Laura, and their five children. Their sixth child was born just before they left Marion to return to seminary for their final year of schooling. Habitat for Humanity was able to build its first home in Marion. A new group called St. Paul’s Thespian Troupe was formed and gave dramatic performances during church services. Many of the church's youth attended the LCMS National Youth Gathering in San Antonio, Texas. In order to raise money for their trip they held baked potato, spaghetti, and chili dinners. Other money raising activities included pizza sales, raking leaves, servant auction, and an Easter breakfast.
In 1996, the church council decided to stop repairing the furnace and have it replaced and new air conditioning installed. It was wonderful to be warm in winter and cool in summer. Many were concerned about the costs, but it proved to be less costly than operating the old furnace. The parking lot needed tiling and then the entire surface was paved. It only took two weeks of parking on the sidewalks and grass to do the resurfacing Vicar Paul Duffy and his wife, Sharon, and family came to serve among us. They brought with them four children and the fifth was born during the vicarage. It should be noted that after Vicar became a pastor, they added a set of twin boys to their family.
The next year Vicar Joseph Cassady III, his wife, Susan, and his grown family of three joined the church. He began a whole new career in the ministry even though he had been a successful radio personality in Chicago. David Rathje, whose son, Scott, serves the Lord in Russia, retired from the custodial work of the congregation after 13 years of service. He turned his broom and dust mop over to Edward VanDee and began a much deserved retirement.
Several things stand out for 1998. ACT sent 16 youth to another National Youth Gathering held in Atlanta, Georgia. These young people spent a great deal of time preparing for this journey which required many money-raising activities. In October 1998, the congregation kicked off the beginning of a year of festivities to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the founding of the church. The theme for the celebrations was “Share the Glory”. It began with group pictures of those attending services on August 16, 1998. This was a far cry from the thirty-three who attended the first service in the Memorial Hall 75 years before. In preparation for the celebration, members cut paper into strips and stapled a huge paper chain together. Each link of the chain had the name of a member or former member of the congregation written upon it. The chain was then hung around the narthex. What a beautiful sight--the chain going around the room three times and then up to the cross on the altar. The congregation ran a fundraiser selling burgundy and gold Christmas ornaments to commemorate the anniversary for $10.00. Vicar Kenneth Spence and his wife joined the congregation to serve his vicarage. He had a married daughter and a grown son. After many years of float entries in the city’s Swamp Fox Parade, the church’s float was awarded a first place plaque. Several members rode on the float while others passed out pencils, candy, and church flyers.
St. Paul’s continued its celebration of 75 years with a congregational catered meal on May 16. The 105 people who attended greatly enjoyed the fellowship. The next celebration was on May 30, 1999, when the whole Memorial Day weekend was spent celebrating. On Saturday, Vicar Spence and Karen opened the parsonage for the congregation, in large part to welcome returning and former vicars. They hosted a delicious pig roast with about 100 guests in attendance. Everyone was excited to see how the children had grown and to renew friendships. Pastor Mohr and his wife returned along with the former Vicars Cassady, Duffy, Bowlds, and Thompson, who also brought their families. Sunday brought further reunions as a potluck picnic was held for 125 on the church grounds which included some light-hearted roasting of Pastor Hedtke by the vicars as they relived their days of learning in our midst. This was followed by a farewell breakfast for about 75 on Monday morning.
The final celebration was on August 29, called Nostalgia Sunday when the congregation was separated; the men sat on one side of the church and the women on the other. The ladies were asked to wear hats and all were encouraged to dress as they might have dressed in earlier days. The morning services were taken from the Lutheran Hymnal, page 5; and were enhanced by singing songs we had nearly forgotten. It was amazing how that old service from page 5 returned to our memories after all those years. Pastor Curtis Moermond, president of Iowa District East, served as preacher for the final day of celebration which was followed by another potluck dinner and homemade ice cream. About 100 members attended this celebration. (top)
Eye on 75 Years
At the time of the 75th anniversary, St. Paul's member Normajean Grabau compiled a history of the church from the earliest days of Lutherans in American to the founding of the St. Paul's congregation to the present day. This has been reproduced on this website with some light editing. Her conclusion to this report reads:
“And so you can see the Lord has been good to the people of St. Paul’s. Over the years many things have been done to further His work. The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod was 150 years old [in 1997] and this was commemorated. The Lutheran Layman’s League continues to be active and was associated with the Senior Men’s Breakfast group who meet for fellowship and Bible study. The Young Adult Group meets also for fellowship and to devote their time and talents to beautifying the church by painting classrooms and has recently revamped the playground. Many activities are used to meet the needs of the “55 and Growing” group. They have been meeting for more than ten years to celebrate each other and just have fun.
Fanchon Crane has led the Choir for over 25 years of music. Services are enhanced by her singing, piano and organ playing, and choir directing. She has spent a great deal of time studying the music for each Sunday’s service so that the music chosen will fit appropriately in the Sunday’s theme. We should not forget the efforts put forth musically by Chris Behmlander who plays the piano for various groups and the choir. Marylyn Krog has long helped the children learn songs of praise. The greatest of praise needs to go to the glorious voices of the people in the choir who sing so magnificently on special occasions as well as regular Sunday services.
The LWML continues to work to help others. Some of their activities over the years [include] making hundreds of quilts for World Relief, as well as lap robes, Kathy Caps, bibs, school kits, dental kits, and layettes just to name a few. They have made collections for Bethesda and altar flowers. Many ladies are involved in being sure that the altar is ready for what ever occasion is currently being celebrated. Others are involved in calling on shut-ins and bereaved members. The care of the kitchen is also their concern as it needs to be constantly ready for whatever use comes next be it dinners, celebrations, or funerals. Sewing of clothing for premature and stillborn infants that is then donated to University of Iowa Hospitals is done by several. Many of the ladies have served as officers on the district and zone levels. The ladies of the congregation continue to support the efforts of the LWML during the annual Harvest Bazaar where over the past several years thousands of dollars have been raised to finance mission projects. The LWML continues to “Serve the Lord with gladness”.
The Board of Evangelism continues to put the work getting new members to St. Paul’s with a variety of interesting and unique activities. They attempt to call on visitors to the congregation and acquire greeters for services. They have made sure a sign showing the direction to church is more visible as well as being sure an award winning float is entered in the yearly Swamp Fox Festival.
The Committee of Community Concern continues to function by showing concern for those in the community who are in need in a variety of ways such as needing food, rent money, gas, or medicine. Food is often collected so that it can add either to the church’s food pantry or to the Marion Community Food Pantry. They are also involved with other churches in the area of Assisted Living and Habitat for Humanity Programs.
The Board of Trustees [ensure] that the church and its surroundings are cared for. The projects completed not only make for a safer but a more pleasant church as when trees are planted or something is repaired or painted. Of course none of this can be accomplished without the help of various members of the congregation.
And so the 75 years at St. Paul’s have passed into the history of our congregation, and I have attempted to let you know of some of the activities that should be recalled by all who want to delve into the church’s story. It is the history I have compiled and should not be taken verbatem as mistakes are frequently made when one person is doing the writing and searching of historical documents. Feel free to change and add to the research here written after all it is just the beginning!
Sharing the Glory
Normajean Grabau” (top)
A New Century (the 2000s and beyond)
History currently being compiled for celebration of our 90th year! (top)