The guest preacher at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Rankin on Sunday recalled the pioneer spirit of the German immigrants who founded the church in 1867.
“There’s something about the courageous steadfast faith of the founders of this congregation,” the Rev. Dr. John A. Nunes said after the 150th anniversary service. “These immigrants, this ragtag bunch of immigrants who were not English-speaking, and were in a frontier situation, and they didn’t know what was coming next – that’s the thing about history, you know, you never know what’s coming next – and yet they had the audacity, faithfulness, to trust God and to plant a congregation here.
“Part of what I was trying to say is it’s that same kind of spirit, that same tenacity that we need in our time, you know, to move forward, to move the church forward, to move especially the Lutheran movement forward.”
Nunes said the church’s current pastor, the Rev. Dr. Christopher Jackson, invited him to draw in his message on his recollections as a former president and CEO of Lutheran World Relief. Nunes was installed last fall as president of Concordia College-New York in Bronxville, N.Y.
“Part of what I tried to do in the message was to contrast the faith I’ve seen in international communities, especially among Lutherans, that has much less privilege, much less opportunity, much less resources, but has something we don’t have or we’ve lost in a certain sense – that kind of dogged determination,” Nunes said. “And of course I talked about Jesus as the one who’s the most emblematic of that.”
Sunday’s special anniversary service and church picnic culminated a weekend of activity at St. John’s that also included a concert by the United Voices of Praise gospel choir from Milwaukee on Saturday.
During a confirmation reunion Saturday, Jackson said, the cornerstones from St. John’s fourth church, built a year after its 1967 centennial celebration, were opened to reveal artifacts from the church’s history.
Newspapers and other documents from 1894, from the original cornerstone of the congregation’s third church building, were found in nearly pristine condition. Sadly, documents from 1967 had not been properly sealed and decomposed beyond recognition.
“I’m going to contact some experts in how to seal them properly, and we’ll reseal these to be found again in perhaps another 50 years,” Jackson said.
The documents include an 1894 edition of a Kewaunee County newspaper called The New Era, as well as two German-language newspapers. The church conducted a regular German-language service all the way until 1959, according to historical notes at the website stjohnsalgoma.org.