LIMA — Anna Sammetinger had lived through a lot.
Born Anna Ruck in 1850 at Freyburg in Auglaize County, she was on the cusp of her 10th birthday when the Civil War broke out. In 1868, three years after it ended, she married John L. Sammetinger and the union produced nine children. She went on to live through the Spanish-American War, World War I and the death of her husband in 1925.
Now, on the eve of her 90th birthday with the world again at war, she was asked by a reporter visiting the Lima home she had occupied since 1896 what event was most memorable.
“She said the outstanding event in her 90 years was the beginning of the Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church in her home 39 years ago. It was on June 2, 1901, that the first services of this church were conducted by the Rev. F.A. Kiess, then pastor of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Pusheta Township, in the living room of the Sammetinger residence at 918 S. Central Ave,” the reporter wrote in The Lima News on May 24, 1940.
The first services, the News noted in a story on the church’s 50th anniversary, were conducted in German. “Besides Sammetinger, charter members were Louis Christman, Charles Knerr and John B. Schlegel.”
“Services were conducted every other Sunday afternoon in various homes until a large congregation necessitated moving to a hall on East Second Street,” the News noted in a story on Dece. 11, 1949, recounting the church history. “Toward the end of 1903 a plot of ground was purchased at the corner of East Kibby and South Jackson streets where, by the next year, a frame church had been constructed.”
The driving force behind that church was Immanuel Lutheran’s first pastor, who was as new as his congregation. “South Lima will shortly have added to its growing population,” the Lima Times-Democrat declared on Aug. 25, 1902. “Rev. R. Brenner, a member of the Missouri Synod, has been appointed pastor of the English and German Evangelical Lutheran congregation, which has about 40 members residing in south Lima. Rev. Brenner was ordained to the ministry last Sunday and it fell to his lot to organize a congregation and endeavor to build a church and parochial school on the south side.”
The Connecticut native, the Times-Democrat noted Oct. 20, 1902, soon “won the confidence and respect of his parishioners” with his “zeal, earnestness and progressive ideas …” Two years after Brenner’s arrival, the congregation’s permanent home was taking shape.
“The south Lima German Lutherans, who for several years held forth in the Beulah Mission Rooms, on Second Street, have under construction a very neat little church home at the corner Jackson and Kibby streets, and expect to hold services therein inside of two weeks,” the Times-Democrat reported on Aug. 2, 1904. The new church was dedicated on Sept. 25, 1904.
The “neat little church home” was soon deemed too little. “In July 1911,” the News wrote in a story published on Sept. 7, 1912, “it was decided to replace the chapel which had become inadequate for the needs of the congregation with a substantial brick structure.”
The chapel dedicated in 1904 was moved to the rear of the church property and was replaced by the new church, which was dedicated on March 29, 1913. By then, the congregation was comprised of “108 souls, 75 communicants and 24 voting members,” according to the News. “German services are held every Sunday morning and English services every evening. The congregation also maintains a parochial school from September to June each year in which German, religion and the English common branches are taught.” The school was closed in 1929 because of declining enrollment.
The Rev. C.H Weber was pastor at the time the new church was dedicated, the News wrote in an Oct. 4, 1934, story. “During his pastorate the Walther league, Men’s club and first mixed choir were organized. Pastor Weber also was instrumental in organizing the mission into a regular congregation. Its constitution was adopted on Jan. 22, 1911.”
The brick church, too, had changed during the years since its dedication. “The church edifice of Immanuel congregation has been remodeled both outside and inside,” the News noted in the 1934 story. “Church auditorium was decorated in mosaic and gothic designs as well certain symbols. Re-dedicatory services were held on Sunday, Sept. 9.”
No amount of redecorating, however, could grow the congregation and, according to the church website, the decision was made to relocate to a growing area of Lima. “Property was purchased at the intersection of Lakewood Avenue and South Pears Street. Plans were made to establish a Sunday school mission at a new home to be constructed on this property and to serve as the parsonage of the planned new church.”
Then-pastor Rev. C.E. Dohrman was occupying the parsonage by May 1951, but it would be six more years before the new church was completed. Finally, after a vigorous fundraising campaign, the church announced in September 1956 that ground would be broken Sept. 9 of that year for the new church, expected to cost in excess of $95,000. It was dedicated in December 1957.
“Upon completion of the new church,” the Lima Citizen reported Dec. 1, 1957, “the old building at Kibby and Jackson streets was sold with the congregation moving into the new structure Aug. 4.” The Citizen added that the new church “is a striking example of contemporary architecture, utilizing brick and redwood. A triangular tower at the entrance is topped with an 18-foot cross.”
Since 1957 the church has undergone a number of changes, according to the church website. In December 1987, 30 years after its dedication, a new addition was opened. The old Fellowship Hall was remodeled into church offices.
In October 2002, the pastor and his family began living in a new parsonage north of the church. The old parsonage was demolished. A drive under canopy for the main entrance was completed in June 2005 as well as repaving and other improvements to the parking lot.
Reach Greg Hoersten at firstname.lastname@example.org.