Our History

The very first services were held in 1896 at the Fire House on 31st Street in Steger, Illinois (what was then known as Columbia Heights). They were conducted by Rev. Friedrich E. Brauer of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Crete and Rev. Karl Schroeder of St. Paul's Lutheran Church Chicago Heights, Illinois.

In the summer of 1898, Vicar Helmuth Schulz was called as a student pastor and teacher. Church services were held in a storeroom in the Berchem Building on the corner of 34th Street and Chicago Road (the other half of the building was a saloon). Members, who recall those early days, reported that the noise from the saloon was so great, the congregation found it difficult to understand Rev. Friedrich Brauer even though he shouted. After some time, Rev. Brauer convinced the saloonkeeper to close during the time of service.

On November 15, 1898 Vicar Schulz opened a Lutheran School in Steger, Illinois with fourteen students. Classes were held in the same storeroom where church services were held. At the close of the first school year June of 1899 the school had twenty-three students. The efforts of Vicar Schulz to organize a congregation in Steger were bearing fruits of his labor. He met with seven men in January of 1899 in the Old Berchem Building (probably over a shot and a beer) to discuss the possibility of organizing a congregation. These seven men decided to organize, adopt a constitution, and became the first charter members. Thus the congregation was born and given the official name: The German Evangelical Lutheran Immanuel Congregation of the Augsburg Confession (better known now as Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church).

The seven chartered Members were: Friedrich Teifke, Karl Brach, Friedrich Fedtke, Johann Gast, Eduard Gluth, Hermann Marquardt, and Karl Rekau. Mr. J. Pippenbrink of Crete, Illinois donated a lot at 3419 Chicago Road, Steger, Illinois to the congregation. A loan of Five Hundred Dollars from the Illinois District Church Extension Board was used to pay for lumber and labor to begin a new building to serve as church and school. The first church and school was a frame structure 22X40X14 was completed and dedicated on Exaudi Sunday, May 14, 1899. Vicar Schulz resigned on June 30, 1899 to return to Concordia Seminary in Springfield, Illinois to complete his studies for the ministry.

Vicar E. H. Felten also from Concordia Seminary in Springfield came to Immanuel as student Pastor and teacher on August 21, 1899. Reverend Helmuth Schulz returned to Immanuel Lutheran as the first duly called Pastor on July 29, 1900 after completing his studies for the ministry. In June 1902 Immanuel Lutheran Congregation was received into membership in the Illinois District of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri and Ohio and other states by the convention assembled in Chicago. Our first duly called teacher was Mr. F.C. Wilker who was called on May 15, 1910, thus leaving only pastoral duties for Pastor Schulz.

In June 1910 The Ladies Aid Society was organized. On November 20, 1910 Rev. Helmuth Schulz left Immanuel Lutheran for Zion Lutheran in Ashland, Wisconsin. Reverend H.G. Sandvoss served as vacancy Pastor until January 1911, when the Reverend William H. Meyer was installed as our second duly called pastor. Mr. F.C. Wilker left Immanuel Lutheran in 1911 and was replaced by Mr. Walter Brown. Mr. Brown served until teacher Carl Hohmeier was installed in February 1912. Mr. Carl Hohmeier served as teacher, choir director and organist until his death on April 8,1942.

The current church on the corner of 34th Place and Emerald Avenue was begun in 1911 and was completed and dedicated in May 1912. The original church building from Chicago Road was moved to 34th Place and remodeled and served only as a school. In 1916 Reverend William H. Meyer left Immanuel and went to Hampton, Nebraska. In 1916 Reverend G.J.C. Koch came to Immanuel from Preble, Indiana. He served Immanuel until October 28, 1923 when he suffered a heart attack while conducting the opening devotion of Sunday School and passed away shortly after that. On January 6, 1924 Reverend Peter Clausen came to Immanuel from St. Johns Lutheran Church in Vincennes, Indiana.

Immanuel Lutheran School closed in 1944 due to costly repairs and unable to find another teacher. In April 1946 Pastor Clausen suffered a heart attack and tendered his resignation as of September 1, 1946. The congregation accepted his resignation as active Pastor but was our honorary Pastor and celebrated his 50th anniversary of the ministry in the fall of 1947. On September 8, 1946 Reverend William G. Mehringer was installed at Immanuel and came from the U.S. Army.

In 1947 the stained glass windows were installed from donations received from members of the congregation. On March 16, 1949 Reverend William Mehringer left Immanuel and returned to the Chaplaincy, this time in the U.S. Air Force. Reverend Henry J. Niermann was called to serve at Immanuel and celebrated his 25th anniversary as a Pastor while at Immanuel on December 11, 1949. In January 1950 Pastor Niermann left Immanuel and went to Laramie, Wyoming.

On July 2, 1950 Reverend Carl E. Schneider was called to serve at Immanuel, and he passed away on June 13, 1963. Reverend Luther Bekemeier from Hope Lutheran Church in Park Forest, Illinois served as our interim Pastor until the vacancy was filled. On June 7, 1964 Reverend Victor Polley was installed as pastor. During his service at Immanuel Pastor Polley was instrumental in getting built a new pastoral office adjacent to the church. A new Education and Activity Center was built on the site of the old school and was dedicated on September 8, 1968. On October 12, 1969 Pastor Polley accepted a call from Leavenworth, Kansas.

Reverend R. H. Bekemeier of Hope Lutheran Church in Park Forest (father of Reverend Luther Bekemeier) served until Reverend James P. Rath was installed on January 18, 1970. Pastor Rath served Immanuel through December, 1980, when he received a call from Peace Lutheran Church in Phoenix, AZ. Pastor Mock, chaplain from Oak Forest Hospital, served as vacancy pastor from January 1981 through September 1982. Reverend Wallace Nordquist was installed October 3, 1982 and served Immanuel through April 2000, when he retired.

Immanuel had several temporary and interim pastors serving us, including Pastor "Ed" Blatnicky, who was actually retired himself. After multiple requests, Pastor Ed finally agreed to become Immanuel's permanent Pastor. Two weeks after being installed as Immanuel's permanent pastor, Pastor "Ed" died of a heart attack.

In October 2002 Reverend Larry Loree, Jr., having just graduated from The Lutheran Seminary in Fort Wayne, IN, accepted our call and was installed as Immanuel's pastor in October 2002. Pastor Loree served Immanuel through August 2007 and accepted a call to Zion Lutheran Church in Detroit, MI. On April 27, 2008 Reverend Craig Meissner from Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Franklin Park, IL was installed and serves as our current Pastor.


Return to "Visitors" page