A 4-State region which included Alliance and Hemingford was a mission of “The German District of The German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Missouri, Ohio, and other States” beginning in 1892. The first REISEPREDIGER – traveling missionary – assigned to the area was the Rev. John D. Schroeder. His primary mission was to assist German-speaking immigrants in their spiritual lives. Nineteen years and seven missionaries later, on July 2, 1911, a new congregation was chartered with five voting members. “The German Evangelical Lutheran Immanuel’s Congregation” was led by the Rev. Titus Lang who also served the sister congregation in Hemingford – “Friedens (Peace) Church” – and 11 additional mission stations.
The first order of business on July 2nd was to establish a KONFESSIONSSCHULE – parochial school. Twenty-one students attended the 1911-1912 session in a rented building, “The German Lutheran Hall”, at 519 Sweetwater Avenue.
The decision to build a combination church-school was made in January, 1912. A lot on the northeast corner of 7th and Yellowstone was purchase and the building contract for the 40 ft. x 24 ft. frame building was given to Mr. Charles Brinkmann for $1,170. Dedication services, one in German and another in English, took place on June 30, 1912. The school included classes in both German and English but was discontinued in 1915 for reasons unknown.
Rev. Lang served until May, 1916, when he accepted a call to Omaha, Nebraska. He was followed by Rev. Frederick Worthman, 1916-1918. German services were temporarily suspended during World War I. The war resulted in nationalization of the railroads in December, 1917, and the scheduling changes made it impossible for Rev. Worthman, who relied on train travel, to serve Peace Church at Hemingford for Sunday worship services. The voters decided to purchase a “good, second-hand Ford” for the Pastor to use. Immanuel and Peace shared expenses equally for the car, maintenance and garage rental.
Rev. Worthman accepted a call to Chicago, Illinois, in the fall of 1918 and Rev. F.W. Droegemueller arrived in September, 1919. The first parsonage was purchased in 1920 for $4,000 at 519 Sweetwater – the former site of the first school and meeting hall in 1911.
The Nebraska District was sub-divided in 1922 and Immanuel and Peace were part of the Northern Nebraska District.
Rev. Droegemueller accepted a call to Gleason, Wisconsin, in May, 1924. Rev. Elmer J. Zanow was installed in September and a decision was made to end the mission status and become self-sustaining. This resulted in the closure of Peace Church in Hemingford as they relied on sharing expenses with Immanuel.
The church was relocated in 1925 to the southeast corner of 6th and Niobrara. A basement was added which doubled the space for congregational activities, the vestibule was enlarged, the tower was removed, the steps were replaced and the interior was remodeled. An altar, built by local carpenter H.A. Fricke, was part of the renovation.
A new two-story parsonage with garage was built adjacent to the church at 207 East 6th Street in 1927.
Rev. Zanow accepted a call in June, 1928, and Rev. Herbert Meyer was installed in December. He served for the next 21 years through depression, drought, dust storms, World War II and the post-war recovery. The congregation had 326 baptized members in 1941 and had outgrown the small church so a building fund was established in 1943. A lot on the southwest corner of 11th and Box Butte was purchased in September, 1948, for $5,000. The building fund had grown to $17,000 in June, 1949, when Rev. Meyer accepted a call to Moltke, Michigan. Rev. Roland W. Huber was installed in September.
Twenty-three voters were present on January 14, 1951, to consider the building proposal that had been in the planning stage for 8 years. The proposed new church was to be 107 ft. long x 40 ft. wide and 32 ft. high with a full basement for classes and kitchen as well as a nursery and church office on the upper level. There were 16 voting in favor of the plan, 4 against, 2 undecided, the chairman abstaining. Mr. Walter Mischnick was given the contract for $90,000. Excavation began in February, 1951, and the first worship service was held in the new building on December 23rd. Dedication services on February 17, 1952, included guest speakers Rev. Worthman, former Pastor 1916-1918, of Lincoln, Nebraska, and Northern Nebraska District President Rev. W.E. Homann of Bancroft, Nebraska.
The first Vacation Bible School began in 1953 with 130 students and 21 teachers and helpers. It has been a part of Immanuel’s summer program for more than 55 years.
The mortgage on the church was repaid in 1954 and a parsonage building fund was immediately established. A lot at 1015 Box Butte had been purchased in 1952 for $1,600. Mr. Walt Mischnick was given the contract in May, 1956, for the one-story 52 ft. x 40 ft. home which cost $32,146. Rev. Huber and family were able to move into the new parsonage in October, 1956.
The Boards for Parish Education, Mission and Stewardship were established in 1958. Reports as early as 1959 indicated that more space was needed for Sunday School classes.
Rev. Huber accepted a call to Crescent City, California, in March, 1961. Plans for the observance of Immanuel’s 50th anniversary were postponed due to the vacancy. Rev. Orville E. Krohn was installed on September 24th and planning resumed for the anniversary services. Rev. F. Worthman (1916-1918) of Evergreen, Colorado, and Rev. W.E. Harms of Harrisburg, Nebraska, were guest speakers at the January 28, 1962, services.
Voters approved the purchase of a lot and large home adjacent to the church at 1020 Box Butte in February, 1965. Sunday School classes began meeting in the parish hall in December and the additional space helped to accommodate the 17 Sunday School classes with 238 students enrolled at the time.
Common economic, cultural and religious ties with Wyoming resulted in the formation of the new Wyoming District for Immanuel and other Nebraska panhandle congregations in 1969.
Problems with the 23-year-old Wurlitzer organ and a lack of replaceable components prompted the organ committee to recommend replacing it with a Reuter pipe organ in 1972. The voters responded with 25 voting in favor and 8 opposed. The two manual pipe organ cost $27,870 with an additional $2,000 for balcony modifications. It was first used for worship on July 2, 1972, with a dedicatory recital on September 17th with guest organist Josephine Waddell.
The Parish Board recommended in 1971, that a deaconess be called to assist the Pastor with educational programs. Ms. Gwen Sayler (1971-1972) and Ms. Katherine Linder (1972-1975) were responsible for youth, education and music programs at Immanuel. It was then decided that a Director of Christian Education (DCE) might better serve Immanuel’s purposes. Mr. Charles Schmidt was installed on August 17, 1975.
Special neighborhood meetings provided an opportunity for the congregation to discuss a proposed educational building. At a special meeting on November 20, 1975, a resolution was adopted to proceed with plans for the new addition. There were 38 votes in favor and 13 opposed. The contract for the two-story, 9,000 square foot facility was given to Mischnick Construction for $270,000 and groundbreaking took place April 11, 1975. Dedication for the “Christian Growth Center” took place one year later on April 17, 1976. There were 3 offices, 19 classrooms, a sacristy for the Altar Guild, a new modern kitchen, 4 new restrooms, a new heating and air-conditioning system and the narthex was enlarged by moving the nursery to the lower level when the project was completed.
Rev. Krohn accepted a call to Roswell, New Mexico, in August, 1978, and the vacancy continued until Rev. Donald A. Rieman was installed on June 29, 1980. DCE Charles Schmidt informed the congregation that he would be leaving in August to prepare for the ministry. The DCE program was discontinued and the Pastor was assisted by vicars for the next 10 years. Their duties were not limited to educational programs, but education was the priority.
A pre-school feasibility study in 1985 determined that a need existed for such a program in the community. Voters approved the project and the school served for two terms – 1985-1987. Difficulties with staffing resulted in terminating the school.
The date on the Christian Growth Center was paid in full in 1986 in time for Immanuel’s 75th anniversary. The guest speakers for the July 13, 1986, event were Rev. Orville Krohn of Roswell, New Mexico, (1961-1978) and Rev. Dr. Will Sohns, Wyoming District President.
Rev. Rieman accepted a call to Silver Creek, New York, in May, 1987, and Rev. Gary Muehler was installed in November. He and His wife, Elois, were parents of Immanuel’s former vicar, Craig Muehler (1986-1987).
Accessibility to the lower level became an issue and efforts were made to determine the best method of addressing the problem. Suggestions included a chair lift, ramp or an elevator. The elevator was the only one which provided access to both levels. Plans were presented in January, 1989, to modify the church entrance, install an elevator, enclose the front steps and remodel two restrooms to accommodate wheelchairs. The decision to build was dependent on first obtaining $30,000 in cash or pledges for the project. Installation of the elevator and remodeling of the narthex were completed in December, 1992, at an estimated cost of $124,313. The debt was repaid within 5 years.
Synod granted women the right to vote in 1969 and the issue “simmered” at Immanuel for more than 20 years. A committee of three men and three women recommended a constitutional amendment for women’s suffrage at the July, 1991, voters meeting. Approval was granted by the 25 voting members present. The Wyoming District granted approval in November which gave women voting privileged for the first time in 80 years at the January, 1991, meeting.
Rev. Muehler accepted a call to Carthage, Missouri, in July, 1990. The congregation was informed that a vicar would not be assigned due to the vacancy. Five months later in December, 1990, Rev. Keith Christiansen was installed as Immanuel’s tenth pastor.
A disturbing report showed that Sunday School enrollment had dropped from 224 students in 1985 to only 98 students in 1991.
Rev. Christiansen accepted a call to Freistatt, Missouri, in April, 1994. The vacancy was filled 22 months later when Rev. Martin T. Schnare was installed in February, 1996. Attempts to obtain a DCE or intern were made, but availability was limited. A second option was considered and a call was issued to Rev. Richard C. Mueller as Assistant Pastor. He was installed in August, 1998.
Educational opportunities at Immanuel were bolstered when a survey in 2000 indicated that 90% of those responding were in favor of a pre-school facility. Plans were approved for this project at the meeting on March, 4 2001. “Little Angels Preschool” opened in September, 2001, with Jill Mueller as Director, and has been serving the congregation and community since that time. Enrollment has grown to 42 children in 3 classes.
A columbarium was installed on the stage of the fellowship hall in 2002. The stage was refurbished to serve as a chapel. Pre-schoolers also meet in the chapel for weekly devotions.
At a meeting on August 3, 2004, voters approved the change from Sunday School to Wednesday evening mid-week classes.
The continuous ministry of the Word and Sacraments from 1911 to 2011 remains at the center of Immanuel’s history. “You are awesome, O God, in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to His people.” Psalm 68:35