It has been nearly seven years since the congregations of St. John, Sherman Center and Emmanuel, Adell severed their ties together (December 2002). The two congregations worked together under a dual parish agreement for nearly a half-century. Forty years of habits die hard, and we are slowly learning what it means again to be our own congregation and have our own pastor. While some of that will take time, we are blessed also to consider the many blessings that God has afforded us in these past seven years.
Rev. Peter Bender of Peace Lutheran Church, Sussex, Wisconsin, visited our congregation last year during his vacation. He sat in on our quarterly voters meeting and later remarked that there would be no one in his congregation (nearly twice our size) who could command a meeting like our chairman did. We have been blessed these past seven years with leadership on our council that moves the ball forward. In these last years — on our own — we have completed a vast array of major projects. The steeple cross, roof, and school were replaced, our chapel was constructed, new offices were completed and remodeled, a handicap ramp was constructed in our chapel vestibule, the church fellowship hall and bathrooms were made accessible, refurbished, and remodeled, a youth and family room was added, and the Wilk Building was painted and prepped and transferred to the use of the Random Lake Food Pantry. Since we have been on our own, the whole East wing of our building has been completely refurbished, a milestone indeed and tribute to the vision and direction of the leadership of our congregation.
Leadership has not been without its challenges. The closing of the preschool in 2004 was of great pain for a good deal of people in the congregation. Hard feelings are still experienced regarding the outcome of this decision. Mistakes, errors, and sins happened on “both sides.” The end of the preschool was a difficult loss for our congregation. Our prayer is that God, through the Gospel, would heal the wounds of strife and division and bring us together again as one people in the body of Christ.
The Lord has blessed us with two pastors in seven years. I am told that Emmanuel has always had pastors that tended to be younger. With this, at times, comes a bit of youthful inexperience. Rev. Frese and myself would certainly “do-it-different” if we had the opportunity to go back and learn from our mistakes. Both of us have appreciated the graciousness and patience of the people of Emmanuel in allowing us to “get-our-legs” and become your pastors. Nonetheless, in these short amount of years our church has been a leader among the circuit in many ways. While all of the pastors in the circuit would like to see their congregations move to every Sunday communion, we are only one of two congregations in the circuit to have realized this blessing. For nearly 90 years the synod has been working to increase the frequency of Holy Communion in our congregations, and we are blessed that the Lord’s Body and Blood are offered each week to hurting souls in need of the Lord’s forgiveness. While this has been a difficult change for some, we cannot forget the real blessing that it is in the lives of the people of our congregation.
Our congregation has also been blessed in the area of leadership with the election of our own pastor as Circuit Counselor. Though he is nearly the newest and the youngest pastor in the circuit, the pastors of our circuit entrusted him with the responsibility to lead and guide them for the next three years. Further, at the recent circuit forum, the lay delegate from our congregation, Mr. Paul Meyer, was elected to serve as the circuit representative at the 2010 Synodical Convention. When is the last time a pastor or lay delegate from our congregation was elected to attend the synodical convention?!
Our congregation is further blessed to have the employ of our own music director, the Rev. Kantor Dennis Boettcher. No other congregation in our circuit has such a highly trained musician as a part of their staff, and yet we are the smallest congregation in our circuit (excepting St. Stephen in Batavia which is part of a dual parish).
Further blessings have been realized in the Sunday School over these last seven years. Not only are we blessed with three teachers who are dedicated to their tasks, their blessing is seen even more in their personal devotion to the Word of God and their Christian example to the young people of our congregation. Our program is Bible based, the kids are singing more than they ever have before, and the teaching of the catechism at a younger age has become a priority in our work.
All these things are not to boast in ourselves, but to boast in the Lord who has mightily blessed the work of this little flock. It is easy to get discouraged and disheartened when troubles arise along the way, but the church does not consist in these things. The church consists in the preaching of the Gospel which the devil wars against with all His might. The church will have trouble until Christ returns, and yet we have Christ’s promise that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
In 2010 we celebrate the 95th anniversary of this congregation. Satan has not had His way. The Lord has here preserved a people who love Him and fear His name. The Word of God and the Lord’s Supper are being received more than ever before in our congregation’s history. Through every joy and sorrow shared, saints continue to receive the salvation of their souls, the body and blood of Jesus, and the preaching of His Word. May God preserve us in this faith.