The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa


July 4, 2012

Clinton church reaches milestone

CLINTON — Immanuel Lutheran Church is preparing to celebrate change and growth as the congregation reaches the 140-year mark in the coming weeks.

The church will turn 140 years old on July 29 with a celebration with the Bishop of Southeastern Iowa. Swedish immigrants started the church in 1872, with services completely in Swedish.

“The church has always been open to everybody, but at the beginning all services were in Swedish, which wasn’t exactly understandable to most people,” Pastor Paul Holmer said.

While the church no longer offers Swedish services, it has a wide array of activities for people of all ages. Seniors are offered “Golden Opportunities” that include social, health and religious programs. The first and third Tuesdays of each month seniors partake in Wii Health Enrichment Experience, also known as WHEE. Bowling, golf, baseball and archery are just a few of the Wii sports seniors can be seen playing along with learning new health tips and promoting overall wellness. Other senior programs include Xtra Years of Zest (XYZ), singles dinners, bible study, vacation bible school for seniors and much more.

Despite being over a century old, the church still uses the original building, which continues to be updated and maintained. Holmer has served as pastor for the church for 81⁄2 years after his predecessor left after serving 20 years at the parish. In its early years the church was served by faculty of the Augustana Lutheran Seminary.

The inside of the church has seen many changes throughout the years, but the most major changes came 20 years ago when the altar was moved from one end of the church to the other. It was a change in style having parishioners come in through the back of the sanctuary instead of the front.

The Jesus statue was also moved up above the organ pipes at the time; these two are among the few original items in the sanctuary. Recent changes include new carpeting and a new organ with digital sound. In addition to the organ, the church houses two pianos and a keyboard.

“The church has always had a strong music heritage,” Holmer said. “We’ve had school choirs perform here, because the acoustics are so good.”

While the church has about 50 members, all activities are open to everyone regardless of their background or religion.

“We are known as the welcome place,” Holmer said. “Anyone and everyone is encouraged to drop in. This is a community gathering place.”

 Organist, adult choir director and wife of the pastor, Christine Holmer, says the smallness of the parish only makes it stronger.

“We have very hard-working members,” Christine said. “The members make it happen. Many of the programs would not be possible without their help.”

In addition to ministry for seniors the church also offers Sunday school during the school year and a women’s club and attendance continues to grow.

Immanuel will celebrate the pivotal anniversary with the Bishop on July 29 and at a special service and dinner on Aug. 12.

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