After one hundred and forty years, we pause to reminisce upon some of the events which have formed the history of St. Peter's Church. As we do so, we gratefully acknowledge the untiring efforts of the early founders and their followers and the seventeen pastors who have carried on through the years and faithfully given of their time, talent, and treasure to make our congregation a living witness of the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in this world.
Let us ever be mindful of the heritage which is ours today, to faithfully continue to promote the work of the Kingdom of God which will bring love, peace, and justice into reality in our time. May we all continue to promote those biblical ideals which have guided us as a congregation to this point and time in our history.
As early as 1859, the German Synod of the Northwest attempted to establish an Evangelical church in the city of Champaign - an attempt renewed in 1863 by the Rev. J. M. Hartmann, itinerant preacher from southern Illinois. A congregation of 21 persons was organized and the Rev. Julius C. Schumm was appointed by the Synod to be St. Peter's first pastor on Sunday, October 29, 1865. Shortly thereafter, a double lot at 108 East Church Street was purchased for the sum of $300 and a contract was given to John Grein to construct a two-story building 40' X 80', at the total cost of $1,350. The new church building, which housed the pastor and St. Peter's German parochial school, was dedicated on December 31, 1865 and served the congregation until 1898.
Rev. Schumm was followed by three pastors - Rev. Kaemmerer, Rev. Buehlow, and Rev. Andreas - in the next four years. Real progress came during the 1873-1896 pastorate of Rev. Henry Strehlow. During his twenty-three year pastorate, it became apparent that more space was needed and the congregation purchased two lots and a parsonage at the corner of Fourth and University.
The Rev. William Werhahn was the next pastor from 1896-1898, during which time the congregation built a new church home at 401 East University Avenue for the cost of $19,081. The new church home had seating for 300 on the main floor and a balcony for the choir and pipe organ. While in that church home, the young people's society, then known as Der Jugend Verein, donated a set of three brass-cast tower bells weighing 7,000 pounds. These bells still ring today in the tower of St. Peter's present church home at 905 S. Russell Street.
The Rev. William Suessmuth was the next pastor from 1899-1906. During his eight-year pastorate the congregation became debt-free even though most of the members were from low-income families.
The Rev. Henry Mueller was called to serve as the next pastor on November 3, 1906. During his 34-year ministry, the congregation built a new eight-room parsonage (in 1911), started such organizations as the Women's Guild, the Men's Brotherhood, Sewing Circles, and a Junior Choir, and grew to about 300 families. Rev. Mueller was the last pastor to preach and teach in German, a practice that ceased about 1914 when all teaching and preaching was done in English. Rev. Mueller's ministry came to a dramatic conclusion when he suffered a fatal coronary seizure as he greeted new members at the conclusion of the congregation's 75th Anniversary Service on Sunday, September 29, 1940.
The Rev. Ruben Bierbaum accepted the call to serve as St. Peter's next pastor on May 1, 1941. During the six years of his pastorate, the congregation began to grow so rapidly that they again began thinking of finding a new church home. This vision was encouraged by a $66,000 bequest from the estate of Mrs. Lucy Holl who had been a friend of the church for many years, frequently attending services but never joining as a member of the congregation. She left an equal amount of her estate to the Bensenville Home Society. On April 28, 1946, the congregation met and decided to send secret ballots to all members in good standing to see if it was their desire for the congregation to remodel the present church home or plan a relocation. The balloting resulted in a decision to relocate and committees were appointed for execution of the project. Rev. Bierbaum's pastorate came to a close on January 26, 1947, as he accepted a call to Evansville, Indiana.
The Rev. Edward Busekros was called as the next pastor on November 1, 1947. It was during his five-year pastorate that the congregation purchased the 6.42 acre tract of land for the cost of $10,000--the site which became the home of our present church. Rev. Busekros submitted his resignation in 1952.
The Rev. Orville Schroer became St. Peter's next pastor on June 16, 1951. It was during his five-year pastorate that plans were made, construction was completed, and the actual move to our present church home took place on March 24, 1957. Rev. Schroer's ministry ended in April, 1957, when he accepted a call to become Assistant Pastor of the Federated Church in Peoria.
The Rev. Walter Noffke was called as the next pastor on May 1, 1957. Dedication services for the new church home were held on Sunday, November 17, 1957. The new church home was designed by P. John Hoener and Associates of St. Louis and built by Kuhne-Simmons Co., Inc. for the total cost of $518,025. The south wing was finished later at the cost of $69,117, as was a new parsonage in 1961 at the cost of $38,010. Rev. Noffke's 22 years as pastor saw many changes take place. In 1962, the congregation voted to move to two services of worship. Many new programs were implemented as the congregation continued to grow. After his retirement from the congregation in October, 1979, the congregation honored him with title of Pastor Emeritus.
The Rev. Richard Freeman was called as our next pastor on April 12, 1980. However, on August 14, 1980, five days before Rev. Freeman and his family were to move to Champaign, the present church home sustained a fire of undetermined origin, doing $320,000 in damage. In October, 1981, the congregation supported Rev. Freeman's desire to work on his Doctor of Ministry degree at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. He was awarded the degree in June, 1985. Rev. Freeman's pastorate ended in May of 1987 when he accepted a call to Rio Rancho, New Mexico.
From May 1987 until February 1989 St. Peter's was served by two most competent Interim ministers - Rev. William Rice and Rev. Nelson Scott.
Rev. Glenn Kalkbrenner became Pastor in February 1989, coming from Amherst, New York. It was Rev. Kalkbrenner's vision "that St. Peter's be a church which seeks, through the power of faith, action, and fellowship, to be in service to our community and our world."
Rev. Kalkbrenner served our church until May 1995. Rev. Fred Rhines then served as interim pastor until August 1996.
In September, 1996, Rev. Glenn Trost came to serve. As a result of an All Day Retreat in 1998, several goals were planned and implemented. We called Lisa Lynch to help us with our education opportunities including our church school and our mid-week youth program. LiAnne Kitchen was called as our parish nurse in 1998. In 2001 we installed an elevator to help our church be more accessible. Rev. Trost retired in 2006 and Lisa Lynch resigned in 2007.
Rev.. Betty Hornback was called as an Interim Minister in 2007 until the summer of 2008, instituting congregational programs designed to challenge our existing attitudes, re-establish adult education and bible study, improve communication, and discover our gifts as a congregation as we began to seek a new permanent pastor.
Rev. Laurie Hill joined St. Peter's in July 2008 as the newest pastor at St. Peter's United Church of Christ. She was officially installed September 21, 2008.