For 125 years, Emmanuel Presbyterian Church has been worshiping God, creating disciples of Jesus Christ, and following the leading of the Holy Spirit in mission to the community and beyond. This weekend, the church celebrates its 125th anniversary.
Begun in 1889, Emmanuel started with only 17 members. It has 118 members today, including descendents of some of those original 17. Through the years, the church has survived building changes, a fire, a change in the language of worship, a fire that took a not-yet-completed church building, and has seen the move of the pastor’s home. The church has survived poor economic times in the early years of the congregation and in the Depression; the church has seen the glory of the Baby Boom years, when churches were bigger than they ever were before or since. In all that time, though, one thing has remained constant – the desire to worship and serve Jesus Christ.
125 years is a long time. There were no automobiles in the US yet – Karl Benz had just invented the automobile in Germany in 1886. Now? There are nearly 300 million! Sioux Falls had just over 2100 people in 1889; today, there are over 230,000 in the Sioux Falls metro. In 1889, women couldn’t vote, there hadn’t yet been a World War, recorded music was about a decade old, and the Civil War was a recent memory. Yes, the early founders of Emmanuel Presbyterian, who spoke German, truly lived in a different world than the one in which we live today. Even Marion was still Marion Junction when the church started – so they were (sort of) in a different PLACE, too!
Fast-forward to today (and look at that: the phrase at the start of this sentence would have had no meaning 125 years ago!), and we see a different world yet. More things are done electronically than ever before. We’re a town made famous for our railroad junction, and that’s not even the dominant mode of transportation anymore. We live in a town with an ethanol plant so big, our 1889 ancestors wouldn’t have been able to believe it. The small family farms that were once the lifeblood of rural America slowly but surely become large, corporate farms no longer run by families. The world has truly changed.
And in between, what happened at Emmanuel? Babies were born; new Christians of all ages were baptized; couples were married; we said “goodbye” to our loved ones at funerals. Through it all, Jesus Christ was worshiped at this little church in the center of town.
We sold pies at auctions, we sold needlepoint in the congregation. We gave a few dozen dollars to missions a hundred years ago, and give thousands upon thousands today. At our lowest, we had 101 fewer members than we do now. At our highest, we had 99 more. But those are just numbers. What really matters is the spirit of the people who strive every day to love God and to love their neighbors.
We at Emmanuel today are proud to be part of a tradition 125 years in the making. We are thrilled to know that we’ve gritted our teeth and made it through the rough patches, and we’re glad we enjoyed some times when things were easy. Nineteen different pastors have come to serve this church. 78 elders have helped to guide us. 113 deacons have cared for us. 20 treasurers have looked after our finances. One Lord has looked after us all that time.
We are proud to serve Jesus Christ and to work for his Kingdom on earth.
If you have been a part of Emmanuel, or if this congregation has touched your life in some way, or if you’d simply like to see what we’re up to this weekend, please consider stopping by our celebration. There will be an open house at the church and the manse next door from 2:00-4:00 PM on Saturday the 21st. There will be a special worship service at 10:00 on Sunday morning to be followed by a meal ($5 per adult, kids 12 and under eat free; call the church at 648-3876 if you plan on joining us for the meal). Please plan on joining us for as much of this weekend as you are able. We would love to see you there!