Our Congregation’s 135 Years
In the year 1882, a few families in the Wentworth vicinity decided to organize a congregation. The name was to be called “The German Evangelical Lutheran St. Peters Congregation.” The original organizers were the following men and their families: Charles Theiss, H. Woldt, Tim Woldt, Frank Schultz, Fred Schroeder, John Woldt, and August Hanneman.
At that time, Rev. Mr. G. Starck of Hartford served as pastor to many congregations, including Wentworth. On August 9, 1883, Candidate Rev. Christian W. Otto of St. Louis was installed and ordained at a special service held in the Wentworth Public School building. Since the congregation did not own any property, services were held in various homes of the members and also in a vacant store building known as “The Brown Front.” In December of 1883 the congregation decided to build its own church and erected the structure that was later used as the parish hall. The church was not completed until December of the following year and was dedicated December 7, 1884.
The first mention of new members accepted is found in the minutes of a meeting held in 1885 and 1886. In those two years, seven families joined the church.
On August 15, 1886, a parochial school was established with Rev. Mr. Otto and Mr. Harms as teachers. Later, Rev. Laux, assisted by Mr. Harms, taught in a schoolroom which was also the church. During the time of Rev. Kuntz, the second church was bought and the old church turned into a school house. During 1895 – 1918, Rev. Oberheu taught. Ella Oberheu joined him in 1911 when they had over 50 pupils enrolled. Rev. Oberheu taught for 23 years. From 1919 – 1925, Mr. F. M. Evers taught. Then from 1925 – 1929, Mr. C. A. Germouth taught. In 1929, Herbert Schram was installed as teacher. In 1936, the parochial school closed due to the extreme financial problems of the 1930’s. The congregation continues to fulfill its role as teacher to the young through Sunday School, Confirmation, Bible History, and Vacation Bible School.
A call was made to Rev. Mr. Phil Laux in 1887, and he was installed as pastor on May 6th.
According to our records, the first Mission Festival that was celebrated by the congregation was on June 30, 1889.
In 1889 and 1890, several more families joined the congregation.
In 1890, a call was extended to Rev. A. H. Kunz. He accepted and was installed on July 20th. An interesting sidelight is that his salary was $300.00 a year and feed for his horses.
In April of 1892, the Episcopal Church building was purchased for $400.00. Today this building is a private home. In the same year, the congregation decided to join The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. We have remained in this synodical affiliation to this date.
A call was extended to Rev. Mr. Ferdinand Oberheu; he accepted and was installed on January 20, 1895. This was the beginning of service to St. Peters for 45 years. On January 20, 1940, he resigned due to failing health. He died on August 1, 1940.
On June 15, 1904, construction began for a cement block church on the same site on which our present church stands. Then in 1926, the brick school house was built across the street; it closed in 1936, but was used for Vacation Bible School for many years and later sold as a family home.
In the 1890’s, the first English service was held. Then in 1930, English and German services were held alternately on an equal basis. In the 1940’s, the German services were finally discontinued.
St. Peters held a special service commemorating its 50th anniversary in 1932. There were three worship services held with one of them in the German language.
In 1937, the constitution of the congregation was translated into English, in keeping with a steadily declining use of German.
From 1940 to 1946, Rev. Reginald Muhl served the congregation as pastor. He came to us from Dallas, South Dakota. He accepted a call to Snyder, Nebraska, in 1946.
Rev. E.E. Kaelberer was called from Sisseton, South Dakota in 1946. He served our congregation until 1952, when he accepted a call to Deadwood, South Dakota. It was during this time it became evident that the cement block church was unsafe and inadequate for the congregation’s needs. So on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1950, the last service was held in the old church. The great bell had summoned worshippers as usual at the 9:00AM worship service, but as though knowing that its time was at an end, the clapper of the big bell loosened and fell out just before it was to be rung for the last time at the 10:00AM service on April 9th. The bell was now silent.
Within the next two weeks, the old church was razed, the work being done by members both young and old.On April 23rd, ground breaking ceremonies were held after the morning service. The worship services were held in the building now known as “The Barn.” Even the ladies of the congregation helped out by serving lunch and dinner to the workers on the days when the big projects were being done, such as when the walls were poured and 70 men or more were on hand to help. A few highlights during the building of the church are: cornerstone laying was on June 25th; the 1900 pound bell, taken from the old church and repaired, was raised to its new home on Reformation Day; and on November 10th, Martin Luther’s birthday, the church symbol – the empty cross, sign of the risen and living Lord Jesus Christ, was raised into place. A great amount of volunteer help went into the building of the new church, with nearly one-fourth of the total cost of the building being done by these hard working volunteers. The dedication of the church took place on December 3, 1950.
In 1947, the Men’s Club was organized and in 1949, the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League began to meet.
Rev. A. F. Pingel, Jr., was called from Kadoka, South Dakota. He was installed as pastor on February 15, 1953.
In 1953, the church debt was paid by a splendid effort on the part of the congregation. On the night of December 21st, they held a mortgage burning ceremony marking the retirement of all debt on the church building. During Pastor Pingel’s pastorate, a mission congregation, Our Savior Lutheran Church of Madison, was begun.
In 1959, Rev. Pingel accepted a call to Aberdeen, South Dakota. Rev. Willard Koch was called from Iroquois and Yale, South Dakota. He was installed as pastor on October 11, 1959.
Our Savior Lutheran Church of Madison decided to call their own pastor in 1962. It was this same year that St. Peters amalgamated with St. Johns Lutheran Church of Chester.
Pastor Koch accepted a call to Freeman, South Dakota, and a call was issued to Rev. Adolph Brand of New Salem, North Dakota. Rev. Brand was installed as pastor on October 7, 1962. Advent services were initiated that same year. Rev. Brand accepted a call from Ely and Elko, Nevada, in 1967. On July 14, 1968, Rev. Harold Schroeder, a graduate of the Springfield, Illinois, seminary, was installed as pastor. In 1973, Rev. Schroeder accepted a call to Perry, Iowa.
On February 25, 1973, Rev. John Klemp from Hardwick, Minnesota, was installed as pastor. During this time, much support was given to the Ambassadors for Christ program. Rev. Klemp accepted a call to Cadillac, Michigan, giving his farewell sermon on June 6, 1976.
Rev. David Schwan, a seminary graduate, was installed as pastor on June 17, 1977. He accepted a call to Armour, South Dakota, leaving in October, 1981.
Rev. David Brandt, a 1982 St. Louis seminary graduate, was installed as pastor on July 11, 1982. A four-year confirmation program was initiated at that time, with the students beginning their study in the 7th grade and being confirmed at the end of the 10th grade. There was also available an extensive study of Holy Communion with the option of ‘early communion’ by as early as the end of the 6th grade. Rev. Brandt served our congregation until August 21, 1988, when he accepted a call to Marshfield, Missouri.
During the congregation’s centennial year of 1982, new hymnals, Lutheran Worship, were purchased. This hymnal revived some of the old German traditions, including chanting. For a birthday gift to themselves, the congregation also purchased a new digital computer Allen organ. A centennial celebration was held on Sunday, September 26, 1982, with special services and a dinner.
On July 2, 1989, Rev. Carl Groh, also a St. Louis seminary graduate, was installed as pastor. While here, the four-year confirmation program was changed back to two years with confirmation being celebrated at the end of the 8th grade. Also, in addition to the common cup, individual cups began to be offered for Holy Communion. Pastor Groh accepted at call to Missouri Valley, Iowa, and preached his farewell sermon on January 19, 1992.
Rev. John Nelson, Jr. was installed as pastor on July 19, 1992, following graduation from the St. Louis seminary. Pastor Nelson is best remembered for his talent of working with the youth. Rev. Nelson also enjoyed having an outdoor worship service once a year in an area park setting. He served St. Peters until November 5, 1995, when he accepted a call to Phoenix, Arizona.
Our present pastor, Rev. Dwaine D. Doremus, came to us from Andover and Ferney, South Dakota, on February 25, 1996. In addition to the two-year confirmation program for the 7th and 8th graders, a two-year Bible History class is now offered for the 5th and 6th graders. Adult Bible Classes are offered on a weekly basis as well as on Sunday mornings. A Youth Bible Study is held on Sunday mornings in conjunction with the Youth Group meetings. Sunday School and Vacation Bible School continue to be popular ministries for our youngest members.
In May, 2007, new hymnals, Lutheran Service Book, were purchased.
Due to a declining membership, St. Johns, Chester, decided to disband. A special service of celebration and closing was held on December 11, 2011. St. Peters once again became a single parish.
In January 2012, the voters began looking for a solution to handicap accessibility at St. Peters. During the following months, ideas and possible designs were presented to our members at congregational meetings. The decision to move forward with the construction of a Fellowship Hall as an addition to the existing church building was approved by the voter’s on July 15, 2012. A ground breaking ceremony was held on August 5, 2012, and the dedication of the new handicap accessible Fellowship Hall held on February 24, 2013. The men who supervised the project were Gaylen Backus, Dan Alfson, and Jerry Gehrels.
Sons and daughters of our congregation include Edward Weerts, Ruth Limmer Auftenberge Sylvia Zwingelberg Tweet, Sandra Zwingelberg Yount, June Lafrentz Olson, Terry Lafrentz, Randall Lafrentz, and Kelli Gehrels Staub.
Currently, as of June 21, 2017 St. Peters has 243 Baptized members of which 186 are Confirmed members.