THE FOUNDING OF IMMANUEL
The history of Immanuel congregation dates back to 1867 when German Lutherans in Boone County began to congregate and hold worship services, served by various visiting pastors from the Chicago area. On November 21, 1869, they organized as the “deutsche evangelische lutherisch Immanuels Germeinde U.A.C.” under the leadership of their first resident pastor, the Rev. Philip Estel. Worship services were first held in the Boone County Courthouse, and later in the home of John Suhr. Pastor Estel remained less than a year before accepting a Call, and the young Belvidere congregation endured a pastoral vacancy which lasted nearly 3 years. The Rev. Louis Steinrauf of Huntley, Illinois, was installed as Immanuel’s second resident pastor in July of 1873. Two years later, the Belvidere Lutherans purchased the property and building of the Congregational Church, located at Main and Church Streets. After some renovation including a steeple addition, the building was dedicated as a Lutheran church in July of 1875.
Two years later Pastor Steinrauf left Belvidere to go to Missouri. He was succeeded by Candidate Carl Eissfeldt, a recent graduate of the St. Louis Seminary. He remained two years, then accepted a Call in 1879 to the south Chicago area.
During the next seven years the Rev. John Baumgaertner of Huntley preached here every other Sunday until 1886, when the Rev. Theodore Kohn of Dallas, Texas was installed as pastor. Under Kohn’s leadership, Immanuel’s first school was built. Twenty years later, this one-room school was sold for $150 and moved from Boone Street to its present location, where it became part of a barn on Highway 20, west of town at Cohoon’s Curve. In 2017, the barn burned to the ground. In the year 1892, Pastor Kohn accepted a Call to Chicago, having served Immanuel for six years.
THE EXPANDING OF IMMANUEL
In October of 1892, the Rev. Ersnt Heinemann was installed as the fifth resident pastor of Immanuel. He came from Geneseo, Illinois. His lengthy pastorate and strong leadership were significant turning points in the history of the parish. During Heinemann’s first year, the congregation purchased three lots on West Boone Street for $1000. Plans were soon underway to erect a new house of worship on the newly acquired property. The old church on the south side was sold and services were held temporarily in the old Methodist church until the new building was completed. The large, stately, white frame German-Gothic church had a towering steeple visible for miles around. It was dedicated October 15, 1893 and completed at a cost of $5,970.
At the turn of the century, Immanuel, known as “the German Lutherans” or “the Boone Street Germans,” was growing into a large congregation – and thriving, by the grace of God. In 1906 a new, two-story brick school building was built next to the church for a cost of $6,000. It served well until World War I, when enrollment dwindled. In 1909, extensive repairs and improvements were made on the church building. New windows and a steel ceiling were installed. A large, beautiful new altar and pulpit were purchased for $700 by the Ladies Aid. In 1920, the school closed for lack of students; however, it continued to be used as a church fellowship hall, Sunday school and youth. In 1927, a new two-story parsonage was built next to the church at a cost of $11,500.
THE GROWTH YEARS OF IMMANUEL
The first big wave of new growth was underway in those post-war years. Under Pastor Rengstorf’s leadership, a church basement was dug in 1951 and our school re-opened in 1953. The “Baby Boom” was upon us! Adding two grades a year, they soon ran out of room. In 1955, a special committee was selected to plan for future expansion. Considering nine possible sites, they decided on the location on East Second Street for a new school. In 1956 twenty-six acres of property were purchased for $30,000 and in 1958 a new school was built at a cost of $210,000. It had five classrooms plus Kindergarten, gymnasium, kitchen and offices.
In 1985 the congregation began a three-year “In Christ We Grow” campaign to renovate and expand our facilities. In 1985 the interior of the church was decorated and adorned with new pews and the organ pipe room behind the balcony renovated. The following year, a new church office/administration area/music room complex was added to the school. Total cost of these projects was about $300,000.
In 1996 Immanuel built a new church facility at the school location, a $3 million sanctuary and parish fellowship center, thereby ending 103 years of history on Boone Street. With the completion of the new church, the Boone Street church was sold for $80,000 to World of Life Tabernacle.
A “Worship as One” service was held on October 21, 2012 at which the mortgage was burned. Another large building project was started in 2001 whereas two-story structure housing six more classrooms and a large gymnasium was added to the east end of the school at a cost of over $900,000.
THE BELVIDERE TORNADO – April 21, 1967
On April 21, 1967, a violent EF4 tornado, one of 10 tornadoes to whip across northern Illinois that afternoon, barreled into Belvidere leaving a path of death and destruction. The death toll began just before 4 p.m. as school was letting out in Belvidere and buses filled with young students were tossed about the tornadic winds, killing 24 and injuring hundreds.
Immanuel Lutheran School had been dismissed, but many students remained waiting for their bus. Immanuel’s Interim Principal, Mr. Joel Schumacher, and Pastor Wille were watching the weather and with the teachers’ assistance quickly gathered everyone in the basement of the school where together they sang “Jesus Loves Me”. Everyone on the campus was saved, however, one of Immanuel’s own, Becky Vogelsang lost her life on one of the buses that left the high school.
Immanuel Lutheran School was heavily damaged during the tornado. Three of the four classrooms in the corner were gone and the southern part of the gymnasium roof was gone. Two of the three classrooms had been built a few months before and had yet to be officially dedicated. The contents of the classrooms were scattered.
While the school was being repaired, classes were held at the Covenant Church and the old school on Boone Street. Classes resumed in the repaired school that fall.
The home that sits at 925 Belvidere Road was purchased in July of 1984 by Immanuel. In 1988 the home was sold to School Principal, Paul Baker. The church purchased the home, from Paul Baker, again on April 22, 1997. In 2005 it was extensively remodeled and is now called CrownPoint. This building houses the Helping Hands office. Small groups and the Immanuel youth also use the building.
In 1988, Immanuel purchased “the Dashney property” for $140,000. This building was used for church, school and Helping Hands storage until it burned down on March 9, 2010. A new garage/storage facility was built adjacent to CrownPoint at a cost of $30,000.
The home at 983 Belvidere Road was purchased by the church in July of 2004. It was remodeled after the purchase and is used as a rental property for the church.
During the Summer of 2008 the church office was expanded to accommodate two more offices at a cost of $70,000 to accommodate additional staff.
Immanuel North held its “grand opening” on October 23, 2010. It is located in a strip mall on IL Rte. 173 and serves many needs in the Northern Boone County area. In addition to services on Sunday morning, the “North” members engage in many service projects that help people in the North Boone community area.
The Canopy Project was completed during the summer of 2016, funded by donations from the congregation. There have been many times since that the canopy has protected worshipers from inclement weather!
KEEPING WITH THE TIMES
Motorized roller shades were placed in the Sanctuary in September of 2008 at a cost of $21,000.00 which will aide in the usage of our large screens and projectors which were placed in the Sanctuary in April of 2006.
Three plasma screens were placed around the complex in August of 2007.
In 2012 Immanuel became part of the “Comfort Dog” ministry of the Lutheran Church Charities. Kye and Bekah are our comfort dogs. They visit schools and other destinations on a regular basis. In addition, they have been deployed to all areas of the USA after natural disasters and man-made tragedies.
The fall of 2012 found a new electronic sign installed at the entrance on Belvidere Road at a cost of $34,000.00.
During the summer of 2014 a “Jeremiah Tree” was introduced to Immanuel members. Members have been able to purchase “leaves” on the tree, with the donation going to the Endowment Fund of their choice. This is a part of Immanuel’s Legacy program.
A science lab was added to the school in 2014.
To bring Immanuel to those who are homebound or traveling, “live streaming” of worship services was introduced during Holy Week 2015 and has been another way to “Connect People to Christ for Life”.
Also, during 2016, the main restrooms in the school were refurbished, after being in use since the school opened in 1958. Lockers were installed, and the school hallways and small gym were repainted, covering up the dark bricks with a brighter beige color
During the Summer of 2017, almost $50,000.00 was raised by Immanuel members and friends to financially support the refurbishment of the church’s 1902 Kilgen Organ. Watson Organ Company from Galesburg, Illinois, was given the task to repair and upgrade our organ. Several upgrades included the installation of a new keyboard, stop tabs, and electronic control system. Repair was made to some of the organ’s flute pipes. On September 16th, the organ was rededicated.
Also, during summer, 2017, the small bathrooms at the “end” of the school building were refurbished. A classroom was made into an Adult Education Room. Walls were painted, and carpeting was installed. Tables and chairs were also added. Additionally, air conditioning was installed in the school.
IMMANUEL PASTORAL HISTORY
Rev. Philip Estel 1869-1870
Rev. Louis Steinrauf 1873 to 1877
Rev. Carl Eissfeldt 1877 to 1879
Rev. John Baumgaertner 1879 to 1886
Rev. Theodore Kohn 1886 to 1892
Rev. Ernst Heinemann 1892 to 1913
Rev. Emil Richter 1913 to 1916
Rev. J.H. Rupprecht 1917-1919
Rev. Ernst Heinemann 1919-1926
Rev. Fredrick Gohlke 1926 to 1943
Rev. Wilbert Theiss 1943 to 1945
Rev.Herman Bauer 1945 to 1948
Rev. Walter Rengstorf 1948 to 1958
Rev. Arnold Gierke 1958 to 1978
Rev. Edward L. Krauss (Assistant Pastor) 1962 to 1964
Rev. Eugene Wille 1964 to 2002
Rev. Robert Breitbarth (Assistant Pastor) 1980 to 1984
Rev. Barry Kolb 1986 to 1991
Rev. Robert Schaeffer 1992 to 1998
Rev. David Gaddini (Assistant Pastor) 2000 to 2003
Rev. Allan Buss 2000 to 2018
Vicar Joel Howard 2003 to 2004
Rev. Philip Hanson (Visitation Pastor) 2003 to 2016
Vicar Quentin Nuttman 2004 to 2005
Rev. Joel Howard (Assistant Pastor) 2005 to 2008
Rev. Kurtis Bueltmann (Assistant Pastor) 2008 to 2011
Rev. Jonathan Huehn (Assistant Pastor) 2009 to 2011
Rev. Keith Richard Richard (Assistant Pastor) August 2015 to Present
Rev. Paul Garchow (Visitation Pastor) 2016 to Present
Rev. Roger Pollock (Interim Senior Pastor) 2018 to Present