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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Sherlock Holmes and our congregation. By Pastor Ronnie Koch

In London, in 1890 The Sign of the Four was published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine. This and other novels and short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle developed the character Sherlock Holmes. This intriguing fictional detective has engaged and captivated audiences in every generation since. In that same summer, over here on the other side of the Atlantic, German settlers in Fredericksburg, Iowa set to work to build a Lutheran church. 125 years ago these founding fathers of our congregation gathered offerings and pledges for the resources to build the first house of worship for St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church, Unaltered Augsburg Confession. Although it was torn down in the late 1930s, much of the lumber was salvaged and used to build the second church, which still stands today, remodeled as our fellowship hall.

photo from

Recent retellings of the Sherlock Holmes crime stories have been modernized and updated, but the essence of the character – his genius, his wit and his eccentricity – have remained intact. Similarly, 125 years later, we have modernized our church a bit with some minor details like indoor plumbing and Wi-Fi. We sing our hymns in English now and we have communion more regularly. But the essence and the character of what we do is the same, because Jesus Christ, who is at the center of what we do, is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). It's a blessing for us to follow the pattern that those old Germans set for us. Their legacy to us is much more than lumber and nails. They, like us, desired for themselves and their children to hear God's Word and believe in His Son Jesus Christ, “auf daß alle, die an ihn glauben, nicht verloren werden, sondern das ewige Leben haben”. (that whoever believes in Him will not perish but shall have everlasting life. John 3:16b). In answer to their prayers, God is allowing us to celebrate this anniversary year on June 14th with services at 9:00 am and 2:00 pm.

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Eiffel Tower and our congregation. By Pastor Ronnie Koch

Pastor Ronnie Koch and Sandy
in Paris on a layover on the way to
Africa to visit the Lutheran
Church of Benin, 2002
In Paris, in 1889 the Eiffel Tower was completed and opened for its first visitors. At the same time, over here on the other side of the Atlantic, German settlers in Fredericksburg, Iowa were at work doing what needed to be done to have a church – a Lutheran church – in their tiny but growing village. The town's lumber man, Henry Hilmer sent word to the nearest Lutheran pastor, Theodore Haendschke of Spring Fountain, about 11 miles south of Fredericksburg. Mr. Hilmer invited Pastor Haendschke to come and conduct services in Fredericksburg. Haendschke agreed and soon there were regular gatherings of German speaking Lutherans, hearing God's Word and receiving His gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation in the sacraments.

By 1890, in Paris, the Eiffel Tower was proving to be a lasting monument to the ingenuity of the industrial revolution. By 1890, in Fredericksburg, eight men adopted and signed the constitution of a new congregation: The St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church – Unaltered Augsburg Confession. This Spring, 125 years later, we the present members of St. Paul's congregation thank God for all the blessings He has given to and through this congregation. We will celebrate this anniversary year on June 14th with Pastor Philip Hale as our guest preacher in the morning service at 9:00 am and a special festive service of praise to God at 2:00 pm. We echo the thoughts of Pastor Harold Wunderlich, who in 1940, at the church's 50th anniversary, cited these words “of the third verse of the 126th Psalm: “The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.””

Paris, 2002: Some members from St. Paul's congregation
have a "conference"  before setting out to tour the city.