Immanuel Lutheran Church’s yearlong 150th anniversary celebration kicks off Sunday


By the grace of God, Immanuel Lutheran Church in Seymour has reached its 150th anniversary.

Having just one celebration near the date of its establishment, however, wasn’t enough.

For the past two years, a committee chaired by Craig and Linda Moore and Mark and Jane Nolting has worked on organizing a year’s worth of special events to mark the milestone.

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All of them follow the theme of “Celebrating our Past, Embracing our Future” based on Psalm 90:1, 16: “Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. … Let your work be shown to your servants and your glorious power to their children.”

“While we think of 150 years being a long time, God has been doing this for a much longer time,” the Rev. Ralph Blomenberg said. “You look at Moses a couple thousand years BC to what went on in the life of Jesus in AD 30 to what’s going on today, it’s continuous.”

Jesus, who commissioned the church to make disciples of all nations, is doing that specifically in this community and has been doing it at Immanuel since 1870, Blomenberg said.

“It’s our turn. What are we doing to pass that on to the next generation?” he said.

“Those people were pretty selfless,” he said of the church’s founders. “Was it a benefit to them personally? Sure, it was. It gave them strength and spiritual blessing, but they were thinking about their kids, they were thinking about the next generation, and what they did was establish a very solid foundation of God’s Word that we’re still building on. What we want to do when it’s our turn, which is now, is to pass that forward.”

The first of 10 special services — open to everyone — to celebrate the 150th anniversary is Sunday. Dale Meyer, former speaker of “The Lutheran Hour” and current president of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, will be the guest preacher for the 9 and 11:15 a.m. services at the church, 605 S. Walnut St. Composer and organist Barry Bobb, who grew up at Immanuel, will provide pre-service and post-service music.

Following the second service, a meal will be served in the Immanuel Lutheran School gymnasium. Since it also is Super Bowl Sunday, the meal will follow a tailgate theme. All participants will receive a meal and souvenirs, including 150th anniversary commemorative footballs.

The services are closest to Feb. 3 when 11 men met in Seymour in 1870 for the purpose of organizing a Lutheran church.

Several families had been traveling over primitive roads to the Sauers and White Creek areas to attend a Lutheran church. They were eager to establish a congregation within the community of Seymour so they, their families and others could share in the ministry of God’s Word.

Within three months, a constitution was adopted with 17 charter members signing, and land was purchased to construct a church on the corner of Oak and Poplar streets. The 60-by-36-foot building cost $3,500 and was dedicated June 4, 1871.

“When I think of 1870, less than five years after the Civil War, the Reno Gang had just been involved in a train robbery, they had just been lynched. They were from Rockford, which is where people gathered for worship,” Blomenberg said.

“The things that people that initially started this congregation were dealing with externally … it was really kind of interesting to see how people back then who had no access to many of the things we take for granted today showed what their priorities were,” he said.

They wanted to start a church and a school, pass along their faith to their children and reach out to the community, he said.

“I think that’s inspiring for me personally, and I think it’s good for all of us to keep in mind,” Blomenberg said. “For me, I think the key to that is the blessings that allowed Immanuel to be started back in 1870 were obviously from God — the opportunity that they had to put their faith into practice in starting the congregation.”

The congregation was served for two years by a pastor shared with the newly founded Lutheran church in Waymansville, F. Wendt. In 1873, the Rev. Henry Fischer was installed as the first resident pastor.

The next year, Immanuel Lutheran School was founded.

By 1888, the church had grown sufficiently to authorize the erection of a new building, which was dedicated in 1890 and served until the present church was built in 1963.

A new school building was constructed in 1900 and used until 1975. Another new school was dedicated in 1950 and continues in use today along with additions dedicated in 1975 and 2005.

As part of the 150-year celebration, the church’s Heritage Room will allow people to revisit particular periods of time in the church’s history. The period reflected in the pictures and other items will change throughout the year.

Blomenberg said it’s a way for everyone to celebrate the church’s ancestors, many of whom were German immigrants who became Americans.

“They reached out to others in the community, and it has become certainly a melting pot of all different kinds of people who what we have in common is not necessarily where we were born or what our name is but our faith in Christ as Lutheran Christians being able to share that with other people,” he said.

The Heritage Room and yearlong celebration allow the church’s 3,600 members to be inspired by what people have done before them and say, “OK, now it’s our turn. What does the next 25 years look like? What does the next year look like?” Blomenberg said.

“I think that will be a really nice way of looking at what challenges we face today and how we can address them with the same tools they had back then — God’s Word,” he said.

A logo also was created to celebrate the 150th anniversary. Ava Blomenberg, a seventh-grader at Immanuel Lutheran School and granddaughter of Ralph, and Patti Miller, who works in communications and children’s ministry at the church, worked together to create it.

It features drawn images of the three Immanuel sanctuaries from past and present and four people.

“She sketched those, and I was able to capture those and drop them into the logo,” Miller said.

At the top are three interlocking circles that symbolize the Holy Trinity and unity and strength found in Christ and ever-present in the body of believers, and Psalm 90:1 is around the circles.

At the bottom, “Celebrating our Past” is set behind a red ribbon coming down from the open Word of God, and “Embracing our Future” is set before it as people rely on the promises of God to be with them now and forever. The waves below that are a part of the church’s altar.

“Normally, a logo is pretty simple,” Miller said. “You want it, if you’re using it for branding, to be pretty simple, but we had freedom here to do whatever we wanted to do, so it was just thoughts from other people, too. It was really kind of a team effort with the 150th anniversary committee coming up with the things that they wanted it to be.”

Miller said it was fun to be a part of because Ava has history at the church, but she is new. Miller is originally from south Alabama and is not a lifelong Lutheran.

“I really feel like I have been swirled up in all of this, which is a really good way to describe our faith — just strictly by the grace of God,” she said. “I don’t have a history here in Seymour or in Indiana, so I’m like a real outsider, but God embraces all of us, so I feel like I’ve been embraced here, too. That’s probably why that maybe turned out so well is really by the grace of God and because I’ve been so interested in the history.”

Miller is excited to reflect on that history all year long.

“The history is just so rich, as is what God has for us in the Scripture, too,” she said. “So by the grace of God, I’ve been able to be here and be a part of this, and I look forward to what he has for me and my family here going forward.”

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Immanuel Lutheran Church’s 150th anniversary calendar of events

Sunday: Dale Meyer, president of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis; Barry Bobb, musician and son of congregation; kickoff celebration

April 19: The Rev. Richard Radtke, former pastor; Steve Wente, musician and son of congregation; Old-Fashioned Days birthday celebration

May 17: The Rev. Mark Boxman, son of congregation; groundbreaking with families of the founders

June 14: The Rev. Jimmy Rodriguez, former vicar and current pastor; vicar reunion

June 28: Dedication of stained glass windows

July 26: The Rev. Matthew Harrison, president of Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod; recognition of sons and daughters of congregation in all church work

Aug. 9: The Rev. Donald Brand, son of congregation; celebrate Immanuel Lutheran School and Immanuel Lutheran Child Care Ministry; recognition of past and present faculty

Sept. 13: The Rev. Adam Rodriguez, son of congregation; cornerstone laid; late service at the Jackson County Fairgrounds and Immanuel Lutheran School fish fry

Oct. 25: The Rev. Ryan Schneider, son of congregation; reformation

Nov. 8: Chaplain Matthew Prince, son of congregation; Veterans Day and closing celebration

All events are open to the public.

Immanuel’s services are at 9 and 11:15 a.m. Sundays at the church, 605 S. Walnut St., Seymour.

Information: Call 812-522-3118, email [email protected] or visit


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