About Us Today
Immanuel-St. Paul's is a dual parish formed in 1967 between Immanuel Lutheran Church and St. Paul's Lutheran Churc. As a dual parish orgnization, both churches have the same pastor, cooperate on a variety of issues, and participate in some in some joint worship services, but maintain their own leadership, voting bodies, and have separate Sunday worship services. We have been blessed to have a successful relationship over the past forty years.
Our current pastor is Reverend Sean Smith. Rev. Smith is a graduate of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. Prior to his time at Immanuel-St. Paul's, he has served congregations in Indiana and Southern Illinois, and he has participated in several LCMS missions across the world. Once a month, Rev. Smith leads a chapel service at the Manor at Craig Farm in Chester and frequently leads services at Three Springs Nursing Home in Chester. His wife, Heather, joined our congregations in 2017. Mrs. Smith can frequenlty be seen playing the organ on Sundays at Immanuel and has helped organize the church's library.
Organizations & Activities
Fellowship and service is an important aspect of congregational life at Immanuel and St. Paul's. In addition to the voluteers who help by being acolytes, ushers, greeters, elders, trustees, organists, altar guild workers, and leaders, many of our members participate in more formal activities and organizations. To learn more about God's word, Bible Study classes are offered throughout the year on Wednesdays at 7:00 pm in St. Paul's Parish Hall.
Both Immanuel and St. Paul's have active Ladies Aid groups and Lutheran Women Missions League organizations. St. Paul's also has a Widows Fellowship group that meets once a month for Bible Study and other activities. For the men, a men's pinochle group meets once a month at meetings that rotate among different Lutheran churches in our area.
Activities are also available for our youth. During the school year (from September through May), Sunday School classes are held at Immanuel at 9:10 am and at St. Paul's at 8:45 am. Both Sunday Schools organize and present annual Christmas Eve services lead by the children. St. Paul's Sunday School children in particular frequently sing in church and iniate service projects, such as food drives and benefit lunches. Vacation Bible School is also offered for one day in the summer. For the youth, confirmation classes are available. St. Paul's also has a Youth Room in the basement under the church.
Over the years, both Immanuel and St. Paul's have experienced many changes and obstacles. The churches and congregations have endured through wars, periods of violence, and natural disasters. Yet through all of these trials, these congregations have made it through with the help of God.
St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized on May 12, 1859 in an area of southwestern Illinois called Wine Hill. Many of the founding families of St. Paul were from the Hanover region of Germany. St. Paul is still influenced by its German past today. A small frame church was constructed and a call was extended to the Seminary of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod in Ft. Wayne, Indiana soon after. H.C.F. Evers accepted St. Paul's call and became the first pastor of the congregation. In 1864, the congregation officially became a member of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. In 1883, the cornerstone of the current church building was laid. The church was completed in 1884.
The congregation of St. Paul's faced one of its bigger challenges during World War I. At this time, anti-German sentiment was prevalent in the country. Among, the more benign changes of sauerkraut and German measles to liberty cabbage and liberty measles, there was also violence in the United States against German speaking communities. At this time, almost all of services were conducted in German because it was still the first language of most of the members. One of the members was attacked by an anti-German Mob and Reverend Koch, who was the pastor of the church at that time, was repeatedly threatened by the mob. The anti-German violence ended during 1919.
As the years went by, English was introduced into the services. The United States would also become involved in a second World War that would involve several young men of the congregation. Several Army-Navy collections took place during this time.
It is also important to note that, since St. Paul's inception, Christian education has been a high priority for the children of the congregation. For the first several years of its existence, the Christian Day School was taught by the pastor of the congregation. The first full time teacher was hired in 1864. School was conducted inside the church until the mid-1870's, when a one-room school house was constructed. In 1952, the congregation decided to close the school at Wine Hill. Since then, it has sent the children of the congregation to the schools of neighboring congregations.
Immanuel & St. Paul's
On November 12, 1967, St. Paul unanimously voted to contact the congregation of Immanuel West Point to form a dual parish. By December 3, 1967, Immanuel had accepted the proposal. The two churches have been a dual parish since that time. Although each church would maintain their own church councils and separate voting assemblies, important issues that involve both churches would be addressed in joint council meetings.
This change would provide some unique challenges to the congregations that previously had not been issues. For instance, where would the pastor of the congregations live? The pastor would reside at the parsonage at St. Paul. After this, the parsonage at Immanuel changed from a residence into a Lutheran Braille Work Center. Volunteer groups from across the area came to Immanuel to create Lutheran worship materials, such as hymn books, in Braille. Due to damage at the parsonage the Braille work center was moved to St. John's Lutheran in Chester, Illinois in the Fall of 2011.
Reverend Tim B. Zechiel retired as the pastor at Immanuel and St. Paul. He has served the congregation from January 2001 to June 2015. During the time of vacancy, Rev. William Engfehr, III, served both congregations. In March 2016, a call was sent to Rev. Sean Smith and was subsequently accepted. Rev. Smith was intalled as pastor at Immanuel and St. Paul on Sunday, June 26, 2016.