The History of
The United Church of Clinton
The German Evangelical Congregational Church had it’s beginnings in 1887 when a group of German speaking people gathered in worship at the First Congregational Church on Walnut Street. The Rev. Frank Scherff was called to serve and minister to these people. At first, German services were held in the First Congregational Church.
Endeavoring to build a church of their own, in 1888, they purchased a parcel of land large enough to build a church and later a parsonage for $5000. The present house of worship was completed in 1889.At that time, the church had 51 members and 115 children enrolled in the Sunday School. Henry Wessels was the Church Clerk. Charles L. Swan of the Board of Trustees of the First Congregational Church, reported that $3000 had been paid on the land and the building held a mortgage of $2000.The Honorable Henry C. Greely announced at the dedicatory exercises that he would give the pulpit chairs and the Reverend and Mrs. Darius B. Scott of the First Congregational Church stated that they would provide the carpet for the pulpit.
The Covenant was signed in 1896 with 52 charter members and a constitution was adopted defining the various boards and committees.
The Ladies Aid Society (Frau Verein) was organized in January of 1889 with ten charter members. Mrs. Scherff served as the first president with Mrs. Molter as secretary. The other charter members were Mrs. John Kraemer, Mrs. John Gutman, Mrs. Henry Kraemer, Mrs. Ernst Ondra, Mrs. Cross, Mrs. Hennis, Mrs. Ploss and Mrs. Otto Zoll.
The Rev. A. Huelster of Detroit came to serve the Church on May 1, 1909. The German Congregational Church was incorporated on November 2, 1901. Mr. Gentsch was the officiating lawyer in charge of the incorporation.
Through the years significant changes have been made to the church and property. In 1903, the basement was finished off to serve as a Sunday School room. In 1904, the congregation purchased an organ. The parsonage located at 59 Beech Street was built in 1906 and served as a home for the Rev. Edward Hobein and his family.
The organizational life of the church has evolved considerably since 1905 (the year officers were first elected) when the Pastor served as president, Otto Zoll as vice president, Andrew Kraemer as secretary and Ernst Ondra as treasurer.
In 1923, the chapel was added to the original structure and a new altar and choir space was provided in the Sanctuary. Women were first allowed to hold office in 1941. Membership at that time was 245 and there were 65 children enrolled in the Sunday School. The scriptural text on either side of the altar is the work of Frederick Gentsch in memory of his mother, Mrs. Marie Gentsch.
The German Church has been self-supporting since 1944. Also in that year, German services were discontinued. Rev. Kramer came to ease the transition and services have subsequently been read in English. During Rev. Kramer’s ministry, the constitution was revised and adopted, redefining the duties of the various boards and committees that function today with capable Lay Leadership. A new organ was installed in 1946.
The Church kitchen was renovated and a new heating system was purchased in 1949. A garage and an additional entrance to the Social Hall were built shortly thereafter. A Memorial Fund was instituted in 1954 and a Memorial Board with names of deceased members engraved on brass plaques was attached to the wall at the rear of the Sanctuary. In 1959, the Sanctuary was renovated with new plaster, flooring and rug. Mr. and Mrs. Alwin Hopfmann provided new lighting fixtures. New Hymnals were also purchased.
Prizing her history which links her to the German Congregational Churches that established a publishing house and college in the Yankton, South Dakota, the congregation reaches out in fellowship with other Congregational churches and indeed with the ecumenical church. The decision to join with the United Church of Christ was made on March 16, 1961.
In 1962, a new addition designed by architect, Arland A. Dirlam was built for the purpose of Christian Education, fellowship and pastoral counseling. The service for the Cornerstone Laying was held on June 3, 1962. The new outdoor sign was dedicated on November 13, 1977 in memory of Pauline Davidson. The stone retaining wall on Haskell Avenue was built in 1970.
In 1982, we welcomed the members of the United Methodist Church on Walnut Street who sold their house of worship. The United Methodist Church, which received the first ordained minister and dedicated its first building in 1852, joined in Covenant with the German Church on October 26, 1983 through the efforts of Rev. Blaine Taylor, District Superintendent, and the Rev. Wayland Davis.
A ramp was constructed at the rear entrance in 1982 to accommodate people with disabilities. The same year a set of paraments for the church seasons was purchased as a memorial to deceased members. William Janda constructed a cabinet to house these paraments off of the chancel. Lexan was also applied as a protection to the Church windows.
The constitution was again revised in 1984 through the efforts of Harold Winkler and his able committee.
Vinyl siding was applied to the main building in 1987. Early the same year, the congregation voted to call a full time pastor to minister to both congregations. Today the German Congregational and the United Methodist Church are becoming increasingly aware of a new age and are seeking to act responsibly as a fellowship committed to Jesus Christ.