150 and going strong
St. Paul anniversary kicks off this weekend
St. Paul Lutheran Church members Steve Barron, left, and John Brodhagen unload a framed banner recognizing the church's 150th anniversary, which kicks off this weekend.
Marian Kupsky is one of St. Paul's oldest living parishioners. She was baptized at the Bonduel church and also taught at the church's school for many years.
It's a grand old lady in a younger shell.
St. Paul Lutheran Church's sanctuary and offices were built in 2007, but the church's history -- in Bonduel and before that, the town of Hartland -- goes back 150 years.
The church is kicking off its yearlong anniversary celebration this weekend with a visit from the Rev. Duane Lueck, North Wisconsin District president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Lueck will speak at the Saturday evening service and both Sunday services.
The anniversary celebration will also recognize the church's two pastors for 25 years of service. Pastor Tim Shoup has been with the Bonduel church for 14 years; Pastor Mark Palmer has served there since 2009.
This weekend's services will also offer a rare glimpse of a German Bible from 1670 discovered in an old section of St. Paul more than two years ago.
Frank Wegner, chairman for the church's anniversary committee, said there will also be a special surprise guest at services this weekend.
During the year, there will be other guest preachers, including former pastors and congregation members's sons who have gone on to be pastors. In July, St. Paul will welcome the pastor of the church's mission church in Butin, Romania.
The anniversary will be officially recognized Oct. 20 when the Rev. Matthew Harrison, Missouri Synod president, comes to the church.
Local settlers in the 1860s had worshipped informally, but in 1863 they organized as a congregation in the home of Henry Burmeister. The Rev. P.H. Dicke, who had taken over pastoral duties at St. Martin Lutheran Church in Belle Plaine in May of that year, conducted services for the congregation when possible.
In 1869, the congregation built a log cabin, where it held services until 10 years later when a frame church was built. The cabin then was used exclusively for a school.
The congregation continued to grow, and in 1916, an addition had to be built to the church.
When the existing building was constructed in 2007, many items from the 1916 addition, including the baptismal font, altar, lectern and pulpit, were brought over.
Today, St. Paul has more than 1,800 members. Another 50 people who have come to the church since May will be officially welcomed during the second service Sunday and at a potluck afterward.
One of St. Paul's oldest living members, Marian Kupsky, has been part of the church for 77 years. From ministering to those in need to teaching in the church's school, Kupsky knows much of the church's history, which came in handy when she wrote the official history for the 150th anniversary.
"I was baptized here," Kupsky said. "It helped to nurture my faith in my savior from childhood through all the years since. I've been immersed in St. Paul's story for a long time."
Even today, Kupsky is excited to be a part of such deep tradition.
"The membership is growing," she said. "Our purpose is more clear to us than ever before in terms of being an agency to bring others to Christ."
Kupski noted that the school has been in existence as long as the church, with settlers wanting to make sure their children were religiously educated instead of sending them to the local public school.
"It's because of that that the school remains such a large part of our mission," Kupsky said. "Our people have always supported it well. It is responsible in part for our growth and our faithfulness in the word."
That faithfulness has remained the same throughout the church's history, according to Shoup, the church's senior pastor.
"We continue to preach and teach to our children and share with as many as possible," Shoup said. "That doesn't change."