Every church has a story to tell…
St. Peters UCC Parker Settlement Church History
From time to time, it enriches a church to reflect upon its past through worship. Every church has a past. Every member stands on the crest of a historical wave of faith. To worship in the context of the past can serve as a confirmation that your fruits have roots. The reflection leads to the discovery that, even though the mode of worship has changed, the mood transcends the years and confronts us today in much the same way it seized our forefathers. The same God, in perhaps the same house of worship, speaks the same word of judgement and promise. It links us back to our beginnings. That is what the word “religion” in its root form means: “to link back”. And that is what helps us look ahead.
Given the fact that colonial worship was an all-day affair, with prayers lasting an hour and sermons’ going as long as two or three, what we have today is an abbreviated order of worship with some of the basic themes and actions of early American colonial worship in the reform tradition.
The formal founding date is 1863. The members were mostly of German and Dutch descent and there were German services and the records were kept in German until 1929.
The building used for the first St. Peter’s in Parker Settlement was a small one-room log structure. It was also used during the week for a schoolhouse. This building was on the southwest side of Highway 66 or old US 460 also known as New Harmony road. This site of the present church was donated by John Doll in 1850 for the purpose of building a house of God. More ground was later acquired from the George Winternheimer family for the church cemetery. Both cemetery and congregation are incorporated.
The original building was built in 1864 and kept in good condition. In 1954 the council presented to the congregation plans to erect an annex. The building was completed that same year and was used as a Sunday school hall.
Ground was broken September 22, 1963 for a new house of worship. This building was completed and dedicated on May 17, 1964. The only thing used from the old wooden structure was the 92-year-old three foot bell. It was installed in a bell tower of Spanish Chapel style.
On September 24, 1978 ground was broken for a new parsonage. It was completed that same year.
Several years ago, a new food pantry building was built. God’s Storehouse is serving the community needs one day per month; serving app. 600 to 800 people. This congregation is a community church with several of its members living within miles of the church building. We have been a gathering God’s people for over 100 years, serving and worshiping our lord Jesus Christ.
A Description of the Parts of Worship
Summons to meeting- In colonial times, it was customary to summon the congregation by blowing a conch shell, or employing a drummer to lead the people to meeting.
Lining a Psalm- Lining a psalm is one of the most interesting aspects of colonial worship. A member of the congregation who had some facility with music (Precentor) leads the congregation in song. The precentor sings the first line solo, then the congregation copies what they heard sung, and so on, until the end. Hums were frowned upon because they were of “human composure” and not of God’s. Musical, instruments were thought to be “works of the devil” and not fit for the worship of God.
Brining the offering- Following the call to offering, it was customary for the head of the household to place the gift of the family, in the form of goods or coin upon the communion table.
Narrator- Since bulletins weren’t used in colonial days, the narrator would lead the congregation through the order of worship.
Precentor- A person with musical facility who would lead the congregation in singing the Psalms.
Tything-man- Since the services lasted for hours, the tything-man would keep people awake with the use of a pole that had a brass knob on one end to poke the men who were dozing, and a feather on the other end to awaken the ladies.
Past and Present Events
Christmas Programs– Christmas programs were a big event. Weeks were spent planning, learning parts for the play and getting ready. Even very small children participated: they recited 2-4 line verses. After the program each child received a bag containing an orange and candy.
Missionfest– Missionfest was celebrated each year. This was a time for area church members and pastors to come together for special services with the main emphasis on missions “Go into all the world”. Usually there was special music, preaching and services in the all day with standing room only! Church members would invite guest into their homes for the noon meal and return for the afternoon/ evening programs.
Harvest Home– This was celebrated in the fall of the year, usually in October. It was a time to bring garden produce, stalks of corn, wheat saved from the summer and flowers to decorate the sanctuary. This was done to give thanks for the bountiful harvest God had provided. At times the non-perishable food items were given to Deaconess Hospital.
Women’s Guild– The women’s Guild was called Ladies Aid. They meet in the homes of members. The purpose was the same as now, “To undergird the work of the Church”. The Women’s Guild has survived the years and continues to be active. Its purpose is to do the work of the church. It has helped deepen the faith, to share mission and to challenge all to learn. The women quilt during the winter months. They maintain the church library. The Guild began a tradition that still continues today. The tradition is one of placing a rose on the altar at Sunday Worship in honor of newborn babies in the church family.
German Services– Services were held in German Language, originally. As time went on, it was changed to having English services every other Sunday. Times changed with more and more people no longer speaking German and with the change of ministers, German services were dropped.
Picnics– Picnics were a fund-raiser held once a year during the summer. Food was prepared in the homes of members and brought to church. It was served under a large tent. People from the area came for fried chicken, ham, dressing, vegetables and desserts. Lemonade was made in a ten-gallon crock. As there was no refrigeration, it was difficult to keep the food. The woman of the church constantly checked the food to make sure it was safe to serve. There were games, country store, Ice cream, soft drinks and good fellowship. As time passed, so did the fund-raiser picnics.
Ceiling Cleaning– The ceiling of the present sanctuary was cleaned in the winter of 1989. Scaffolds were borrowed from Farm Bureau Refinery. 12 Hours were needed to clean the ceiling. Those helping were church members. Items used were scaffolding, shop vac’s. Dust mops, polishing wax and muscle power!