Church marks 140 years of unity Lineboro congregations share memories

September 27, 1993|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

One hundred and forty years of working together through good times and bad were celebrated yesterday at the Lazarus Church in Lineboro.

The church is a "Union Church," home to both the Lazarus United Church of Christ and the Lazarus Evangelical Lutheran Church.

The two congregations have shared the building, Sunday school, choirs and 140 years of memories.

Ten former pastors of both congregations participated in the celebration, which was led by the Rev. Verna L. Call, pastor of the United Church of Christ congregation, and the Rev. Philip G. Emanuel, the Lutheran pastor.

Mr. Emanuel said yesterday's celebration was "a very affirming thing" for members of the dwindling Lutheran congregation, and demonstrated to them that "whatever comes about in the future, God will be with them."

The Lazarus Evangelical Lutheran Church has about 50 members. The Lazarus United Church of Christ congregation has about 220 members.

Wanda Waugh, chairwoman of the anniversary celebration committee, gathered an exhibit of photos and documents tracing the church's past.

The Lazarus church was founded in 1853 by members of Zion's Church in Manchester.

Bad roads had made the five-mile route from Lineboro to Manchester impassable for several months each year.

The congregation collected $2,171.49 3/4 to build a sanctuary, in donations as small as 12 1/2 cents.

A new building went up in 1908.

The church still displays two original altar Bibles dating to 1854, one in English, one in German.

"The relations between our two congregations now are excellent," Mr. Emanuel said Friday.

It was not always the case.

In 1927, in an action aimed, ironically, at enforcing unity, two men -- one from each congregation -- locked out of the building a group of Lutherans who had set up their own, separate worship services.

The next Sunday, a union Sunday school choir protested in its own manner.

During the Lutherans' worship, the union choir opened the doors and, in the words of church historian Harvey G. Schlichter, "engaged in hearty singing that appeared to be quite excessive, thus interfering with the Lutheran service."

The dispute landed in the courts, which refused to dissolve the congregations' relationship.

The leaders had misjudged the depth of support for union among the flocks' members, Ms. Call said.

Eventually, the wisdom of lay members of both congregations prevailed, and a long healing process began. Deep support for ecumenical unity continues today.

Mr. Emanuel said the two Lazarus congregations "work together to accomplish Christ's mission in the Lineboro area," and with projects such as Midwest flood relief and American Red Cross blood drives.

The church forms the backbone of the little community of Lineboro, along with the fire hall, where an anniversary brunch was held yesterday.

Lazarus' membership rolls read like a Who's Who of old local families, with names such as Wentz, Warner and Warehime.

"We know our names, and the people of the past, and their names," Ms. Call said.

Like the television bar "Cheers," she said, "It's a place where everybody knows your name."

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