Emanuel Church

By dhowell - Posted on 03 January 2008

Emanuel Church members first held their services in homes. Most of them were from Wittenburg, Germany. The nearest church was Bethel in Freedom Township. The Rev. J. G. Hildner was the pastor and started to organize a congregation in 1862.

The charter members were: Casper Raby, J. J. Walter Sr., Michael Jung, Christ Jaudes, Fred Kurfess, George Unterkircher, John Hartbeck, Fred Schill, Henry Aichele, Henry Haeschle, George Briegel, John Schlicht and Matthias Schaible.

Rev. J. Neumann, pastor at Bethel Church, kept the Manchester congregation under his wing until the Rev. S. Edeistein became the first resident pastor. He lived in Soulesville until a parsonage was provided for him on the corner of Duncan and Macomb street. This was used until 1911.

A small unused school building at Soulesville was purchased and moved on a lot north of the present Elementary School. The small church was enlarged, but it bulged at the seams as the congregation grew. On Christmas Eve, with the building full to capacity, the floor gave way and plans were made for a new building. The present site, which is an entire city block, was purchased for $1,000.

The cornerstone was laid in the summer of 1882, and on December 10, 1882, the dedication of the new building took place. Bricks for the edifice came from the brickyard of Frederick and Michael Schaible nearby. They were members of the congregation.

Pastor J. Neumann wrote: "Just take a glance at the most beautiful ornament of Manchester and the most attractive German Church of Washtenaw and adjoining counties. Splendidly she stands, 80 by 40 feet, with her 156-foot steeple constantly pointing heavenward, away from the wearisome toils and troubles of this life to the land of peace and rest." The cost of the structure was $14,000.

The Rev. George Schoettle served the congregation from 1885-1906.

During the war of 1941-45,the church service flag had 79 stars and one gold star, representing Captain Karl M. Rague, M.D., son of the church pastor Rev. Henry Von Rague, who died in Belgium.

Early in the program of the church, the Sunday School became one of its teaching agencies and the pastors gave thorough-going confirmation instruction. Formerly the old church was used, but in 1889 a new school was erected at the cost of $937, which was used until 1927, when it was replaced by the present parish hall. This was during the time the Rev. Albert A. Schoen was pastor. But before it was completed, Pastor Schoen became minister of Salem Church in Farmington. The church hall cost $27,000.

Emanuel Church had never joined any synodical church body, although it had always been served by pastors of the Evangelical Synod. On January 1, 1936, the church decided to apply for membership in the Evangelical and Reformed Church and it was formally received as a member on April 29, 1936.

The Rev. H. S. Von Rague served Emanuel for 21 years and was named Pastor Emeritus of Emanuel in 1952. While the Rev. Karl H. A. Rest was pastor, Emanuel joined with the Congregational Churches of America to establish the United Church of Christ.

The present pastor, the Rev. Ralph L. Kuether, came to Emanuel on April 19, 1959. He gave his full support to enlarging the educational facilities. Plans called for a new Chancel, placing new pews, redecorating the church sanctuary, installing a public address system and new lighting fixtures, erecting a two-story building joining the church and the parish hall, remodeling kitchen facilities and excavating under the church for additional rooms.

The work went along rapidly "for the people had a mind to work." The total cost of the project was $140,000.

Six men and one woman from Emanuel have entered the ministry.

Emanuel has, by far, the largest congregation of any in the Manchester area.