History


Thoughts of organizing a congregation at Hodgkins, Illinois, were entertained as far back as the 1880s. At that time there were several Lutheran families living in what would later be the village of Hodgkins who were members of St. John's Lutheran in LaGrange and Trinity Lutheran in Willow Springs. A local merchant named John Witsan organized a Sunday school in Hodgkins about this same time. The development of the Sunday school amplified, for the Lutheran families, the inconvenience of sending their children to the Lutheran day schools and Sunday schools in LaGrange and Willow Springs, and thoughts of a stand-alone congregation in Hodgkins began to materialize. Two representatives from the Lutheran churches in LaGrange and Willow Springs, Reinhardt Leu and Henry Bloedorn, approached Rev. Alex Ullrich of LaGrange with the proposition of establishing a Lutheran congregation in Hodgkins.

A conference was held after this meeting with Rev. Herman Meyer of Willow Springs. Rev. Meyer was strongly in favor of the movement and immediately set about to conduct the first Lutheran worship services in Hodgkins, in the old Village Hall in the spring of 1911. On Sunday, April 23, 1911, twenty-six men gathered together in the same hall, along with Rev. Ullrich and Rev. Meyer, and formally organized Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hodgkins, Illinois. The newly formed congregation adopted a constitution and called Rev. Meyer as its pastor. Rev. Ullrich was called as the assistant pastor. Worship services, Sunday school, and Bible studies, continued to be held at the Hodgkins Village Hall. In later years it was also used for a Saturday Bible school conducted by Rev. Ullrich.

Looking about for ways and means of having a church building of their own for Divine services, the congregation accepted the opportunity of purchasing the old Lutheran School House of St. John's La Grange (Pictured to the left in La Grange, before being tore down and re-assembled in Hodgkins.) The building was acquired at the cost of $1.00.  A fine Christian spirit prevailed as men, women, and children came to tear the building down to transfer it and build it up again on Kimball Avenue in Hodgkins.  A bell tower with a steeple was added in the front and an extra room was built at the rear for classes.  In the fall of 1911, the corner stone was laid and on March 10, 1912, Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church was dedicated to the Triune God.  Two dedication services were held in German and one in English.  

Immanuel Lutheran Church of Hodgkins, Illinois continued to worship in the church on Kimball Ave (pictured to the right) until 1951. Originally, Immanuel numbered twenty-six voters and one-hundred six souls.  From 1911-1913, Immanuel was served by both Rev. Meyer of Willow Springs as pastor, and Rev. Ullrich of La Grange as assistant pastor.  Pastor Meyer commented on these early days, "I remember on trip (from Willow Springs) distinctly.  My wife and I at the noon dinner discussed the stormy, blizzardy weather, whether or not I should make the trip to Hodgkins.  Finally I decided to try, expecting the snowstorm to abate.  However, on the way down by the minutes it got real cold and windy.  Having to buck a Northeast wind, both the horse and I needed shelter.  So we turned in by Mother Zick, who lived on a farm.  After I had given the horse shelter, Mother Zick served a hot cup of coffee and a sandwich.   Again, we two discussed whether I should turn around to my way home, or continue to Hodgkins.  The distance to Hodgkins now was the shortest.  So I chose to continue on to Hodgkins.  To my surprise, I did find three people awaiting me at the church.  Immediately, the bell was given a workout, and within minutes there were several dozen people on hand, and we proceeded, although a little late, with the usual Sunday service. In 1913, Rev. Meyer accepted a call to serve at Bellwood, Illinois.   

From 1913 -1930, the Rev. Alex Ullrich (pictured on the left) served as pastor of both St. John's and Immanuel.  Immanuel was richly blessed by Pastor Ullrich's leadership during these years as the congregation experienced slow, steady growth.     In 1927, Pastor Ullrich was also elected to serve as President of the Northern Illinois District of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod.  From 1927-1930 Pastor Ullrich functioned in these three roles.  In 1930, due to the extra work involved with being President of the District, Pastor Ullrich was forced to resign his pastorate at Hodgkins.  Both Pastor Meyer and Pastor Ullrich returned to Hodgkins on the occasion of Immanuel's 25th Anniversary on September, 26, 1937.  Pastor Meyer preached at the 3:30 service and Pastor Ullrich preached at the 7:30 service.  In 1937, Immanuel nubered one-hundred and fifty souls, one-hundred ten communicants, and twenty three voters.  Forty-three children were taught by four teachers in Sunday School. During Immanuel's first twenty-five years of blessed existence, one-hundred eleven children were baptized, one-hundred one persons were confirmed, twenty-four couples were married, and thirty-eight souls passed on.


Due to Pastor Ullrich's resignation in 1930, The Rev. Herman C. Seitz, who was pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Western Springs, Illinois, accepted a call to serve Immanuel on a part time basis.  Pastor Seitz served Immanuel in this capacity until his sudden death in 1945.  The Rev. Herman Fricke served as pastor from 1945-1947.  The Rev. Gerhard Leverenz served as pastor from 1947-1948.  The Rev. Robert Olson (pictured on the right) served in 1948.  The Rev. Robert Schroeter served as pastor from 1948-1957.  In 1951, Immanuel celebrated it's 40th anniversary.

A special service was held on September 23rd at 4:00PM.  The Rev. Paul Scheer, pastor at Zion Lutheran Church in Hinsdale was the preacher.  The Rev. Robert Schroeter served as liturgist. This was one of the last festival services held in the old church.  At the time of it's fortieth anniversary, Immanuel numbered one hundred eighty-one souls and one hundred thirty-four communicant members.  During Immanuel's first forty years of grace one hundred eighty-eight had been baptized, one hundred fifty-nine were confirmed, forty-three couples were married and thirty-two were buried from the church.

A major step in the history of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hodgkins happened in 1950 when plans, long in development, finally materialized for the erection of a new house of worship.  Ground was broke (picture top row left) for the new church by the Rev. Robert Scroeter in the Spring of 1951 on two lots on Kane Avenue.  One of the lots was donated by the Otto Hopp family.  The Rev. Robert Schroeter presided at the ceremony for the placing of the cornerstone (picture top row middle).  The building was completed in the Spring of 1952 (picture top row right).  The Service of Dedication for Immanuel's new church building took place on March 9, 1952 at 3:30PM (picture bottom row left).  The Rev. Dr. John F. Choitz was the preacher, the Rev. Robert Scroeter served as liturgist (picture bottom row middle).  The congregation had a new reason to pitch in and work together.  They gave of their first fruits and paid for the new building long before the note was due. The pulpit and pews were moved from the old church and incorporated into the design of the new church (picture bottom row right).  The former church building on Kimball Avenue was sold, it burned down a few years later.   In 1956, former pastor Rev. Herman Fricke returned to Hodgkins to preach for Immanuel's 45th anniversary.  Pastor Schroeter accepted a call to teach at the Synod's new pre-ministerial college in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1957.  The Rev. Ernest T. Blau (pictured on left) served as Immanuel's Shepherd from 1957-1964.The Rev. Karl Lohrmann served Immanuel from 1964-1966.  It was also during this time that Mrs. Marie Stefanich concluded her service to Immanuel as organist after more than fifty years of dedicated service.

In 1966, a new arrangement for pastoral services was made with Hope Lutheran Church in the La Grange Highlands, the closest sister LCMS congregation.  In this arrangement, Revs. Roy Blumhorst and Tony Davison served as pastor from 1966-1969.  The Rev. Robert Bremer and Vicar Raymond Wiebold (1971, pictured on right) served from 1970-1973. In 1971, Immanuel celebrated it's sixtieth anniversary with a special service of celebration.  Rev. Robert Schroeter, then serving in Chesterton, Indiana returned to Hodgkins to deliver the sermon.  Vicar Raymond Wiebold served as liturgist and the Rev. Robert Bremer as lector. In 1973, Immanuel decided to purchase a home to be used for it's parsonage and began discussions about calling a full-time pastor.  

For the first time in it's sixty-two year history, Immanuel embarked on calling their own full time pastor.  In the summer of 1973, they called the Rev. Silvester J. Robisch of Owego, New York.  Pastor Robisch was installed at Immanuel on September 16, 1973 at 4:00PM.  The Rev. Robert Ehlers, pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Western Springs, Illinois and Counselor of our Circuit, delivered the sermon and officiated at the Rite of Installation.  In December of 1974, The Rev. John W. Struve was ordained into the Office of the Holy Ministry at Immanuel.  He is the only son of our congregation to become a pastor.  The Rev. Elmer J. Sedory was the ordinator, the Rev. Walter D. Otten preached the sermon.   Pastor Robisch served Immanuel until 1976 when he accepted a call to serve a congregation in Minnesota.  Mrs. Carolyn Molzahn retired as our organist in 1976 after many years of faithful service.

The Rev. Adam Albert Dietrich (pictured on right) began his thirty-five year ministry as Immanuel's Interim Pastor in 1976.  Pastor Dietrich has the longest tenure of any pastor in Immanuel's history. For many, he is the only pastor they have ever known. Pastor Dietrich baptized one hundred-sixty, confirmed one hundred-ten, and conducted the funerals of seventy-seven of our members during his ministry at Immanuel.  In 1986, Immanuel celebrated it's seventy-fifth anniversary with a special service of thanksgiving on April 20th.  The Rev. John W. M. Struve delivered the sermon, the Rev. Adam A. Dietrich served as liturgist (pictured below, top row left).  It was also in 1986 that Mr. Howard J. Eggert, our faithful organist since 1976, left Immanuel to become Director of Music at his home congregation, Trinity, Burr Ridge.  Pastor Dietrich's ministry at Immanuel culminated during our centennial anniversary year in 2011.  The congregation planned several events of celebration. In January, we hosted a concert of sacred music featuring Joseph Klotz and former organist Howard Eggert.  In May we welcome the Rev. Joel A. C. Dietrich (pictured below, top row right) who preached the sermon as the congregation renewed it's baptismal vows.  In July we welcomed the Rev. John W. M. Struve (pictured below, top row center) who preached for our reunion celebration. In October, we welcomed the Rev. Dr. Wallace Schulz (pictured below, bottom row left) who preached for our centennial celebration service.  Our year long celebration was capped off by our centennial banquet which was held at Park Place in Countryside.  In November, we had a retirement celebration in praise and thanksgiving for Pastor Dietrich's thirty-five years of faithful service to our congregation.  Immanuel dedicated it's new chancel crucifix (pictured below with our processional cross, bottom row right) in honor of Pastor Dietrich's ministry. 

It was during our Centennial Anniversary year that the Rev. Walter Dietrich Otten (pictured on the left) accepted Immanuel's Divine call to become our pastor. Pastor Otten had been retired after serving St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Brookfield, IL for fourty-three years. Pastor Otten was installed on December 4, 2011 by the Rev. Dan P. Gilbert, President of the Northern Illinois District.  The Rev. Steven J. Anderson preached the sermon (picture of installation and particpating pastors is below). After 10 years of faithful service as our organist, Mr. Kenneth Howes left Immanuel to pursue other interests.  His last service was Easter 2013.  In Spring of 2013,  Mr. Andrew Mertzenich became Immanuel's new organist and choir director.  Pastor Otten retired on June 30, 2013.

With Pastor Otten's departure after June 2014, Immanuel was vacant for the following six months.  During this vacancy, the Rev. George Mrochen (Circuit Counselor) provided advice and counsel.  The Sunday Divine Service continued uninterrupted with the pulpit being filled most notably by the Revs. John Struve and David Kluge. Immanuel is very grateful to these three faithful pastors for their help during this time.

In January 2014, the Rev. Eric Neil Andersen (pictured at left) accepted Immanuel's Divine Call to become our pastor.  Pastor Andersen was installed on January 26, 2014 by the Rev. George J. Mrochen, Circuit Counselor (Curcuit E19).  The Rev. Walter D. Otten preached the sermon (picture of installation and participating pastors is below).  Pastor Andersen also serves as Pastor of Zion Ev. Lutheran Church in Summit.  Pastor Andersen is a native of Hickory Hills, IL.  


In addition to his duties as a parish pastor, Pr. Andersen writes for Brothers of John the Steadfast and co-hosts Steadfast Throwdown with Pr. Randy Asburry of Hope Lutheran Church, St. Louis, MO (www.steadfastlutherans.org).  He is on the faculty of Wittenberg Academy (www.wittenbergacademy.org) and serves as Bible study editor for Around the Word (www.aroundthewordjournal.org).  Pr. Andersen is a 2008 graduate of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. Prior to seminary, he studied music at St. Xavier University and Concordia University, Chicago.  Prior to serving Immanuel and Zion, Pr. Andersen served as pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Johnstown, CO from 2010-2013.    

Left - Right,

Rev. James Huenink, Concordia, Berwyn

Rev. Dr. Mark Birkholz, Faith, Oak Lawn

Rev. Matthew Zickler, Grace, Western Springs

Rev. Walter Otten, Emeritus 

Rev. George Mrochen, Holy Cross, Chicago

Rev. Eric Andersen

Rev. Peter Berg, St. Peter, Chicago

Rev. Steven Anderson, Gloria Dei, Chicago

Rev. Adam Dietrich, Emeritus

Rev. Dr. Valdas Ausra, Zion, Oak Lawn



In July 2014, Mr. Howard J. Eggert returned to Immanuel to serve as our organist.  Immanuel is blessed to be served by both Pr. Andersen and Mr. Eggert and looks forward to many joy-filled years ahead.


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