The rural church celebrates its 150th anniversary
LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) – Many rural churches in Nebraska have stood the test of time. Osage St. Paul’s Church north of Cook is one of them.
UCC St. Paul celebrates 150 years on June 5th. These families settled in the area and started farming. One of the early pioneers was Lonnie Damme’s great-great-grandfather. “In 1871 the people missed their family churches from home and decided to start a church here in what is now known as the Osage neighborhood of Otoe and Johnson County where they settled,” Damme said.
The church actually started the church in a small public school within the Osage compound. “Thirteen names actually signed the original constitution, and one of them was my great-great-grandfather Fritz Damme,” Damme said.
Many descendants of these original founders are still part of the church today. “I personally have seven generations that have passed through this church,” Damme said.
While the church began in 1871, the congregation purchased the land where the current church, rectory and cemetery stand in 1872. The original church was built in 1878. “And then this was followed in September 1911, when they erected the new church building. This is the current structure of the church,” Damme said.
As you can imagine, this church means a lot to the congregation. “I just love his legacy,” Damme said. “I still farm the 200 acres that surround the church. I am the fifth generation to have lived on the farm and grown it.
The church may be small, but the church is well known for its extensive outreach programs, including a local food pantry. “We average about 43 families from 16 local counties, one in Kansas,” church member Bob Fisher said. “They come all the way here because they have relatives in Beatrice and Falls City. We also serve 98 individual family members. We only do this once a month. It is the third Thursday of each month from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. At Christmas, we donate to the Beatrice State Developmental Center for their use, and we also participate in Operation Christmas Child.
Church pastor Ken West says the church being so generous is just one of the big highlights. “Whenever you need something, people are ready to help you,” West said. “If there is a tragedy, like the other day we had a windstorm and trees were knocked down. The men from the church came quickly and cleaned everything up.
As church members celebrate the 150th anniversary, they find it fascinating to consider the church’s past. For example, German was spoken here in the early years. “On the third Sunday of every month the sermon was in German until 1930 when they stopped doing it,” church member Linda Graham said. “The men sat on the west side of the church and the women on the east side. Young children would sit with the women and the boys, once confirmed, would move to the men’s side. But around 1944, a young couple who got married, they were the first couple to sit together. And that made couples sit together!
Today the church is much more modern, offering a communion hall which was built in 1996. In 2008 the congregation built an addition to the communion hall and built a pastor’s office. Everyone is now happy to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the church. “My family moved here, I was baptized, confirmed here,” Graham said. “I moved for a while, I just came back recently and for me it’s important, I have a lot of relatives who are in the cemetery here. You feel at home. The congregation looks forward to calling this church home for years to come.
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