In the 1840s a number of German immigrants settled in the Terre Haute area, but it was not until 1858 that the Lutherans banded together under the leadership of teacher Arnd Lueken to form their own congregation on January 25 of 1858. They called themselves The German Evangelical Lutheran Congregation of Terre Haute, Vigo County, Indiana.
But who the congregation is named for is found in German on the cornerstone which faces Poplar Street:
“Evangelisch = Lutherische Immanuel’s Kirche.”
Since her founding, Immanuel has been a member congregation of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, a conservative, confessional Lutheran church body which has its world headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri.
Lutherans who hold the Book of Concord of 1580 to be a correct exposition of Holy Scripture (as Immanuel does) believe the Word of God in the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures, the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, to be true, trustworthy, and the sole source of all doctrine and life.
The history of Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church stretches back at least as far as 1848, when a group of North German Lutherans newly arrived to Terre Haute joined with other Germans in the city to form a joint congregation of Lutheran and Reformed worshipers. This congregation, located on South Fourth Street between Oak and Swan Streets, existed until 1858, when it became clear that both sets of parishioners needed to have their own congregations in order to worship in accordance with their convictions.
Thus it was that on July 1, 1858, the Constitution of the Deutsche evangelisch-Lutherische Gemeinde zu Terre Haute(“German Evangelical-Lutheran Congregation of Terre Haute”) was signed, marking the birth of our present congregation. The first resident Lutheran pastor of the congregation, the Rev. H. W. Rincker, was ordained at Immanuel on June 13th, 1858.
The pastors wasted no time in spreading the gospel to the region and were instrumental in establishing Lutheran congregations in other cities as well such as Lafayette, Linton and Vincennes. Immanuel immediately established its own parochial school, and the first church building was erected on the corner of Fourth and Swan. During this time, Pastor Rincker left for Illinois in 1862, to be succeeded by the Rev. Oskar Schmidt in 1864. After ten years, he was succeeded by the Rev. E. Sitzmann. The Rev. Henry Katt was installed as the next pastor in 1879, and served the longest tenure to date as pastor, 39 years until his death in 1918. Pastor Katt’s service nearly bridged the time from Civil War reconstruction to the First World War, during which time the school was continued, and the new sanctuary was built.
The original sanctuary at Fourth and Swan served the congregation until 1885, when our current church structure was built. In 1908 Immanuel celebrated her first 50 years, under the pastoral care of Pastor Henry Katt. The Reverend Arthur Katt succeeded his father upon his death in 1918, and served over a period of significant change. The congregation officially adopted its present English name in 1918, with English services introduced in 1922, and in 1921 the congregation revised its constitution for the first time since 1858. After a three-year hiatus Immanuel’s parochial school, which had been taught by Fred Rechlin for 23 years, re-opened in 1921 under the direction of Martin Braunschweiger. The school closed its doors for the last time after nearly 88 years of existence when Teacher Braunschweiger accepted a call to New York in 1946.
Following the departure of Pastor Arthur Katt in 1925, the Reverend Frederick C. Jordan served the congregation for thirty years until his death in 1955, followed by the Reverend Arnold F. Kluge from 1955 – 1961 and the Reverend Donald E. Schedler from 1962 – 1971.
The Reverend Philip G. Meyer arrived in 1973 and faithfully served the congregation until retiring in 2011. Pastor Meyer’s arrival was accompanied by the opening of the congregation’s Parish Center, providing additional space for offices and instruction as well as social activities. A new constitution was adopted in 1978, and in that year the congregation established a pre-school program that was to last until 2004. He also oversaw the adoption of Immanuel’s current constitution in 2006. Pastor Meyer retired as Immanuel’s pastor after thirty-eight years of service, and is our Pastor-Emeritus.
Although two vicars had served the congregation in the early 1950s, Immanuel’s current vicarage program began in earnest in 1987 and has since provided training for 26 young men from the Seminary, earning a reputation as one of the finest programs in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. In the year 2000 a vicarage house was completed, known affectionately as “The Ritz” (compared to some of the apartments earlier vicars had endured).
In April 2006 Immanuel totally revised its constitution and became incorporated, establishing the new Congregational Assembly and Council of Deacons, along with a new set of boards, each under one of the Deacons, to more effectively carry on the work of the congregation, and encouraging participation from a wider part of the congregation.
The Reverend Jacob R. Sutton, a former vicar of Immanuel, was selected by lot (under the method prescribed by the current Church Constitution) in September of 2011 to be Immanuel’s pastor. He accepted the call, having served as Associate Pastor of Faith Lutheran Church, Plano, Texas, from 2007 to 2011. Pastor Sutton was installed as Immanuel’s tenth pastor on the 2nd of October, 2011.