PEACE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST HISTORY
Our church was organized in April of 1902 when the Mission Board of the Evangelical Church of North America sent Rev. Otto Satzinger to organize a congregation around a nucleus of interested persons in the Evangelical tradition. By June of 1902 the congregation had grown to forty members drawing many of the Swiss and German folks into the congregation. Rev. Satzinger was then sent to Omaha to start a new church there. The first full-time minister was Rev. Gattlieb Robertus, who took over his duties in Tilden in August of 1902. It was early in Rev. Robertus’ ministry that a parsonage was built, a Sunday school was started and in 1903 the Martha Society had its beginning.
The Christian Church, located one block north and one block east of the present building, was rented for the first few years. The congregation outgrew the facilities and on Palm Sunday, April 16, 1905, the congregation voted to build a new church of their own. The building was erected the same year for a reported cost of $3200.00. Most of the construction was done by John Schwarting, a church member.
Several names were being used by the community and the congregation so it was declared at the January 1906 meeting the official name would be Friedens Evangelical Church. In January 1914 it was decided to introduce the English language into Sunday school and to leave it to the discretion of the pastor to use English whenever the need arose.
In January 1916 it was decided to install electric lights in the church and parsonage.
The writing of the church’s annual meeting minutes in German was discontinued in 1930, but a German and an English service were held each Sunday until 1933 when it was voted to have German services only one Sunday per month and no English service on that Sunday.
In 1934 the Evangelical and Reformed Churches of North America united and our new church name became Peace Evangelical and Reformed Church. The German word, Friedens, took on its English translation – peace. Even though the Depression years of the thirties were difficult years for many in Tilden, a large number of persons joined the church. Rev. August Brueggmann served as pastor from October 1930 until August 1935. During that time ninety-three people took the vows for church membership and ninety children were baptized.
In 1948 an electric organ was donated by Mr. Fred Ritter, Sr. in memory of his wife. New altar furniture was dedicated in June of 1954.
The Evangelical and Reformed Church united in 1961 with the Congregational Christian Churches. The new name became The United Church of Christ. With a new name and a new zeal, a major reconstruction project was begun. There was need for more Sunday school rooms, more seating capacity and a pastor’s study. To continue with modernization, in 1977 our church had a woman elected to the church board.
In 1994 Peace United Church of Christ began a “yoked” relationship. Under the plan Peace Church and the United Methodist Churches in Tilden, Meadow Grove, and Battle Creek would be sharing two ministers. On April 16, 1997 the four churches signed a covenant agreement to officially form the Elkhorn River Parish. As a four-church parish we would be served by United Methodist pastors for three rotations and a United Church of Christ minister on the fourth rotation. In 1999 the structure of the Parish was realigned and the covenant agreement revised. The Battle Creek United Methodist Church then shared pastors with Norfolk churches and the Elgin United Methodist Church joined the Elkhorn River Parish.
On April 18, 1999 a ground-breaking was held following worship for a new fellowship hall, which would make the church handicap accessible. The hall was used for the first time on December 4, 1999. A new sound system was also installed into the church and the fellowship hall.
In June 2000 the choir under the direction of Patricia Miller recorded some of the choir’s favorite anthems and had CDs and cassette tapes made.
Our 100th year as Peace United Church of Christ was celebrated on April 6 and 7, 2002. The Sunday message was delivered by Dr. Walter Brueggemann. Dr. Brueggemann has been a professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. He has written over fourteen books and is a well-known Old Testament scholar. His father was pastor at Peace UCC when Walter was born. Several other former pastors returned to share in the celebration. Peace Church received a generous gift of a Peace Pole from Pastor Vernon Clausing and the UCC members of Bensenville, Illinois where Pastor Clausing was serving. Pastor Clausing served Peace Church from 1957 – 1964.
In 2008 our church became part of the Living Waters Association. Our former association, the Northeast Association, joined the UCC Omaha Association to form the new group. A church directory was also completed in 2008. Our church was blessed with a generous gift in December 2008 from the Florence Michaelson estate.
After discussions with the Conference minister of the United Church of Christ and the district superintendent of the United Methodist Church it was decided at a congregational meeting in April 2011 that on July1st the Elkhorn River Parish would be dissolved. Peace Church was then yoked with the United Methodist and Looking Glass Methodist Churches of Newman Grove. This arrangement lasted until 2014 when our congregation voted to withdraw from the United Methodist Churches and hire Pastor Theta Dame as our part-time pastor. She remained until June 2020 when she retired from ministry.
Our church has had two of its members go into the ministry. John Saxton was ordained at Peace Church in 1961 by the Midwest Synod of the Evangelical and Reformed Church. He graduated from Lancaster Theological Seminary in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He then served nine years at Peace UCC in rural Norfolk, Nebraska. He continued his studies at Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. He served several churches in Iowa and also was the chaplain at Mayflower Community in Grinnell, Iowa before retiring from ministry. On August 13, 2016 our church again held a service of ordination, this time it was for Kathryn Miller. She graduated from Chicago Theological Seminary and is an Associate Pastor for Family Life at First Central Congregational UCC in Omaha. She is also president of YOMC (Youth Outdoor Ministry Committee) for the Nebraska Conference. When John Saxton was ordained his family established a savings account at Peace Church for anyone in the future who might go into the ministry. Kathryn was able to receive the money that was in that account.
Because of Covid-19, services were not held in the church building from March 22 through July 5th of 2020. During those months the church services were offered on-line and has continued to the present. When services were resumed inside, every other pew was taped shut for social distancing and masks were required inside the church. Singing was not permitted until May 2021. A Confirmation service was to be held on April 5, 2020 but was postponed until August 3, 2020 and was held in the Ritter pasture with Rev. Dr. Melanie Miller, our present pastor.
Our church would not have come into existence had it not been for a small group of men who met over a century ago to form Peace United Church of Christ. Peace Church was born out of the Evangelical Spirit stressing education, evangelism and social action.
The preamble to the constitution of the United Church of Christ says that our church “acknowledges as its sole head, Jesus Christ, Son of God and Savior. It acknowledges as kindred in Christ all who share in this confession. It looks to the Word of God in the Scriptures, and to the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, to prosper its creation and redemptive work in the world.” Our services of worship, hymns, prayers, communions, baptisms, confirmations, all our tasks done together, speak of the love of God.
God help us as we continue our missions of love into the future.