70 Years Uelzen Church Building CommemorationThank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
Pastor Marlon Hiestermann, Uelzen
Sometimes we might be tempted to take the existence of our congregations for granted as if they have always existed. Given the unpredictable nature of life, however, it is important to take note that a Christian congregation was gifted life by God and kept in good order at fixed points in time, at a specific location. Accordingly, it is valuable and beneficial to celebrate a milestone in age reached by a congregation, being thereby served by God’s holy Word and brought to worship and praise our heavenly Father through His Son Jesus Christ for His many gifts to His congregation and beyond.
Salem Congregation was founded on the 28th of March 1897, namely 125 years ago. The congregation had, even more, to commemorate this year, as it also looks back on 70 years of use of its church building, which was dedicated on the 8th of June 1952.
Since the congregation shares its founding date with the Uelzen Primary School, the two coordinated their anniversary celebrations to take place during the first days of September this year. On the 4th of September, Salem Uelzen celebrated its two milestone anniversaries with a Divine Service, which was held at the same time as the annual Mission Festival of the congregations ELC Newcastle, St. Peter’s Vryheid, and Salem Uelzen. As the local pastor, I led the liturgy being assisted in parts by Pastor Rüdiger Gevers (Vryheid) and former pastor of Salem Uelzen (2000-2004), retired Pastor Reinhold Thom. Pastor Thomas Beneke (Newcastle) held the sermon on 1 Kings 8:27-30.
After the service, the fun but the challenging task was undertaken to take a photo of all attendees. After a break, the celebrations continued in the church hall with presentations on the history of Salem Uelzen. Mr. Arthur Hellberg served as master of ceremonies, and he started off these proceedings by reading a condensed summary of the congregation’s history (available on the FELSISA website). The families of the congregation’s former pastors, now deceased, were invited to have a representative address the gathering with words of greeting and reflections on the periods of service of each pastor. Mrs. Ilse Hellberg, the granddaughter of the first pastor of the Salem Congregation (Pastor Wilhelm Hellberg, 1897-1923), was a standout among these speakers – while her address lasted a bit longer than expected, she certainly provided a touching account of years past at Uelzen. She was followed by Mrs. Margrit Clarence (granddaughter of Pastor Wilhelm Reusch, 1923-1967), a letter from Pastor Matthias Albers (son of Pastor Ernst-August Albers, 1967-1974) and Mrs. Waldtraut Köhne (wife of Pastor Werner Köhne, 1974-1987). Pastor Reinhold Thom reflected both on growing up in the congregation and on his years of service, while the video addresses by Pastor Helmut Straeuli (1987-1999) and Pastor Kurt Böhmer (2004-2018) were listened to attentively and appreciated greatly by those present.
The gathering was very thankful for the lunch prepared by the Uelzen Ladies Guild. Shortly thereafter the celebration concluded with the unveiling of the new road sign, located where our road splits, leading to the church and the school respectively. I held a short devotion, after which Mrs. Marie Dimock and Pastor Reinhold Thom were given the honours to pull the cords which unveiled the laser-cut sign, featuring the full name of the congregation, as well as its seal and an image of the church building. I pointed out that the idea for this sign arose partially because some guests and passers-by unfamiliar with our premises had previously struggled to find their way down to the church, the church hall, and the parsonage, and instead ended up at the school. We pray that the arrow on this sign may not only point people in the direction of the church premises, but also serve a small role in pointing us all to the source of our salvation, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who serves wanting sinners with forgiveness and redemption by Word and Sacrament at Salem Uelzen.
Praise, glory, and honour to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, the one and eternal God, who has not only gifted us a wonderful celebration, but also has graciously gathered, sustained and maintained His stewards at Uelzen for over 125 years!