St. Peter’s to mark move with celebration

Photos courtesy of St. Peter United Church of Christ
Members of the congregation of St. Peter United Church of Christ filed into their new church in Dubois for the building dedication July 28, 1963. The congregation will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the dedication Sunday, during the worship service at 10 a.m. and with a carry-in meal to follow.

Herald Staff Writer

DUBOIS — Harvey Zehr remembers when Sunday school classes were held throughout St. Peter United Church of Christ’s old building.

“We had a class down in the basement and one upstairs,” he said. “And we used the sanctuary for two more. We put classes wherever we could fit them. We did the best we could.”

The current building solved that problem. “We had classrooms,” he said. “We needed that so much for our kids.”

On Sunday, St. Peter’s will celebrate 50 years to the day that the building was dedicated. The celebration will take place during the 10 a.m. worship service at the church, 5535 E. Vine St. The same liturgy and bulletin from July 28, 1963, will be used, said Rev. Vern Walter, who has been pastor of the church for the last seven years.

The congregation started in 1901 with 34 members. They stayed in their old church for about 60 years, but decided as a whole that a new church was needed.

The cornerstone of the St. Peter United Church of Christ building in Dubois was dedicated Aug. 5, 1962.

“We started having trouble with the heating system. Big things needed to be repaired,” Zehr, 87, said. “Rather than trying to repair the old, we felt it was better to build a new church. It was time.”

Zehr is a lifelong member of St. Peter’s. He was elected president of the church board in 1962, when church officials pursued plans to construct a new building. Money had been collecting in a building fund since July 1953 but covered only about half of the $108,000 cost of the new building.

“I think they elected me because I was good with numbers,” Zehr said. “I went out to three banks and they loaned us the rest of the money we needed — Dubois County Bank (now Old National), German American Bank and First National Bank of Huntingburg (now defunct). They each gave us a third.”

With money in hand, ground was broken for the new church east of the former church April 29, 1962.

“The building didn’t increase in size,” longtime church member Albert Astrike said. “It’s just a better building. The other one had been there since we started and it was wearing out. We didn’t need to make it bigger. It was just time for an updated building.”

Astrike was one of four men who helped to lay the new building’s cornerstone Aug. 5, 1962. The cornerstone contains a time capsule, which will be opened Sunday.

“I can’t remember exactly what’s in that box,” Astrike said. “There might be part of a newspaper and some coins. I’ll be as surprised as everyone else when we open it.”

The building was completed in late 1962 and held its first service Dec. 9, 1962. “We started worship in the old building and ended in the new one,” Zehr said. “The old one was torn down soon after that.”

The current St. Peter United Church of Christ building in Dubois was built in 1962 and dedicated July 28, 1963.

Over the years, the new 12,028-square-foot facility received various improvements. An outdoor bulletin board was built in September 1963. Two acres of land was purchased in January 1966 to enlarge the church’s cemetery. In January 1973, the church had a mortgage-burning ceremony to celebrate that the building’s debt had been paid in full. A new parsonage was built in 1975; the current pastor lives in Milltown and the parsonage is rented out.

In 1993, a church member donated part of his inheritance to the church, Zehr said. That money was used to improve the church’s sound system, install a chair lift in the stairway and equip the building with central air.

“We didn’t have (air conditioning) at first,” Zehr said. “That was a big improvement. Indiana summers are hot.”

The church has 110 active members and the building accommodates their needs, Rev. Walter said. “It is very adequate,” he said. “The use of the building could be expanded to serve more if needed.”

A parking lot has been built where the old church once stood.

Sunday’s celebration will include talks from Zehr, Astrike and others who were involved in the building’s construction. “They will be giving memoirs about the decision-making,” Rev. Walter said, “and sharing some fun stories and not-so-fun stories.”

The cornerstone will be removed from the church’s exterior wall Saturday to be opened Sunday.
After everyone sees the contents, new contents will be put inside, Rev. Walter said.

“We’re going to put in things that commemorate the current times, about the congregation, the community and the world at large,” Rev. Walter said.

Ground was broken for a new St. Peter United Church of Christ building in Dubois on April 29, 1962.

The pastor, members of the celebration committee and key members, including Zehr and Astrike, will provide the items.

“I’ve got some 2013 pennies that I want to put in there,”Astrike said. “I’m not sure what else will go in. It can’t be too big things. The box itself is pretty small.”

Zehr expects that he, his wife and three adult children will be at Sunday’s celebration. His children, he said, grew up in St. Peter’s and are still active members.

“One comes from as far as the other side of Holland,” he said proudly. “Pretty much every Sunday they are in church with my wife and me.”

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