Immanuel, or “God with us”, was the name which the Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Congregation of Palatine, Cook County, Illinois chose for itself 150 years ago. As we look back over those 150 years we can definitely say God has been, is, and will be with us! 150 years of God’s own Word, regular preaching, Holy Sacraments, grace, love, protection, comfort, instruction, admonition – 150 years of genuine blessing has been the gift of God to Immanuel. For this undeserved mercy, we give thanks, praise, honor and glory to God alone.
Pause for a moment and turn back the pages of the last 150 years. Palatine was but a stop on the railroad line with no sidewalks, no paved streets, no electric lights, no modern conveniences. In 1867 there was a small group of Lutherans who did not want to be without God’s Word and so asked The Rev. Richmann of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Schaumburg, to serve them. Pastor Richmann came every other Sunday for services held in a building at the corner of Bothwell and Wilson.
On February 20, 1869 a meeting was held on the platform of the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad to consider formal organization of a congregation. The Battermann, Engelking, Grebe, Hartung, Knickrehm, Prellberg, Senne, Schirding, and Schroeder families met on March 1 to officially organize a congregation and constitute membership to be known as the Evangelical Lutheran Immanuel Congregation Unaltered Augsburg Confessions of Palatine Illinois.
The cemetery land was purchased by the congregation and dedicated on June 7, 1869 by Pastor Roeder of Arlington Heights. (It is shared with St. Paul Church of Christ). Land was also purchased to build a church next to the cemetery but lack of funds made the building of a church inadvisable and that portion of the land was sold. Shortly thereafter, on August 28 the congregation decided to purchase the first church building. $2000 was paid for the first building located near the corner of Lincoln and Plum Grove Road. On May 22, 1870, the congregation Called its first regular pastor, Rev. H. Rathjen. He also taught the school which was held in the same building.
Women sat on one side of the church and men sat on the other side. Women could only take communion after all the men went through the line. At that time all instruction was still done in German. There was no parking lot – just a stable for the horses and buggies. And if you were playing baseball outside, if you hit the ball over the stable, that was a Home Run!
On May 4th, 1873 the congregation joined the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
The second building was dedicated on November 22, 1914. It cost $29,000 and was a magnificent brick structure. The regal architecture included beautiful stained glass windows and a majestic bell tower steeple. The inside featured an exquisitely hand-carved wooden altar and a lovely life-like statue of Jesus with outstretched arms. This building sat on the corner of Plum Grove and Wood with the front door facing Wood Street (where the playground is now). The original bell still hangs in our present bell tower but the elder no longer has to pull the rope to ring the bell!
Immanuel had built a parsonage in 1898, joined the City Mission Association in 1902, bought a house and 2 lots, turned the house into a parsonage and the old parsonage into a teacher’s apartment and began having worship services in English on the first Saturday of each month beginning in 1911. In 1913, the “envelope system” was introduced to have better control of the finances. In the fall of that year it was decided to build a new church with the cornerstone laid on March 29, 1914. The inauguration of the new church was held November 22 of that same year. Three services were held that day – one in the morning, one in the afternoon and an English service in the evening. Four years later the congregation decided to implement envelopes for mission offerings.
The fiftieth Anniversary celebration was on May 11th, 1919 with again – three services throughout the day. It was noted that Immanuel “has received many blessings from God. She had joys and sorrows to shoulder as her needs required. God has all wisely proportioned – He has given, He has taken, He has hurt, He has healed. We have to glorify and praise God and it must encourage us to intensify His work so that His name is increasingly held holy and His kingdom is spread out further.”
German services were stopped for good during World War II because of the anti-German sentiment. Offering plates were actually a bag on the end of a long handle. And until about 1940 or so the church published a list every year stating the exact amount each person had donated! And who remembers that the church was heated with a “pot-bellied” stove which ate wood like it was going out of style? Music was made on a “pump-organ” where a person was hidden behind a door who would pump throughout each song while the organ was played. The segregation of men and women sitting on opposite sides of the church didn’t stop until around 1930. Communion was held once a month and people had to go to the parsonage to register on Friday or Saturday if they wished to commune. There were no carpeted floors or kneelers – they had to kneel on the bare floor.
At least ten sons of Immanuel have gone on to become pastors. This perhaps is due to the influence of the pastors of their times. A new church parsonage built entirely by volunteers was built in 1958 at 403 N. Plum Grove Road.
In 1944 Immanuel celebrated its 75th anniversary.
In 1955, property north of the school was purchased from the Salem Evangelical United Brethren, site of the current church building, and was dedicated in 1970. 1968 saw the ground broken during the Centennial year for the new church. In 1978 a gymnasium, meeting rooms, cafeteria and additional educational facilities were built to replace the 1926 building. In 1979, the annex property located across Wood Street was obtained. In addition to parking, there is a building on the lot. This building currently houses the clothing and food pantries for Immanuel’s Good Samaritan Ministries, which was founded in 1983. In 1989, the middle school classrooms, church offices, Discipleship Center and Fellowship Hall were added.
Throughout the many years, many pastors, deaconesses, vicars, teachers and office personnel have served our growing church and community. The congregation has had many different ministries during its tenure here in Palatine. From Social ministry to help families with financial aid, operating a food bank and providing clothing and small household items to adult Christian education to meet the growing needs of individuals and families of the community. From active junior high and senior high youth groups to Helpmates, Rainbows, GriefShare and Stephen Ministry to help those who are hurting and going through difficult times. From the school and pre-school meeting the educational and religious instruction of 2 1⁄2 years old through 8th grade. From Ladies Aid, Men’s Club, Walther League, and a host of other groups that have come and gone. Currently our groups include serving at Community Meals, Women in Fellowship at Immanuel (WIFI), the Altar Guild, LERT, Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Bibles Studies on site and off site, American Heritage Girls and Trail Life Boys, choirs and handbells, Shining Stars (baseball), Helping Hands and mission trips to Kentucky, Tennessee, Boston, and even to Cambodia.
God has been good to Immanuel and we have confidence in His continued blessings. The history of Immanuel is a story of how God works through His people and His Word. The history of Immanuel is God’s witness to us of His faithfulness. So much of the future depends on how we care for His gifts. To God be the glory forever and forever. Amen