By Jeanne Sager
JEFFERSONVILLE November 15, 2002 A church perhaps best known for their dinners will be having one of their own this Sunday.
The First Grace Evangelical Lutheran Parish of Jeffersonville and North Branch will celebrate 150 years of bringing the community together to honor God Nov. 17, one day after a group of Jeff residents voted to create their own church in 1852.
According to Pastor Kris Anderson, who has been with the two churches since 1997, its a tradition to celebrate the parish landmarks.
In fact, most of the history pulled together for this years special ceremony was culled from programs put together for the 125th and 100th anniversaries.
The Lutheran church has a strong history, Anderson said, dating back to 1850 when a Swiss missionary named Mr. Wolf visited the Town of Callicoon to minister to the German settlers and spread the Word of God.
The families of Jeffersonville formed their own church two years later, operating as a Dutch Reform parish with 33 men, 10 women and two young women it became Lutheran in 1917.
All the original records, written mostly in German, are still kept in the church building in Jeffersonville. Meeting minutes show the history of many Jeffersonville families original elders and deacons included a Glassel and a Krantz.
The original church, Anderson said, was built on top of the hillside in Jeffersonville, where the Lutheran cemetery is today. It was built for a whopping $800 and dedicated in 1861.
By the early 1900s, however, the old church was in such disrepair that parishioners decided it would be cheaper to build anew rather than fix up the existing structure.
The present-day church was completed and dedicated in 1922.
And according to Ginny Frank, the first baby baptized in the new building, back then you could buy a solid oak pew in the new church for just $35 with a nameplate on the end.
The Ladies Aid purchased the huge stained glass window at the front of the church for $500, Frank said.
Today youd probably have to add another zero onto that, she noted.
The church, Frank said, was built almost entirely by the hands of the area residents even in the times of the Depression when hired help was dirt cheap.
That, Anderson said, shows the character of the church.
Theyre hardworking, she noted. Theyre very outreaching into the community.
For years, the church has welcomed a local nursery school which uses its basement meeting room, and more recently they opened the doors to the local Weight Watchers group.
And theyre friendly people.
When I came here to interview, within five minutes of walking in the door I felt like I was home, Anderson, a Midwestern native, explained. I knew at that moment this would be a pretty good fit.
Affiliations have changed over the years at times the church has been linked with parishes in Hortonville and Youngsville, other times with Ellenville and St. Pauls in Liberty. Grace Lutheran of North Branch and First Lutheran of Jeffersonville have operated as one parish since 1991.
Most of the 200 members of the church know each other. Most grew up in Jeffersonville or North Branch or the surrounding towns. And most live in the area today.
Those who dont, Anderson said, will drive from great distances to attend Sunday services.
And they never fail to show up at the First Lutheran church dinners.
A few weeks ago, Anderson said, 400 people waited an hour and a half to pick up their takeout turkey dinners.
When hundreds of women showed up at the first Weight Watchers meeting earlier this year, blocking the street and standing out in the cold to enter the churchs small basement, people drove into town to ask if theyd missed out on a dinner.
So its only natural that the parishioners will celebrate Sunday with a dinner at the firehouse in Jeffersonville after a combined parish service at the Jeff church.
Its a good way to look back and remember all the people who have gone before us, Anderson explained. History is so important it gives us an anchor, not only to look back, but to carry forward.
And given the way the past two years have gone in the world, its nice to have something good to celebrate.
Worship services will be held Sunday morning at 10 a.m., and, after the services, the church members will head down to the firehouse for lunch.
Reservations are required for the $18 per person meal, and those who havent made arrangements should call Pastor Kris Anderson at 482-3224.