Photo by Becky Armbrecht Turner
Growing in Many Ways
To write the history of the most recent fifty year period of Olean is a difficult task, since some of our present members remember that entire span and all of them remember at least some of it. Different people recall events in different ways, because they are personally impacted in different ways. Each pastor, for example, inevitably related to people in different ways. And moments that are cherished by some were of no consequence for others.
So I begin this chapter with a caution: There is not one right way to write any sort of history, least of all the history of a church that means so much to so many people. The perspective of this historian is not “official” just because I have the privilege of writing it down and getting it published. You who belong to the congregation have your own memories, and they are very important. My perspective or bias does not trump your own viewpoint. I have labored to be as factual as possible, using written records. And I have my own perspective.
It is this: Olean grew in many ways between 1957 and 2007.
I do not just mean that we had more members in 2007, although that is true. On January 1, 1957, Olean had 345 baptized members and 263 confirmed (adult) members. On January 1, 2007, Olean had 417 baptized members and 352 confirmed members.
On the other hand, average Sunday attendance in 1956 was 206; in 2006 it was down to 147. The reason a membership increase could happen while attendance decreased is that in 1956 the habit of Sunday church attendance was very strong in America. For Olean, the average was 60% of members in church on Sunday. Today, on average our Sunday attendance is only 35% of our members. If our members came to church at the same rate they did fifty years ago, our average Sunday attendance would be 250.
But research has shown that although forty percent of Americans claim that they were in church on Sunday, only twenty percent of them actually were. Attendance has declined seriously across our country, and in most denominations. Olean has not bucked that trend. But even at 35%, attendance at Olean is higher than in the average Lutheran church, which tends to have about 30% of its members in church.
Olean also grew in several other ways during the last fifty years. Additional land was purchased, the property was improved with an education building, a fine new parsonage was built, as well as a garage and a picnic shelter, a flagpole was erected, some playground equipment was installed, and many trees were planted.
The program of the congregation evolved, and its perspective was enriched by the greater diversity of its membership. The organization and administration of the congregation became more complex, and a secretary was hired.
The congregation also grew simply by becoming older, since it became a congregation with a longer memory and greater tradition year by year. The cemeteries—St. Paul as well as St. Peter, which continues to be used by families with a foot in that tradition–grew more imposing. Records filled boxes and filing cabinets, instead of just a couple books.
The influence of Olean continued to grow in the community around Olean, and eventually Versailles as well. Being one of the larger churches in the school district gave Olean and its pastors a feeling of responsibility for leadership in the community. Some of the later pastors were leaders in the South Ripley Ministerial Association. Olean began broadcasting a recording of its worship service.
And so on.
But the most important growth to a pastor has to be the growth that takes place within persons, and within the fellowship of persons who have been taken into the family of Christ, and who gather weekly to be fed with the Word of God. That kind of growth is not evident to the eye, even though sometimes we are blessed to see the fruit it bears in love.
Writing the history of a church, we have no choice but to discuss what can be seen, even though what cannot be seen is more important because it is of eternal value. Let the reader not misunderstand this history, then, as a necessarily true judgment on the congregation or on the events and people in its life. The only judgment that matters ultimately is the judgment of God on the church, and for Jesus’ sake that judgment is merciful, depending only on our faith in him.
Let the reader be careful, then, to remember that we remember our congregation’s history not for its own sake. Not just because our families are mentioned in it. Not because the history ties us to a past we remember fondly. But because this congregation has been, for 150 years, the place where our family has come close to God’s mercy.
For the last fifty years, Olean has been served by only four ministers: Rev. Wilbur Budke, Rev. Doug MaGinn, Rev. Wilmer Hallman, and Rev. Dr. Marcus Felde. That is unusual continuity for a congregation these days, and it certainly has helped Olean to grow to have faithful pastoral care.
But the pastor is not even half the story, even though the succession of pastors provides a sort of outline to the story. Olean has long fostered strong lay leadership, from the day when it was lay people—without a pastor—who made the crucial decision to start a church in the first place. Except for the years 1947-1977, the Church Council and congregation were presided over by a lay person. Many of the families that founded Olean are still represented in its midst, and people are only half joking when they say “You’d better watch what you say—everybody’s related to everybody!” The tradition of lay people carrying responsibility for the congregation endures in its strongest possible form at Olean. Even today, when many congregations consider themselves lucky to find enough people to fill their council, Olean manages to enlist three candidates for each position on the Council ballot.
But let’s get back to a chronological telling of our story, the story of the third fifty years.
Pastor Wilbur Budke arrived July 8, 1956, an experienced pastor, 39 years old, the congregation’s first choice to call. He found a congregation that had been looking forward eagerly to its centennial. The centennial booklet says: “During the several years that have now intervened beginning with the celebration of the 85th anniversary of St. Paul, the attention of the congregation has been constantly directed toward the occasion of its 100th anniversary celebration. Constant renovation and expansion planning has long been under way. These plans have become a realization with: additional parking facilities, driveway around the church, modernization of heating facilities, new restrooms, cistern, sidewalks, landscaping at the church and parsonage, a new Kilgen organ and chimes, parsonage modernized, new carpeting, redecoration of the church, refinishing of pews and floors, new hymnals, new choir robes for both the Senior and Junior choirs, plus storage facilities, new fence about the church properties, new lighting fixtures, new doors to the Sanctuary, bulletin board, new garage at parsonage, church re-roofed, picnic area improvements, picnic tables, and outside fireplace, kitchen installed in basement, daily vacation Bible School, Junior Mission Band and office equipment (typewriter and mimeograph), baptismal bowl, lectern Bible, candelabra, vases and paraments, slide projector, and folding chairs.”
Pastor Budke was born May 8, 1917, in Evansville, Indiana. He attended Evansville College and then Evangelical Lutheran Theological Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, graduating and being ordained in 1944. He married Grace Cornils in 1944. He served St. Paul in Augusta, Kentucky, from 1944-47, and St. Paul and Trinity in Marion, Ohio, from 1947-56. He served Olean from July 1956 until his death on August 31, 1976. He was pastor of Olean longer than anyone else has been.
Pastor and Mrs. Budke had four children: Jane, James, John, and Joel. Both John and Jim became Lutheran ministers. John passed away in 1997. Jim writes: “Thanks to the support and encouragement of many members I was educated in the church and able to serve the Lutheran church for 31 and a half years, to retirement on the 15th of October, 2006. That has been made possible through the help of St. Paul Lutheran Church of Olean, Indiana.”
From 1956 to 1976 Pastor Budke presided over a bustling congregation. Families with several children filled the Sunday School and the Vacation Bible School, as well as Junior Lutherans, Cherub Choir, and Junior Choir. Church attendance was high, which generally makes for a happy church. Membership in 1976 was near an all-time high, with 461 baptized and 343 communicant members.
At his very first meeting with the Church Council, on July 17, 1956, a committee was selected “to assist Rev. Budke in planning for the anniversary observance.” They named Mrs. Albert Cutter, Mrs. Edward Swingle, Miss Vera Schraub, Mrs. Keith Hunger, Mr. Chester Eaton, Mr. Herbert Steingruber, Mr. Henry Howard, Mr. Arnold Werner, Mr. Robert Hurelbrink, Mrs. Raymond Geisler, Mrs. William Tebbing, Miss Marilyn Cutter, Miss Irene Fischer, and Mrs. Arnold Obendorf. The Church Council also “recommended that the church auditorium be redecorated. Action by the church membership on this proposal will be necessary in the near future if this is to be completed prior to the anniversary observance.” As mentioned above, much was done in short order. There was great enthusiasm for these improvements and more. A new parish register was ordered, wiring was repaired, an adding machine was purchased, etc.
Best of all, a festival was planned. There were special services with guest speakers, from July 28-August 4, 1957. Guest speakers included several previous ministers. (Mr. Ervin Tielking recorded these services, and Matt Obendorf has done some work on recovering the recordings from old and brittle tapes.) The tentative plan of the committee was as follows:
Sunday, July 28: Morning service – Rev. David Frey – Regular worship
Afternoon service – Rev. H. A. Barth – Rededication theme
Evening service – Rev. H. W. Ray – 100th anniversary
Wednesday evening, July 31 – Rev. Paul Frey, Organization Night
Sunday, August 4: Morning service – Rev. H. C. Rust – Regular worship
Afternoon service – Rev. Paul Steingruber
Rev. Roepcke was to be invited for August 4, as well as Rev. Geiswinkler (for informal participation.) A group photo of the congregation was to be planned for the day. (Apparently this did not work out.)
A very nice booklet was published, with a brief history, list of confirmands from the beginning, and pictures of some of the active groups in the congregation, including even the St. Paul Bowlers. Many members still have copies of that booklet.
In 1969 Shirley Barth took over as Sunday School treasurer. She continues to serve to the present day.
After the anniversary, things seem to have been fairly quiet at Olean, except that many new members were joining. Mostly they seem to have been outsiders who married men or women of Olean and joined the thriving congregation. In 1960 it became necessary to purchase a new row of pews to seat the growing congregation. Four short pews from the sides were used to make two long pews, and then six short pews were made to replace them. Soon thereafter (1964) the church found itself discussing “the parking problem.”
The congregation seems almost not to have noticed that in 1960 it was a part of a major merger of Lutheran denominations. The resulting denomination was called The American Lutheran Church. (The word “The” was made a part of the name, and therefore capitalized, in order to differentiate it slightly from the American Lutheran Church, to which Olean had belonged before.) Unlike the later merger in 1988 which formed the ELCA, the 1960 merger did not bring Olean into new fellowship with any neighboring congregations. Also, Olean did not purchase the new hymnal which was the work of the merging church bodies, the Service Book and Hymnal. Nor did they purchase the Lutheran Standard magazine for every household, which might have raised their awareness of this merger.
In 1961 Pastor Budke received a call to, of all places, the two congregations Pastor Frey had been serving since leaving Olean! He declined the call.
The women decided in March 1961 to name their afternoon group Martha and the new circle in the evening Mary.
The minutes for those years are fairly routine: election of officers; reports being read; decisions about lawn mowing and lawn mowers, fences; acquisition of property; receipt of new members; granting of dismissals; authorization of reimbursements; sending delegates to the synod meetings; increase of pastor’s salary and benefits, and those of the janitor and others; etc. Regularly quarterly meetings especially were often perfunctory, with reading of reports and adjournment.
Much of the story of the congregation is the story of the rotation of leadership responsibilities. You may find elsewhere in this history book a list of people who have served on Church Council and in some other positions. December 4, 1966, for example, Henry Howard left office as Sunday School superintendent, and was replaced by the Church Council with Wayne Ralston. In 1974 Louis Obendorf retired from teaching Sunday School, and received special thanks from the congregation.
On August 6, 1966, the congregation celebrated its 110th anniversary. Rev. Paul Steingruber, son of the congregation, was invited back to be the speaker.
It was decided in 1968 to replace the two flights of stairs from the highway to the church, as well as the front wall and the bulletin board. The work was completed years later, 1976. In 1969 one of the projects was to have an artist replace and paint a piece of glass that had been broken years before in the round stained glass window in the front of the church.
Also in 1969, the congregation honored Pastor and Mrs. Budke with a celebration of their two anniversaries that year—his 25th ordination anniversary and their 25th wedding anniversary. He was presented with a check for $2500 to be used in the purchase of a new car.
A gift from George and Clara Hoffmeyer of $30 in 1969 started a conversation about whether it would be feasible to have flowers on the altar every Sunday. The Church Council recommended against it, and so did the congregation. The custom must have arisen later.
One cold winter Sunday, some time during Pastor Budke’s tenure, the church bell cracked. After failing to obtain a replacement from a Cincinnati foundry because of the cost, they turned to R.C. McCoy, who had gotten a bell from a church building that had been razed. It turned out to be identical to the broken bell—from the very same casting! The new bell is never rung when the temperature gets below twenty degrees.
1976 brought no big issues to the fore. But in July Pastor Budke was taken ill and hospitalized. He missed the July 11 quarterly meeting and was convalescing through the month of August; on August 31 he passed away. He was 59 years old.
The congregation reached out to the pastor’s widow with a generous gift, and continued paying her his salary until the end of the year. Pastor Borchardt helped with services, and Pastor Gary Anderson of St. Peter, Dillsboro (presently of St. Thomas, Brookville, Indiana) took over confirmation instruction.
On the verge of purchasing new hymnals to replace the battered old ones, the congregation listened to advice and waited for the new hymnal to be published in 1978—the Lutheran Book of Worship.
When it came time to call a new pastor, at the November 1976 meeting with the bishop, one of the candidates—Pastor MaGinn—received over half the votes on the first ballot, three quarters of the votes on the second ballot, and was called. (The decision was based on one sheet of paper with information about six candidates, and no interview.) He was installed on January 16, 1977. The reception dinner and social gathering were held at South Ripley School’s cafetorium. A pantry party was also held for Pastor MaGinn, Karen, and family.
Rev. Douglas Harold MaGinn was born March 11, 1946, in Niagara Falls, New York. He graduated from Capital University in 1968 and Evangelical Lutheran Theological Seminary in 1972, and was ordained the same year. He was married to Karen in 1967, and they had four children: Mark, Michael, Matthew, and Michele. Before coming to Olean he was assistant pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Westerville, Ohio for four and a half years. After leaving Olean he was pastor of St. Jacob Lutheran Church in Anna, Ohio, until 1992 (as well as St. Paul in Upper Sandusky from 1988-1992), then Assistant to the Bishop for Rural Churches in the Northwest Ohio Synod (1992-1998). He served Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Manistee, Michigan from 1998 to 2004. He presently serves St. Paul Lutheran Church in Casco, Michigan.
Pastor MaGinn is remembered for instigating several changes. Not much had changed at Olean since the beginning of Pastor Budke’s long ministry. We find innovations being mentioned from the start of Pastor MaGinn’s time here.
The Lenten offerings were divided up among designated causes (February 1977). A sunrise service was planned for Easter (March 1977). The examination of catechumens became a private session with the pastor (March 1977). The congregation agreed to have Communion the first Sunday of every month (April 1977). The time of Sunday School and church was changed to its present 9:00/10:00 (April 1977). The congregation authorized the purchase of a new piano for the basement (May 1977). The ladies decided to make robes for the acolytes (June 1977). The first Sunday School picnic at Versailles State Park was held (summer 1977). The Lutheran Standard was purchased for the whole congregation (October 1977). A new constitution was adopted by a vote of 113-3 (October 1977). The annual meeting was held in the evening after a dinner (February 12 1978). The congregation decided to purchase the Lutheran Book of Worship, its first new hymnal in forty years (February 1978). A building committee was set up to investigate what building needs were in order (February 1978). Members of the committee: Larry Deamron, Lawrence Green, Pastor MaGinn, Alice McCoy, Irma Obendorf, Wayne Ralston, Harold Thomas, Chester Eaton as chairman. New doors were donated by Alice McCoy (February 1978). New choir robes were authorized for the senior choir (August 1978). Continuous Communion was started, with three Council members assisting the pastor (November 1978). Some time after he arrived, the parsonage was connected to city water, and the phone line went from an eight-party line to a private line. It was still a “667” phone, which made it—even to this day—a long distance call from the parsonage to the “689” church phone. (Pastor MaGinn remembers it being a 25 cent phone call!)
Labor Day 1978, when Joel Budke went off to college, Ruth Sellers started cleaning the church—and has been doing it ever since.
A building program was authorized and plans drawn up by Harold Thomas were accepted at the January 1979 congregational meeting.
Olean began having supply pastors during the pastor’s vacation, rather than simply having the Sunday off, as they had done with Pastor Budke.
On June 24 1979, the congregation recognized the 60th anniversary of the ordination of Pastor Borchardt, who had joined Olean upon retirement and had served the congregation in many ways over the years. A dinner was held in his honor at the South Ripley cafetorium after church.
In May 1979 the Council authorized financial support for four youth to attend the Luther League Convention at Kansas City, Missouri: Linda Stegemoller, Bonnie Tebbing, Donna Hunger, and Tammy Ferguson.
July 22 the quarterly meeting of the congregation gave Church Council authority over the interior decorating of the church. September of the same year saw the beginning of the Cherub Choir, which continues to this day. It is noted in the October 1979 minutes that “The church council objected to the proposed candlelight service.” In December 1979 the 12’x12’ remnant of carpet was designated for cherub choir practice!
The women of the congregation were inspired by an article in the women’s magazine “Scope” to begin making quilts for refugees from war and disaster. Led by Esther Geisler and Alice McCoy, several volunteers produced three or four hundred knotted quilts a year for many years, right up to the present day. These quilts are brought annually to Indianapolis for shipment with the quilts and other relief supplies produced by women of other churches to Lutheran World Relief in Baltimore.
November 18, 1979, was a special day. The new Education Building was dedicated, as well as the redecoration of the sanctuary which had been accomplished about the same time. After the morning service there was a pitch-in dinner, followed by a dedication service.
About this time, Cheryll Obendorf began assisting with the church bulletin and newsletter. She was not paid, but was given a gift a few times in recognition of the work. In 1982 Pastor MaGinn asked for ten hours a week of paid secretary help. Eight were authorized, with extra at special times of the year. Dorothea Diem became secretary about this time.
Minutes of the congregation for the next few years are filled with the usual routine concerns of building insurance, pastor’s salary and vacation, mowing of the grass, appointment of delegates, receiving of new members and releasing of those moving away, authorizing minor repairs and acknowledging gifts, etc.
Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Vogel donated a piano in memory of their parents and their grandson.
The responsibility of ringing the bell changed hands in 1982, from Russell Barth to Louis Sellers. Russell Barth had been doing it since 1977, when he took over from Alfred Miller, who had been doing it since 1940. Before him, it was William Schwegmann.
1982 saw several Luther Leaguers travel to San Antonio with Rick and Martha Blodgett—the start of a tradition which saw many more of our youth travel to destinations like New Orleans, Denver, Atlanta, and St. Louis.
June 13 and 20 were two Anniversary Sundays at which the 125th anniversary was celebrated. The Sunday School was in charge of the pitch-in on the 13th, and there was a chicken dinner (freewill offering) on the 20th. The weather was beautiful! A booklet with history was printed.
New white and red paraments were purchased in 1981, and Glenn and Alethea Jacobs donated offering plates. In 1982 concern turned to putting up storm windows to protect the stained glass windows, and investigating the furnace and air conditioner. (The furnace just needed cleaning.)
Alethea Jacobs and Kaye Hunger presented in September 1982 the idea of having a candlelight service later in the evening than the regular children’s program, and the Council thought it was “well worth a try.” The tradition continues to this day.
September 1982 also brought the news that Pastor MaGinn had received a call to Anna, Ohio, and would be accepting it. In March 1983 a call was extended to Pastor Hallman.
Rev. Wilmer Gustave Hallman was born November 27, 1946, in Saginaw, Michigan. He married Cathy Goulder in 1968, the year he graduated from Capital University. Their children are James, Rhoda, and Rachel.
He graduated from Evangelical Lutheran Theological Seminary in Columbus in Columbus and was ordained in 1972. His first call was to Zion Lutheran Church in Danville, Ohio, where he served until December 1975. He then moved to St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Lockbourne, Ohio.
After leaving Olean in June 1997 he was pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Haysville, Indiana until August 2004. Since then he has been pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in North Robinson, Ohio.
He accepted the call to Olean and was installed in June 1983.
The program for the 135th anniversary in 1992, when Pastor Hallman had been at Olean for nine years, says “We have been blessed in recent years with a large number of property improvements: central air conditioning, gas furnace, cushioned pews, basement remodeled, picnic shelter with electric and water, additional acreage, the old school building razed and a new garage for parsonage and church has been built, playground for our younger children, softball field, new chimes, and a building committee has been formed to build a new parsonage.
In 1984 the congregation purchased a large parcel of land behind it and to the south, and sold off part of it to Ralph and Jennifer Miller and part to Mr. Daniel Shaw.
A garage was built on the west side of the highway in 1985 by David Green Construction. A picnic shelter house, financed at least in part with funds from the Oatman estate, was completed in 1986. The sanctuary lamp was also dedicated that year.
Pastor Hallman continued the practice which had begun with Pastor MaGinn of trading pulpits with other nearby Lutheran ministers for midweek Lenten services. He began (in 1986) the regular Sunday morning broadcasting of an edited version of the previous Sunday’s worship service. It was first on WOVR, then WRIP, and it continues to this day on WRBI.
During his time at Olean, Pastor Hallman planted thousands of tree seedlings—about five hundred a year. Sometimes he was assisted by Sunday School children or Boy Scouts. Many of those seedlings have grown since then into substantial trees: oak, poplar, pine, etc.
Irma Obendorf and Emma Cutter attended the constituting convention of the Women of the ELCA, held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1987. June 9, 1988 was the first meeting of the Sarah Circle, which met in its members’ homes.
July 1987 saw Marilyn Lochard taking over the duties of the church secretary, following the resignation of Cheryll Obendorf.
The sound system was upgraded in 1987, and video equipment and a cart were purchased. New furnaces were installed in December 1991, and the basement was remodeled soon after.
Mike Swango created a beautiful drawing of the church in 1991 which has been used in different ways, such as for note cards, ever since.
At the annual meeting in 1992, the congregation was presented with a proposal to build a new parsonage. Even though the proposal received strong approval, it was not quite the 2/3 required for approval. The vote was 80 yes and 51 no. However, at a subsequent congregational meeting on May 17, after the cost of repairing the old parsonage had been investigated, the vote was 93 yes and 37 no. A committee was appointed to manage the task of building a new parsonage: Herman Werner, Raymond Geisler, Jennifer Miller, Irma Obendorf, Doug Rump, James D. Benham, Larry Armbrecht, Ralph Vogel, Cheryll Obendorf, Doris Tebbing, and Mike Hunger.
The fine new brick parsonage was finished by the end of October 1993, and in 1995 the old one was sold and moved to another location.
In recognition of the church’s 135th anniversary in 1992, a pictorial directory was produced as well as commemorative plates. An anniversary celebration service featured previous pastors as well as ordained sons of the congregation. Landscaping was installed to beautify the outside of the church for the occasion.
1993 saw the cemetery enhanced with the installation of a flagpole and landscaping.
A supplemental hymnal, The Hymnal for Worship and Celebration, was purchased in 1994.
In 1996 Pastor Hallman began on a trial basis to include sixth graders in confirmation instruction. This was discontinued after the first year.
In June 1997 he announced that he had accepted a call to Haysville, Indiana.
Before a call committee had even formed, the bishop informed the congregation about a possible interim pastor, who could serve one or two years while the congregation searched for its next pastor. Pastor Marcus Felde was appointed and a contract signed. However, within the year the congregation asked Bishop Kempski to allow them to issue Pastor Felde a regular call, and he agreed.
Rev. Marcus Paul Bach Felde was born April 18, 1950, in Belle Fourche, South Dakota. His father and his mother’s father were Lutheran ministers. He grew up in New York, North Dakota, and Kentucky. He earned his A.A. from the University of Louisville, a B.A. from Concordia Senior College in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, an M.Div. from Concordia Seminary in Exile (Seminex) in St. Louis, Missouri, a D.Min. from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, and a Ph.D. in theology from the Divinity School of the University of Chicago. He was married in 1973 to Christine Susan. They had four children: Linnea, Martha, Eric, and Kara.
Before coming to Olean, Pastor Felde served seven years at Lake Kopiago in Papua New Guinea, four and a half years at Christus Victor Lutheran Church in Terre Haute, Indiana, and seven years at Martin Luther Seminary in Lae, Papua New Guinea. When he left Olean at the end of July 2007, he took a call to Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Pastor Felde had a special interest in church music. He conducted the church choir, and it grew to—at its peak—sometimes as many as thirty singers for festivals like Christmas and Easter. (Extra robes had to be ordered.) He helped organize the choir festivals of the South Ripley Ministerial Association. At the 2006 Synod Assembly of the Indiana-Kentucky Synod, he led a conference-wide choir at the opening worship service. Many of the singers were from Olean. For a few years he led a men’s choir, The Oleanders, which sang for Mother/Daughter banquets. Sometimes he also played violin and recorder for church or other events.
Teaching was another interest, and he taught confirmation classes with materials he developed. He also developed materials to use for new member classes and (occasionally) adult Sunday School.
Pastor Felde, with other sponsors, attended the triennial youth gatherings with some of our youth in St. Louis (2000), Atlanta (2003), and San Antonio (2006).
Martha Jean Jarvis took over as church secretary in 1998. At first she worked part time in the evenings. A few years later, when she quit working at the courthouse, the congregation authorized hiring her for fifteen hours a week, and she began working three hours a day, five days a week.
The Women of the ELCA began producing, in addition to relief quilts (or blankets), small quilts for patients at Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati. Irma Rohls and June Hurelbrink spearhead an effort which produces many bright, attractive, and child-oriented quilts every year.
Early in his tenure, Pastor Felde initiated a major renovation of the sanctuary. After a study of facilities needs, a self-study was done by a group of committees. Then a Facilities Committee was appointed: Jerry Smith, chairman, David Green, Jennifer Huntington, Esther Hunger, Rich Geisler, Larry Armbrecht, and Becky Turner. Over a period of three years, in consultation with various outsiders, they developed a comprehensive master plan.
The congregation voted to proceed only with the very extensive sanctuary renovation, and it was completed between June and December 2006. The renovation included new electrical wiring, a new sound system, a new ceiling, repairing the plaster (glidwall process) and painting, cleaning the windows, refinishing the woodwork, new doors, door frames and baseboard, new ceiling lights including supplemental can lights, restoring the altar, pulpit, and font, new pews and chairs, creating more space between pews, reconfiguring the chancel to give the font a permanent place, widening the exit door to the education building, installing an automatic door at the top of the handicap ramp, and building a restroom near the front entrance. A baby grand piano was donated at the same time.
In 2003 Pastor Felde suggested that the congregation have another panoramic photo taken, as had been done in 1922 and 1937. Mr. George Pearl came from Atlanta Panoramic, and on Rally Day the vast majority of the members were present for that occasion—about 375 people were in the picture taken that Sunday morning. The Sunday School offered a door prize of a free panoramic photo to encourage participation, and it was won by Bailee Swango—who was one of the youngest ones in the photo and also had two of her great-great-grandparents in the photo, Patsy Ralston and Willard Hunger!
The following year Pastor Felde was awarded a sabbatical by Lilly Endowment’s Clergy Renewal Program. He was absent from Olean for four months. He and Christine traveled first to Europe, to visit old missionary friends. Then they went to Australia, where they had the opportunity to be with their daughter Linnea and her husband, whom they had not seen for years.
In his absence the congregation was served by Pastor Cecil Logan, who had served at Martin Luther Seminary with Pastor Felde. Pastor Logan is a pastor of the Lutheran Church in Australia. His warm and engaging manner, high energy, and interesting conversation endeared him to the whole congregation. People were happy to see him when he returned a year later to attend the wedding of Kim Benham and Kyle Jolly, this time accompanied by his new wife Lenore.
As the sesquicentennial of Olean is reached in 2007, the congregation has produced a new pictorial directory. Marilyn Jeffries and Lois Vogel put together an excellent cookbook with historical pictures of Olean as part of the celebration, and a commemorative plate and suncatcher ornament are being produced.
A festival service is planned, and we expect Bishop Jim Stuck of the I-K Synod, Rev. and Mrs. Wilmer Hallman, Rev. and Mrs. Douglas MaGinn, Rev. and Mrs. David Frey, Rev. and Mrs. Carl A. Roepcke (son of our pastor), and members of the family of Rev. Wilbur Budke to be present along with many other members and well-wishers. Rev. and Mrs. Harold Rust regret that they are unable to attend for reasons of health. Rev. and Mrs. Felde, having left Olean at the end of July, will also be returning for this special occasion.
At the anniversary service, the Sunday School, led by Peg Ehlers, will bury a 50-year time capsule with mementoes from present day Olean and its Sunday School children.
In addition, the congregation will feature an organ recital by Mr. Daniel Susan, Mrs. Felde’s brother. The Cherub and Junior Choirs are sponsoring a concert by Mary Rice Hopkins especially for the young people. Olean will also host the annual Reformation Service of the Southeast Indiana Conference in our beautiful renewed sanctuary. There will be a float in the parade of the Pumpkin Show, designed by Eileen LaGreca. All in all, a celebration worthy of 150 years of the Lord’s presence in our midst.
It is the author’s hope that this brief history of the congregation has given the reader some sense of the life of a congregation which has been “Faithful to Our Lord through Changing Times.” Anyone who knows the congregation personally, and many know it better than I, will of course have a different perspective and remember things in a different light.
What is most important, of course, is not what pastors or members have done, but what God has done in us. For it is God whose Spirit has called us by the Gospel, gathered us, enlightened us with his gifts, and continues even now to sanctify us, so that we may continue to be faithful to our Lord through the changing times that lie ahead.
To God alone be the glory. Amen.
St. Paul Lutheran Church, Olean 1857-2007