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Sonntag, 8. Juli 2012

Second Presbyterian Church History

Second Presbyterian Church

Jan Hus

Jan Hus was a religious thinker, philosopher, and reformer, master at Charles University in Prague. His followers became known as Hussites. The Roman Catholic Church considered his teachings heretical, and Hus was excommunicated in 1411, condemned by the Council of Copnstance, and burned at the stake on July 6, 1414, in Konstanz, Germany.

Hus was a precursor to the Protestant movement. His extensive writings earn him a prominent place in Czech literary history. He is also responsible for introducing the use of diacritics (especially the inverted hat - háček) into Czech spelling in order to represent each sound by a single symbol. Today, a statue of Jan Hus can be seen at the Prague old town square, the Staroměstké náměstí.

The Bohemian Brethren Presbyterian church was on Highway 31, between the Four and Five Mile Road, was erected in 1867. The pastor in 1869 was F.B. Zdrubek. He later went to Chicago to become the editor of the Czech paper. The next minister was Frank Stindl. A fire destroyed the church in 1889, Pastor Stindl died soon after. In 1889 the Reverend V. Pisek of the Jan Hus Bohemian Brethren Church in New York visited Caledonia to hold services. He could not remain long, so he brought a theological student from Chicago, named Joseph Bren. A number of Czech people living in Racine, traveled out to Caledonia to hear Mr. Pisek. There they could worship God with services in Czech. This small group of people from both Racine and Caledonia, including Vaclav Pell, decided they should meet each Sunday, and have a Sunday School. These meetings were held until May of 1890, when two theological students, Joseph Bren (who had been preaching in Caledonia) and Frank Rundus came and conducted revival services from May 11th to May 18th. The attendance was good, and they soon met to plan their future. $147.00 was pledged for a church building. After May 18th they requested Joseph Bren to serve them as a supply. In the beginning of June in 1890, Mr. Bren came each Sunday from Chicago, until he graduated on February 26, 1891, whereupon he stayed in Racine, but served both Racine and Caledonia on alternating Sundays. The new Racine church was formally organized as the Bohemian Brethren Presbyterian Church on April 25, 1891, and became a member of the Milwaukee Presbytery. For the time being services were held Sunday Afternoons in the German Emmanual Lutheran Church on High and Superior Streets. The Caledonia church grew weaker and was abandoned. Through the Racine church's members, gifts from Czech churches throughout the country, the Presbyterian Board of Church Erection, and help of friends in Racine and Caledonia, sufficient funds were secured to erect a church building that was dedicated on Sunday, January 31, 1892, with a service to God. This account appeared in the Racine Daily Journal on Saturday, January 30, 1892. The new church was built at High and Pallica (Re-named LaSalle St.) Streets.

Racine Daily Journal Sunday, January 31, 1892, as it appeared.

In the year 1894 our Sunday School room was added, and in 1898 the manse was built, mostly paid for by Mr. Bren in the form of rent. Mr. Bren served as pastor for thirteen years, but in 1892 the Rev. A. B. Koukel filled the pulpit for a period of time, and in1898 the Rev. Alois Barta served for several months while Mr. Bren visited Bohemia and Europe. The Sunday School grew, and a choir was organized during this time. By 1900 the church had 55 communicant members and 93 Sunday School students. Although he was quite young and the minister of a small, struggling church, yet during his years in Racine, Mr. Bren had great influance upon the Bohemian people. When Thomas Masaryk, later the first president of Czechoslovakia, was in Washington, he visited Mr. Bren and slept in the manse, for they had known each other well in Bohemia. While Mr. Bren was in Racine, he studied law and was admitted to the Bar in Wisconsin. He did this solely that he might serve our people better by giving them legal advise as well as spiritual inspiration. In 1902 and 1903 Mr. Bren served on the Racine Board of Education.

When Mr. Bren left in 1904 to go to Hopkins, Minnesota, the Rev. Frederick Bastel was called as pastor, and he came from the Melnik church near Manitowoc in that same year. He served as pastor for five years, and under his leadership our church grew stronger. Funds were raised to build an addition to the manse during his pastorate, and also during his ministry the church began being called the Second Presbyterian Church of Racine.

The church after 1905

The inside of the High Street church, showing the massive pipe organ.

When Mr. Bren left in 1904, to go to Hopkins, Minnesota, the Rev. Frederick Bastel was called as pastor, and he came from the Melnick church near Manitowoc, Wisconsin, in that same year. He served for five years, and under his leadership our church grew stronger. funds were raised to build an addition to the manse, during his pastorate, and also during his ministry the church began being called the Second Presbyterian Church of Racine. We also stopped the Bohemian language services.

In 1909, Mr. Bastel resigned, and the Rev. Vaclav Miniberger was called from Omaha, Nebraska. He was installed on December 2, 1909; a few days later, on December 5th, our church left the Milwaukee Presbytery and joined the Central West Presbytery, a presbytery composed of Bohemian churches. The Christian Endeavor Society was organized while Mr. Miniberger was here, and it soon became very active.

In 1913, Mr. Miniberger resigned, following difficult years for the church, as it was still struggling with maintaining the Czech heritage. Mr. Edward Zbitovsky was the student supply for a year, and Mr. Louis Kvetensky followed him. For eighteen years during this period, Mr. Joseph Havlin was the Sunday School Superintendent. The church had difficulty in raising funds, so in March, 1916, the Rev. D.S. donaldson, minister of Perseverance Presbyterian church, in Milwaukee, and Mr. Charles Holesovsky of the Bohemian congregation of that church came to Racine to confer with the church. In May, 1916, Mr. Kventensky was graduated from seminary, and was called as pastor. He was ordained on May 28th, and he remained as minister for little over a year. the Rev. Milo Filipi came as pastor in November of 1917, but left after a year, as he left to go to Siberia as a Y.M.C.A. secretary. In February of 1919, the Rev. Mr. Kvetensky returned as minister, and stayed for four years. In 1921 the Ladies Guild was organized and has been a strong factor in the life of the church ever since. During this same year, there was discussion about digging a basement, but the money was not available to do it. During this time, the English work was emphasized, and it was felt that if the church were to be successful, it should be in a local English presbytery, so the transfer was made back to the Milwaukee Presbytery from the West Central Presbytery in January, 1922.

The Rev. Mr. V.P. Backora served the church from April, 1923, until April, 1924. During this time the "Every Member Canvass" was introduced, and a new organ was installed in the church. Mr. John Filinger, a seminary student at McCormick Seminary in Chicago, supplied the pulpit for the next year, coming from Chicago each Sunday to preach in Bohemian at 9:00 o'clock and in English at 11:00 o'clock. During his stay action was deferred on building a basement in the church, but a Building Fund was started.

W. Clyde Wilson, also a student at McCormick, began to supply the pulpit in May, 1925. He was ordained and installed as a pastor early in 1927, and he remained in Racine until the end of 1928. By the early part of 1928 the Building Fund had grown to almost $1,500.00, so in the latter part of 1928 the church was remodeled. New furnaces were installed in the manse and for the Sunday School room, and the furnace for the church repaired. A new kitchen was build onto the north side of the Sunday School, the floor of the sanctuary covered, and new pulpit furniture installed.

After the Rev. Mr. Wilson left Racine to go to Sheboygan, the Rev. John Cooke was the minister from June, 1929, until May, 1932. During 1930 the Alpha Girls' Club was organized. Mr. Cook was followed by Mr. George Ulp, a student, who came each Sunday from Chicago and supplied the pulpit for one year.

The Rev. Robert Netting was called as pastor, and he served from May, 1933, until December 31, 1935. Under Mr. Netting's leadership the church grew stronger, and there was some discussion of remodeling the church and digging a basement under it. Funds were not available for this project; however, the Building Fund was reactivated. In 1934 a Girl Scout Troop was formed. The Men's Club was very active and put on several plays that proved popular.

In 1936 the Rev. Mr. R. Washington Burton was called as pastor, and he remained until June of 1938. The Rev. LeRoy Christiansen, a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary in May, 1938, supplied the pulpit during the summer. He accepted a call to come as pastor and was installed in October, 1938.

A great many changes took place while Mr. Christiansen was pastor. New organizations were started, and some have been discontinued. Only 56 were members when Mr. Christiansen began his ministry. The only officers who have served continuously since before the current pastorate are: Mrs. Myron Allen, our Congregational Secretary, (she also became our first woman elder and first woman clerk of session) who has been the secretary for forty-three years, and Mrs. C. N. Pendleton, who has been the Sunday School Treasurer for nearly forty years. Mr Jerome Bergerson, a long time elder, was first elected when Mr. Netting was pastor. Before that he had served as church trustee, and treasurer. All three of these officers were on the 75th Anniversary Committee. At this time, Mr. Frank Hayek completed his term as trustee, and has filled that position many times since 1935.

Our fine and devoted organist, Mrs. Walter Klema, has served faithfully since 1946. Mr. Enos McMullen has been Sunday School Superintendent since April, 1947, except for a leave ov absence while he was in Brazil in 1948, and 1949, and then Mrs. Allen was the superintendent. Mr. Harlan Westerfield was elected the church treasurer in 1947 and served for seven years. Mr. Bergerson returned as treasurer for five years, and then Mr. Westerfield then resumed this office and has held it since. He was the the high school Sunday School teacher since 1947. Mr. George Olsen was elected the Benevolence treasurer in April of 1947, and he has retained that position for several years. All three of these men are also elders of the church. Mrs. LeRoy Christiansen started a children's chorus in 1953, and directed it for nine years. She then changed to the junior choir and directed that for several years.

In 1953, we want to remember many loyal members who have worked hard and long in various church positions, but are not holding office at this time, including as elders are Mr. Charles E. Baker who has also been the church treasurer, and Dr. John gruber who for many years was clerk of session and the superintendent of the Sunday School. Mr. James A. Hanson was first elected a trustee thirty-nine years ago, and has served the church faithfully for many years, and Mr. Harry Hanson at various times since 1931 has served as church treasurer, trustee, and elder. Mrs. Louis Anderson, whose father was a charter member, and Mrs. John Tobias taught for years in the Sunday School, and Mrs. Jerome Bergerson, Mrs. Frank Hayek, and Mrs. Harlis Westerfield served as deacons. all these women have also been active in the Ladies' Guild.

Church, April, 1966

Inside church, April 1966

The years have seen many changes in our church building, too. In 1939, a basement was built and a side entrance added to the building on to the building on High Street. Two years later a new entrance was built in front of the church, a new roof installed, and the church painted. In 1943, the manse was remodeled and a new roof put on it in time for the minister's marriage to Miss Catherine Pendleton, a member of the congregation. In 1944, a church chapel was furnished through the efforts of the junior choir (now the Youth Chapel in our new building), and in the same year a church library was established. After the war, plans were made to remodel the church completely, but the building restrictions on the High Street property interfered with this. Because of the inability to remodel, and due to the gradual movement of the church membership to the north, plans were made to relocate the church about a mile north of the old building.

A site was purchased in 1949, an area adequate for all anticipated needs for a church building, manse, parking lot, and picnic grounds or outdoor worship area. The land has a frontage of 204 feet on the west side of Charles Street, 550 feet on the north side of Kingston Avenue, and 530 feet on the south side of Florence Avenue. Although the land was purchased in 1949, deed restrictions on the property prevented construction of a church until waivers had been obtained from all land owners in an area of about nine city blocks, and these waivers were not all obtained until 1956.

During these frustrating years we did not just mark time but sought to serve God as best we could. Since we could not build, the old building was remodeled to some extent, new pews installed, and a fine pipe organ was donated by Mr. Herbert F. Johnson, a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Racine, in memory of his mother. To ease congestion, two morning church worships were started in October, 1954.

When the restrictions on the new site were finally cleared, the architectural firm of Stephen and Kemp of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, was engaged to present plans for a first unit of the new church building. Plans were fianlly approved, and work begun early in 1959. The cornerstone was laid on April 26, 1959, and the building was dedicated on Sunday afternoon, November 22, 1959. Our first church worship was on Thanksgiving Day, November 26, that same week.

Since then many additional improvements has been made. The parking lot and landscaping were begun in 1960 with the parking lot being paved in 1961. The old church building and manse were sold to the Faith Baptist Church in December, 1963, and the fine new manse was built in 1964 with the minister and his family moving into these pleasant surroundings in November, 1964. In 1965, our Memorial Chapel was redecorated with additional pews installed, new carpeting, and new drapes. During the summer, the men of the church built a storage garage on the west end of the property to house our tractors and grounds keeping equipment.

In the fall of 1963, when Second church and Mr. Christiansen celebrated twenty-five years of a united ministry, the church gave Mr. and Mrs. Christiansen a gift which enabled them to take a trip to Hawaii immediately following Easter of 1964. They felt this was indeed a most gracious expression of kindliness from a very friendly people.

Although temporarily our building serves us well, we anticipate having a church sanctuary and better facilities for the choirs, administration, and Sunday School. Of more immediate concern than the building of an addition, however, is our fulfilling the wonderful opportunity we have: to do the work of God here and now in this new area.

As we look back over the past seventy-five years, Second Church surely has accomplished some things for the Glory of God, but may it be our sincere and humble prayer that God will use us for even greater service. Year after year, may our church ever grow more devoted in the service and work of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Pastors of Second Presbyterian Church

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