Salem Lutheran Church celebrates 100 years in Homewood

Excitement and anticipation is building to a crescendo at Salem Lutheran Church in Homewood as its members prepare for a once-in-a lifetime event: the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the church’s founding.

The first Salem Lutheran Church building at 18322 Morris Ave. was dedicated on Sept. 6, 1925. (Provided photo)
  The original Salem Lutheran
  Church building at 18322
  Morris Ave. was dedicated
  on Sept. 6, 1925.
 
 (Provided photo)
 

The centennial kickoff is scheduled for Sunday, August 11, when a special service will be followed by a picnic on Salem’s grounds. Other events will be held throughout the summer. In October, there will be a celebration service with Dale Meyer, president of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, as guest speaker.

“Salem Lutheran has always been in Homewood and basically grew up with the village,” said its pastor the Rev. David Speerbrecker who has served since March 1992.  “The first Lutheran home church service was held on Christmas Day in 1905” in the home of village blacksmith John Kaehler. “That was only 12 years after the incorporation of Homewood as a village.”

The meetings, held in the afternoon, were conducted in German and officiated by Rev. Matthew Fedderson of St. John’s Church in Coopers Grove (now Country Club Hills). In 1915, the congregation met on Sunday afternoons in a former Presbyterian church. The building had been purchased by the Illinois Central Railroad, but after only five years, the railroad sold the building. 

The congregation spent the next four years trooping up to the second floor room in the old Village Hall for their meetings. Fedderson continued to perform baptisms, marriages and funerals for the members and stored the information in the records at St. John’s.

On Aug. 10, 1919, they organized as a Lutheran congregation and became members of the Missouri Synod. Its official name then became Salem Lutheran.    
 
Those charter members fervently desired to build their own church building and become an official congregation of the Lutheran Missouri Synod. 

Finally, their dreams were realized.

Their first house of worship was a carpenter’s shop, purchased for $400, with two additional lots, located at 18322 Morris Avenue. The land, structure and remodeling, cost a total of $1,761.22. The work was completed in less than three months. There were 36 members in the congregation. In 1925, they called their first resident pastor, Rev. Louis J. Schwartzkopf. He retired in 1934.

The church continued to grow and established a Christian day-school. An additional lot was purchased and a new church was built. The first church building was then used as a classroom for the growing number of students. As growth continued, an authentic school building was built in 1926 and the first older building was removed. The property now contained the church, a school and a parsonage.

Homewood’s growth exploded in the 1950s after the end of World War II and it soon became apparent that Salem Lutheran, with nearly 800 members, had outgrown the “Little White Church” on Morris Avenue.

The church purchased property at 183rd Street and Ashland Avenue in 1955 where today sits a House of Worship, a parsonage, a school building, a large parking lot and an open grassy area with a playground and room for church picnics and special events. 

“Salem has always been a neighborhood and community church, but now there are lots of church choices for people and our society has become more mobile. Many of our members moved to other communities, such as Frankfort, Crete, Beecher, but thankfully, they still drive in to attend our services,” Speerbrecker said.

“Our challenge as a church is to keep them connected to God and to fellow members. We pay special attention to our message and our music. Services are no longer in German.  We combine traditional and contemporary songs and try to have something different each Sunday,” the pastor said.

“We have always maintained a close connection to the Homewood community,” he added. “Homewood is the home of our church.”

 

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