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Photo by David Colburn
Herb White, Bob Braundmeyer, Dorothey Kinney, Karen Anders and Wesley Doolittle pose for a photo on the front steps of St. Peter’s Evangelical United Church of Christ at 2101 Cleveland Blvd. after discussing its present state and future plans.
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Photo by David Colburn
Rumors that St. Peter’s Evangelical United Church of Christ is on the verge of closing have proven to be far from true.
“We’re more active in the community now than we’ve ever been,” confirms Karen Anders, financial secretary, team leader and elder for the church, 2101 Cleveland Blvd.
She joined former president, elder and recording secretary Dorothy Kinney, moderator Herb White, former president and elder Bruce Wright and his wife, Lucreitia, treasurer and team leader Wesley Doolittle, and past president and elder Bob Braundmeyer to discuss the past, present and future of the church and its impact on Granite City.
St. Peter’s was established by Paul Viehe in 1901, originally at the Big Four Building, once located at the corner of 21st and “C” Streets. On Dec. 1 of the same year, the first service was held by the Rev. Henry Buchmueller. Construction on the present church building began in March of 1903 and the educational wing of the church was dedicated in June of 1957.
The church is historically known for its sausage supper, which takes place through community support in November of each year. More recently, St. Peter’s has joined forces with six other congregations in the area to establish a Saturday breakfast.
“A crowd of roughly 200 individuals come in and are served every Saturday,” Kinney says. “A registered nurse from the Deaconess Foundation regularly attends the breakfast to check blood pressure and other potential health complications and a food shipment of leftovers is dispensed after the breakfast.”
The church also maintains a regular food pantry for emergency situations.
St. Peter’s has also established a community garden at 2100 Cleveland Blvd., through which the community is offered produce. The Meals of Love program, conducted through Grace Baptist Church, provides food to different groups with budgetary constraints.
“A vanload of food is delivered every Friday,” White says.
One of the programs in which St. Peter’s takes the most pride is Wednesday Rocks, established in response to the 2013 shooting of 13-year-old Clayton Veninga. Former pastor Aaron Ban visited the boy’s family in the hospital and subsequently organized a memorial vigil in his honor, preceded by a march around the block. Youths — primarily junior and senior high school students — are invited to the parking lot of the church on Wednesday evenings from 6 to 8 p.m. for “basketball, kickball, chalk writing, etc.,” followed by “refreshments, conversation and Bible study” in the Fellowship Hall, according to the church’s mission statement.
On Wednesday, Jan. 6 — when Wednesday Rocks reconvenes — the Rev. Jeff Welch and the First United Presbyterian Church joined with both St. Peter’s and the YMCA to prepare the evening’s snacks and programming, with a greater focus on providing music, drama and art for subsequent meetings.
According to the mission statement, the program will be funded through a grant received from the Deaconess Foundation and the cost will be approximately $20 per week for additional curriculum, supplies and mileage for the teachers.
St. Peter’s leaders are concerned with finding a new permanent pastor and raising money to fund future ambitions.
“Like most churches in the area, the Illinois South Conference interviews potential candidates, but we haven’t been satisfied as a whole yet,” Kinney says. “We believe the vote should be unanimous or close to unanimous before we approach the congregation.”
St. Peter’s has supply pastors scheduled through February, but the search process has slowed down in recent weeks as a result of the holiday season.
“It’s nothing for a year to a year and a half until a church finds the right fit,” Bruce Wright says. “We want to be absolutely certain.”
On Aug. 31, Kinney arranged a church fundraiser at Ravanelli’s Restaurant in Granite City. The Illinois South Conference provided a grant and an incentive for the church to match the sum for more financial assistance.
“We had 11 baskets set up for a silent auction and fliers to pass out, by which 25 percent of the restaurant bill was donated to the church,” Kinney explains.
The church members confess they were “pleasantly surprised” by the large turnout, which they attribute to “the power of email.”
As the new year rings in, St. Peter’s Evangelical United Church of Christ has big plans.
“We’re planning to become a mission church and to convert the older classrooms into offices for nonprofit,” White says. “We’re also considering converting the parsonage into sleeping quarters for those in need in our community.
“Before 1950, the church was its own nucleus,” Braundmeyer adds. “Now that we’ve got social media, advanced technology and so many other things going on, it’s important to remember that we’re in the community to provide service, talk to people, learn and help in difficult situations.”