churching Although St. Peter’s new church on Russell Street was not totally ready for occupancy, the first service was held in that location on the first Sunday in April, 1957.  With the move, attendance increased from around 200 per Sunday to 375 by January, 1958.  Facilities for Christian education purposes were already over-taxed and over-crowded in the new building.  The average Sunday School attendance was 155.  In addition, the lack of finished space for activities such as wedding receptions and the sausage supper pointed to the urgent need for the completion of the south wing that would include Sunday School rooms for nursery, kindergarten, and primary classes as well as the much needed fellowship area.  The congregation was urged to move ahead with this project as quickly as possible.

expansion During 1958 temporary heating, kitchen, and food serving facilities were added to the south wing and in 1959, the south wing became a mammoth “do it yourself” project under the direction of committee members Les Joop, Howard Barth, and Elmer Ninmer.  In the 1960 annual report, Clarence Berbaum wrote that one night alone, over 60 man hours were accumulated and on another, several stayed until 1 a.m. to complete some heating work so the general heating system would not be disrupted.  By 1961, thanks to the labor of many able and willing workers, the south wing became usable for many functions of St. Peter’s.

During 1960, construction on the parsonage began and was nearly completed.  The congregation had voted earlier to authorize spending not more than $35,000 for architectural fees and construction costs and immediately after this project was approved, the Finance Committee began working to raise the necessary funds.

On Sunday, May 2, 1976, a Mortgage Burning Ceremony for the Russell Street facilities was celebrated at St. Peter’s.  This ceremony included presentations on both the congregational and financial history of the church from its founding in 1865 to the present day.  Those present who had been members of the University Avenue church were asked to join the leaders at the front of the church.  Consistory President Ernest Drake, standing at a special table with an urn, was assisted by past officers as he set fire to the mortgage.  The report states that there was absolute silence in the sanctuary.  Once the mortgage had been consumed by the fire, President Drake stated that he was reminded that the Bible said “make a joyful noise unto the Lord” and asked all to applaud.  He thanked all members of St. Peter’s who through their generous giving had made this day possible and he closed the ceremony with the following statement:  “I would remind you all that this is not the end of an era, but the beginning of a NEW era.  We all have the responsibility to maintain our Beloved Church in a manner befitting God’s House.”

fire damageThe parsonage was paid off in 1979 and the church became debt-free at that time.  On August 14, 1980, however, there was a fire at the church.  The greatest damage was located in the Fellowship Hall on the stage with extensive smoke damage throughout the rest of the building.  Church insurance covered the renovation, but members were still involved in taking inventory, cleaning, and researching costs.  Church services were held in the gym at Westview School until the renovation was complete.

 

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