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First German Baptist Church


Immanuel Baptist Church

1918- present

The First German Baptist Church 

of Kankakee

1864-1889 - Origins

A church plant by the German Baptist Church of Green Garden, the First German Baptist Church of Kankakee incorporated on March 12, 1864.  Led by the Reverend E. Tschirch ten members were present:  Mr. and Mrs. Gerdes, Mr. and Mrs. F. Jansen, Mr. August Seedorf, Mr. and Mrs. Stukas, Mr. and Mrs. F. Seedorf, and Mr. Otto Krueger.  A little chapel on the southwest corner of Schuyler Avenue and Bourbonnais streets in Kankakee was purchased from the Episcopal Church.  According to the minutes, the first service was held on Good Friday, March 25, 1864.  A parsonage was built in 1865.


1889-1914 - New church building erected

In 1889 a new building was erected under the direction of Reverend A Vogel at a cost of $6000 and was dedicated debt free on the 25th Anniversary of the church.  All seven pastors who had led the church those first years were present for the occasion.  A total of 309 members had been received over the 25 years, however membership stood at 86 in 1889.


In 1901 the original parsonage was sold for $165 and a new one costing over $3000 was erected immediately west of the church.  The church always manifested a keen interest in evangelism, cooperating in a number of city-wide evangelistic efforts.  This was especially true during the Billy Sunday meetings in 1906 when all services except Sunday School were cancelled.  As a result of this effort 24 persons were baptized by Reverend Julius Kaaz.  According to the 1919 church directory, the evening service began to be held in "the American language" about 1912.  Membership in 1914 stood at 163.


1914-1939 - Services in German end and Immanuel Baptist Church begins

World War I impacted the First German Baptist Church of Kankakee and language adjustments began affecting, especially, the oldest members of the church.  In 1916 the church voted to change from the traditional single communion chalice to the individual cups.  Also that year the Bible School (Sunday School) began to use the English language.  But the most momentous change was January 1, 1918 when the group took for itself the name Immanuel Baptist Church.  Later that same year all services, business meetings, and official minutes were changed to the English language.  The first minutes in English are from the July business meeting of 1918. Once a month a Sunday afternoon service continued to be held in German for those interested.


The church was growing and changing and in 1916 it purchased lots on the corner of Chicago Avenue and River Street, but in 1922 decided to instead remodel the existing building.  The lots were sold to a Jewish congregation for $10,000. (Temple B'nai Israel is at that location today.)   The $22,000 remodel project added a 22' x 40' three story addition to the front of the old building.  Renovations included a new heating plan, new lighting system with new wiring, a special stained glass window of Jesus as the Good Shepherd at a cost of $553 (located at the back of our present sanctuary) and a new $3000 Moeller pipe organ.  The renovated building was dedicated through services held September 16-19, 1923.  Most of the money was raised before the onset of the depression.


The last charter member, Mrs. Marie Jansen died on November 2, 1924.  In 1926 the church held its first Vacation Bible School.  1929 was the first church constitution and election of officers.  In spite of the church budget woes and difficulties due to the Great Depression, the church celebrated its 75th Anniversary on March 12-15, 1939 debt free with all financial obligations fulfilled.  All living former pastors were present.


1939-1964 - New location and new building

Esther Salzman committed to service as a full time missionary nurse to China.  Immanuel lost three of her sons in World War II:  Raymond Ranz, Herbet See, and Edward Woodrich.  And following the war in 1946 Ruby Salzman answered the call to missionary service in Cameroon.


In April 1950 the church boldly began a "New Church Building Fund" purchasing part of the Krueger farm from a descendant of one of the charter members.  In October the church purchased a plot 220 x 237 for $4000.  In February of 1952 the church purchased an additional lot across the street from the newly acquired property and the current parsonage on the corner of Curtis & VanMeter was completed by May 1953, freeing the old parsonage adjacent to the church on Bourbonnais street to be used as Sunday School space.  The church kept the original four lots purchased from Krueger, but when property on Hawkins street became available, the church purchased this larger site for approximately $28,000.  On November 19, 1958 the church accepted an offer of $55,000 for the old church and parsonage by a person who would build a supermarket on the block.  In January 1959 a vigorous building fund drive was launched to meet the $300,000 obligation, a building committee selected, and ground broke on Sunday, June 14.  The church held a special service for laying the cornerstone on October 18, 1959.  The current building on the corner of Curtis and Hawkins was dedicated on Sunday, May 29, 1960, ending 96 years of ministry at the original location on Schuyler and Bourbonnais.


A Training Union program was established by Pastor Johnson, and by 1963 those evening trainings had grown to an average attendance of 92. The 100th anniversary of the church was celebrated in 1964 through special worship focuses, song, and with a March dinner held at the Kankakee Civic Auditorium.   


1964-1989 - New Ministries

The church burned the mortgage on June 3, 1973.  On November 19, 1978 the church dedicated several projects:  a 6,340 square foot Activity Center at a cost of $330,000; the Fellowship Hall was remodeled with folding partitions and carpeting; and a new pipe organ was purchased and installed.  The needs of the baby boomers led to hiring Associate Pastors or summer workers, leading the young church members in trips to the NAB Triennial Conferences and in a puppet ministry called Juppets.


During the 1980s many ministries were put into place:  prayer chain, the AWANA clubs (under the leadership of Associate Pastor Dan Williams),  a church bus, a deaf ministry (under the leadership of Ralph Brasel), and a nondenominational Christian school, Kankakee Trinity Academy, was started and allowed to rent the church facilities.  Church debt was less than $100,000 by the end of the 1980s.


1989-2014 - Minor remodelings to reflect needs

The church celebrated its 125th Anniversary in March of 1989.  Times change and the church is not immune.  A focus on Men's ministries was inspired by the Promise Keepers movement.  And an emphasis on lay mission trips to NAB locations of service such as Cameroon; Guaymas, Mexico; Japan and Brazil began in the mid 1990s.  In July of 1999, 24 Immanuel members were on the foreign mission fields across the world; about 10% of the morning worship service attendance abroad at once.  Praise choruses were added to the worship service.  The sanctuary was remodeled to move the sound booth from the Northwest balcony to the floor of the sanctuary; a screen and projector were also added.  The modesty rails were removed on the platform to allow for drama and praise team needs.  The Sanctuary was also updated with new paint and carpet;  the pews were replaced in 2003-2004.    Praise the Lord, the church stands today, debt free.


2014 - "For such a time as this"

Immanuel Baptist Church celebrated 150 years of ministry on March 12, 2014.  The following message was from current pastor, Philip Gardner, who officially assumed his position as the church celebrated on Sunday, March 16, 2014.


"Immanuel stands, once again at a crossroads, looking to the future, yet remembering our past.  We have grown out of a rich heritage of godly examples from generations of believers who have given their time, their money and their experience to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in serving one another as well as serving our community.


... While we celebrate together what has happened since Immanuel first opened its doors, may we be excited about the future and stand together in Christ as one body.  God has given us this ministry for 'such a time as this'.   May we cherish this opportunity to share Christ with those around us!"

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Old church2.jpg

The first seven pastors of the First German Baptist Church of Kankakee at the 25th Anniversary celebration.

Church constructed in 1889 on the Southwest corner of Bourbonnais St and Schyler Ave in Kankakee.

The church as remodeled in 1922.  Kankakee had changed and Schyler Avenue became the main entrance.  Note the addition of the Good Shepherd window which now hangs in the back of the current sanctuary. 

Laying the cornerstone for the present church.

Edited Image 2014-7-19-19:51:40

The parsonage was built prior to the church, on the corner of Curtis and VanMeter.

Edited Image 2014-7-19-19:48:8

The sanctuary as it appeared prior to remodeling in the 1990s.

Since 1864
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