From the corn and soybean fields it rises like a beacon of hope. Its steeple can be seen for miles, and at night even further away as the cross atop the steeple is lit. About 180 years ago, a group of German immigrant farmers, gathered in houses, decided it was time to have a church. They built one of the logs, in the same location as the present-day Hope Lutheran Church, 1465 Walnut Ave., Brighton, Iowa. The services were all in German and the men were seated on one side of the room and the women on the other. There was a divider between them.
Today, it is the oldest Lutheran church west of the Mississippi that still holds services. Kind of in the middle of a triangle between Washington, Fairfield, and Mt. Pleasant, some say it’s in the middle of nowhere. The devotees differ by saying, âThis is in the middle of everything. Â»Just off the Germanville road which winds between Lockridge and Brighton, and off the 146e Blvd, is Walnut Ave and Hope Lutheran Church. The founding farmers believed, âIt is certainly better to worship in a log church and be a golden Christian than to worship in a golden church and be a wooden Christian. At the turn of the century, the German language began to give way to English, initially one Sunday per month. Because of World War I, German was completely abandoned and men and women were allowed to sit together. (Oh my God!)
During its 175 years, 32 pastors have served the Hope Lutheran Church. Rich and colorful stories abound. The bell of the steeple rings before and after services, its unique tone resonates through the countryside, reminding people of his divine presence. The church elders ring the bell but the children creep in for the thrill, the rope lifting them off the ground.
In the early days of the Log Church, a storm hit while a service was taking place. The log roof of the church exploded. The minister was in the pulpit and the pulpit was still standing with the Bible still on it. The ladies’ hats are gone. One man said he was blown away by wind or a tornado and then abandoned. There were injuries but no one was killed.
In the early sixties it was reported that there were escaped convicts in the area and everyone had to lock their vehicles and stay inside behind locked doors (no one ever locked their doors) . When the convicts were found, the church bell rang to let everyone know that everyone was safe and sound. The children huddled up to their parents and were surprised at every noise of the night, like pigs feeding at feeders. The âconvictsâ were found sleeping in a garage. They were runaway teenagers from New Mexico. The bell rang and everyone sighed in relief.
Another time there was a family from California who came to visit the cemetery adjacent to the church. They were interested in finding a certain tombstone for a distant family member. While they were searching, one of their children disappeared and could not be found. When he was found, once again, the church bell was ringing. Family and church members searched and searched. It was feared that the child had drowned in one of the ponds on the neighboring farm. Preparations were underway to drag the ponds, when the child was discovered sleeping on a picnic table. Relieved family members heard the happy bell ring.
Come one, all come to Hope 175 Lutheran Churche Anniversary celebration, 1845-2020 (it was not celebrated last year due to COVID). Rooted in the past, looking to the future. 1465 Walnut Ave, Brighton, IA 52540. Friday, September 17, 5:00 p.m. Ice cream party and singing. Saturday, September 18 from 2:00 p.m. at Lac Darling, all kinds of activities, including dinner and talks with former pastors. Sunday, September 19 at 10:15 am, religious service chaired by Pastor Ryan Dexter, followed by a walk in the cemetery. The church will also sell cookbooks, with all the recipes from the old church cookbooks, as well as new additions. Believe me, you don’t want to miss this one.
Hope Lutheran Church: a little out of the way, but a lot of hope.
Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, find him on Facebook, email him at [email protected], or visit their website at www.empty-nest-words-photos-and-frames.com.