Holy Cross Lutheran Church Progress in 1958
by W. T. Block
After a hectic December, 1957, which included Christmas and New Year's Eve activities, the church's organization and charter membership, installation of new officers and constitution acceptance by the membership, the Holy Cross Lutheran congregation were hopeful and optimistic as the year 1958 dawned its way into existence. Notable during the first weeks of January, the Holy Cross Ladies' Aid held its first meeting on January 7th, with scheduled meetings each month thereafter. Pastor Schmid soon set the financial needs of the church at $102.00 weekly. And members received their first copies of Lutheran Witness during the week of January 19th.20
Early in February, the pastor announced that the six Lenten services would begin on Ash Wednesday, February 19, and continue through Good Friday, April 4.21 T he highlight of the month of February came on the 16th when Rev. John Schmid was installed as pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church. Rev. Gottfried G. Press of St. Paul's Lutheran Church, the Visitor of Circuit 18, read the Rite of Installation; Pastor W. E. Meyer of St. John's, delivered the sermon. Other area clergy who participated included Pastors V. Buvinghausen and Herbert Wottrich of Port Arthur.22
During February, A. Menard built the vestment and storage cabinet for the church. In March, Mr. and Mrs. J. E. Gietzen bought the new Communion veil and purificators for the church.24 During the first quarter of 1958, five new communicant members--J. E. Gietzen, Mr. and Mrs. A. Menard, Bill M. Morgan, and Miss Martha Mattsen--were added to the membership rolls, and on May 15th, a newspaper editor reported that the Holy Cross Lutheran membership had increased to 53 communicants and 42 children.24
On February 4, the Sabine Area Mission Society met at the church, which the writer believes was the first occasion when Holy Cross was host to the area-wide Lutheran churches.25 On March 30th, the Holy Cross Lutheran membership celebrated their first Palm Sunday, and a voters' meeting was scheduled for April 2 to decide which tract of land to purchase for the new church. During the first quarter of 1958, church attendance and offerings averaged as follows: Sunday School, 51; church attendance, 63; and offerings, $122.
As a result of the April 2nd business meeting, the voters decided to purchase the John Henderson tract of two and one-half acres, located at Helena and 27th Streets. The voters' decision was sent on to the Mission Board in Austin for their approval. On April 4th and 6th, the congregation celebrated their first Good Friday and Easter service together, with 70 people in attendance at Easter. Pastor Schmidt announced that a total of $140 was needed weekly to meet the church's budget requirements for 1958.26
Also during April, a "cottage evangelism" program was instituted, to include four "cottage meetings" in the homes of members. Nineteen families participated in the cottage meetings. On April 21, 1958, the Sabine Area Lutheran Sunday School Teachers' Association met at Holy Cross Church. Lawrence Schkade, the Holy Cross Sunday School superintendent as well as Dean of Student Life at Lamar University, was the principal speaker.27
In May, the pastor began a new adult class, and members enjoyed the first "Family Night" at the church on May 21st.28 On May 16th, the first issue of the "Holy Cross Newsletter" - Charles Smith, editor - appeared.29 That issue reported that progress was made toward the purchase of the two and a half acres of land at Helena and 27th Streets. On May 25th, the first Confirmation class to be received into membership included Ronald Ermel, Ruth Gribnau, Elmer Kieschnick, and Richard Martin. On May 29th, the church purchased the Henderson tract on Helena Street, using $1,000 from church funds, a Mission Board loan of $2,225, leaving as outstanding a note for $7,000 due in one year.30
On June 5th, a newspaper editor reported that Holy Cross Lutheran Church would hold its first Vacation Bible School between June 9-20th, noting as well that:31
Lawrence Schkade, Sunday School superintendent, presided over the Bible School, which 11 adults and 55 children attended, with an average of 48 daily.32 A newspaper photograph of the Vacation Bible School in progress revealed that one young student was attending in a wheel chair.33
Also in June, 1958, Pastor Schmid's engagement to Miss Ethel Ruth Press, sister of Rev. Gottfried Press, was announced, and invitations to the wedding, scheduled for July 5, were extended through the church bulletin. The pastor's fiancee was a graduate of Concordia College in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and of Concordia Teachers' College in River Forest, Illinois; and for the previous two years, she had taught at the Trinity Lutheran School in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. The wedding and honeymoon would occur during Rev. Schmid's July vacation, at which time Pastor Herbert Wottrich served as vacation pastor.34
The end of the second quarter of 1958 certainly witnessed the continued progress of the Holy Cross Lutheran congregation. Attendance increased somewhat, despite the fact that June was a vacation month, with the following weekly average figures: Sunday School, 59; church attendance, 68; and offerings, $133. Six persons were added to the church's communicant rolls, in addition to two baptized children.35
Following its initial meeting on January 7th, the Holy Cross Ladies' Aid held meetings monthly and witnessed continual increases in membership as well. There were three new members added at the August 12th meeting, one of whom was the pastor's bride, and plans were formulated at that meeting for a congregational picnic on church property on August 12th.36 On September 9th, the Ladies' Aid held a successful bake sale at the church, the profits of which were applied to the church parsonage fund.37 In October the Ladies' Aid of Holy Cross began a clothing drive for unfortunate families overseas.38 At their meeting on December 9th, it was announced that 200 pounds of clothing had been collected and shipped to missions overseas. The Ladies' Aid furnished the church's Christmas tree and decorations in 1958. Its new officers elected and installed for 1959 included Mrs. H. B. Kieschnick, president; Mrs. Bill Hilton, vice president; Mrs.H. M. Gribnau, secretary; Mrs. K. E. Dubois, treasurer; and Mrs. T. E. Smith, LWML secretary.39
In July, 1958, with work on the constitution and church location committees completed, both committees were disbanded, but two others, a new church or building committee and a parsonage committee were appointed to replace them. The first choir rehearsal was conducted on August 2nd.40 The parsonage and new church committees also met for the first time in August, and a fairly-new house at 2811 Gary Street was purchased about September 1st to be the church parsonage. By then the parsonage fund had reached $1,254, and the voters agreed to assume a $1,900 indebtedness to be paid off in six months. By September 1, the new church committee had already interviewed five prospective architects.41
On Sunday afternoon, September 14th, about fifty members assembled at 2811 Gary for the open house and dedication of the new Holy Cross parsonage, and a newspaper article published a large photograph of the joyous occasion. The same article announced that the new church committee had already chosen a Houston architect, Koelter and Thorpe, for the new church.42
During the fourth quarter, Pastor V. Buvinghausen delivered the message at the church's Mission Festival on October 19th. On November 1st, the building committee, composed of W. H. B. Fehl, Sr., chairman; G. Davis, J. Gietzen, F. Kieschnick, L. Schkade, C. Smith, and T. E. Smith, decided to build the church in two units. The first unit would consist of a church to seat 150 people, 8 Sunday School rooms, with kitchen and rest rooms at a total cost of $50,000.43
By December 7, 1958, pledges totalling $168.50 weekly had been received toward a 1959 budget of $201.00 weekly.44 By December 14th, the preliminary floor plans for the new church were already hanging on one wall of the old church on Twin City Highway. All of the special December holidays passed in stride, each with a good attendance. Seven adults and 46 children took part in the Christmas Eve service.45
On December 28th, the new 1959 officers for Holy Cross Lutheran Church were installed. They included W. R. Wiegmann, president; Ed Hughes, vice president; J. E. Gietzen, secretary; T. E. Smith, treasurer; K. Dubois, financial secretary; W. H. B. Fehl, Sr., Sunday School superintendent; G. Davis, J. Ermel, and W. Hilton, elders; A. Menard, F. Kieschnick, B. Morgan, trustees; and H. Kieschnick, B. Gillespie, R. Shouse, and D. Bryant, board of stewardship and missions.46
During the fall of 1958, Charles Smith enrolled at Concordia College in River Forest, Illinois, and Mrs. J. E. Gietzen assumed the role of full-time church organist. The year 1958 had smiled brightly on the Holy Cross Lutheran congregation. Several more had been added to the church's roll of communicant members and baptized children. Attendance and offering for the entire year averaged as follows: weekly Sunday School, 58; church attendance, 68; and weekly offerings, $130. A new parsonage had been purchased and dedicated and plans for the new church had arrived. Yes, it had been a banner and glorious years for everyone at Holy Cross Church.
19HCLC Bul., Jan. 5, 1958.
20Ibid., Jan. 12, 19, 1958.
21"Mid-week Lenten Services Announced at Holy Cross," Midcounty Review, Feb. 20, 1958.
22"Lutheran Church To Install First Pastor," Ibid., Feb. 13, 1958; HCLC Bul. Feb. 9, 16, 1958.
23HCLC Buls., Feb. 23 and Mar. 9, 1958.
24"Churches Show Gain," Midcounty Review, May 15, 958; HCLC Buls., Feb. 2, March 5, 23, 1958.
25HCLC Bul., Jan. 26, 1958.
26Ibid., April 6, 1958.
27HCLC Buls., April 20, 27, 1958; "Lutherans Hear Schkade," Beaumont Enterprise, April 24, 1958.
28HCLC Buls., May 4, 18, 1958.
29HCLC News Letter, May 16, 1958.
30HCLC Buls., May 25 and June 1, 1948.
31"Lutherans To Hold Vacation Bible School," Midcounty Review, June 5, 1958.
32HCLC Bul., June 15, 1958.
33Photo, "Vacation Bible School," Midcounty Review, June 19, 1958.
34Photo, "Engagement of Miss Press and Rev. Schmid," Midcounty Review, June 12, 1958; HCLC Bul., June 23, 1958.
35Average of 13 HCLC Buls., April 4 to June 29, 1958.
36"Ladies Aid.....Plan Church Picnic," Midcounty Review, Aug. 21, 1958.
37Ibid., "Holy Cross Ladies Hold Bake Sale," Sept. 18, 1958.
38Ibid., "Holy Cross Ladies Aid," Oct 23, 1958.
39"Ladies Aid Elects Officers," Midcounty Review, Dec. 25, 1958.
40HCLC Bul., July 23, 1958.
41HCLC Newsletter, August 13, 1958; HCLC Buls., Aug. 3, 10, 24, 31; Dept. 7, 14, 21, 1958.
42Photograph, "Lutherans Dedicate Parsonage," Midcounty Review, Sept. 18, 1958.
43Holy Cross Banner, Nov. 1, 1958.
44HCLC Bul., Dec. 7, 1958.
45HCLC Buls., Dec. 14, 21, 24, 1958.
46HCLC Bul., Dec. 28, 1958; Photograph, "New Holy Cross Officers," Midcounty Review, Jan. 8, 1959.