Saint Peter’s was established on May 5, 1867, as St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church by German immigrant farmers. It is the first church organized in what was then called Niles Center. The first building was dedicated in 1868, and many of the members were pioneers in the founding of the community.
In 1880, the church bought a cemetery. Also there was a church split that year! Some of the members, unhappy with the stern disciplinarian style of the pastor, were open to the overtures made by their friends starting a Missouri Synod Lutheran church just a few blocks away. The pastor insisted that St. Peter’s stick with the mother synod, which it did. The following decade brought new bells, which still ring at Noon and 6 P.M., and a new pastor. We still have the cemetery, too.
The first church building was severely damaged by lightning in 1901, and the current building which houses our sanctuary and Memorial Room and two towers was built and dedicated in 1903. English sermons began under Rev. Hausmann, but did not become the main language of all worship services until the 1930s.
During those early 20th century decades, our stained glass windows were installed, and modern amenities came to the building. Membership, which had been by families, was transferred to individual members in the early 1930s, and a new monthly newsletter began to come out then. The church participated in lots of fellowship activities, mission partnerships like Bensenville Home Society, and had a very active youth program, led by people who helped lead the public schools of Niles Center.
In the mid-to-late 1950s, there was a major construction project! The parts of our facility which hold our gymnasium, kitchen, offices, Sunday School rooms, nursery, and other offices for two other churches that meet here, were built then.
There were lots of youth plays in the 1960s and ‘70s, and then came the Dinner Theaters, which also made use of the adult talents here. These went on in the 1980s. They helped raise funds for Project 81, which renovated the sanctuary and bell tower, but also brought folks into St. Peter’s for the first time, who later came back to join the church.
The church pastors have been active in the local interfaith Clergy Forum, and St. Peter’s has participated in the annual interfaith community Thanksgiving Eve service, hosting it most recently in 1996. The pastor and parishioners were also involved in a worship service held at the same time the KKK held a rally in Skokie in December, 2000, raising funds for the Southern Poverty Law Center (which has sued the Klan). Further, we shared in a community interfaith prayer vigil in the Village Green on September 12th, 2001.
Also in recent history, the church, in addition to creating this web page, has also sought to broaden the worship experience by bringing in the occasional Readers Theater reading or skit, and by creating a Supplemental SongBook for worship. This supplement includes some favorite hymns that are not in our hymnal, as well as some contemporary praise songs and hymns with more accessible language. Mission projects have included the Good News Community Kitchen, the Uhlich Children’s Home of Chicago, the Niles Township Food Pantry, and the Night Ministry, among others.
St. Peter’s just celebrated 140 years this May, 2007, and looks forward to the challenges ahead with a desire to serve the Lord, with a sense of humor, and with a dedication to the community.