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First English Lutheran celebrates 100 years (video)

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Oct. 13, 2013 at 5:13 a.m.

Stone mason Stephen Maxwell with Robert Adkins Masonry carefully removes the thick slab of stone that was the cornerstone of the church when it was built. A copper box placed in the cornerstone cavity contained memorabilia of items from the First English Lutheran dedication in 1952.

Dusting off a layer of 50-year-old dirt, the Rev. Jim Pearson rested the cornerstone of First English Lutheran Church on a table.

The cornerstone, a heavy metal box containing items placed inside by members in 1952, was sodded to one side of the church's gothic, limestone exterior, erected the same year to replace the original wooden building.

"I was surprised the items were so well preserved. I thought some of the stuff would fall apart, but it was sealed so tight everything remained intact," Pearson said, referring to a yellowed, 1951 edition of the Victoria Advocate newspaper. "Some of the items were a bit mysterious, like the coins, for example. We didn't know why those were put in there."

Some of the items included Lutheran magazines, a German newspaper, a Victoria city map, a Bible, Newsweek magazine, photos and the original cement trowel used to place the box in the wall of the church.

But the removal of the cornerstone Thursday was not a celebration of the church's 50th anniversary.

It was a precursor to the celebration of First English's centennial anniversary, held Sunday at the church on North Main Street.

First English launched Oct. 12, 1913. It was Victoria's first English-speaking Lutheran church. Before First English, Lutheran churches spoke and worshiped in German.

"Just to be a part of the ministry here and the history that goes with it is really something," said Pearson, whose father also preached at the church from 1963-67. "I think, historically, the clergy of this church has really been key in keeping the congregation moving forward."

On Sunday, more than 300 members attended a special lunch and presentation honoring the church's 100 years in Victoria.

All of the church's cornerstone items, as well as a room full of historical items and photos and clothing donated by members, were put on display for attendees to peruse.

The church's first historical marker was also erected in the parking lot turnaround.

"I think for a church in today's time to last 100 years" is significant. "It's a very special place for me," said Jennifer Hartman, a third-generation member of First English.

Hartman was baptized, confirmed and married at First English, as was her mother and daughter.

Debra Butler, a member of First English for 14 years, said she enjoyed hearing stories of the church's history during the lunch.

"I wish I could be here for another 100 years, but I don't think I'll be here for that milestone," she said.

The cornerstone will be repacked with items from 2013 and placed back in the side of the church in coming weeks.

Hartman said it will remain in the church building stone until the congregation of the future wishes to celebrate another milestone anniversary.

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