VERSAILLES — Even now as the hottest days of summer continue it cannot be far off when summer begins to fade and thoughts turn toward autumn, people also begin to look forward to the annual St. Peter’s Homecoming Celebration. This annual event marks a tradition which began over 100 years ago.
When St. Peter closed its doors to weekly worship it was decided then to hold a “Homecoming Service” each year. Most of the congregation that remained moved their membership to nearby Lutheran churches like Trinity, at Versailles, Friedens Lutheran at Bloomer, St. Paul’s at Willowdell, or St. John, near Greenville.
Why is St. Peter Evangelical Church unique? It has celebrated more “Homecoming Services” than years of regular worship, closing in 1905. This marks the 111th Homecoming service.
The little, country church, founded by immigrants from Kammerforst, Langensalza, Providence Larheim, Kingdom of Prussia, (Germany), whom settled in what was known then as the “Dutch Roost” offered regular German Lutheran worship services in this log structure from 1850 until 1905. When they closed the doors in 1905, all was left in place. It looks today much as it did when they worshiped here.
On Sept. 18, the historic church will open wide its doors once more to host a pre-service concert given by Norm Schlecty and the Thien Snips Band in the old sanctuary beginning at 1:30 p.m.
The annual worship and hymn sing is reminiscent of the German Lutheran style of the late 19th and early 20th century. The service will begin at 2 p.m. with the ringing of the bell, calling all from their farms to worship.
The Rev. Robert Akins, of Trinity Lutheran Church, Versailles, and Friedens Lutheran Church, Bloomer will lead the abbreviated worship service. Karen Lawrence will play the original pump organ and many hymns of a bygone era will be sung once again.
Prior to the service at 12:30 p.m. there will be a pulled pork luncheon. Complete with a pulled pork sandwich, au gratin potatoes, baked beans, and apple crisp all for a $10 donation, which covers the meal, tent, table and chairs.
These dinners will be prepared by Trinity of Versailles but must be reserved prior to Sept. 6. Reservations for lunch may be made by check to St. Peters Evangelical Lutheran Church c/o J. R. Kelch at 105 Greenhaven Drive, Greenville, OH 45331 with a check made to St. Peter’s.
This year St. Peter’s is participating in the Ohio Historical Society’s “Open Door Initiative,” a celebration of Ohio’s hidden gems that are rarely seen by the public.
“Remember your contributions are the only financial support St. Peters receives and are vital to keeping our doors open once a year and maintaining our property 365 days a year,”said a spokesperson. “Come out and be a part of the continuing story of St. Peters!”
St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church is located one mile south of Versailles just east off of State Route 185 south of Versailles, on the St. Peter’s Road.
“Come and enjoy an early autumn afternoon in the country where our earliest settlers walked and prayed,” organizers said.