Elgin's Holy Trinity Lutheran Church begins celebration of 120th anniversary

  • Vicar Andrea Delaney and the Rev. Dave Daubert at the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church altar with our faithful bear, "Trinity," who joins the children who join the children's sermons every Sunday.

    Vicar Andrea Delaney and the Rev. Dave Daubert at the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church altar with our faithful bear, "Trinity," who joins the children who join the children's sermons every Sunday. Courtesy of Bruce Cook

Posted5/31/2023 12:35 PM

On Sept. 23, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin will be celebrating its 120th anniversary.

In preparation for this milestone, the church is sponsoring a "Church & Community Cookout" from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 3. As hundreds of visitors can attest, Holy Trinity serves great food, especially on the grill.


Next, on Saturday, July 15, the church offers you the chance to cool off in the heat of summer with an "Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Social."

Then the momentous event -- the anniversary celebration and worship with dinner and dancing. Please come by for a dance and a memory of the past.

All are welcome to participate in the anniversary events.

The late Brian Janz recorded the church's history, which is available on holytrinityelgin.com/our-history

Elgin at the turn of the 20th century was a bustling place. Over 39% of the industrial workforce in Elgin were women. The women came from across the U.S., and many worked at the Elgin National Watch Company for six cents per day. One of the women, Ada Beck could not find worship services in English. She did find Lutheran services in German, Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish languages. She then wrote to her former Pastor Rev. A.C. Anda in Goshen, Indiana, and convinced him to come to Elgin to try and start a new church. They began with a forward-thinking Mission Statement, "The faith of the Fathers in the Language of the Children," meeting began in the fall of 1902. Meetings were held in Unity Hall on the dance floor. Then the people attending the services would meet in each other's houses to learn the liturgy and hymns in English. Forty-one charter members incorporated Holy Trinity English Lutheran Church March 9, 1903. Many of the early members previously had no church affiliation.

In 1904, the building site at the southeast corner of Division and Chapel streets was purchased for $4,200. On June 10, 1906, the cornerstone for the church was laid. The first service was held on Christmas Eve 1906 and Holy Trinity was consecrated January 27, 1907.

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The Elgin newspaper described the new church as "The exterior is of brown brick with white stone trimmings. The walls of the sanctuary are a cream color, deep at the base and gradually growing lighter toward the top until it blends easily into the very delicate ceiling shade. In the center of the ceiling is a large skylight of leaded glass in soft pearl, cream, and violet shades."

The windows of the sanctuary are of leaded glass and done in rather plain colors. The two windows at the sides of the altar have designs of white lilies. The total cost of the lot, structure, and furnishings was $24,972.

Almost immediately after completion, they ran out of room, so the congregation decided to dig a basement underneath the superstructure. Men donned overalls and armed themselves with picks and shovels and went to work digging. The men worked until their hands were blistered and backs were lame. They worked three nights a week. St. Jacob's Oil and mustard plasters were in heavy demand. The men described the digging as "oodles of fun."

There were many obstacles for parishioners to attend services. World War 1, epidemics, and weather all played a part in that. In 1918, a huge blizzard kept most people at home. They also had a work-less and coal-less Monday. On March 29, 1920, one of the worst tornadoes to ever hit Fox Valley struck Elgin on Palm Sunday. The First Congregational Church just a couple of blocks away was severely damaged and many residents lost their lives. Holy Trinity was spared from damage, but the homes of several members were damaged or destroyed. The Council began checking with members to see what help they needed to rebuild. Influenza epidemics kept people quarantined several times. Members lived through the polio epidemic when no Sunday school classes were held because children were not supposed to be in large groups.


By 1932, in spite of the depression and economic difficulties, Holy Trinity experienced one of the greatest years in its history. Attendance figures were the largest in history. Total income was the highest in its history. A building campaign was undertaken and was the first financial campaign in the area in 10 years to succeed. The balcony was added to the sanctuary.

In 1951, the cornerstone for the offices was laid and a Sunday school addition was added in 1952. The building was remodeled in 1995 to make it barrier-free and handicap-accessible.

Rev. Paul W. Roth served as the first Pastor, serving from 1903-08. He presided over the opening service. Holy Trinity, which was the first English speaking church in town, was described in the local newspaper, The Elgin Advocate, as it would become one of the finest, but not the largest, church in Elgin. Rev. Anda felt it was necessary to preach the faith of the fathers to the children in their own language.

Permanent organization of Holy Trinity was established in January 1903. A constitution was adopted, a charter procured, and they were presented to the Chicago Synod, which at that time was located in Mulberry, Indiana. The Elgin Advocate newspaper described the congregation as active and enthusiastic with a membership of approximately 100. There were pledges by voluntary contributions to cover the construction of the church. The Sunday school was described as vigorous and flourishing. There were bouquets of pink and white peonies present.

Rev. Anda complimented Rev. Roth by saying "I rejoice and thank God that your efforts have been rewarded with such excellent success and I would speak words of encouragement to those who are engaged in this great and noble work. It indicates patience, courage, and self-sacrifice for all. We are thankful today that we are able to lay the cornerstone of this house of glory. We thank God for public buildings which are necessary. We thank God that we have public schools, and we are thankful for our homes. But above all these, we also have that building which is called God's house in which we may experience the grace of the Almighty when once we have been lost in sin. This is the nature of the house you have built, the cornerstone of which you will lay this afternoon."

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