When John Gottfried Arndt, by arrangement with King George III, began to offer tracts of land at reasonable prices to German speaking people in the colony of North Carolina in 1745, a migration which included the hardworking God-fearing folk who came into the area which is now Lincolnton County began. Bringing Bibles, Catechisms and worship books they conducted services as they were able, but they sorely missed their teachers and pastors. In 1775, the newly-ordained Gottfried Arndt of Rowan County began to meet with and preach to the folk who were to comprise Emmanuel Lutheran Church.
Emmanuel Lutheran Church originated from the Old White Church that was across the street where the brick apartment building stands now. The Old White Church, as it was formerly known, was the first house of worship in Lincolnton. Many other congregations in the city of Lincolnton also originated from the Old White Church. The church was organized in 1785 and the city of Lincolnton was chartered in 1783. The church was connected with some interesting history, devastating wars, a fire, and other tragedies have unfortunately destroyed many valuable records. As we all know these can never be replaced.
It is not known when the first building was built, but the deed, recorded January 10, 1788, states that a house of worship was then on the property (the southeast of Aspen and Church Streets). The price paid for the lot was ten shillings, plus tax, which was $2.40.
The Rev. John Godfred Arends, a native of Germany, was the first Lutheran Minister to be ordained in North Carolina. Rev. Arends, the first pastor of this church, served from 1785 to about 1807. In May 1803 Rev. Arends was elected the first President of the NC Synod.
In 1819 the original log church was carried up a second story, a gallery built, and the exterior weather boarded. In 1827 a steeple and bell was added, and three years later the exterior painted white; hence its name: Old White Church.
Though no regular pastor served Emmanuel from about 1830 until 1890, records show the laymen kept the building and attended services when a pastor was available. Some joined other denominations, which were organized or met in the Old White Church.
On Saturday, December 23, 1893, the Old White Church went up in flames. This was a very disappointing Christmas to the members. It is said that the walls swayed from the heat and the wind, the old bell tower tolled a heart rendering cry. The fire started from an unknown origin.
About 1894, Rev. J.F. Moser was responsible for planning the new church on the site of the Old White Church. The new structure was brick instead of logs and wood and cost about $2,500. The present congregation was organized with fourteen members.
In 1900 Lincolnton began to take on new life with industries, businesses and new citizens to Lincolnton. Many Lutherans came to town. Rev. W. P. Cline served as Pastor from March 1900 until 1903. He was followed by Rev. R. A. Yoder
The church became too small and the church was enlarged in 1910. Rev Yoder’s career ended in 1911 by his sudden death. He was followed by Rev. Enoch Hite.
After much growth the congregation decided to build a new church. A lot diagonally across the street was secured to build the new church. Just as the congregation was building the United States entered World War I – it was the wish of our government that all building, not absolutely necessary, be discontinued. At this time, Rev. Hite tendered his resignation. He was followed by Rev. W. J. Roof in September 1918. The signing of the Armistice Nov. 11 ended the great conflict and the building of the new church resumed. The building was dedicated in October 1920. The cost of the new building and all the furnishings amounted to $65,000. Rev. Roof resigned in 1923 and was followed by Rev. V. C. Ridenhour.
In 1924 a new parsonage with modern conveniences was erected on East Main St. at the cost of $15,111. And the old parsonage was sold for $6,000. This building is the 2 story brick house near the Lincoln Cultural Center.
Rev. Ridenhour resigned in 1930 and was followed by Rev. V. R. Cromer, who served as pastor of Emmanuel until 1936. The Rev. Luther A. Thomas was called as pastor.
In 1942 an Education Building was finalized at the cost of $15,000. Pastor Thomas resigned in 1945 and Rev. A, H. Keck served until 1948. Rev. H. A. McCullough became pastor.
In 1954 a chapel and addition to the Educational Building was built at the cost of $47,911. Pastor McCullough resigned in 1959 and retired Pastor Thomas served as pastor until a new pastor was secured. Fred M. Ramseur, Jr. was called in March 1960 and was pastor when renovations were made to restore and beautify the church at the cost of $40,000. As of June 1960, Emmanuel had 811 members and by 1963 Emmanuel had 912 members.
Pastor Ramseur resigned June 31, 1964 and was followed by Dr. J. Schoenberg Setzer. He resigned June 15, 1967 and Rev. Ralph J. Wallace was called in July.
Following Rev. Wallace were: The Reverends David Herberson, Terry Agner, Jeff Cloninger, Mark Coulter, Gary Dittman, Michael Weaver, Kim Trabold and Michael Collins.
Some additional items:
In 1960 a hand carved wood bas-relief sculpture showing John baptizing Jesus was installed in the Sanctuary. Gifted by Dr. and Mrs. John Gamble.
In the 1970’s the first use of banners in the church began the first Sunday in Advent
1971 Live Nativity Scene started on front lawn of the church.
1979 Hand Bell Choir started.
1981 Construction of Lutherhaus, 30 apartments for the elderly. This is off Laurel Street
1995 Renewing the Vision approved for a new additional
1996 Church and cemetery listed on National Registry of Historic Places
1997 Renovations completed and new building dedicated and named the North Addition
We have added this wonderful Faith Building, spear headed by Emily Robinson.
A Columbarium was finally realized and given by the Moser Family, and again, Emily helped in the planning.
Stained Glass Windows were removed and reconstructed. This was completed in 2022.
Emmanuel continues to grow spiritually by assisting others. Such as starting the homeless shelter at Emmanuel and now they have a permanent site. Helping with the soup kitchen and supplies for the needy, Habitat for Humanity, Quilting for Lutheran World Relief and knitting and crocheting lap blankets for shut ins.