History and Future of Emanuel Lutheran Church in Marion, Ohio

Humble Beginnings

For over 100 years, Emanuel Lutheran Church has been faithfully serving Christ and spreading the good news throughout the Marion community and the world. Emanuel had its beginning late in the 19th century as a struggling mission holding services in the basement of a Methodist Church. The first building Emanuel called its own still stands at the northeast corner of South State and Columbia Streets. The cornerstone was laid in 1885 with the building being dedicated a year later. This sanctuary served the congregation of Emanuel until their growth created the need for an even larger church building.

The Current Sanctuary

The cornerstone for our present church building (at 241 South Prospect Street) was laid on May 13, 1917 and the church took two years and two days to complete at a total cost of $73,664.92 (equivalent to over $1.3 million today). The church building is in the form of a cross and the architecture is the pure Gothic type. Windows in the sanctuary are all imported, antique glass; done in the old technique (or 13th century style). All are set in natural stone tracery. Furniture of the sanctuary is built of selected, quarter sawed white oak, elaborately carved in designs true to the Gothic period.

On September 8, 1918, Rev. M.C. Hecht preached the final sermon in the old church followed by a congregational procession to the new church where they sang “Open Now Thy Gates of Beauty.” Rev. A.L. Nicklas delivered the dedicatory sermon at the new church building.

Growth and Outreach

Rev. Martin E. Hollensen (perhaps the most well-known minister in Emanuel’s history) was installed on November 1937 and served the church for over 35 years. At his retirement in 1972, Emanuel’s membership was 3,467 baptized and 2,309 confirmed members.

Many positive changes happened during this time. Just a few include Emanuel’s first live radio broadcast of the Sunday morning 10:30am worship service on 1490 WMRN-AM (1943), construction of a four-floor educational building with offices, a lounge, classrooms, kitchens, and a 200 seat addition to the sanctuary (1953), and communion service provided to shut-ins which was started by Mr. & Mrs. Carl Campbell (1966).

The 80s and 90s saw such milestones as the first Festival In Faith (an annual event bringing hundreds of high school youth from Lutheran churches throughout Ohio to Emanuel for a weekend of worship and fellowship), opening of Emanuel Child Care, and installation and dedication of the Casavant organ.

Today’s Worship and Outreach

Emanuel’s current worship schedule includes weekly Sunday morning services with Sunday School, a weekly Thursday evening praise service, and a monthly (every 4th Sunday) Gentle Worship service. The 8am and 10:30am Traditional service schedule began in 1960 with 9:15am Sunday School .  The 7:00p.m. Thursday evening worship was initiated in 1989. Sunday morning’s 9:15am Contemporary service began in 2000. 2011 brought the beginning of Emanuel’s Gentle Worship service on the 4th Sunday of each month at 1:30pm.   It’s designed for families with individuals challenged by special needs and individuals with a disability preventing them from attending Sunday morning worship.

Emanuel’s 10:30am services continue to be broadcast each Sunday on 1490 WMRN-AM.

Outreach continues in many ways including a food pantry, annual back-to-school neighborhood outreach (with free food, backpacks, school supplies, and more), annual Thanks & Giving dinner (a free Thanksgiving Day meal serving approximately 1500 meals each year) just to name a few.

The Future of Emanuel Lutheran Church

While Emanuel Lutheran Church celebrates a deep history and long tradition, we also continue to keep our eyes focused towards the future. Our mission as children of and ambassadors for God doesn’t have a known end date so we strive to be forward-thinking in how we can reach people with the love of Christ.

When our first sanctuary was built, Emanuel was looking forward. When the congregation made the commitment to build our current sanctuary, Emanuel was looking forward. When we began broadcasting our Sunday morning worship on the radio in 1943 it was very forward-thinking.

Our sanctuary is a beautiful house of worship where both traditional and contemporary styles of worship take place as well as a monthly Gentle Worship designed for those with disabilities making worship accessible and comfortable for everyone. We even offer a Thursday evening Praise Service in our chapel for those unable to join us Sunday mornings. Sunday School is offered every Sunday morning at 9:15am with classes from Pre-K through High School and  adult classes as well.

The work we do, knowledge we gain, and fellowship we enjoy are at the same time part of our past, present, and future. God continues to strengthen us and we try to strengthen each other. While we don’t know the end date, we know the end result – and that’s something to look forward to.

Emanuel still holds true to its mission statement: Emanuel: God with Us ~ Loving Christ, Loving Others