Tag Archives: church

Rudy Schmidt & Time Capsules

This evening, I arrived at church for mens’ chorus practice. I was surprised to see this sign on the door:

Rudy Schmidt died rather unexpectedly, but peacefully on Wednesday morning at his home….

One of the benefits of living in a small community is that I get to know people of all ages around here. Not just people my own age, or coworkers. A few years ago, I worked on a history project for our church’s centennial.

Back in the 1960s, Rudy was one of the people in charge of building our current church. So he was a person I was interested in visiting with.

Here he is, on the left, during the 1964 groundbreaking ceremony for the new building (the old one is visible in the background).

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I and a few others went to his home one time a few years ago and we had a wonderful evening. Rudy shared all sorts of stories with us — which I am happy to say I recorded. But moreover, Rudy was an avid photographer. There were some rare and brilliant color slides of the church being built in his collection. He let me borrow and scan some of them. Here are my two favorites:

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Back in 1965, there was a ceremony at the setting of the cornerstone of Tabor Church. The people at the time assembled some papers and memorabilia and put them in a time capsule. Rudy Schmidt sealed the capsule and it was placed in the spot for it behind the cornerstone. Here is a photo of that ceremony.

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44 years later, on the occasion of Tabor’s centennial, it was time to open the time capsule. The other building committee people, such as Jake Koehn, had passed away, so Rudy was the one to open it. He gave a few words in front of the large crowd, and mentioned that when he sealed it away, he smelled some smoke when he soldered it shut. Jake Koehn told him, “Don’t worry, nobody will ever see it again anyway” and they had a little laugh about it. Now he was going to open it up and see if anything survived.


It all did — just a few minor burn marks. We enjoyed looking at all the items. Then the church placed some new items into the capsule. It was closed up again, to be opened in maybe 50 years.

With luck, I’ll still be around to see it opened again. Even if I’m not, maybe Jacob and Oliver will be able to. And so it seems very fitting that the last hands to touch that box for the next 50 years were Rudy Schmidt’s, when he placed it back in its spot on Oct. 12, 2008.


One Hundred

Today, as I was riding my bicycle home from work, I noticed that the road maintainer had been by on the dirt and sand roads near our house. Unfortunately for me, he left a few sections of road with deep sand, and I almost wiped out several times. I ride a bike with narrow road tires that doesn’t deal well with that.

But I’m not the first one to have a problem with roads.

A hundred years ago, the “brethren to the south” were having trouble getting to the community’s main church, Alexanderwohl. Back in the days before paved roads, or heavy road-maintaining machinery, it took time and endurance to travel the distance even on good roads. A group of them started holding weekly Sunday Schools in local schoolhouses. Eventually, after much discussion, they decided to build a church, and it was completed in 1908 — Tabor Mennonite, more than 4 miles from Alexanderwohl!

Tabor thrived over the years, though not without difficulty. Everything from how to shelter members’ horses during services to what do to about the weighty social and political issues of the day were discussed and documented in church minutes. The church sent people out as missionaries, planted new churches, and supported several young pastors just starting out. In 1938, they expanded their building, and in 1965, replaced it entirely.

Tonight our weekend of centennial festivities began. It started with a prelude played on the church’s first organ — now about 90 years old if memory serves. Its current owner was tracked down, it was brought to the church, and still sounds wonderful. Tomorrow we will have music and activities outdoors under a tent, and all our living former pastors will be around, with a drama and meal in the evening. Then on Sunday, the big day with singing choirs (and a work commissioned for this occasion), each former pastor giving a short (we hope) message, a potluck (of course!), and the opening of the cornerstone.

It’s been 6 years in the planning. I’ve spent the last couple of years collecting photos and other material for the archives and for the coffee table-style book we published for the centennial, and others have put in lots of hours too.

Sunday’s worship service will conclude with singing the “Mennonite Anthem“, also known as “606” from its number in an old hymnal. It will be a capella as is tradition for this piece. (Click for MP3 of a small choir singing it) It will be loud and beautiful, hundreds of voices joining in, a fitting way to mark this occasion.

What a wonderful thing we have been left by those that came before. And still, a responsibility for us as we look to the future. Rural churches are disappearing, and while Tabor is the rare rural church that is growing, still we hope that its location at the corner of two mostly dirt roads 4 miles from the nearest town (population 600) will not get in the way in years to come.

At the end of the events tonight, we were reminded of the favorite Bible verse of Rev. P. H. Richert, first pastor of Tabor, who served as pastor for almost 40 years:

the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.

(Isaiah 2:2)

Somehow it seems improbable that dirt roads led to all this.