A Church Called Emmanuel

I have vacated the pulpit for the last two weeks to make time for special events and speakers, which is why I’ve had no posts.  (If you’d like to see for yourself, please head to YouTube, EBCSF.) As there have been requests for this script in print, I present here in this space the Readers’ Theater written and performed for the 95th anniversary of the founding of Emmanuel Baptist Church.  This was celebrated on August 7th, 2016.


FIRST:            We are here today to commemorate and celebrate the 95th

anniversary of the founding of Emmanuel  Baptist Church.  It was on August 7, 1921 that Emmanuel Baptist Church began.


SECOND:       Pardon me, but I beg to differ.  While it is true that August 7 was the

first meeting at which we assumed that name, it can also be truly said that this church began eight years previously, when I commenced work as a missionary in this field.


FIRST:            The voice of Miss Helen Tenhaven, folks.  Helen, what brought you to

the east side of Sioux Falls?


SECOND:      You may call me Miss Tenhaven, sir.  I do not know you so well as to

be on a first name basis.  (Pause.)  It was a train that brought me to Sioux Falls, but the Lord who led me here.  We convened and organized a church to make Christ known on the east side of this city.  A great advancement on this cause came when Mr. Astor Blauvelt gave us land upon which our chapel was constructed.


FOURTH:       That’s where I come in.  With the help of the Baptist State

Convention and the First Baptist Church of Sioux Falls, I was constructed on the corner of Second Street and Cliff Avenue.  Though I have been referred to as the “Tar Paper Shack,” I am quick to remind people that I was the first home to Emmanuel Baptist Church.  Without me, where would the church have been?  So show a little respect, please!


THIRD:           It was the “LITTLE Tar Paper Shack” until I came along and expanded

our facility and built a parsonage.


FIRST:                        That is Rev. L.W. Rogers speaking, folks.


THIRD:           I have the honor of being the first pastor to serve at Emmanuel.  God

blessed us so completely that our little chapel was soon too small.  We quickly built an addition and purchased the lot next to us for a parsonage.


FIRST:                        Rev. N.L. Haney came next and Emmanuel continued to grow.  He

was followed by Rev. W.C. Erickson.


THIRD:           I inherited a building too small for our needs, so we broke ground

for a new house of worship on October 29, 1932.  Compared to the “Tarpaper Shack,” our new church home was seen as palatial.


SECOND:       However, the men on the Building Committee did not have the fore-

sight to construct a full basement beneath our meeting-house.  It was not until several of us ladies teaching Sunday School objected to the cramped conditions that a basement was built.  Rev. J.S. Jones was our pastor when this work was done in the latter part of the 1930s.


THIRD:           When I came on the scene in ’41, the church was thriving.  In two

years, we burned the mortgage!  What a day of rejoicing that was!


FIRST:            The mortgage burning was one of the highlights of the ministry of

Rev. R.C. Krushchwitz, who pastored at Emmanuel from 1941 through 1946.  Under the leadership of Rev. Robert Williams, the congregation purchased a meeting-house formerly used by the East Side Lutheran Church.


SECOND:       I remember that.  It was January 1, 1950 when we first moved in.

What a way to start the new year!  Our old building had seen its day and we were ready to move on to a new house of worship.  Outside it was cold, but our hearts were warmed by the excitement of a new gathering place for our growing church family!


FOURTH:       There I sat, on the corner of Austin and Cliff.  I didn’t mind the

change in congregations.  I figured, “Well, if I’m not going to be Lutheran, I might as well be Baptist!”  These new folks came in and worked hard to give me a new look inside and out.  This went well with the new spirit I could sense in the worshipers.  I was happy to become Emmanuel Baptist’s church!


THIRD:           That move occurred under the guidance of Rev. Williams, my

predecessor.  I am Rev. Harold McMullen and served the east side with Emmanuel from 1952 to 1960.  I guess you could say I was a “visionary”  because during my pastorate we purchased the block between 11th and 12th streets, Blauvelt and Mabel avenues.  It would be almost another decade before that property became our new home.


FIRST:                        The lots that make up our current location were paid for during Rev.

H.J. Crandall’s ministry.  But it was Rev. Charles W. Newman who lead the church during the exciting time when our fourth house of worship was constructed.


THIRD:           I pastored here at Emmanuel for nearly 16 years but I can tell you                                that building here on 12th was the great achievement of that time.


FOURTH:       The excavations that signaled the beginning of my construction

might be considered by some as my “birthday.”  But I figure, who wants to have their birthday be April Fool’s Day?  So I prefer to mark my birthday as a building on January 12, 1969; the first day that the congregation held worship services inside me!  I am mighty proud to sit on this hillside, an example of how God’s people can, with His help, turn a vision into a reality.


THIRD:           Following Charlie Newman was no easy task, but I was a man of

considerable personality and made every person feel welcome and valuable.  Like Pastor Newman, Emmanuel Baptist was my last full-time pastorate before retiring.  As I was here on the first Sunday worship, I felt as if Emmanuel and I had enjoyed many happy years together and I kept my ties to the congregation throughout the remainder of my days.


SECOND:       That was Rev. Ballard Blount.  We saw a number of people added to

our membership during his tenure, including 27 in his first year!


FIRST:            Rev. Roger B. McCarty followed, and during his pastorate, the

sanctuary was remodeled.


FOURTH:       You don’t know how good it felt to have my insides fixed up!


FIRST:                        During Rev. Kim Liedtke’s time with us a praise team glorified

God in a contemporary way.


FOURTH:       When Rev. Randy Rasmussen was here, I got my first big facility

improvement in over 40 years.  The Emmanuel Baptist family came together to add an elevator and a new front entrance.  I guess you could say I got a face lift and the people got a lift too!


SECOND:       The elevator makes every part of our building accessible to every

member of our congregation.  It’s an asset to those of us who are just a little less mobile than the rest.  No more having to go outside and around to get to the Fellowship Hall!


FOURTH:       Now, with Pastor Brett Best leading our church, we’ve made all these

improvements to my lower level!  I suppose that new carpets and painted walls in a basement are kind of like a new pair of sandals and a pedicure on a person!


FIRST:                        We’ve been talking about pastors and buildings, but of course,

Emmanuel Baptist Church has always been about her members and the community around her.  Emmanuel is the people who praised in the pews, cooked in the kitchen, taught in the classroom, and walked the neighborhood serving our neighbors.  Emmanuel is…


SECOND:       A little girl in a starched pinafore dress, a pink silk ribbon in her

curly dark hair.


THIRD:           Men sweating in the South Dakota summer, working to build and

to maintain the building.


FOURTH:       Worshipers with heads bowed in prayer or with faces raised in

joyful song.


FIRST:                        We have worn…


SECOND:       Our Sunday best.


THIRD:           Dirty overalls.

FOURTH:       Choir robes.


FIRST:            We have…


SECOND:       A proud past.


THIRD:           A vibrant present.


FOURTH:       A hopeful future.


FIRST:                        We are…


SECOND:       Emmanuel Baptist Church.


THIRD:           Emmanuel Baptist Church.


FOURTH:       Emmanuel Baptist Church.


ALL:                We are together in Christ.


(By Rev. Brett Best, 2016.)

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