It’s hard to conceive that St. Lorenz Lutheran Church, standing today with 175-year historical significance and operating as a true, living link to the very foundation of Frankenmuth itself, began in 1845 as a “hastily erected log cabin, 30X30 feet,” according to Herman F. Zehnder, author of "Teach My People the Truth! The story of Frankenmuth, Michigan.”
“Temporary shelter was provided by a quickly constructed ‘community house’,” according to www.stlorenz.org. “A similar structure served as a church and parsonage … The following June, nearly 100 more immigrants arrived from the Rosstal – Gunzenhausen – Nürnberg area.
The newly expanded congregation began construction of a larger, sturdier ‘church – school – parsonage,’ which was dedicated on Christmas Day 1846.”
The evolution of that structure, named St. Lorenz after the emigrants’ mother church, St. Laurentius in Rosstal, was the culmination of years of courage and bravery, and one steadfast mission.
“Wie Gut Und Schön Es Ist Bei Jesu Sein”
“The original 15 settlers, coming from the province of Middle Franconia, Bavaria, were motivated by the noblest ideals of service to God and Man, and they were willing to leave their relatives and friends, cross an ocean, and endure the hardships of frontier life to carry out these new ideals,” reads “Teach My People The Truth!” “Their objective was to establish a Christian community in the midst of the pagan Chippewa Indians and to share with them the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Or, “wie gut und schön es ist bei Jesu sein”, in German, “how wonderful it is to live with Jesus."
Dan Haubenstricker, co-chair of the St. Lorenz Heritage Committee, says the congregation still has its original record books, dating back to 1845, and “among the first acts of the church recorded are baptisms of Native American children.
”In the same ‘church – school – parsonage’ structure that children were baptized in 1846, “German settlers taught Chippewa children Christianity and English and German,” Haubenstricker says.
A replica of the modest ‘church – school – parsonage’ structure stands today in its original location as a tribute.
ST. LORENZ LUTHERAN CHURCH
St. Lorenz Lutheran Church today looks much different than the settlers’ first structure. Built in 1880, and expanded in 1966, the church still offers a German worship service the second Sunday of each month. Visitors are welcomed to tour the St. Lorenz Church Museum, replica log cabin, cemetery with German language tombstones, and the two church bells brought over by Frankenmuth’s original settlers.
Inside the church, visitors can see the baptismal font and stained glass of the narthex, nave, and apse, which are original. The stained glass throughout the church depicts stories of Christianity and St. Lorenz. One panel in particular displays Pastor August Craemer, the mission colony’s pastor and leader, with a Chippewa tribe chief. The panel is a prominent reminder of the origin, courageous mission, and 175-year historical significance of the beginning of Frankenmuth: St. Lorenz.