Fire and water: Valmeyer church celebrates milestone - Republic-Times | News

Fire and water: Valmeyer church celebrates milestone

By on October 31, 2012 at 10:06 am

Pictured, from left, Pastor David Riebeling, David Feldker, Vince Mehrtens, Diana Barmann and Tammy Duffy perform a burning of the mortgage at St. John’s UCC in new Valmeyer on Sunday. (Teryn Schaefer photo)

One hundred years ago, what is now St. John’s United Church of Christ built its first church building in the old part of Valmeyer.

Sunday, the church celebrated the paying off of its mortgage for the current church building in new Valmeyer, which was constructed following the Flood of 1993.

During a mortgage burning ceremony on Sunday, many church members reflected on the church’s journey over the past 17 years to rebuild what was lost after the flood.

“The entire church family made this happen,” said former consistory president Diana Barmann. “We have left a legacy for our children.”

“Back when we first started, I don’t think any of us thought we’d see the day that it was all completely paid off,” current St. John UCC Pastor David Riebeling said.

The beginnings of the congregation reflect its journey. Although the first church was built in 1912 and held its first service on Oct. 20, the congregation was formed five years before and floated around to different meeting places, determined to hold services as the first organized Evangelical congregation shortly after Valmeyer was founded.

From then on, the church has survived many changes and hurdles, including the ’93 flood that took the church building built in 1966. Pastor Riebeling sites the determination of the planning committee for making the current church building possible, breaking ground just three years after the flood wiped away their homes.

“Just what it takes to put a whole town together, putting the bits and pieces of their lives back together and the town and things such as churches… it’s quite a feat to take on and complete,” Riebeling explained. “Many of these people that were on the planning committee, their houses were gone,” current consistory president Vince Mehrtens said. “They were working to get themselves a new home and a new church.”

But not all was lost. The congregation stayed together and held services in the basement of the Monroe County Nursing Home in Waterloo. They were also able to salvage some of the old church building.

“In so many ways, this (new church) reminds us of the old building,” Riebeling said to the congregation on Sunday.

Lanterns that hang in the church are remnants of what was in the old building. The wood cross that currently hangs above the congregation bares its original watermarks from the floodwaters.

“We thought we’d hang it high enough as to it wouldn’t get wet again,” Riebeling said and laughed.

Years of fundraising through golf tournaments, annual apple butter making, Lenten fish fries, chicken dinners and fall church picnics have helped earn money to pay off the current building.

“None of us had built a church,” Barmann said. “It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.”

Mehrtens also says it was the dedication of Pastor Riebeling, who has been with the church for almost 25 years. According to Mehrtens, when Riebeling celebrated his wedding anniversary just a short while ago, the pastor asked that people should not bring gifts, but instead donations to help pay off the mortgage.

Three weeks later, the mortgage was paid off.

“I’m proud of what they have done,” Mehrtens said.

But they are not done yet. The church was unable to build things such as a fellowship hall that was included in the first phase of construction plans but taken out due to lack of funds. Mehrtens says the church hopes to add these extra pieces in the future.

St. John also dedicated a white cross in the courtyard on Sunday. The white cross comes from the old education building that was completely underwater during the flood and was cut off the building in 1994 before it was demolished. The cross has since been refinished and now stands as a symbolic piece from the old church.

For more information on the church, visit

Teryn Schaefer

Teryn was born and raised in Waterloo, growing up watching local sports and Mon-Clair baseball. She is a graduate of the University of Missouri Journalism School and loves cheering on her Tigers any chance she gets.