About / History
In 1866, a group of Brethren pioneers from the Arnold's Grove Church of Carroll County, Illinois, arrived in Melrose Township, Grundy Center, Iowa. Others joined them in the spring of 1867. In September of that year, nineteen members met with Elder John Murray of the Iowa River Church and organized the Grundy County German Baptist Brethren Church. Following the organization, a love feast was held with about thirty-five or forty communicants present. The meeting was held in a shed covered with wild hay and corn fodder on the Daniel Sheller farm. This shed served as the meeting place for a number of years.
In 1868, H. P. Strickler was advanced to the full ministry and placed in charge of the church. He served until moving away in 1889. Others in the free ministry at this time were Jacob Shirk, Smith Artz, Paul Wetzel, Charles Garner, C. Frederick, William Albright, John Albright, Linnaeus Miller, John Cakerice, and Silas Gilbert.
In 1876, the Ivester church house was built one and one-half miles south of the Sheller homestead at a cost of $2,200. The ground was donated by Louis Hess. There was steady progress in various ways. A Sunday School was organized in 1877, with six classes held in one room. Church membership was growing. From the time of organization to 1879, additions to the church by baptism averaged about seven yearly. By 1900, the church reported a membership of 150. Undoubtedly, a factor responsible for this growth was the holding of services in other places such as Felix, No. 4, and Grundy Center. There is also evidence that services were held at the Delps schoolhouse and at Liscomb. Evangelistic services also played a part in this growth.
The first Ladies Aid was organized about 1895 under the leadership of Lizzie Moore. They met in homes for all-day meetings, tying comforters, piecing and quilting quilts, and sewing carpet rags. In 1937, they organized into the Women's Fellowship and enlarged their scope of activity in keeping with the national organization and its goals. Meetings were held every two weeks and their work reached into local, district, national, and foreign needs.
Church records from the early period list five members who were elected into the ministry. Two were chosen in the years from 1915 to 1920. From 1940 to 1954, six persons were elected.
Difficulty in securing a minister on partial support led to the hiring of I. W. Brubaker of Prairie City on a full-time basis in 1911. In 1912, a new church building was constructed. The committee was J. P. Doak, A. G. Messer, and D. I. Meyers. The church was dedicated September 29, followed by a week of evangelistic services led by Galen Royer. Fifty-four members were added to the church.
Clarence Shrock was asked to assume the pastorate of the church in Grundy Center in 1914, but a year later it was decided to dispose of that meetinghouse and use the funds to improve facilities at the Ivester Church. In 1919, the property was sold.
In 1916, D. W. Shrock became pastor of the Ivester Church, moving into the parsonage built two years previously. He remained three years. Pastors who followed him were D. H. Keller, 1919-1922; I. D. Leatherman, 1922-1929; D. C. Gnagy, 1929-1933; Earl Frantz, 1933-1943; William Luckett, 1943-1946; Howard Keim, 1946-1948; Walter Heisey, 1948-1952; Charles Albin, 1952-1966; John Ditmars, 1966-1973; and the present pastor, Alan Kieffaber, 1973 until his employment at Bethany Seminary in 1977. Arlin Claassen served from 1978-1984. Co-pastors Phil and Louise (Louie) Rieman, served from 1985-1992. Damon and Sue Wagner Fields served from 1993-1995. During the sunmer of 1976 Al Miller, Bethany student, assisted in the pastorate. Interim pastors for these years included Herb Thomas 1977-78; Raymon Eller, 1984-85; Don Yungclas, part-time in the spring of 1996; and Marlene Neher, 1992-93 and 1995-96. Marlene served as associate pastor, 1994-1995 and 1996. Native son, Tim Button-Harrison was called by the congregation to become its pastor in the fall of 1996 and Mary Jane Button-Harrison joined as co-paster later. In 2012, the husband-wife team of Parker Thompson and Katie Shaw Thompson became pastors of the Ivester congregation.
Men's work was organized about 1945. The men engaged in such projects as Heifers for Relief, Pine Lake Camp improvement, repair of parsonage, and other needful church improvements. From 1951-1954, they farmed land to raise funds for special projects.
In 1955, the Ivester Church was the recipient of an Award of Merit Certificate from Iowa State College in recognition of service to the community.
From this congregation went out several missionaries: Harlan and Frances Sheller Smith to the China Mission field in 1919, the church assuming their support; Hazel Messer as a missionary nurse to India in 1931; Dorris Murdock Blough with her husband, Dr. Marvin Blough to Nigeria, Africa, 1954. In 1946, Lyle Albright and his wife went to Africa on a short-term service.
Proximity to Pine Lake Camp has involved the members in a variety of ways. Since 1945, adults, youth, and children have shared in camp experiences as leaders or attendants.
In 1950, the Ivester Church was remodeled and rededicated. In 1965, the new educational unit was completed and dedicated. In 1967, the church Centennial was celebrated. David Albright, whose church home was Ivester, returned to deliver the sermon.
The service and influence of the Ivester Church from its beginning to the present time has been far-reaching and cannot be adequately assessed, but the church continues to fulfill an active leadership role in the community. The future looks encouraging with many young dedicated parents and many children in the congregation. The church had a Lay Witness weekend in February, 1975. Many members have become interested and involved in outreach and the "greater church" on the district and Brotherhood level. There is renewed interest in small group study and prayer groups. All gives evidence of a live church.
The Ivester Church of the Brethren is a diverse congregation that continues its efforts to be faithful to its calling and mission. Persons of several cultures, races and lifestyles work together to be God's people and to care for one another. It includes families with adopted children - some from other cultures and races; families with foster children - some hard to place; families hosti4gexchange students. Just in the last ten years members of the congregation have been involved in service projects in Ecuador, Nigeria, Kenya, Sudan, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Estonia. The church has given sanctuary to refugees from Honduras and El Salvador and has assisted refugee families from Iraq and Kosovar. In 1989 the church hosted a group of foreign visitors to Iowa that included Bishop Alexander Timafeev from Russia, WCC General Secretary Konrad Raiser of Canada and Dora Browne of Barbados.
The congregation has a good record of financial giving which has made it possible to include many outreach programs in its budget as well as at home programs. The buildings and grounds have been kept in good repair.
An active deacons group and many others take responsibility for care giving of members of the congregation and people in the community.
Members of the Ivester congregation have been involved in many aspects of the Northern Plains District and the denomination. They continue to give strong support to Camp Pine Lake, McPherson College, and Bethany Theological Seminary. Two have served on the McPherson College Trustee Board. Several have served on District Board, Camp Pine Lake board and other committees. Three women have served as District Moderator: Velva Butler in 1982; Marlene Neher in 1995; and Wanda Button in 2000. Pearl Miller served as clerk for District Conference and District Board. Wanda Button, 1978-83 and Marlene Neher, 1986-91 were members of the General Board. Marlene Neher, 1997-1999 and Tim Button-Harrison, 2000-2002 served on Standing Committee.
Four members of the congregation have participated in the Three Year Reading Program; Marlene Neher graduated from Training in Ministry (TRIM); and Lois Grove is now a TRIM student. During the past twenty years five persons have been licensed and three ordained to ministry.
The Ivester congregation has continued its long time interest and activity in peace and justice issues. They had an active Parish Volunteer Service group, supported the Rocky Flats Protest and endorsed the Nuclear Weapons Freeze in the 1970's; sponsored a Farm Support Group in the 1980s, and had several train and participate in Cooperative Disaster Child Care, and declared they would give sanctuary to Central American Refugees in the 1980's. They have continued long time support of CROP and disaster relief. Many are involved in community service and health organizations, including Hospice.
In the mid 1980-'s nearly half of the active members of the church were involved in the production of a musical, "Alice in Blunderland." The production, which spoke to the issue of nuclear dangers, was presented 34 times to churches and communities in Iowa, Missouri and Kansas and to Annual Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Family and fellowship nights, talent shows, community barbecues, Easter egg hunts and vacation Bible school give opportunity for fun times. Several times Marketplace 29AD has been the Vacation Bible School setting.
In 1992 the congregation observed its quasquicentennial (125th anniversary) with a three day celebration that included several family and group reunions. Former pastor Alan Kieffaber was the guest speaker and the five Albright brothers, Wayne, Miles, David, Lyle and Ellis, returned and provided special music.
The mission statement adopted in 2000 states, "Ivester is an open community dedicated to the way of Christ." Members of the congregation continue to strive to carry out the work of Jesus -simply, peacefully, together. There are currently 148 members.