A revision of the original historical sketch written by
Everett Miller and revised by Delores Himmel
The weather was sunny, but moderately cool on May 3, 1953 when the first worship service of Northeast Community Church was held in the auditorium of Northeast High School. However, before that first service could take place significant steps had been accomplished.
In the spring of 1952, the Nebraska Congregational Conference took a survey of the new residential area of north Lincoln. Its purpose was to determine the possible need for a new Protestant church. Since the survey showed northeast Lincoln to be expanding significantly with many individuals and families without a church home, it was determined by the Conference to proceed. Consequently, the Conference Minister, Dr. Arthur Taylor, contacted the Comity Committee of the Lincoln Council of Churches who, upon his request, granted the Nebraska Congregational Conference a comity assignment to organize a new church in the area of 62nd and Adams. Plans were also submitted for building a parsonage at 61st and Adams. Dr. Taylor and Dr. Ira Black of the Board for Homeland Missions proceeded, with a number of interested families who were residents in the immediate area, to organize and carry out a plan for a new congregation. The organizers were blessed by local builders, James and John Strauss, who donated nine acres for the building of a new church at 62nd and Adams. The planners rejoiced over this wonderful, generous gift!
On April 1, 1953, the Rev. Milton Laib, who had been pastor of the Ashland Congregational Church, arrived to initiate the plan following a call extended to him by the Nebraska Conference and the planning committee. This led to the first worship service that spring day in 1953 which was really a joint service with Vine Congregational Church. 180 people attended.
On May 24, 1953 sixty-three persons joined the fellowship and during an evening meeting on that same day Northeast Community Church was officially organized. The fellowship was open for charter members until December 31, 1953 when records showed a membership of 212. The newly formed congregation approved its first budget that yearof $8,400. A Building Committee had been organized. Members were Chris Christensen, Chairperson; Lois Birch, Violet Lytle, Edward Schaffer, James Ralston, Financial Secretary, Guy Birch, Treasurer, and Van Tyler, Jr., Director of Every Member Canvass. Church School classes would be held at Northeast High School until May 15, 1955, when the congregation moved into its new building. Ground had been broken on August 29, 1954. The new building was officially dedicated on May 22, 1955 and consisted of a sanctuary, office, a small fellowship hall, a kitchen and two temporary classrooms at the back of the sanctuary.
On April 1, 1961, the Rev. Milton Laib resigned to accept a new call. Many still, to this day, remember the diligent kindness of this faithful servant whose attention to the congregation and its needs resulted in the development of a new, viable congregation in the northeast Lincoln community. An interim minister, the Rev. Oliver Adams of Crete, served until the Rev. Dwight Snesrud was called to be Northeast's second minister on February 1, 1962. How blessed we are that both Dwight and Cathy Snesrud have returned to Lincoln to join Northeast UCC after serving as a minister in the United Church of Christ for many, many years.
The Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church voted to merge in 1957 to form the United Church of Christ. The Northeast Community Church voted in 1961 to join the new denomination resulting in a name change to the Northeast United Church of Christ.
In the summer of 1964 a new parsonage was purchased at 2805 Delhay Drive. The original one at 61st and Adams was transformed into a temporary annex for church activities, including Christian Education for children and youth.
As the congregation expanded, so did its needs. Consequently, during an annual meeting in January 1967, the congregation voted to proceed with a study for building an addition to the church. A plan was developed and was accepted in April and May of that same year. John Potts of the Church Advisory Service of the United Church of Christ Board for Homeland Ministries came to direct a capital funds drive. Final plans and contracts for $111,500 were approved in early 1968. The project included the erection of a new addition to include 10 class or activity rooms, a fellowship hall and kitchen, restrooms and a leader's office. The plan also included the remodeling of the original building to provide a lounge-library, pastor's study, secretarial office, workroom, and storage room. A hard surfaced parking was also part of the project. The completed cost was 113,666.
In January 1969, the congregation gave 4 1/2 acres of land north of the church to the city of Lincoln for the building of a new neighborhood recreation center at the cost of $195,000. The grand opening was in April 1970. To this day Easterday Recreation Center provides a variety of recreational and learning activities for children, youth and adults in the northeast Lincoln community.
On July 31, 1971, the Rev. Dwight Snesrud submitted his resignation as he accepted a call to the First Congregational Church, Austin, Minnesota to be its pastor and teacher. His ministry will always be remembered as a time of vast accomplishments, including the erection of a new addition and many other fine programs, including an expanding youth ministry.
The Rev. Steve Evans was called to be Northeast's new pastor effective October 1971. He served faithfully for 7 years and is remembered for many contributions to the life of Northeast including his sensitive pastoral care to those in need. Pastor Evans resigned in August of 1978 to take a position with the Lincoln Fellowship of Churches as its Executive Secretary.
In March of 1979 the Rev. David and the Rev. Jane McMahill were called as Co-Pastors following a search by seven persons appointed by the Church Council. Throughout their tenure of 11 years the McMahills faithfully provided leadership empowering the congregation to pursue many ministries in the community. it was during their pastorate that a new pipe organ was installed and dedicated on May 22, 1983. Their caring concern for many at a time of loss or sickness is still recalled by many with appreciation. In June 1990 they submitted their resignations to accept a call to be ministers at Northfield, Minnesota.
In October 1990, the Rev. David O'Rourke began as Interim Pastor until the Rev. Abby Wilson was called. Pastor Abby began on September 16, 1991 serving until November 12, 1994. During her tenure, the church, among other things, dedicated a stained glass window filled with symbols of the church and its ministry. This stunning piece of art still hangs above the west door to welcome all who enter with its many colors. Pastor Abby provided the needed leadership in planning the celebration of Northeast's 40th anniversary in May of 1993.
The congregation called the Rev. Bob Loffer to be its acting Pastor beginning January of 1995. On April 23, 1995 the congregation, however, voted to extend a call to Rev. Loffer to be its called and installed pastor. Under his leadership, the congregation accomplished many goals. Some results were the formation of a new drama ministry which continues its service to this day, and the formation of a Fund and Fellowship group. This group, still functioning, not only raises finances for the congregation's special needs from time to time, but also provides opportunities for the congregation to have fun and fellowship together like the very first karaoke. During Pastor Loffer's tenure the congregation also decided on a new ministry position, that of a Director of Christian Education. The Rev. Fred Anderson served as its first Minister of Christian Education followed by Pat Young who served until May of 2000. A birding expedition to see the Sandhill Cranes was just one of many activities planned through Pat's creative leadership. She, and other leaders in the church, also instituted a new "workshop" model of Christian education designed to provide active, appropriate learning activities for children and youth.
Rev. Loffer resigned on April 30, 1999 to accept a position as Associate Conference Minister of the Nebraska Conference of the United Church of Christ. The Rev. Diana Coberly served as interim pastor guiding the congregation to further become a church with equal accessibility for all. The Rev. Tom Guenther serving First Congregational UCC of Norfolk at the time, was called. He began his ministry on June 1, 2000 continuing to be Northeast's present pastor. During this time the congregation and its leaders worked with diligence and commitment to create and vote on the following mission statement as a guide for its ministry and growing into the new century:
Northeast United Church of Christ is committed to being an inclusive, loving community of people growing in faith who welcome and receive people of every walk of life in worshiping and serving God.
During the space between Rev. Bob Loffer and Rev. Diana Coberly's ministry, Rev. Clarence Higgins served as one of the church's interim pastors. It is said that Clip's zeal for the Gospel, his love for people, and his ability to articulate the faith provided the right gifts of leadership needed at just the right time.
On November 10, 2002, the congregation gathered in worship to affirm the ministries of the Visual Arts Ministry, the Choir Director, the choir and the organist.
Victoria Reese served as Director of Christian Education from August 2000 through August of 2002 when Georgia Williams began her leadership in this important position in the ministry of Northeast UCC. One of Georgia's goals is to reach out to children and youth in Northeast UCC's immediate neighborhood and to invite them to participate in our many Christian Education Ministries.
Northeast United Church of Christ has a history rich in services and accomplishments. The Women's Fellowship continues to meet, offering its support to the ministry and mission of the church. The Visual Arts Ministry continues to offer its artistic contributions to enhance worship and fellowship. In June 1982 a memorial Rose Garden was dedicated to the loving memory of friends and neighbors of Northeast Church. It continues to offer its beauty not only to the congregants but also to all who pass by each spring and summer day. Roses are often cut during the summer months and taken to the congregation's sick and those unable to leave their homes. In October 1992, a new heating and air conditioning system was installed. At the same time the roof was restructured and new roofing material was installed. The congregation, during its January 2003 annual meeting, voted to provide for a new office, that of Assistant Moderator. It recently created a long-range plan to guide its ministries into the new century. Throughout its history, many weddings, funerals, baptisms, and confirmations have been officiated in the sanctuary as Northeast offers its prayerful and loving support for both the joys and sorrows of all who come through its doors. Many community groups find their home during the week at Northeast UCC including the Girl Scouts, the United Nations Association, the Association of University Women and the Lincoln Scottish Dancers.
This historical reflection would be remiss if it did not acknowledge the many contributions of the pastor's spouses who not only supported their spouses, but also the church by offering, where appropriate, their gifts and talents. We are equally grateful for their role in Northeast's history of ministry.
The future is filled to the brim with new opportunities as we begin once again a new century of attracting new members, both older and younger, into the fellowship of the Northeast United Church of Christ and its ministries for Jesus Christ in today's world. We continue to affirm and celebrate the gifts of time, talent and treasure given by Northeast's members and friends. We are proud that the first 12% of all money given is designated for Our Church's Wider Mission through the Nebraska Conference of the Untied Church of Christ and the national UCC. We celebrate and honor all those lay members who throughout Northeast's history and into the present have given and continue to give not only their time and talent, but also their hearts for the unfolding of God's mission through our congregation.
To the glory of God we celebrate our history as we gather to rejoice with one another during our Golden Jubilee! As we celebrate, we pause with humility to accept our call from God to move forward into a new era of worshipping and serving God.