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Mokena’s St. John UCC unveils the contents of two time capsules

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St. John’s United Church of Christ in Mokena commemorated the 100th anniversary of the construction of its building on Sunday by publicly opening a pair of time capsules that were sealed into the cornerstone of the sanctuary.

After a special service for World Communion Day in which three new members of the church were confirmed, the church hosted a reception for members to view the contents of the time capsules and enjoy prepared refreshments by volunteers using recipes compiled in cookbooks published by the church. members dating back to 1970.

“We wanted to make it a day where more people would come and celebrate all generations of church members,” said committee member and church photographer Brenda Guendling.

Planning for the event was a multi-generational effort, with committee members ranging in age from 40 to 91. Dave Kropp and Helen Warning were the oldest members, with Kropp providing family photos of the church building.

Although the church was founded in 1862, the modern building was not constructed until 1922. Early in the construction process, members of the congregation led by Pastor William Kreis assembled a time capsule and the have locked into the cornerstone of the building. The capsule was left untouched until 1987, when, to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the founding of the church, the time capsule was dug up and a second capsule was created to be buried next to it.

Although he knew the capsule was buried in the cornerstone, Centennial Planning Committee Chairman Deeks Carroll said, “We had to find the time capsule without knowing where it was.”

Starting from old files and a crack in the brick, the committee opened the wall of the tower in hopes of finding the time capsules last fall, and arrived empty-handed.

“We tried to open several places in the wall, but to no avail.” Carroll says. “People started joking and calling me Geraldo Rivera.”

The committee eventually enlisted the help of several community members who had been part of the church during the 1987 celebrations. This included committee member Pam Schonwise and her husband, Marc, who brought a metal detector to find where to dig in the masonry, and Jim Vainowski, who built the box used as the 1987 capsule.

After locating the new box with the metal detector in May, it was Vainowski who recalled that the original capsule had been buried underneath and eventually chiselled it.

“It had been covered in mortar,” Carroll explained. “It was like digging King Tut’s grave.”

Reverend Rocky Sheneman and Committee Chairman Deeks Carroll at the centennial celebration.

“We had a bit of an adventure trying to find them,” said Reverend Rocky Sheneman, the church’s pastor. “It never occurred to us to use a metal detector until one of the guys had one and brought it.”

Since the exterior of the 1987 capsule showed signs of water damage, the boxes were quickly opened and committee members Pam Schonwise and Chris Maluta set the contents out to dry. The 1922 box, which was solid copper, was completely unscathed.

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Inside the 1922 capsule were a copy of the Bible and a hymn, several faded black and white photos of congregation members, a set of US coins dating from 1894 to 1922, and a number of old bulletins and documents from Germany. Evangelical Synod.

The 1987 capsule included similar religious materials, religious education curriculum books, several old editions of the Frankfort/Mokena/New Lenox Weekly Southtown Economist, a precursor to the Daily Southtown. The box also contained a church ornament that had been made and sold as part of a fundraiser and a note returned to religious education students in Indiana after a balloon launch celebrating the 125th anniversary.

Dave Krupp and Helen Warning were key members of the Centennial Celebration Committee.

Church member and community historian Matthew Galik and his father have compiled a small book of church history, which also documents the journey to find the time capsules. They were signing copies as a fundraiser at the reception.

“I’ve been interested in community history since I was in middle school,” Galik said. “I knew the anniversary was coming up, so I gathered all my church records and compiled them into the book to tell the story of the building’s birth.”

The committee plans to hold another event or two to display the items for those who were unable to attend the unveiling. They will also continue to meet to work out plans for a third time capsule to be stored again with the others for future generations, although it’s possible the boxes will be placed somewhere inside the church building. itself, instead of the cornerstone.

“There’s not a lot of room in there and the one got water damaged,” Sheneman said. “They could be placed somewhere else this time, but we’ll make sure to make a record and memory of where they are so they’re easier to find.”

Jessie Molloy is a freelance journalist for the Daily Southtown.