Lodi-Fairmont Homecoming Celebrates 105 Years
On March 12 and 13, hundreds of people gathered for the Fairmont-Hilborn church homecoming to celebrate 105 years since the first official meeting of a group of German Adventists who established a church in Lodi. That group led to the construction of the Hilborn church in 1922. The homecoming also celebrated the 50-year anniversary of the current church structure on South Fairmont Avenue.
The weekend began Friday evening when George Knight, Andrews University emeritus professor of church history, gave the first of a three-part series detailing the growth of the Adventist church in North America. Knight also spoke for the worship service and on Sabbath evening.
A highlight of the weekend was the return of several former pastors who reminisced about memories and miracles during their time in Lodi. Edward Koenig, the first pastor of the Fairmont church from 1959-69, spoke Friday evening and was followed at subsequent services by Ralph S. Watts, III, and Ron Carlson.
“I was thrilled to see Elder Koenig and many other former pastors,” said church member Lyda Schimke.
Some who began their membership at Hilborn are still attending members at Fairmont, including the oldest member Edward Ensminger, now 99. Also present was Sadie Jauch, now 103, who began attending at the location on Lodi Avenue before the Hilborn church was built.
“It was a joy to see so many people attending — many I hadn’t seen for a long time,” said long-time member Edgar Mertz.
Jack Gilliland led the Sabbath School program, which began with a traditional song service accompanied by a replica of the Hilborn church orchestra. Henry Niemann brought back memories of the days when services were conducted in German with his harmonica rendition of “Gott ist die Liebe.” Marlene Dollinger Adams, daughter of Pastor J. J. Dollinger, who spearheaded the inception of the Fairmont church, shared memories of the 1950s. And a plaque was presented to Nancy Axt Creiter, whose father Art Axt died accidentally during the construction of the church.
Overall homecoming coordinator Effie Reiswig and Fairmont Senior Pastor Bill McVay introduced the worship service, followed by a welcome and roll call led by past and current Fairmont senior pastors. After church, Ken and Diane Heffel and friends hosted a meal for more than 600 in the church fellowship hall.
The weekend’s music coordinator, Marilyn Kiesz-Carr, provided opportunities for members to enjoy a number of musical selections during the homecoming, including a Sabbath afternoon concert, which featured the Wedgewood Trio.
McVay summed up the feelings of many: “This weekend was a wonderful time of fellowship and renewing of acquaintances as a reminder of our unique calling and destiny as Seventh-day Adventists actively watching for the coming of our Lord.”