The Lutheran Church held little hope for Trinity Lutheran Church when it opened its doors in the southeast part of Springfield in 1913.
For 14 of its first 16 years, the only pastors the church could get were theology students from Wittenberg University.
When the Rev. Daniel Jacob Uhlman — a blind man who became known as “the blind shepherd” — finally arrived in 1929, he gave his first sermon to an audience of seven people.
Now, Trinity is preparing to celebrate its 100th anniversary.
“It’s not about me,” the Rev. Roger A. Herrig, Trinity’s current pastor, said. “It’s about a church’s dedication to the glory of God, and that’s why we’re here.”
With a membership these days of about 190, the church at Sunset and Belmont avenues attracts people because of an “honest to goodness love and concern for one another,” Herrig said.
The morning service on April 28 will commemorate Trinity’s first century. Bishop John Bradosky, bishop of the North American Lutheran Church and a graduate of Wittenberg’s now-defunct Hamma School of Theology, will offer the day’s sermon and preside at communion.
The church’s current pastor, the 66-year-old Herrig, came from the church’s ranks, having joined as a member in 1970. A graduate of North High School and Wittenberg University, Herrig came back to lead his home church in 2007.
“I’m more than likely going to retire from this place,” he said.
Pastor Uhlman, “the blind shepherd” who was a 1921 graduate of Hamma, was able to grow Trinity from its 23 charter members to a membership of 225 before he died in 1952.
The church embraced the times in 1965 with the construction of a new sanctuary that remains a unique local example of Mid-Century Modernism.
“It was a design everybody looked at and said, ‘Let’s go with it,’” Herrig said. “We have one of the most attractive sanctuaries for worship in the community.”
But getting through the next 100 years could be the greatest challenge yet for Trinity.
“Like all mainline Christian churches, we’re all struggling with the fact that more people say they don’t need the church,” Herrig said. “We are a nation that has lost its moral and ethical compass.”