|The Church of Peace was organized by 30 men on January 10, 1876. These men had withdrawn from the St. Michael's Evangelical Lutheran Church, which was located 1/3 mile east of our church. St. Michael's had been formed in 1868 to serve the German speaking people who farmed northeast of Kewanee. Unfortunately, there had been constant disunity in the church over the method of confirmation and the fact that many of the members were French Huguenots. The French Huguenots were Protestants who fled France in the 1500's-1600's and settled in Germany. While they had adopted the German language and culture, they were discriminated against by the “pure” Germans.
By January 24, 1876, all of the French Huguenots in Kewanee and Neponset Townships had pulled out of St. Michael's and formed the German United Evangelical Peace Church (later known as the Church of Peace). St. Michael's continued to operate until 1913, when it merged to form the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Kewanee. The St. Michael's Church was sold and torn down. Today, only the small cemetery remains.
Meanwhile, the new congregation purchased an acre of land and built a new church. It was dedicated on May 28, 1876. All of the services were conducted in German.
Pastors were shared with St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Kewanee until 1882, and then with St. Peter's Evangelical in Kewanee until 1903. At that time, the congregation decided to hire a full-time minister. In 1904, an acre of land was purchased on the four-corners east of the church and the Parsonage was built. It served as the home of the full-time pastors until 1985.
In 1906, the congregation built a school just west of the Parsonage for religious instruction. Children attended the “Brandenburg School” during or after the 7th and/or 8th grade years. It was a two year school and offerred the academic courses as well as preparation for Confirmation. All the instruction was in German. It continued to operate until after World War I. It was used for meetings and Sunday School classes until 1940 when it was sold and moved to a nearby farm where it still stands.
Services were all done in German. However, by World War I there was a lot of pressure from the younger generation to phase in the use of English. In 1917, one service each month was done in English. By 1923, the number of services were evenly divided between the two languages. In 1932, the German service was reduced to one every three weeks. At about the same time, the Constitution and the church records were translated over to English. In 1942, with the U.S. fighting Germany in World War II, the German services were dropped altogether.
While the church has never switched denominations, the denominations themselves have undergone major changes. Originally, the congregation was part of the German Evangelical Synod of North America. In 1934, that merged with the Reformed Church of the United States to form the Evangelical and Reformed (“E & R”) Church. In 1957, the E & R Church merged with the Congregational-Christian denomination to form the United Church of Christ (UCC). The congregation belongs to all of the regional organizations of the UCC, which includes the Quad Cities Mission Council, the Western Association, and the Illinois Conference. It also belongs to the Kewanee Church Fellowship.
The Church of Peace has several organizations for its members. The oldest is, ironically, the Youth Fellowship. The YF was originally formed in the 1880's as the Young People's Society. Although small, the church is proud of the contributions made by its teenagers, both in church and in the community.
In 1906, the United Women was formed. After 1917, the group became known as the Ladies Aid, and then in 1943 it took the current name of Women's Guild. In 1945, the Guild formed three circles to add to the spiritual and social lives of the members. Two of these circles, the Lydia and Ruth, still meet.
In 1927, the Men's Club was founded. In 1934, the name was changed to the Churchmen's Brotherhood.
In 1956, the numerous young adults in the church formed the Peacemakers. Not only was it a social organization, but it helped organize activities for the children of the church, like the church picnic, and helped build up the Sunday School program. Even with most of their children out of Sunday School and fully grown, the Peacemakers continues to meet and help out the church whenever they can.
The Sunday School was formed very early in the church's history, but little is known about the early days. The program spans from a nursery class (age 3 to 4), through high school. An adult class also meets.