Early settlers in the vicinity of Elma who subscribed to the Lutheran Confession of faith had been served with Word and Sacraments by pastors coming from neighboring counties. One of the first Lutheran preachers of German descent, who looked after these German Lutherans, was the Reverend Edward Wachtel, of New Hampton. Following the advent of the railroad, the Reverend Theo. Haendschke, of Sumner, came up to preach both at Elma and Riceville.
St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran Congregation – Evangelische Lutherische St. Petri Gemeinde – was organized on March 2, 1889, when a number of Lutherans met in the home of the sainted Mr. William Unger and organized the present congregation, with the counsel of the Rev. Haendschke. A constitution was presented by the Pastor, unanimously adopted, and signed by all the charter members.
On March 30, 1889, lots were purchased, and the so-called Union Church was moved from Busti to Elma, wherein services were to be held.
Having a church home, the next desire was to have their own pastor. This was made possible by joining the two parishes, Riceville and Elma, and serving them from Elma. The Reverend Karl E.J. Schmidt, a Candidate of Theology, was called on May 15, 1889, and on July 7, his acceptance was received. His ordination and installation took place on August 18, 1889, with the Rev. Haendschke officiating. Still in the same year, work was begun on a parsonage next to the church, which was completed the year following.
In 1907, the congregation at Riceville became self-supporting, and thereafter the pastor of Elma had only one congregation to serve.
Following several other pastors, the Reverend F. Bonovsky was installed on May 23, 1915. During his pastorate, a bell was placed in the belfry and first rung at Confirmation on April 1, 1917. Various improvements were made to the church building and the parsonage. It was under the care of the Rev. Bonovsky that English services and instruction classes were introduced. Also during his tenure, the congregation was received into membership in The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.
St. Peter Lutheran Church has weathered many good days and bad, suffering many a sea change and enjoying many good years under the leadership of capable pastors and vicars. Thankfully, the Ministry of the Word and Sacraments has never lapsed in her history.
In May of 2010, a call was extended to Ryan McDermott, a Candidate for Ordination from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN, who accepted the call to become the pastor of St. Peter Lutheran Church. The Rev. McDermott was ordained and installed on Sunday, June 20, 2010, with the Reverend President Brian Saunders officiating and the Reverend David Kind preaching.
By God’s grace alone, the ministry continues in this place, where His saints are gathered to hear His Word and receive His Gifts. We pray that He will forever preserve the Holy Gospel proclaimed to His people, and guide our hearts and hands to do His will in love.