Among the early settlers of Manchester, Iowa and surrounding Delaware County were many people of German ancestry. Many of them were practicing Lutheran Christians. Although itinerant pastors did preaching and ministering to these Lutherans, there was no organized congregation before 1891.
In 1891, at the request of a group of local Lutherans, Professor F. Fritschle, D.D., president of Wartburg Theological Seminary of Dubuque, sent Pastor Oscar Foedische to Manchester to organize a congregation. He made a good start but his work was abruptly ended by his untimely death the same year.
The following year, 1892, the Friedensgemeinde at Ryan, Iowa, ten miles south of Manchester, called Pastor Eugene Melchert, a graduate of the Dubuque Seminary. He began serving the Manchester Lutherans at the same time, conducting services on Sunday afternoons in other local church buildings. Although he preached and administered the sacraments continuously until Dec. 28, 1919, no formal congregation was organized until 1920.
Under the guidance of Pastor Emil H. Rausch, President of the Iowa District, of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Iowa and other States, the Manchester Lutherans prayerfully decided that they were strong enough in numbers, in finances and in faith to be a self-supporting congregation with a resident pastor and their own church property. Articles of Incorporation were written on January 17, 1920.
The first constitution was written in both German and English. A dedication service was held on August 8, 1920, in German in the morning and in English in the afternoon.
Pastor Julius Moehl was called to be pastor of the new congregation. The call was issued May 12, 1920. He served until April 27, 1921. From December of 1930 to May 1937, the congregations at Earlville and Manchester shared the same pastor.
The church was founded in January of 1920. By the summer of that same year, a house at 401 East Delaware Street was purchased to serve as a parsonage. Also, lots 102 and 103 at the corner of East Fayette and Brewer Streets were purchased. A stucco bungalow was built on the western portion of this property to serve as a chapel. It was to be converted to a parsonage after a permanent church could be built.
In May of 1931, Pastor W.A. Adix came from Caldwell, Texas to answer the call as pastor to the two congregations. Pastor Adix ‘s tenure of over twenty-five years had a lasting effect on shaping the future of the struggling church. In 1937, the Manchester congregation saw the need for a full time pastor. The joint pastoring with Earlville was ended.
By mid-1937, financial conditions and congregation size had improved enough to consider a permanent church building. On July 11, 1937 a building committee was elected to explore the feasibility and to develop preliminary plans for the new building. Once decided upon, progress was rapid. A building proposal was approved in January of 1938. By January 1939, adequate funds were pledged. An architect, Thorwald Thorsen of Forest City, was hired. Construction contracts were signed April 17, 1939 and the contractor started work on May 19, 1939. The cornerstone laying ceremony was held on May 14, 1939. The church dedication service was held on October 22, 1939.
The church continued to grow after completion of the new building. In 1945 the congregation celebrated the 25th anniversary with a special service on October 21st. A pipe organ, costing five thousand dollars ($5,000), was dedicated on April 20, 1947. By 1949, the congregation had increased in size enough to warrant two services every Sunday. An educational wing was added to the church in 1953 with a dedication service on May 10th of that year. Also in 1953, on June 7th, the congregation’s first “son” Jack Rohde was ordained at the church. The 20th anniversary of the church building was celebrated on October 18, 1959. Also in 1959, two more “sons of the congregation” were ordained, Ted Ager on May 31st, and Robert Adix on July 26th. Robert’s brother, William Adix soon followed with an ordination service on January 3, 1960. In the early 1960’s the congregation was active in establishing a Luther Bible Camp, “Camp Ewalu” near Strawberry Point in 1960, and in starting the promotion for a local nursing home. The “Good Neighbor Home" was dedicated on June 23, 1963. In 1964 a “Parish Plan” was instituted combining the Lutheran churches in Earlville and Delaware with Manchester as a parish. A second pastor was hired to serve Earlville and Delaware and to assist at Manchester. In the 60’s, the growth of numbers and activities crowded the facilities. A new educational unit addition was dedicated on April 13, 1969. In 1970, the congregation celebrated its 50th anniversary.
On January 1, 1975, First Lutheran of Manchester withdrew from parish pastorate with Earlville and Delaware. In 1977 a new parsonage, at 105 Marshall Court, was purchased. The old parsonage (and first church) was sold at auction and moved away. In 1983 a new constitution was adopted. One of the main changes it provided was the elimination of the three deacons and three trustees from the church council. They were replaced by eight directors. Each director was to be responsible for a specific area of church activity. A second parsonage, at 836 East Fayette Street was purchased in 1985.
A program was started in 1989 to utilize seminary students as interns to the pastor. Nine students were so employed until the program ended in 1999.
Rod Meyer, a “son” of the congregation was ordained on August 27, 1989.
Also in 1989, the congregation celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the church building. The October 15th ceremony was also the groundbreaking for an ambitious new building project to improve the main entrance to the church. This would provide an entryway with room to hang coats and hold fellowship after services. It also would have an elevator for handicapped access to all levels and a porte-cochere to provide shelter from the elements while loading and unloading cars. The work was completed and the dedication ceremony was held on May 20, 1990.
A new pipe organ was purchased and installed in 1994. It was dedicated on April 13th.
On August 20, 1995, the 75th Anniversary of the church was celebrated. An open-air service with communion was held at the band shell in Tirrill Park with Ruth Ehrhardt, a former missionary nurse in Liberia, as the guest preacher. The service was followed with fellowship and a potluck lunch at the Community Center at the fairgrounds.
First Lutheran voted to leave its affiliation with the ELCA in 2013 and join the NALC (North American Lutheran Church). First Lutheran is currently served by the Reverend Tony D. Ede as Senior Pastor.