Redeemer is part of a denomination which calls itself the United Church of Christ. Founded in 1957, the United Church of Christ also was birthed with a larger vision of unity. For the first time in American history churches with widely different backgrounds came together as a visible sign of unity in Christ.
Our Congregational Church roots go back as far as 1620 to the Pilgrim and Puritan settlers of New England. Our Evangelical and Reformed Church roots originate with the Lutheran and Reformed Churches of German and Swiss Protestantism. Our Christian Church heritage was a homegrown American church movement born shortly after the American Revolution in the southeastern U.S. By our 1957 founding, congregations from many other ethnic and racial backgrounds became part of this new church guided by the prayer of Jesus for his followers, "that they may all be one." (John 17:21)
In the spirit of our heritage we combine a common loyalty to Jesus Christ with respect for the uniqueness of each individual. We share commitment to God, to one another and the world while valuing diversity. In the United Church of Christ each congregation is the basic unit of life and organization. It is free to decide how it will structure itself and minister to its people, the local area and the world. We are a people who live and serve in covenantal relationships with God and one another, free and responsible to live out our faith.
Redeemer United Church of Christ, Town Line Road, Sussex, traces the history of its ministry in the Sussex-Lisbon area back nearly 100 years. Formed in 1968 by the union of Salem Reformed Church, Pumpkin Hollow, Town of Pewaukee, (1871) and the German Evangelical Zion Church of Sussex (1888), the congregation carries an ecumenical vision into the 1980's.
Salem Reformed Church, also known as Pumpkin Hollow Church, was organized in 1871 under the leadership of Rev. E. R. Hinski. Thirteen families made up the membership.
Almost from the beginning of its history, Salem was affiliated with the First Reformed Church of Waukesha. Most of Salem's early members lived within a mile radius of the church. Some of the family names such as Mielenz, Evert, Kloth, Wiedeman, Hall, Freyer, Maile, Andree, and others made up Salem Church. Many of the relatives of these families are members of Redeemer today.
Emma Mielenz used to tell about the church having a door on the north side used only by women and a door on the south side used only by the men. The women also sat on the north side of the church while the men sat on the south side. Church services and Sunday School were in German until 1924.
August Wiedeman was the church janitor for many years. He used to tell how he would go to the church about 9 A.M. in the winter to start the fire in the pot belly stove in the back of the church. He would stay at church until 11 A.M. to make sure the fire would burn alright, then go home and return at 2:30 for church service. The Ladies' Aid of Salem was organized August 11, 1921.
The ladies met in the homes of the members. Salem had a Sunday School, a Churchmen's Brotherhood, youth and young adult groups.
On April 12, 1926, work of remodeling the church was started, led by Ed Evert. A basement, as well as the steeple, were added to the church building, which was completed in September of 1926.
The Evangelical Church of Germany was itself a union of Lutheran and Reformed factions which had developed during the Reformation in Europe. Zion Congregation was organized by a group of German immigrants in and around what is now Sussex on October 25, 1888 at seven o'clock in the evening at the home of Carl Walter. That night $200 was raised for a church building by the charter members - Christian Schmidt, Karl Messmen, Heinrich Brandt, Carl and William Mamerow and John Albrecht. These members and their families had attended services at Pumpkin Hollow traveling by foot and lumber wagon. After organizing as a congregation themselves and before their new church home was completed in 1889, they met for services in the Lisbon Town Hall. Their original church building still stands on Main Street in Sussex currently housing Sussex Country Printing and the Yours-N-Mine Resale Shop. The beautiful stained glass windows in that building bearing many of the names of early Sussex-Lisbon residents were installed in 1929. In 1890 August Mindemann donated one-quarter acre to the church for a cemetery on North Maple Street. By 1892 eight more families had been added to the church rolls including Philip and Jacob Stier, Ludwig Hornig, Charles Mindemann, Mrs. Conrad Marx, Valentin Marx and Robert Wendt.
In the early years the members practiced the German custom of men seated on the right and women on the left side of the church for worship. Communion was served from a common cup first to the men and then to the women. One of the women, Hertha Radtke, felt it was distasteful for the women to have to drink from the cup after the men had drunk from it with their mustaches, so she donated the church's first individual communion service. Services were conducted in German with the first English language service being an evening service during the war year of 1918. The transition from German to English was difficult for many members. With first one English service a month, then one every other Sunday. German services were finally discontinued altogether in another war year, 1945. With the younger generations wanting to become fully American and the older fathers finding the change difficult, many families left the church during this time.
Mrs. Alice Malsch Kramer recalls many of the happier moments in the life of the congregation. Early Christmas programs were especially memorable. Each Sunday School member had a piece to speak. "O Tannenbaum," "Stille Nacht," and other German carols were lustily sung. Each child received a bag with an orange and some candy in it. The church Christmas tree had lighted candles on it. One year the tree was held in place with a rope tied behind it. During the program someone passed behind the tree, tripped over the rope and the tree toppled over. Luckily, all the candles went out on the way down.
Zion had an active Frauen Verein or Ladies Aid Society founded in 1903. They served dinners for raising money, still a tradition at Redeemer. Mrs. Kramer remembers the more primitive conditions under which those early dinners were cooked and served. There was no sink with running water. Everything was carried in and out through the dining area in the basement. One year a hose was run from the church parsonage across the driveway so that the women could have "running" water. A church historian in 1943 observed that, "it seems to be the general experience everywhere that a Ladies Aid always has money. In their eighth meeting on April 29, 1904, the Frauen Verein decided to renovate the church. In August of the same year they resolved to buy a third chair for the pulpit platform. By 1905 they bought a new organ for the church. They saw to it that a stone walk was laid along the church, paid for painting, provided part of the pastor's salary, loaned money to the congregation and started a fund for a steeple. On one occasion they even paid eighty cents to the minister for cigars!" By 1934 women were allowed to vote in congregational meetings taking their continuing active role in the whole life of the church.
Over the years Zion Church shared pastors first with St. John UCC, Merton, and then with St. Paul UCC, Menomonee Falls. Finally in 1968, the congregation agreed to join with the congregation of Salem UCC, Pumpkin Hollow, to form Redeemer United Church of Christ. In 1971 their new church home was completed on Town Line Road. Being a union of two congregations itself, part of a denomination brought into being in 1957 with the union of the tradition of German and Swiss Lutherans and Reformed and New England Congregationalists, Redeemer is a united and ecumenically-oriented congregation. Redeemer today is active in the Cooperating Churches of Sussex and the Pewaukee Interchurch Lay Council seeking to minister to and serve the needs of others in our community and throughout the world.