WILDCAT DEN STATE PARK, Iowa — The glow of candlelight and strains of familiar Christmas carols will fill the historic Pine Mills German Episcopal Church near Wildcat Den State Park Saturday, Dec. 22.

This is the third year in a row the Friends of the Old Stone Church have hosted a public Christmas celebration at the 145-year old structure.

 The first public service after the restoration of the church was held in 2010 may have been a milestone; it’s believed to be the first one held there in 100 years.

Gladys Mittman of Muscatine, a member of the Friends of the Old Stone Church, researched the church history and learned the last service held in the church may have been on Christmas Eve in 1910.

The services have been so well-attended, said Friends member Ken Hyman, that the group decided to conduct two services this year, once at 4 p.m. and one at 6:30 p.m.

Having an earlier service also provides people the option of driving to the church in daylight, said Hyman.

The services will be conducted by the Rev. Shelley Nelson of  the nearby New Era Lutheran Church. Chris Schoenig of Muscatine will give a German reading of Luke’s Biblical account of the birth of  Jesus.

Services will also include the congregation singing traditional Christmas carols, concluding with“Silent Night,” which will sung by candlelight.

Live pipe organ music will be performed by Jim Batchelor of Wilton at the earlier service and Charles Potter of Muscatine, at 6:30 p.m.

Hyman said returning guests will notice improved parking conditions as lights have been placed in the lot. Candlelit luminaries will also be placed outdoors.

There is no admission charge but a donation box will be available for contributions.

Future events at the church include an open house from 1-4 p.m . Sunday, May 5, 2013, which will feature pipe organ music by Nancy Varner of Montpelier and her fellow musicians.

The church will also be open from 10 a.m.-noon Sundays from June through August 2013.


What: Christmas services at the Old Stone Church near Wildcat Den State Park.

When: 4 and 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22

Where: The Old Stone Church site, approximately 1 mile north of Wildcat Den State Park at the intersection of Verde Ave. and 180th Street off Iowa Highway 22.

Details: The public is invited to the services which will include a Bible reading in German and the singing of traditional Christmas carols.

Timeline of restoration

of the Old Stone Church

n 1867 — A group of volunteers living near New Era in what is now the Wildcat Den State Park area build the Pine Mills German Methodist Episcopal Church.

n 1910 — The last church service is conducted at the church.

n 2000 — Steve Schoenig of Colorado comes to Muscatine County to see the church after learning that his great-grandfather, Heinrich Schoenig, was among the volunteer builders.

n 2003 — Schoenig  successfully has the church placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

n 2006 — The Friends of the Old Stone Church is founded under the auspices of the Muscatine Area Heritage Association.

n 2010 — The Friends of the Old Stone Church conduct the first service since the church’s restoration on Christmas Eve.

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