Past will meet present in a very special ceremony this Sunday at Trinity United Church of Christ, 4435 North Calhoun Road, in Brookfield.
Immediately following the church’s 10 a.m. service, the congregation will formally dedicate a 100-year-old stained glass window that was installed in the congregation’s original church building in 1912.
The ceremony will be followed by the normal benediction and a reception in the church’s Gathering Place. The ceremony, which will only take about five minutes, will have great significance in the context of the church’s long and distinguished history. Trinity is one of the oldest congregations in the entire Brookfield area.
“I think this is important for this church because it connects the past with the future,” said Pastor Janis Doleschal. “For me it’s important because the gentleman who donated the money for the window is Richard Wullschleger, a man who was very important in the life of the church because of the work that he did while he was on the church council.
“When he passed away a few years ago, he donated the money to the church and we decided that in his memory we would take one of the old stained glass windows that had appeared in the original church and have it restored. It’s actually in a lightbox, so the light reflects behind it and that will be in his memory.”
Trinity’s original church building opened in 1871 and the stained glass windows were installed in 1912. As the congregation grew, it became necessary to build a larger church facility. Ground was broken right next door in 1960 and the original building was razed.
“When the new church was constructed in 1960, the old church had several stained glass windows,” said Pat Matthews, chairman of the church’s property committee. “The two most prominent ones were images of Christ the Shepherd in different guises. They salvaged two of them at the last minute and one of them was in a very bad state of disrepair after this many years but we were able to get the second one restored. It actually was the more beautiful of the two, anyway.”
In 2005, as the congregation was building an addition, a fire broke out in the basement, destroying the lower level and causing smoke damage throughout the building. For the next 14 months, as repairs were made, the congregation shared a facility with a different church.
The stained glass window restoration process was neither easy nor inexpensive. It took one year at a cost of about $10,000, all of which was donated by the Richard Wullschleger Memorial Fund. A half dozen men on stepladders had the unenviable task of lowering the windows from the rafters.
Wullschleger had an interesting history with the church. His father was one of the pastors in the 1960s. Wullschlager grew up with the church and lived in the apartments next door. He had a very dedicated hobby as an accomplished genealogist and he was noted for taking care of Trinity’s cemetery records and other paper records with the church’s history.
“Richard passed away a few years ago and left us an estate grant,” said Matthews. “We thought it was fitting have our memorial committee dedicate a portion of it to something that Richard would have appreciated and looked forward to as we had that lone remaining window re-installed.”
The stained glass restoration was handled by Conrad Schmitt Studios of New Berlin while the cabinetry work was custom built to match the woodwork in the church by Essman’s Cabinetry and Millwork in Germantown.
Now, all of the time, money and effort seem a small price to pay to shine a spotlight on Trinity’s history while honoring a man who did so much to preserve it.
“I think it’s really important that when you totally re-build a church building you lose a little bit of the past,” said Pastor Doleschal. “This gives us an opportunity to connect the past with the present and the future. That’s why it’s important to me. It gives a continuity to the church.”