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[graphic header] The Amana Colonies: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary of a unique historic communal society in eastern Iowa

[graphic] Community Church Museum
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[Photos]
Exterior and interior views of the Community Church Museum
Photographs by Shannon Bell

The Homestead Church is an excellent example of a Community of True Inspiration church. It was built in 1865 of locally made brick. The Homestead Church originally had living quarters for community members on both ends with the Saal (meeting hall) occupying the long middle section. Two sets of doors on opposite ends of the building allowed men and women to enter separately and reach their seats on the opposite ends of the Saal. Except for their size, Inspirationist churches were largely indistinguishable from residences, although unlike homes, they were never built of wood. The stone or brick churches resembled elongated houses and each village had a main church building which was the principal place of worship. Some residences, however, often had special church rooms that were used for daily prayers. The largest meeting room in the principal church building was used for general church meetings. Each church building was furnished with plain benches of scrubbed pine that took on a bleached appearance. Walls and ceilings were painted blue as they were in residences. The presiding elders sat facing the congregation on plain benches and a simple table held a lamp and the necessary books for worship and song. Men and women sat on opposite sides of the room and the room was always divided by a center aisle which was parallel to the two shorter side walls of the church. In several villages a press house used in making wine was built near the Church; wine was then stored in the church cellar.

[historic photo]
Homestead Community Church, c. 1900
Photograph courtesy of the Amana Heritage Society

According to the 1891 account of Perkins and Wick, "The meeting-houses are long and narrow; within, everything is simple--no pictures, no golden candlesticks, no cushioned pews." The unadorned surroundings were symbolic of the Inspirationists' approach to their faith, which they hoped would be taught as a plain system of theology, and not the scholastic theology that reigned in the German universities.

A radical pietist sect that broke away from the Lutheran Church in Germany in 1714, the Community of True Inspiration came to the United States in 1842 to escape religious persecution. The Community of True Inspiration is similar to other pietist groups in its emphasis on the personal religious experience of the believer. However, the Community is set apart by its belief in Inspiration. According to this doctrine, God continues to work and speak through his followers as He did in the Old Testament. The Community name for those individuals who received these messages was Werkzeuge (instruments). Church members study the testimonies given by the Werkzeuge, dating back to the founding of the community. Two Werkzeuge lived in the Amana Colonies: Christian Metz (1794-1867), who received testimonies that the community should move first to America, and then, later, to Iowa, and Barbara Heinemann Landmann (1795-1883), who was the last Werkzeug. The church is alive today under the name of the Amana Church Society. The Homestead Church is now operated by the Amana Heritage Society as a museum.

The Community Church Museum is located at 4210 V St., in Homestead. It is operated by the Amana Heritage Society and is open 10:00am to 5:00pm Monday-Saturday, 12:00pm to 5:00pm Sunday, from May 1-October 31. There is an admission fee. Call 319-622-3567 for further information.

 

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