The building of this church was completed on July 16, 1914 by Estonians who had settled in Gleason, Schley and other surrounding villages. By the 1970s life in these villages had faded away. This humble one-of a kind wooden church stood forgotten, abandoned and then vandalized. However, in the early 1990s it was fortunately reclaimed and re-instated by Bill Rebane, an Estonian-American film producer and director whose grand uncle had helped to build the church and had served there as a pastor. It’s thanks to Bill Rebane and his passion and love that the church building has survived against all odds.
Over the couple of recent years, new efforts have been made to restore the Estonian church. Volunteers got together here in the summer of 2014 and restoration work began.
In order to continue the work, construction materials, people willing to donate their time and energy, as well as generous donors, are needed.
To build awareness about the church and its reconstruction needs, we have invited Tõnis Mägi, a beloved Estonian musician and composer, and Kärt Johanson to perform in a concert at the church to draw the volunteer workdays over the weekend of July 17th and 18th to a close.
“The theme of the concert is remembering all those who suffered and perished under the yoke of communism in their quest for freedom. The first Estonian church is a monument to early Estonian immigration to America and the liberty and freedom they were seeking. The Ev. Martin Luther Church, established in 1907 invites you to join us in this effort. As in the case of the Ukraine, freedom is constantly challenged in today’s world. And, Freedom always comes with a price.” – Bill Rebane
The best things in life are the people you love, the places you’ve seen, and the memories you have gathered on your journey.
ABOUT THE PERFORMERS
Tõnis Mägi is a beloved Estonian singer and composer. He has been one of the most influential and remarkable artists in Estonian rock music for the past 40 years. Mägi had an important role during the Estonian Singing Revolution of the late 1980s. Among other patriotic songs of the time, Mägi’s song Koit (Estonian for Dawn) became a symbol of freedom. Tõnis Mägi’s music and performance style are unique. He opens his heart to the public through his music. His message is genuine and sincere.
Kärt Johanson, Tõnis Mägi’s wife, is a well-known Estonian actress and singer.
Rupert Encinas, Ba’ag Da (Flying Eagle), is the spiritual leader of the Tohono O’odham (Desert People) American Indian tribe. He is a ceremonial leader and a carrier of his people’s heritage.
In his daily life, Rupert Encinas works for the well- being of his community by counseling children, adolescents and adults and he also teaches the language and culture of his people. He lives near Tuscon, Arizona at the San Xavier Indian Reservation.
WE WOULD LIKE TO THANK ALL OF OUR SPONSORS AND EVERYONE WHO HELPED ALONG
Eero Pikat and family
Kenneth Holter and family, Miriam and Arne Lagus
Len and Liivika Koren, Toivo and Charlotte Maiste, Anne Kaunismaa, Agu Ets, Mai Meyers and Peeter Nigol
Michigan Estonian Ev. Lutheran Church, Martin Aavik, James Tusty, Iris Kurman, Ille and Premendra Sharma, Siim and Reet Sööt, Eric Harkna and Tonise Paul, Veronika Ossul, Mari Palta, Karen A. Jürisson
We also thank people who helped organizing this event:
Jaan Karukäpp, Krista Kalbus, Rochelle and Peeter Karukäpp, Bill-Ito Rebane, Liivika Koren, Eve Tarm, Ille Sutt, Erje and Ain Merivee, Erik Norkroos, Kullar Viimane, Jaeme Cocco, Jean Merilni, Andy, Martin “Välek,” Tambet and Maarika Tammann, Nelli Vahtra, Silvi Pirn, Marju Eisenberg, Tiina Murro, Ene Villas
The goal of this concert event was to increase public awareness of Estonian history in the region and tell the story of the First Estonian Church in America to generate support of the reconstruction of this historical place.