|As Emmaus celebrated its sesquicentennial in 2001, the congregation had to deal with the unmistakable trend: like many Protestant churches, Emmaus’ congregation was becoming older and smaller. No longer could the congregation rely on the waves of Danish immigration of the late 19th and early 20th Century and the Baby Boom of the mid-20th Century to swell the membership. As a result, Emmaus could no longer afford two full time pastors. Rev. Paul Nuechterlein resigned in 2001 to offer his services as an interim pastor at other Racine congregations, while Rev. Mary Janz continued as Emmaus’ sole full-time pastor until her retirement in 2016. (Rev. Nuechterlein was later the pastor of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Portage, Michigan, retiring from parish ministry in 2015.) Emmaus has shared Visitation Pastors with Lincoln Lutheran Homes: Rev. Sharon Georgi (2002-2005) and Rev. Walter Hermanns (2006-2013).
The congregation has devoted itself to community outreach. Volunteers created Emmaus After School for Youth (EASY) on January 27, 2002, creating a space for children from the nearest elementary school, Wadewitz, to come for tutoring and reading help.
Emmaus inaugurated a new outreach program, “Neighborhood Camp,” in the summer of 2003. For five weeks each summer, structured recreational and educational activities are offered free to about 50 children of the Emmaus neighborhood. The program quickly branched out to other ELCA congregations in Racine.
In February, 2008, a young man from Colombia visited the Sunday worship service and offered to lead a new ministry to Spanish-speaking residents of the area. On Pentecost Sunday, 2009, the church which had for 90 years offered a place for Danish immigrants to worship God in their own language, began offering the same to immigrants from Latin America. Rev. Jhon Freddy Correa was ordained and installed as pastor on July 10, 2010. (In January, 2016, Pastor Jhon Freddy left to answer a call to Faith Lutheran Church in Lehigh Acres, Florida.)
Within the first year, the Spanish-language worship service of Parroquia Emaús swelled to 200 persons. The Latino congregation established its own advisory board as well as a young adults’ group, a sacristy group (Altar Guild), a group to minister to members in need, and a “Good Samaritan” fund.
In 2011, Emmaus and Emaús entered into a covenant relationship with four other ELCA churches in Racine: Atonement (East and West), Our Savior’s, St. Andrew, and Lutheran Church of the Redeemer. The covenant was formally named FaithWorks Racine in 2012; Redeemer withdrew from the covenant in 2013. While FaithWorks officially dissolved in 2015, Emmaus and Emaús (now Emaus ELCA), Atonement and Our Savior’s (now Living Faith) and Redeemer have continued the summer Neighborhood Camp program.
Emmaus and St. Andrew began joining their English language worship services together every week in the fall of 2013, alternating worship sites between the two church buildings every other month. The two congregations were unable to agree on a plan for continuing to combine operations, however, and they resumed worshiping separately a year later.
On January 24, 2016, Emmaus Evangelical Lutheran Church and Parroquia Emaús voted to reconstitute as a single congregation, Emaus ELCA. The name reflects the spelling of the Spanish-speaking portion of the congregation and of the Danish-speaking founders of the original church. Emaus ELCA will now operate with a single church council but will continue to offer separate services in English and Spanish, with occasional bilingual worship services to mark special occasions.
On June 5, 2016, Emaus ELCA voted to an extend a term call of 18 months to Rev. Gabriel A. Marcano, effective on July 1.