History

During the spring of 1897, a few Lutheran families decided to organize a local church. The congregation’s constitution, written in both German and English, became official May 2, 1897. Among the 47 founding family surnames are: Thielemann, Hespenheide, Schilling, Werner, Neely, Windhorst, Meyer, Theiker, Meyer, Schroeder, and Bratchie. The cornerstone was laid July 5 and the building was dedicated September 26, 1897. The total cost of the new building was $3,500, including the two plots of land.

The first minister, Paul Janowitz, was a seminarian. He received $25 per month for conducting services in both German (mornings) and English (evenings),once a month. The second pastor, F. W. Almendinger, served from 1899 – 1904, during which the marble baptismal font was purchased. Organizations included a youth group, with many youth coming from St. John’s Orphanage, a yoked ministry with St. John congregation. A brief pastorate was served from August 1904 to January 1905, by F.H. Besel, from Arizona. The climate disagreed with him and he tendered his resignation in January, 1905.

During the five year pastorate of Claudius A.D. Freseman, 1905 – 1910, a parsonage was built adjacent to the church. That house, the current annex, was completed in six months at a cost of $2,097. Pastor Eugene Spoehr, (1910-1933) served as the Superintendent of St. John Home for Orphans from 1914 – 1930. The children were considered members of St. John. During 1926, the women of the congregation were given the right to vote. In 1932, Pastor Spoehr’s report to the Ohio Valley conference showed 100 communicants and 140 in the Sunday School.

Pastor Eugene Spoehr died in 1933, while serving St. John. He was followed by a son, the Reverend Ernest Spoehr who served from 1933 – 1941. During this time, individual communion glasses and new hymnals were introduced and a pipe organ fund was established. The organ was dedicated to the memory of his father in July of 1935. The cost of the rebuilt organ—$1900.

The Reverend Gordon Huffman served St. John 1942-1946. In 1942, the congregation claimed 166 communicant members and 105 in the Sunday School.

Following the departure of Pastor Huffman, Pastor Earl Stainbrook accepted the call and served 1946-1966. During his twenty year tenure, he used many opportunities to remind the congregation of their responsibilities in stewardship and attendance at worship. By 1947, 345 baptized members were reported with 265 confirmed and 200 in the Sunday School.

On June 10, 1951, ground was broken and work began to enlarge the church. The plans included incorporating the old church, when possible. Much of that work was performed by member volunteers. Worship was held in the town movie theater until the church was ready in 1953. The construction cost $100,000 and included a new electronic organ. Kneelers and The Service Book and Hymnal were purchased in 1959. The membership was 479 confirmed with average attendance at 273.

In 1967, Pastor Larry Cantu and his family arrived and soon moved into the new parsonage on Arch Street. The pastor of St. John was no longer required to conduct worship at St. John Home. The congregational governance now included women who have served on church council since 1970. A rebuilt Moller pipe organ was purchased in 1978 for $12,000. A new hymnal, Lutheran Book of Worship was introduced. It was reported in 1981 that there were 488 confirmed members with an average attendance of 274.

Robert R. Rigg was the pastor of St. John from 1981 until 2007. During these years, the congregation undertook several major building projects to provide a facility capable of ministry in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. One of these projects resulted in a fully accessible facility (a three-stop elevator provides convenient approaches to all areas of the building). Another was the renovation of the church interior, which now houses an 18-rank Casavant pipe organ that provides leadership for worship as well as special musical events.  During Rev. Rigg’s pastorate, another new hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship, was introduced.

Pastor Mark Bringman began his ministry at St. John in 2009. During his pastorate, St. John continued to be a witness in Mars and the surrounding community.

In July 2015, St. John welcomed its current pastor, Rev. Bob Zimmerman.