St. John celebrates 170th anniversary

GREENVILLE – St. John Lutheran Church, 7418 N. State Route 121, Greenville, will be celebrating their 170th anniversary on Sunday, Sept. 11, with a special morning worship at 11 a.m., a time of fellowship with a meal served at 12:30 p.m., and a brief history presentation at 1:30 p.m. Some of St. John’s historical artifacts will be on display at the church during this time, and the public is welcome to attend.

The theme for the celebration is “Come Home” and the event has been planned by the St. John Anniversary Committee.

St. John was founded on Sept. 1, 1852 by German Lutheran settlers in Darke County who longed to have a place to worship and receive God’s word. The following people met to officially start the worshipping community which first was called Evangelical Lutheran St. John Church: Johann Gottlob Deubner, Frederick Meier, August Feltmann, Karl C. Kruckeberg, Frederick Dohme Charles Meier, Charles Kruckeberg, Ferdinand Prasuhn, Louis Prashun, Louise Fauth, Wilhelmina Duebner, Charlotte Koester, and Karolina Kruckeberg. Gottlob Deubner and Frederick Meier were elected to serve as the first trustees and Karl C. Kruckeberg was elected as the first deacon. St. John was known in its early days as the woodlands church and was referred to as the “bush” church, while the “town” church was St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in the City of Greenville which was founded in 1850.

In the earliest days of St. John Lutheran Church worship services were held in homes of congregational members until a church building could be constructed. The first church was built in 1854 and was a log structure that stood across the road from the current building made from trees on the property which members gathered for the new church. This first building was 35 by 60 feet and was later weather boarded and sealed. The first brick church would be built in 1876, and from this building the bell tower remains as part of the present building. Later in 1899, a one room brick schoolhouse was constructed for the education of the congregation’s children. In 1935, an auditorium and classrooms were added, and in 1969 a new education building was added. In 1990, St. John purchased 31 acres of land north of the original church site and cemetery. On April 13, 1997, the present church building, including a new worship center, gathering area and offices, was dedicated. In 2010, St. John became part of the North American Lutheran Church (NALC) denomination.

In the different phases of building and adding to the buildings, members of the congregation have contributed their skills and time to help construct the needed space for their worshipping community, while care has been taken to preserve our rich history.

In 1854, congregation members Fred Entdorf and Frederick Meier provided their master carpentry skills for building the altar and pulpit. Similarly, in 1996, under the leadership of Pastors Ed Battiste and Charles Boomhower, member Gene Hoellrich hand-crafted the altar rail and Pr. Battiste constructed the altar and pulpit from lumber taken from the 1876 building. St. John’s current building also features stained glass windows that had been preserved from the second building along with the distinctive 120-foot steeple and belltower. Many of the bricks and lumber taken from the one room church schoolhouse were used in the construction of the 1935 parish hall.

Much has changed in St. John’s 170 years, but the congregation remains committed to growing in faith and service to God while bringing the Gospel into the world through word and action. St. John remains proud of their Lutheran heritage and church’s history and is grateful for the ways the Lord has sustained the church throughout the years. As the Body of Christ, they look forward to God’s next calling for St. John.

Church services are usually held at 9 a.m. with a Sunday School hour following the service. Visitors and all those with family connections to the congregation are welcome to join them in worship anytime or attend their Homecoming Anniversary Celebration on Sept. 11 starting at 11 a.m.

Questions can be directed to the church office at [email protected] or (937) 548-5404.