Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The 125th Anniversary of St. John's

st. john's
St. John's United Church of Christ celebrated its 125th anniversary this weekend. We had quite the get-together— three worship services in two days, people coming from far and near...

It was 125 years ago, in 1880, that settlers came from Germany to the countryside of northeast Iowa and southeast Minnesota, and founded St. John's. The Rev. F.W. Spindler officiated at a service to dedicate the church building on August 15, 1880. By the time he left in 1882, there was a church building, a parsonage, and a barn for the pastor's livestock(!). The same church where the descendants of those pioneers gather to worship God to this day. The same parsonage next door where I live. (No, I don't have any livestock. ;-)

The church used to be known as the Bush Kirche. In 1895 the German schoolhouse was built next to the church, and for many years the youth of the congregation attended this school where they learned their catechism, hymns, and other religious instruction. Of course German was the language used in both church and schoolhouse, on up into the 1930s.

St. John's was originally a Lutheran congregation. In 1885 it affiliated with the German Evangelical Synod of North America, which eventually merged into the Evangelical & Reformed Church, which in turn merged in 1957 into the United Church of Christ. The old German heritage is still strong out here on Wheatland Ridge.

Since 1954 St. John's has been yoked with Mt. Hope Presbyterian Church, several miles down the road. I came here in the summer of 1999, and it's been a real privilege to live and serve here as pastor.

This weekend we had a Confirmand Reunion worship service Saturday evening, with a former pastor, the Rev. Laura Odegard, preaching, and then we gathered in the church basement and in a large tent outside for lunch afterwards. (In these parts, "lunch" is any meal at any time of the day or night, other than the usual three a day.) Folks who'd been confirmed at St. John's came from far away, indeed from all around the country, and we had confirmands present from as far back as the class of 1921.

Sunday morning we had our Quasquicentennial worship service, with a former interim pastor, the Rev. Jan Bodin, preaching. The Rev. Dick Scheerer was also present, to bring greetings from the Minnesota Conference of the UCC. (St. John's is in Iowa, two cornfields south of the state line, but is in the Minnesota Conference.) The service concluded with a procession to the church cemetery, where we all joined in singing "For all the saints who from their labors rest." Afterwards, in basement and tent, we had a huge catered meal— beef and ham and pork, I had all three.

Sunday afternoon we had a Service of Consecration and Rededication, with a former pastor, the Rev. James Parker, preaching. The St. John's Choir sang "The Church on the Ridge," a song originally written for the centennial celebration in 1980 by the Rev. Milton Kading. Rev. Kading was also present for our celebration this weekend.

In the schoolhouse there was also a historical display on the history of the congregation, and souvenir St. John's 125th anniversary Red Wing crocks on sale. (If you'd like a souvenir crock, shoot me an e-mail.)

125 years that folks have been living here in this corner of Iowa and Minnesota, worshiping and serving God. On the front cover of the bulletin for our Quasquicentennial weekend was Habakkuk 2:20: "Aber der Herr ist in seinem heiligen Tempel. Es sei vor ihm stille alle Welt!" ("The Lord is in his holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before him!")

You can find more about St. John's, including pictures and a complete history of the congregation, on our St. John's Quasquicentennial website.



Blogger Caltechgirl said...

I can't believe how much it looks like my parents' church. Of course, it was built by folks from the midwest who followed the railroad, and it was built about 30 years later. Huh.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005 5:55:00 PM  

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