It is indeed a joyous time when a congregation can endure heartaches, hardships, fire and other tests of faith and yet be able to celebrate 125 years of continued existence. Through God’s grace and power we are able to do that today. He has blessed us in the past with His Word and Sacraments and continues to do so yet today.
In response to the Lord’s many blessings we offer praise and adoration with the prayer that He may continue this good work among us and ever lift our sights to His divine guidance. As the Psalmist said, “0 Lord, open Thou my lips; and my mouth shall show forth thy praise.” May our lips always be open to sing His praise and our hearts and lives a living witness to His love in Christ Jesus. “Let the people praise Thee, 0 God, let all the people praise Thee.”
ORGANIZATION AND BUILDING
Formal organization of St. John’s Lutheran Congregation occurred under the leadership of the Rev. Carl Meyer, Missionary-at-large of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, on October 10, 1886, in Logan Township, Decatur County, Kansas.
Seven men signed the newly drawn Constitution as charter member’s and five more names were added the first year. Meetings were held in homes and the school house of Public District 39, in Logan Township.
Plans to build a house of Worship did not materialize until 1889 when a sod church was erected on land donated by Mr. and Mrs. Paul Meyer in the northwest corner of the NW1/4, Section 22, Town 2, Range 30 W in Decatur County.
This sod church served the congregation for fifteen years. In 1904, it was replaced by a new frame church just south of the old church. In 1906, the congregation added a new six-room frame parsonage.
Teaching duties were performed by the pastors as time permitted, but in 1925, a regular teacher, Miss Elsa Wendelin was employed. The official address of the Congregation was changed to Oberlin, Kansas, in 1922.
To accommodate a growing congregation and also to make it more accesible for the prevailing mode of transportation it was decided in 1925 to move the church site to a new location. The land for this new site was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Albert Lueke at the southwest corner of the SW1/4, Section 27, Township 2, Range 30.
An entirely new plant was built consisting of church, parsonage and school. The new church was dedicated in October of 1925, and the school was dedicated on August 29, 1926.
From 1905 to 1917, St. John’s of Oberlin functioned as a dual parish with a sister congregation, St. John’s, of Herndon, Kansas. A merger in 1926 of the Herndon congregation with St. John’s of Oberlin became effective.
On January 1, 1931, the church was destroyed by fire of an unknown origin. Plans to rebuild were begun immediately and a brick church of larger dimensions was dedicated on August 9, 1931. This Church and the Christian Day school served the congregation for almost twenty-five years.
The decision to relocate St. John’s Lutheran Church to the City of Oberlin, Kansas was reached on March 28, 1954. This occurred during the pastorate of Rev. Edwin Licht. It was a time that meant many changes and decisions. It was decided to completely build a new church in town and move in the school building and parsonage.
The entire church plant was located on the tract of land consisting of approximately three acres on Block 2 of the Benton-Smith Addition in Oberlin.
St. John’s Lutheran Church congregation officially moved to the City of Oberlin in 1955, with the ground-breaking service being held at the new location on June 19, 1955. The corner stone laying was on December 18, 1955. The school building and the parsonage were moved to Oberlin in 1955; dedication services in conjunction with observance of the congregation’s 70th anniversary were held on April 29, 1956. The total cost of relocation, including the new site and building was over $122,000.
The Church is constructed of hadeite block and brick; it has 32 pews with a seating capacity of approximately 300 people. The school building, by reason of its finished basement, had two rooms. The parsonage is the same building that was used before the move to Oberlin, but has been repaired and improved; a teacherage was constructed in 1957.
Considerable landscaping was done to the church grounds through a project inaugurated by Pastor Walter Stoepplewerth in the 1960’s which included the addition of a number of trees that greatly improved the appearance of the grounds.
Large soil-cement parking lots, one north of the church and the other south of it, give ample parking facilities.
The Christian Day School continued to function until 1960 when it was discontinued because of changing circumstances in the county-wide school systems.
The first seventeen years after the new brick church was built in Oberlin were years of growth and sacrifice on the part of the congregation. It was a struggle to meet the monthly budget plans as well as meeting the obligations for the debt reduction.
On April 29, 1973 the mortgage burning ceremony took place. The mortgage had been signed on September 27, 1956.
Substantial gifts were received from an estate in 1977. Because of this, St. John’s growth for the future proceeded rapidly. After months of consideration by the congregation a new Rodgers Electronic organ was purchased for the church. A number of people gave gifts and memorials to this project. It was dedicated to the Glory of the Lord in January of 1978.
At this time the old teacherage was being rented to Oberlin Day Care Assoc., Inc. “Little Pals”. They used the upstairs while three rooms in the basement were being used for Sunday School. Kids were also taught in the schoolhouse & church basement, making three different buildings part of the Sunday School on Sunday mornings. On December 4, 1977 by motion of Church Council, the voters gave approval to form a committee to examine the feasibility of building a new educational building. The committee presented bids to construct a metal building 50 x 80. It was originally proposed to finance the construction with from the sale of the teacherage and schoolhouse. On March 25 the committee asked permission to sell the schoolhouse. An auction sale was conducted April 7 at 1:00. Ralph & Norma Unger bought and moved the schoolhouse back to within a ¼ mile of its original location in the country.
Floor plans for the new building included an office for the Pastor and his secretary, a library, a large youth room, and classrooms. As the floor plans were discussed it was determined that the building needed to be 50 x 90. Twelve contractors participated in a meeting to discuss the plans and prepare a bid.
A workday was scheduled to fill in the old foundation of the schoolhouse–some 100+ loads of fill sand were hauled in by members with farm trucks. Basic construction was completed of the outside by January of 1980. The committee was busy getting bids on lumber, carpet, paneling, etc. Members moved in to work one of the first days of January and for the next several months were present nearly everyday to complete the inside. Ted Stallman & Gaylord Shields served as foremen for the project; Stuart Euhus & Ralph Unger handled the electrical work. At one time or another congregation men and women from age 5 to 80+ put time in working on the building and the ladies served daily dinners to the workers. Many congregation members and people in the community donated their time and talents in the completion of this project.
The Educational Building was dedicated to God’s glory on Pentecost Sunday, May 25, 1980. An Open House was held that afternoon.
Following the opening of the new Educational Building new programs for the youth were developed. Tiny Tot Training was originally designed to offer kids age 3-5 preschool skills in a Christian setting. At the peak, 40-50 students from the community attended sessions in the fall and spring.
In the early 1990’s through the insightful leadership of Rev. Paul Kaldahl, the Kid’s In Christ Kingdom (KICK) program was developed. It replaced the previous midweek school with a program geared to involve multi-generational Christian Education through the seminar training of the lay leaders. The program significantly grew through incorporating instruction, music, service, crafts, meal time and parental commitment.
Recent improvement projects included new concrete parking lots, new carpeting in the Fellowship Hall, refurbishing of the parsonage, and remodeling of the kitchen.
Through the years many special gifts and memorials have helped improve St. John’s property and worship services and we are grateful and praise God that His people have responded to Him in this marvelous way.
The Walther League, the congregation’s oldest society, was organized in 1924 and joined the International Walther League in 1931. Walther League International was first organized in Buffalo, New York in 1893. The Walther League remained active until the late 70’s when the national youth interest began to wane.
On Sep 7, 1975, St. John’s youth organized into a new group with the name as Lutheran Youth Organization (LYO). In the early 80’s the LCMS decided to distinguished its own youth ministry and it became the Lutheran Youth Fellowship (LYF). St. John’s then adopted that name. In 1980, the first National Youth Gathering was held. In 1989 St. John’s Youth attended their first LCMS National Youth Gathering in Denver where the youth were caught in a drenching flood in the Red Rocks Amphitheater.
The ladies aid society was organized March 21, 1929… On April 18, 1943 the St. John’s LWML was organized. The two organizations existed until Feb 11, 1959 when the two groups merged and adopted a new name, St. John’s Guild and LWML. With a new constitution, the group embarked on its mission and have continued to fulfill that goal, “Lutheran Women One and All” serving the Lord.
St. John’s Lutheran Laymen’s League was organized in 1951. They have served through many activities and significant mission work through the Lutheran Hour and Kansas District Projects
- 1886 – St. John’s Congregation is charted
- 1889 – A sod church is constructed and serves the congregation for 15 years
- 1904 – New frame church is built
- 1906 – A six room frame parsonage is built
- 1925 – New church building, parsonage, and school house are constructed on the Southwest corner of the Logan Township as St. John’s Herndon and St. john’s Traer congregations formally merge
- 1931 – Church building is destroyed by fire. New brick church is built and dedicated
- 1954 – Decision is made by the congregation to move the church site into Oberlin and a brick structure is constructed and dedicated in 1956. The parsonage and the school building are moved in from the country.
- 1960 – St. John’s Christian Day School closes
- 1980 – Educational Building is dedicated
- 1986 – St. John’s celebrates 100 years.
- ST. JOHN’S 120 YEARS HISTORICAL SUMMARY 1886-2006.