To be an active participant in a great organization often brings us so close to the workings of that body that many points of interest are overshadowed by our own portion of the work. We must, therefore, from time to time, make an analysis of our position to determine the merit of our work. Custom has given us some convenient points at which it is proper for us to pause. If these points are far removed or cover a definite trend in conditions, we may call them eras. If they mark a point in a steady growth we call them anniversaries. This year, 1937, St. John's Church of Greenview is fifty years old and as we observe our Fiftieth Anniversary, we feel a desire to recall the life of our church.
What we of St. John's are today is largely the result of the foundation upon which our church was built, and the material used by successive generations as the structure of our faith was being increased. What we will be in the future will depend upon the faith and energy we possess today, for succeeding generations will build upon the foundation we are placing today.
What a variety of joys and sorrows you have related to me as I have gathered the history of St. John's Church. From this heritage of the past there came to me time and again the passage from the 122 Psalm, which I have chosen as the motto for our Golden Anniversary Year: "I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go unto the House of the Lord." In Spirit and in Truth there has been administered the Bread of Life of which Jesus Christ has been the author.
As we honor those who founded St. John's Church by saying that the Spiritual foundation was laid in the name of the Lord, so we become conscious of the challenge that has been placed before us.
Those who have gone before us have been faithful. From a small beginning of only a few families, St. John's has grown into a membership of 250 confirmed members and 75 unconfirmed members, with 140 families paying allegiance either wholly or in part to our church. Thus in numbers we have been faithful to the heritage bestowed upon us by our fathers.
Our dreams for the future of St. John's see a strong and active body of people working in the interest of Him who has been so many times our refuge and strength. Let us continue to grow, not only in numbers, but also in the depth of our spiritual like, for unto this were we called. The Master has admonished us: "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all other things shall be added unto you." Let us rededicate ourselves to a greater loyalty, pray for courage and strength to do the work He has entrusted to St. John's. The Spirit of the Master has blessed us in the past and has given us the assurance, "I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." Let us be faithful.
1887 - 1937
St. John's Evangelical Church
"A group of persons met together to organize a German Evangelical Church; their object being to promote Christian living and the advancement of the Kingdom of God." Such is the opening statement in the book of records that relates to us the doings of the group of persons who founded St. John's Evangelical Church of Greenview. This group had been meeting for preaching services prior to this time in the Jenison school house and then later in the Wernsing hall, hearing whatever ministers that happened to be available. The plans of this group were advanced to such an extent that early in the year of 1887 an constitution and by-laws was presented for consideration by a committee composed of Henry Wernsing, Harmon Meyer, Garrett Evers, Garrett Deverman, John Ackerman, and Harmon Warnsing. At the same time Harmon Deverman, J. H. Stitchman, Reinhard Onken, Garrett Deverman, Garrett Evers, and John Evers were selected to be responsible for the finding of signers to the constitution and for the raising of funds for the building of a house of worship. As nearly as can be determined 45 men signed as charter members of the new church.
The work of this latter committee progressed rapidly and we find that shortly after, in the presence of Rev. Haehnel, a Lutheran minister, Henry Wernsing, John Ackerman, Harmon Meyer, Harmon Warnsing, J. H. Stitchman, and Frederick Evers were selected to compose the building committee and with money in hand this committee purchased the plot of ground upon which our church now stands for the sum of $250.00. Architects Diedrich Fischer and Robert Carver submitted suitable plans for a church edifice and to the latter was let a contract for the erection of a church structure at a cost of $3,200.00.
On April 2, 1887 the congregation was formally organized and Garrett Evers, Harmon Warnsing and Diedrich Deverman were elected as trustees of the church, with Garrett Evers being elected as the first chairman and Harmon Warnsing as the first secretary. The congregation grew rapidly during that first year and by late summer of 1887 the question most under consideration was that of denominational affiliation. The choice of the majority was that application should be made for membership into the Missouri Lutheran Synod. However, the constitution and by-laws adopted by the new church group were not acceptable to the Lutheran body, unless the Greenview congregation would be willing to be considered as a mission station of the Synod. To this the Greenview congregation was unwilling to agree and the Church Board then invited the Evangelical Synod of North America to send ministers to Greenview to consider the local constitution. Rev. H. J. Schmidt of the Lincoln congregation came to Greenview and found the constitution agreeable to the Evangelical Synod, and in November, 1887, the Greenview Congregation became a member of the Evangelical Synod of North America. The pastors Schmidt of Lincoln, N. Severing of Bloomington, and P. Ott of Minier alternated in conducting services for a short time.
The day of Sunday, December 18, 1887 was a notable day for the Greenview church, and the dreams of the entire congregation were realized, when the new church edifice was dedicated to the services of the Triune God. The morning worship service was conducted by the Pastors Schmidt and Severing in the German language. The afternoon message was delivered in the English language by August Hammer, a student at Eden Seminary, and the service was lead by Rev. Ott. Music was furnished by the choir of St. John's Church of Lincoln. After the services arrangements were made with Mr. Hammer that he come to preach at Greenview for the remainder of his school hear at the Seminary.
On July 8, 1888, at a meeting of the congregation, Rev. Hammer, now an ordained minister, was called as Pastor of the congregation at a salary of $250.00 a year. Rev. Hammer also served St. Paul's Church at Petersburg, living at Petersburg, and dividing his time between the two churches. Within one month after beginning his active work here, Re. Hammer organized a Sunday School, which has been faithfully maintained ever since and which has grown with the congregation. During the summer months he also conducted "German School" in which the German Language and catechism were taught.
Rev. Hammer resigned after ten years of faithful service to accept a new charge, and the Rev. P. Weil began his pastorate on March 1, 1899. Alternating his time between the Greenview and Petersburg charges, Rev. Weil conducted services and the German school until the time of his leaving in January, 1906. In 1901 the church was somewhat damaged by fire, but not seriously enough to make it necessary to suspend services.
The Re. Th. Krueger came to serve the Greenview-Petersburg Charges in October, 1906. Diligently he labored to build two strong churches, introducing into St. John's the English language for the Sunday School. In 1910 the two congregations were separated and Rev. Krueger continued to serve at Petersburg, while the Rev. C. Fritsch came to Greenview as pastor on September 1, 1910. Because of the need of a parsonage for their first full-time minister, in January, 1911, St. John's purchased the present parsonage site for a sum of $2050.00. The Parsonage building committee was composed of John Behrends, Garrett Deverman, Richard Ever, Carl Weidhuner, and Oltman Wilken. Rev. Fritsch suddenly terminated his work with us and on May 1, 1911, the Rev. R. Mernitz moved to Greenview.
In October of that year the new parsonage was dedicated and now with a minister to lead them continuously St. John's made rapid and joyful progress. Under Rev. Mernitz's leadership the Sunday School was completely reorganized and departmentalized. On Nov. 6, 1913, the Ladies Aid, now the Women's Union, was organized with eight charter members. This organization is to this day the strongest and most faithful organization of the church, making many valuable contributions to the spiritual and financial welfare of the congregation.
The Rev. Benjamin Buehler began his ministry at St. John's on November 6, 1914 and under difficult conditions lead the church safely through the war years. It was at this time that the first English confirmation class was instructed. In 1915 the high tower on the church was struck by lightning and was subsequently removed to the present level and further repairs were made to the church. A water system was installed in the parsonage and other general repairs were made.
Upon the reignation of Rev. Buehler in April, 1919, the Rev. B. Freese was called and he moved to Greenview on February 1, 1920. During the interim students of Eden Seminary conducted the services. Soon after the arrival of Rev. Freese it became evident that the feeling was developing that something would have to be done about the church building. Repairs were made to the art glass windows and other repairs were made, but still the structure seemed inadequate to the needs of the growing congregation and a decision was reached that a building fund be created. With the presence of more young people, it was also decided that the German and English services should be equally divided and that additional Evangelical Hymnals be purchased.
As a sign of the spiritual as well as of the numerical growth of the congregation, special emphasis was placed upon the payment of St. John's quota to the Synodical Budget.
The local pastorate of Rev. Freese was brought to a close on March 1, 1924 and on July 1, 1924, the Rev. George Hildebrand began his ministry. To meet changing conditions a new constitution was adopted. It being the one that guides us today. The name of the congregation, hitherto known as the German Evangelical Lutheran Church and as the Greenview Evangelical Church, was changed to our present name the St. John's Evangelical Church of Greenview, Illinois.
In 1929 it was decided that a new church ediface should be erected within the next ten years and contributions to the building fund were encouraged.
Re. Hildebrand left St. John's on Nov. 7, 1931 and the Rev. Theo. Hoefer was called; he beginning his pastorate in January, 1932. A statement from the church minutes will well state the existing conditions: "All monies are now in our closed bank." Trying times indeed, and Rev. Hoefer sought another charge, leaving St. John's in October, 1932.
After a period of almost a year, during which time St. John's was again served by student pastors, and by Rev. F. Schnathorst of St. Paul's Petersburg, who rendered much faithful service, the Rev. C. J. Beehler was called. As economic conditions improved, the resolution was adopted that our church building should be remodeled and repainted. To meet the needs of the growing congregation, and especially of the Sunday School, after due consideration it was decided that our church building be turned and a basement built. The building committee was composed of Mrs. Anna Wilken, Mrs. Gertie Wilhelm, John Behrens, and Karl Deverman. The contract was let to A. H. Stamm of Peoria and Ralph Lockhart of Greenview for a sum of $2365.00. The entire church was subsequently remodeled and redecorated to the beautiful edifice we have today.
At this same time a sum of $200.00 was given to the Bensenville Orphanage and Old People's Home and as further evidence of the fine spirit of St. John's congregation, the Sunday School continued to grow and an increase was felt in the spiritual life of the people, as evidenced by the larger numbers participating in the services and activities, especially in the attendace at Holy Communion.
As the motto of our Anniversary Year is again repeated, "I was glad when they said unto me, let us go unto the House of the Lord," in faith we feel it is evidence of the spirit of St. John's congregation. May the Lord bless us and keep us as we work together for His Kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven.
A FEW STATISTICS
Baptisms - 402
Confirmands - 289
Weddings - 113
Funerals - 177
Communicants - 3,873; with the years 1903 to 1910 not recorded. By average - 4,611.
A FEW FIRST
Marie Behren, daughter of Wilhelm and Anna Behrens, by Rev. Ott. April 29, 1888.
Katherine Evers, daughter of Frederick and Anna Evers, by Rev. Hammer. August 5, 1888.
Wilhelm Siegel and Sophia Schmidt. Feb. 23, 1888. (Pastor not known).
Herman Boske and Anna Schafer, by Rev. Hammer. The first to be wedded in St. John's
Church. Jan. 31, 1889.
FIRST CONFIRMATION CLASS
Karl Schmidt, Geske Luecken, Marie Luecken, Archie Saathoff, Anna Amerkamp, Lizzie Eckhoff, and Minnie Amerkamp. May 5, 1889.
FIRST FUNERAL SERVICES
Heinrich Muller, son of Heinrich and Emilie Muller, by Rev. Severing, (1888).
Johann Rademacher, son of Herman and Adele Rademacher, by Rev. Hammer, Nov. 27, (1888).
THE CHURCH SCHOOL
Founded the very beginning of St. John's history, the Church School or Sunday School has kept pace with the growth of the congregation. Offering, as it did at first, an opportunity for the young people to learn the German Language, the aim of the Church School has always been to emphasize education for Christian living. Maintaining high spiritual as well as educational standards the Church School now has an enrollment of about half the membership of our church. Our goal most naturally and very earnestly, is to have every member of St. John's Church a member of our church School. The present officers are: Louis Dirks, superintendent; Fred Kaiser, vice-superintendent; Wilma Wohler, secretary, and John Boske, treasurer. The teachers are: Mrs. Emma Wilhelm, Mrs. Virgie Boske, and Marie Evers in the Primary department; Mrs. Katie Behrens, Juniors; Helena Deverman, Intermediate; Rev. Beehler, young people; and Harold Deverman, adults.
THE WOMEN'S UNION
At the center of activity of nearly every function of St. John's congregation is to be found some member of the Women's Union. The oldest and largest organization, the Women's Union has many valuable spiritual, social, and financial contributions to our church life. On the second Thursday of every month the forty members of the society can be found considering some subject of local interest or of Larger Kingdom service. Organized during the ministry of Rev. Mernitz, the Women's Union has continually sought to interest all the ladies of St. John's in the great work of their society. This work touches every phase of life of the Evangelical and Reformed Church and also meets the local needs. The Lenten Quiet Hour, sponsored by the Women's Union each year, is perhaps the outstanding worship service of our church year. The contributions made each year to the Bensenville Orphanage and the Old People's Home and the Deaconess Hospital at Lincoln are always valuable. And the many fine touches to our Sunday morning services are always in evidence.
The present officers of the Women's Union are: Mrs. Dick Dirks, President; Mrs. Alice Simmering, vice-president; Mrs. Alma Weidhuner, recording secretary; Pauline Eggers, financial secretary; and Helena Deverman, treasure.
ST. JOHN'S BROTHERHOOD
In Point of organization the Brotherhood is one of our younger organizations. On December 13, 1929 a meeting of the men of the church was held for the purpose of organizing a Brotherhood. Under the leadership of Rev. Hildebrand, and aided by a group of Brotherhood men from Pekin, plans were outlined and officers elected, with 22 men signifying their desire to be members of the club. The first officers were: Louie Wilhelm, president; Fred Kaiser, vice-president; Harold Deverman, secretary; and Merle Dennis, treasurer. While several more have been added and others have lost their first interest, the Brotherhood remains active, though being a small group. Once each month, except during the summer harvest season, a program and business meeting is held with the aim always being to further the work of the men in an earnest endeavor to advance the work of the Kingdom of God. The present officers of the Brotherhood are: George Behrens, president; Fred Kaiser, vice-president; C. Beehler, secretary; and Henry Weidhuner, treasurer. The Brotherhood meets on the evening of the second Wednesday of each month.
The Evangelical League is the newest of our organizations. Organized for the benefit of our Young People, the League offers valuable training in the spiritual and social activities of a Christian's life. Meeting twice a month. On the first and third Thursdays, the Young People give expression of the vitality of our future church. Following confirmation each young person is urged to join the Evangelical League and there continue their training in the Christian Way of Life. The publication of The Fireside Glow is one of the best known activities of our Young People as they keep before the Congregation the program of the church and aim to bring into each home some form of deeper inspiration for Christian Living and a selection of religious literature. The present officers of the League are: John Boske, president; Eileen Cramer, vice-president; Betty Boske, secretary; Marie Evers, treasurer.
Transcribed by:Pam Ross