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St. John Lutheran Church observes 100th Anniversary

The new church was built in 1936 on the corner of Jefferson Street S. and Franklin Ave. S.W.1 / 8
Resident pastors of St. John include, top row, from left to right, Rev. Herbert Luecke (1915-1920), Rev. William Kampschmidt (1921-1924), Rev. Edward Deffner (1925-1927), Rev. John Spomer (1927-1935) and Rev. Clement Joesting (1935-1938). Bottom row, from left to right, Rev. Frank Mueller (1938-1957), Rev. Winfred Sprengeler 91958-1967), Rev. Rodney Riese (1968-1979), Rev. Terry Finnern (1979-2000), Rev. Gary Rokenbrodt (2000-2006) and Rev. Stephen Meltzer (2010 to present).2 / 8
The church as it looks today.3 / 8
Current pastor, Rev. Stephen Meltzer, will preside over the anniversary service Aug. 10.4 / 8
In 1960, the church was built in its current location.5 / 8
The first church in 1921, on the corner of Deerwood Ave. and 1st Street N.E.6 / 8
In 1989, an addition was added to the church, which was celebrated on Sept. 30, 1990.7 / 8
On Jun 17, 2010, a tornado damaged the church, tearing part of the roof off.8 / 8

St. John Lutheran Church will observe it's 100th anniversary Aug. 10.

The presiding pastor will be Rev. Stephen Meltzer. The liturgist will be seminarian Tim Wells, a former director of christian education at St. John. Pastors who will participate in the anniversary service include Gary Piepkorn, Bruce Timm, Jeff Walther, Gary Finnern, Dustin Anderson and the president of the minnesota North District Dr. Don Fondow.

On June 1, 1914, St. John Lutheran Church of Wadena was organized as a christian congregation under the leadership of the Reverend Gustav Mundinger of Bertha, who served this congregation until August 1915 when their first resident pastor, Herbert Luecke, was installed. At that time, all services and congregational minutes were in the German language.

In 1921, when the congregation rented it's first church home for $50 a year on the corner of Deerwood Avenue and 1st Street N.E., the worship services and other congregational activities had been held in the homes of its members. In the early years, the pastors of St. John also conducted services at different times for families in the towns of New York Mills, Staples and Aldrich.

On June 10, 1924, a parsonage was acquired from August Michel, which was located across the street from the Norwegian lutheran Church.

At the Aug. 6, 1936 special voter's meeting, the resolution was passed to build a new church on the corner of Jefferson Street S. and Franklin Avenue S.W. Building began in the fall of 1936 with the cornerstone laying taking place in the month of October. The congregation dedicated its new house of worship on December 20, 1936.

On April 20, 1941, a resolution was passed to drop German services for the duration of World War II. So came to an end the long transition period from the German to English language in the worship life of the congregation. Begun in October of 1945, the parsonage, located south of the church, was not fully completed until 1947 due to a shortage of materials brought about by World War II.

Due to the increase of members, the congregation voted in January of 1956 to have two services each Sunday rather than add a 30-foot extension to the church. During the summers of 1956-1960, the early service was held at the Wadena Drive-in Theater.

June 5, 1960 marked the groundbreaking for their present church home. Construction began in July with the cornerstone laying taking place on oct. 9, 1960. Construction was completed May of 1961 and the present church home of St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church at 710 Franklin Avenue S.W. was dedicated on June 4, 1961.

Property was purchased for the construction of the new parsonage in October 1960 and was begun in November 1961 and completed in June of 1962.

The groundbreaking for the addition to their church was Aug. 13, 1989 which included two offices, a library, enlargement of the narthex, enclosed entry from the parking lot, restrooms, fellowship hall with a storage room, electrical room, kitchen and dishwashing room. An open house was celebrated on Sept. 30, 1990 for their new church addition.

On Thursday, June 17, 2010, an EF4 tornado damaged St. John Lutheran Church. There was extensive damage to the roof of the fellowship hall and part of the balcony roof was gone. Two and a half days and over 40 volunteers later, on Sunday at 9 a.m., an "open air worship service" was held. During the process of rebuilding, many updates were done to the church. on March 20, 2011, the worship service included the rite of blessing for the new altar, pulpit, lectern, baptismal font, processional cross and candle, two credences, the Christian flag and the American flag.

Set. 9, 2012 was truly a blessed day for the congregation with the burning of the mortgage ceremony, officiated by Rev. Stephen Meltzer.

There have been three directors of Christian education and two interns on staff at St. John. There have been nine member and/or past members ordained into the ministry from St. John Lutheran, one being a lay minister and one former member presently in the seminary. There have been 11 resident pastors, four of whom have celebrated 25 years or more in the ministry during St. John Lutheran's 100 years of Christian growth.

Throughout the church's history, auxiliary organizations within the congregation have been active as a means of promoting spiritual growth and fellowship and also to assist the congregation in its tasks and mission work with christian education.

Beginning with six families in 1914, St. John Lutheran Church has grown to a congregation totalling 782 baptized members and 625 communicants.