The St. John's Story
During the period from 1868 to 1875 (the Civil War just having come to an end) a large number of emigrants from the northern part of Germany came to America and settled near Chicago in a section, which was known as Jefferson Township. Most of these people took to truck farming, finding a ready market in nearby Chicago for their products. Lutheran churches were few and far between, the nearest one being in Niles. Chicago's only church was St. Paul's and shortly thereafter two more churches were organized, First St. John's and First Bethlehem.
As the number of Lutheran emigrants increased in Jefferson Township, the Rev. A. Detzer Sr., from Des Plaines contacted these Lutherans in the year 1874 in order to serve them spiritually with God's Word and Sacraments. The first Divine Services were held for these scattered Lutherans in the English speaking Congregational Church of Jefferson, located at London Ave. and Giddings Street.
In the spring of 1875, Pastor Detzer gathered a number of men in the home of Mr. N. Salamann. This meeting led to the organization of the Evangelical Lutheran St. John's Church of Town Jefferson, which was the original name for the Congregation and it was in the German language.
A constitution was also drawn up in German and was adopted October 3, 1875. It was signed by the following voting members: John Lorenz, Karl Behning, Edward Kuester, Fred Mahler, Wm. Frick, Carl Meyer, Joachim Ganschow, Karl Sass, John Karnatz, Kark Willig, W. Suchow, Reimer Schmook, Fred Jacobs and John Hamann.
Within a few months, plans were made for the erection of a church. In the spring of 1876, three lots were bought on Montrose and Lavergne Ave. A frame church, thirty by fifty feet, with steeple and brick basement was erected and dedicated on October 14, 1876. The basement was later used for school and parsonage.
The need for a resident pastor caused the congregation to call Rev. Fr. Brunn, who was the assistant to Rev. Reinke in First Bethlehem Church. Pastor Brunn was installed in December 1876 at a monthly salary of $33.33. He served until December 1881.
The Rev. Paul Luecke was called in November, 1886 from Merrill, Wisconsin to serve as pastor at St. John's. He was privileged to serve for 51 years in the active ministry and for six years as honorary pastor.
In 1890, the congregation had outgrown the old church and an addition, forty by sixty feet, increased the seating capacity to 800. The first pipe organ was also installed at that time. Two new school rooms were provided on the ground floor of the church. Dedication took place September 14, 1890.
In June, 1903, it was decided to grant a peaceful release to twenty-six families for the purpose of organizing their own congregation, now known as St. Paul's Church, located on Canfield Ave. In 1908, the congregation enlarged its property by purchasing several lots situated between the church and the old parsonage. The wooden parsonage was erected in 1911, replacing one that had served since 1887. The parish school, consisting of four classrooms, basement playroom and heating plant, was erected in 1915.
In November, 1919, it was decided to conduct one English service per month. Up to that time, all services were conducted in German.
After some years of planning, the erection of our beautiful church edifice was begun in 1929 and completed in 1930. Built of colored Indiana limestone, its beauty has increased during the past years. The graceful tower, with a testifying cross on top, and its artistic stone tracery, completes the harmonious design. The interior is light and cheerful, with beautiful art windows, decorated trusses and paneled ceiling, deep altar niche with canopied, and altar reredos, pulpit and lectern are all artistically carved. The old bell, which for fifty-four years served in the tower of the old church, was installed and continues to extend its pleading invitation to a metropolitan neighborhood.
In 1957, a new addition was made to the school. Older portions of the school were updated and remodeled..
In 1980, the Blanke Center was added to St. John's School to create a true Christian Educational Complex.
In 2000, at the observance of its 125th Anniversary, St. John's celebrated the completion of a major church renovation project which included the installation of a new pipe organ, custom-built by Berghaus.
Today, St. John's has over 700 communicant members. Members partake in numerous fellowship opportunities throughout the year, from weekly Sunday coffee hour to church clubs, dinners, picnics, group outings and athletic events.
St. John's is a place of learning and growing in faith for all ages through Bible Study, Sunday School and Christian elementary school program.