The First 150 Years…
The beginning of Saint John's Lutheran Church took place under rather dramatic circumstances. It was the summer of 1865. The Civil War had come to an end. The Confederate prison camp on Johnson's Island in Sandusky Bay and the activities of the "underground railroad", of which Erie County was one of the terminals, had also ended. People were turning to more peaceful pursuits. It was at this time that Reverend J. G. Lehrer, an early pastor of Zion Lutheran Church of Sandusky, made a tour of inspection in the rural section south of the city to see what might be done for the many Evangelical Christians who had moved there, but found it difficult to attend church services in the surrounding established communities. The results of Reverend Lehrer's survey prompted him to begin preaching services in Merry Schoolhouse on Thomas Road in Oxford township.
As these preaching services continued, it gradually became apparent to the pastor that the people of his flock were not all of the same persuasion in the matter of Christian doctrine (Lord's Supper). Thus on a certain Sunday, Pastor Lehrer decided to present the teachings of the Lutheran Church on certain controversial issues and invited all interested brethren to attend. The schoolhouse was filled to capacity and the people listened attentively as the pastor spoke. When the discourse was finished, the pastor announced, "All who believe in the Lutheran teaching, please rise and follow me." With that he walked down the main aisle toward the exit, and a large number of the congregation followed him.
On October 16, 1865, Pastor Lehrer conducted a meeting for the purpose of organizing a congregation. The meeting was called to order and Ernst Weichel was chosen as presiding officer. The three trustees elected were: Adam Weichel, Heinrich Rau, and William Hardt. Jacob Schnell was elected secretary. Articles of incorporation were drawn up, adopted, and recorded at the court house. The first vestry was made up of the following officers:
Elder William Dedelius (Delius)
Elder Heinrich Zorn
Deacon William Hardt
Deacon Heinrich Rau
Trustee John Scherer
Trustee William Scheid
Trustee Jacob Schnell.
A plot of ground a short distance south of the church was donated for the cemetery by the Scherer family.
The Reverend W. Schmogrow who was serving Saint Peter's at Pontiac, near Monroeville, Ohio, was installed as the first pastor of Saint John's, the two congregations constituting one parish.
Following the tradition of the Lutheran Church as a teaching church, instruction for children was provided by establishing a parochial school. The school term was only for the summer months. It was conducted at first in homes and then in the schoolhouse. The first teachers were qualified members of the congregation plus several from Sandusky. Later, students from Woodville Normal School at Woodville, Ohio, and Capital University, Columbus, Ohio, served as instructors.
Three young women from the congregation who taught were Barbara Schaubert, Katharine Simmermacher, and Lizette Rau; and the salary was $20.00 per month. Since the instruction was done in the German language, this school was often called the "German School." It stood just east of the present church somewhere near where the parsonage now stands.
This little exodus under Pastor Lehrer actually marked the beginning of what was to lead to the organization of Saint John's Evangelical Lutheran Church. Regular services were continued in another schoolhouse, believed to have been in the vicinity of Union Corners, (so called because of the juncture of Milan, Oxford, Huron and Perkins townships). This location later became the site of the parochial school and church.
The remainder of the group formed the nucleus of what is now known as Saint John's United Church of Christ, Oxford township. They also celebrated their 150th anniversary in 2015. Another meeting was held sometime later between the two groups. The Lutheran group was to receive the money it had paid toward the church property and half the money in the old age treasury. It was arranged to pay the Oxford congregation $4.50 for the Communion and Baptism sets. By June 1, 1866, Oxford was to pay $115.00 to the Lutherans, after which all rights to the mutual property were terminated.
On March 30, 1866, the first baptism noted in the Church records was that of Phillip Henry Behrens, son of Mr. and Mrs. John Behrens.
On July 24, 1866, the first funeral was conducted for Florine Caroline Scheid, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Scheid.
The young congregation prospered. The schoolhouse became too small; so in 1868 the congregation built a fine frame church which had something that few country churches could boast of in those days - a pipe organ. For a while it was doubtful if the organ would be in place for the dedication services. Some essential parts were still in Milan and could not be transported to the church because the Huron River was flooded. However, in a round-about way, the organ did get there in time. Some of our older members may recall how they had to pump by hand to supply wind for the organ. At times when the organ began to sound rather wheezy, the pastor would step to a small opening, near the organ, which lead to the pump room and shout "Mehr Wind", (More Wind).
The original white frame church was built in 1868.
The first marriage was that of Reverend Schomogrow's daughter to Ferdinand Heegi on December 27, 1870.
The third marriage was performed uniting William Zorn and Wilhemina Rau on February 7, 1873, who were parents of Louis, Albert, Walter and Henry Zorn, etc. Many of their descendants are still members of Saint John's. Reverend Schmogrow remained with the congregation until 1873 when he was succeeded by Reverend A.C. Ulrich. At this time the church in Norwalk was included in the parish arrangement.
In 1889 Pastor Ulrich resigned to devote his time to the Norwalk Congregation.
He was followed by Reverend F.J. Schulz in 1890, who served until 1898. Also, the first Children's Christmas Program with a Christmas tree was held this year. (1990 will be the 100th year anniversary for the use of a Christmas tree during the Annual Christmas Program.
Mr. John Schlessman was confirmed in the class of 1895. Shortly thereafter it became his duty to start the fires in the two pot-bellied stoves (one in the sacristy and one in the back of the church), dust the pews, and clean the lamp chimneys. After Reverend Mittler came, in 1908, his duties increased because of an added evening service and the pumping of the organ, and he was paid $15.00 a year.
When Reverend Schultz left in 1898, the parish was without a pastor until the following spring. Reverend W.F. Rose was installed in 1899.
Wyhoff Builders of Milan tore down the 75 foot steeple that had a rooster and cross on the top of it; and, built the vestibule (near a furnace) and erected a bell tower. Saint John's had a bell tower for the first time. Dedicatory Services were held on November 19, 1905
Reverend Rose continued as our Pastor until 1906 when he was succeeded by Reverend H. G. Sutter.
The first Sunday School was organized in March, 1906. The staff consisted of the following: Superintendent, Louis Zorn; Teachers, Mrs. Louis Zorn, Mrs. W.P. Scheid, Miss Augusta Rau, Miss Amanda Scheid, Mr. Albert Zorn and Mr. Henry Behrens.
The parish arrangement of Pontiac and Union Corners continued until 1907 when a new alignment took place. A mission congregation had been started in Huron in 1901 which had been served by pastors from Sandusky. In 1908 Reverend Karl Mittler became the first resident pastor of the new parish of Union Corners and Huron.
On October 18, 1910 a parsonage was acquired in Huron on Williams Street by Saint John's and was first occupied by the new pastor, Reverend H.C. Fenker. This parsonage, located on the east side of Williams Street between Route 2 and the Lake, was used until 1921. The Huron congregation contributed yearly toward the upkeep of the parsonage.
Reverend W.E. Kaeding followed Pastor Fenker in 1912.
On July 19, 1913, the last marriage to be performed in the frame Church before the fire was when Alma Jarrett married Leon Sexton.
On Sunday morning, October 12, 1913, the congregation met with disaster, - fire destroyed the original white frame church. The first of the brethren to arrive for public worship were alarmed to see smoke emanating from the rear of the church. Immediate investigation revealed that the building was on fire. A general alarm was sounded and many volunteers responded. However, the flames fed by a huge heap of old shingles stored in the furnace room soon enveloped the whole structure. Efforts to save it were futile. It is believed that the first minutes of the congregation were destroyed in the fire. Services were held in the township schoolhouse across the road and steps were immediately taken to rebuild. The old "German School" having long since served its purpose had been moved to the Edward Scheid farm. It still stands, looking somewhat different than a school.
On October 23, 1913 (Thursday afternoon), a congregational meeting was held at the home of William P. Scheid to discuss plans for re-building the Church. Every member was requested to be present. (This was possibly only the male members of the congregation).
The Ladies Missionary Society began this year with the encouragement of Reverend Kaeding's wife.
The building committee for the new church consisted of Henry Scheid, W.P. Scheid, Henry Behrens, Fred Justi and Reverend W.E. Kaeding. The new church was built on the same location as the old. It was constructed of blue Sandusky limestone, and is one of the finest country churches of its size in the state. It was dedicated on February 28, 1915, which date also marked the 50th anniversary of the founding of the congregation. Preachers for the occasion were Dr. Otto Mees and Dr. Karl Hemminghaus, both from Capital University, Columbus, Ohio. On October 31 of the same year, a new pipe organ was installed and dedicated, which was a gift of the Luther League with help from the Andrew Carnegie Fund. The beauty of the sanctuary was enhanced by many memorial gifts from members of the church. The entire cost of the structure, including inside appointments, amounted to $11,476.18. The church is of pure Gothic design.
The first baptism in the present structure was that of Robert Zorn on April 23, 1916.
After Reverend Kaeding left for another field of labor, there were two short pastorates under Reverend F. Ihrig and Reverend H.J. Weiler.
During this time the parsonage on Williams Street was sold and another purchased. This one was on Adams Avenue, also in Huron, and remained the parsonage until 1963. Mrs. Lucht resides there yet today.
The first wedding in the present stone structure was that of Eleanor W. Zorn to Edward J. Rosin on June 10, 1922.
On June 29, 1924, Reverend W.R. Lucht was installed as the parish pastor. The previous day, June 28th, will long be remembered by the new pastor and many members. This was the day that the big tornado struck the area (the first known in this location) from Sandusky to Lorain. Scores of lives were lost in Lorain. It also resulted in millions of dollars of property damage, including the properties of several members of Saint John's. Following this installation the new pastor made a tour of inspection and viewed the devastation. Happily there was no loss of life within the parish and the church building was not damaged. With the help of the Red Cross, plus the determination of the affected members, things slowly returned to normal.
Within the next few years a new financial system was adopted, the constitution was translated from German into English and adopted, the Sunday bulletin (Parish Tidings) was started, and new regulations for the cemetery were adopted.
On June 14, 1932, Reverend Lucht married a daughter of the congregation, Miss Erma Smith.
On October 13, 16 & 20, 1940, Saint John's celebrated the 75th anniversary of its organization. Four special services were arranged: October 13 with the Reverend W.E. Kaeding preaching; October 16 with the Reverend J.W. Schillinger, District President, preaching at the morning service and Reverend W.F. Rose in the evening. Reverend Lucht conducted the altar service for all services. Improvements for this celebration, included the following: Gothic designed lanterns for the sanctuary, vestibule and porch; chancel lights, pulpit light, altar and pulpit Bibles; altar desk and hymnal; cross, candelabra, vases and a sacristy cabinet. The church and parsonage were also painted. Much of this was done through memorials. Many former members attended this celebration. It was a real homecoming.
For many years, and even today, many people traveling along Milan Road (Route 250) wonder why there are practically no homes on the west side of the road from Bogart Road to Avery. The reason for this is that in January and February 1941 the government bought 9,000 acres of land to build the Plum Brook Ordnance Works (now NASA). This was a blow to many of the church members, as well as to the congregation. All homes, many of them long established, were moved to other locations and the families scattered in all directions. This practically cut the immediate field for the church in half. One young family, Mr. and Mrs. Howard Lindsley, had just completed their new home but never got to live in it. Since then many of the former members and their children have become members of neighboring congregations.
About this time the congregation decided to purchase an individual Communion set. It is interesting to note that for years the men sat on one side of the church, and the women on the other. Whenever the Lord's Supper was celebrated, the men were served firSaint There were two cups used at Communion services, one for the men, the other for the women. Now whole families commune together. The old set was sent to a mission church. The new set was a memorial gift by Emma and Elizabeth Walz.
From the beginning all services had been conducted in the German language. When younger generations began to make up the membership of the church, German services gradually decreased to once a month, and then to once a year, on Good Friday. By that time the pastor's German had become so rusty it was decided to discontinue all German services. The last such service was the Good Friday Communion Service of 1943.
The second Sunday in July 1949 was a special day for Reverend and Mrs. Lucht. Traveling between churches they had been discussing their upcoming vacation. They wondered whether their 13 years old Dodge ("Old Faithful") would make the yearly trip to Reverend Lucht's home in Manistee, Michigan. As they approached the church they noticed a large crowd of people. They soon discovered that both congregations had arranged a surprise celebration of their pastor's 25th anniversary of ordination. After the church service, the Reverend John Griffith of Saint Paul, Sandusky, spoke and read an original poem for the occasion. Then came the big surprise. The congregations presented the pastor and his wife a new car. The car problem had been solved. "Old Faithful" very properly landed in the Valley of Hillel.
In 1952 the first parking lot was acquired. The township schoolhouse, opposite the church, had been closed and moved away. The lot was deeded as a gift to the church by the Hills family. Since then another parcel of ground has been added, the gift of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Scheid. Today the parking lot is well stoned and lighted and provides ample space for parking.
Another notable event in the history of the church took place in 1952 when the women of the church became voting members of the congregation.
Recognizing the need for more space and modern facilities, the congregation was happy to dedicate a new addition to the church building on January 31, 1954. Included were a modernized kitchen, rest rooms, and a new heating system. The speaker for the occasion was Reverend David Wolber of Zion Sandusky. The new addition was built of Indiana limestone at a cost of over $13,000. The building committee consisted of Edward C. Scheid, chairman; Earl Hart, Irvin Ohlemacher, Herbert Schlessman, and Walter Zorn. Albert K. Zorn was treasurer of the building fund, and John Schlessman and Harry Aust were appointed as solicitors.
Due to the fact that some of the older members might not be present for the 100th anniversary celebration, the congregation observed the 90th anniversary in October 1955. The Reverend Wm. Kiether, (husband of Joyce Rudiger, a former member of the church) preached the sermon. A fellowship dinner and afternoon social hour followed the service.
In 1956 the 50th anniversary of the Sunday School was observed. The Reverend Wilson Egbert, editor of Sunday School literature in Columbus, was the guest speaker. On this occasion it was noted how few superintendents had served since 1906. Because of his early death, the first superintendent, Louis Zorn, served less than one year. Albert K. Zorn, his brother, was then elected and served from 1907 to 1932. He was followed by Harry Aust who served from 1932 to December 31, 1958. Both of these faithful servants were given recognition at special programs and presented with appropriate gifts. The 100th Anniversary of the Sunday School will be in the year 2006.
In June of 1957 Reverend and Mrs. Lucht were surprised by the congregation with a reception at the church on the occasion of their 25th wedding anniversary. Pastors Theo. Stellhorn, Jr., and David Wolber of Zion Sandusky, were the speakers for the occasion. The Pastor and his wife received a beautiful silver tray appropriately inscribed, a generous purse, plus other tokens of esteem.
Following World War II, the Huron area experienced a sudden growth in population. It was therefore decided, in 1957, for the good of the parish and the pastor, to dissolve into two separate and independent congregations. To facilitate this dissolution, on June 23, 1957, Reverend Lucht resigned the pastorate of the joint parish. He was then immediately called as the pastor of Saint John's exclusively. Pastor Lucht accepted, so the congregation was without a pastor for only about five minutes. A new man was then called to serve the Huron congregation. The parish Zion, Huron and Saint John's, Union Corners had existed for 49 years, 33 years during the pastorate of Reverend Lucht.
In the fall of 1957 the church sanctuary, sacristy, and vestibule took on a new look when wall-to-wall floor covering of carpet and linoleum was laid and dedicated on October 27.
In 1958 an evangelistic campaign was conducted in the area of the church. The survey revealed that only 19 homes out of over 340 contacted claimed to be without any church affiliation. Follow-up calls were made with little results.
In 1959 the new Service Book and Hymnal was introduced, the standard hymnal of the American Lutheran Church and other synods. A fund for a new parsonage was started by a gift of $1,000 from the Schlessman Seed House. In 1960 two other memorial gifts were presented to the congregation: one for $500 from Mrs. Margaret Shumacher in memory of Mrs. Martha Zorn, (wife of the first Sunday School superintendent, Louis Zorn) to be used for youth work in the church; another for $1,000 from the will of Mrs. Henry Jarrett (Lizette Rau). The money had been obtained through the sale of a button collection which Mrs. Jarrett had accumulated over the years.
Merger of Saint John's Lutheran Church Women with the American Lutheran Church Women (A.L.C.W.).
At the annual meeting of the congregation in 1961 it was decided to renovate the church basement. Shortly thereafter a whole battalion of young men began work. After the floor had been ripped up, plaster torn off, platform and wardrobe closet removed, the basement appeared to be a scene of destruction. However, under the hands of skilled workmen the structure took on a new look. The alcove under the church tower became a useful storage area. The floor was tiled, the walls were painted, and the new curtains were donated by the Women of the Church.
On September 16, 1962, Saint John's observed the 40th anniversary of Reverend Lucht's ordination. He had been ordained in his home congregation in Manistee, Michigan, by his brother, the late Reverend A.J. Lucht of Blissfield, Michigan. Pastor Ned W. Westphal, the Lucht's son-in-law, preached the sermon. Reverend Wm. R. Lucht, Jr., then a student in the seminary at Columbus, Ohio, conducted the altar service. The congregation presented their pastor with a generous purse and held a reception after the service.
July 7, 1963 was a big day in the life of Saint John's, and a happy one for Reverend and Mrs. Lucht. Their son became the first member of the congregation to be ordained into the holy ministry of The American Lutheran Church. The preacher for the occasion was the Reverend Clyde A. Miller of Lima, Ohio, first vice-president of the Ohio District. It was a thrill for the father to ordain his son. After the service a fellowship dinner was held at the church. The congregation presented the young pastor with a generous purse.
At the regular vestry meeting in April 1963, Reverend Lucht, due to failing health announced his intention to retire as of September 1Saint Steps were immediately taken to build a new parsonage and to call a pastor. A building committee had previously been appointed consisting of Edward C. Scheid, chairman, Louis Zorn, Norman Aust, Clifford Hahn, Sr., Herbert Schlessman, Mrs. Howard Lindsley and Mrs. Clifford Wonnell. Charles Zickefoose served as treasurer. Ground to the rear of the church was donated by Mr. and Mrs. John Schlessman. The parsonage is of brick construction, ranch style, costing approximately $28,000. Only a small amount remained unpaid and this was covered by long-term pledges. It was dedicated on October 27, 1963. The Reverend Clovis A. Frank, Professor at Capital University Columbus, Ohio, brought the message.
On August 25, 1963, Reverend Lucht preached his farewell sermon after having served Saint John's for 39 years. As a token of appreciation, the congregation deeded the parsonage on Adams Avenue in Huron to Reverend and Mrs. Lucht. A heart-warming reception was held after the service. Mrs. Lucht is still an active member of Saint John's.
A call was extended to Pastor Dennis Dickman, a graduate of Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, and Wartburg Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa, where he received his Bachelor of Theology degree in May, 1963, by the Reverend E.J. Katterhenrich, Assistant to the President of the Ohio District, Columbus, Ohio. Shortly thereafter Pastor Dickman and his family moved into the new parsonage.
The building of a parsonage, however, proved to be only the first in a series of physical changes and improvements. Since then the parking lot has been enlarged and the church building repainted and refurbished. Much time and effort has been expended on the Church Cemetery, and recently a portion of the parsonage basement has been converted into Sunday School rooms.
Holy Communion observed more often and an additional Sunday service was added.
The 100th Anniversary of the congregation was celebrated on October 27, 1965.
Dr. Paul Moeller, Ohio District President, was the guest preacher for the 8:00 A.M. and 10:30 A.M. Worship Services. The Anniversary Dinner was held at Saint Stephens United Church of Christ, Sandusky, Ohio. Reverend Ned Westphal, Reverend William Kiether, and Reverend William Lucht, Jr., conducted the Vesper Service in the evening. Reverend Dickman remained at Saint John's until December 31, 1966.
Reverend David Proctor accepted the call to Saint John's and served the congregation from June 25, 1967 until August 31, 1970.
January 18, 1970, at the Annual Meeting it was voted to establish a Scholarship Fund for the church. Norma Zorn, Jane Shinrock, and Bob Schlessman were named to the committee. This committee along with Pastor David Proctor established the regulations by which the fund would operate.
The first recipients of a scholarship in 1970 were Lynn Schlessman - 1st year seminary student at Wartburg Theological Seminary, and Jill Justi - a freshman medical arts student at Dana College, Blair, Nebraska. Since that time over the past twenty years, a total of 26 young people have received financial assistance from the Scholarship Fund totaling nearly $21,000.00. These funds are derived from memorials, honorariums and yearly donations from our generous members and organizations. Five Scholarship grants were given this past year. Norma Zorn, Kathleen Rudiger and Richard Schlessman are the current committee members.
A call was extended to Reverend Glenn Miller who served as pastor of Saint John's from October, 1970, to April, 1977.
In January, 1973 the Chancel Light in memory of Pastor William R. Lucht was installed.
Also in January of 1973, a long talked about wooden sign was installed in front of the church, erected to the memory of John and Edward Schlessman. It was placed on the west side of the church, along Route 250.
In June, 1973 two cherry trees were planted in the cemetery.
In November, 1973 a new sound system was installed which was purchased with money from Marie Behrens and memorial money from Gertrude Zorn and John Schlessman. Marie Behrens donated the stand for the Memorial Book, and the Memorial Book was donated by the grandchildren of Mr. & Mrs. August Hermann Schnell.
The Ordination of Lynn Schlessman, second son of the congregation to enter the ministry took place on July 21, 1974.
On Sunday, October 12, 1975 the 110th Anniversary of Saint John's was observed with Reverend Theodore Stellhorn speaking and a potluck dinner followed.
On January 28, 1977 traffic came to a complete halt on U.S. 250 after the blizzard. Scores of trucks and cars were forced to remain parked on the 4-lane highway for several days.
Twenty-six stranded truckers and other drivers stayed three days at the parsonage of Saint John's Lutheran Church. "The Lord always provides" said Reverend Glenn Miller.
Not manna, but hambergers, were the Lord's instruments during the long weekend, thanks to the cargo of one stranded trucker,
"Our ace in the hole was a truckload of supplies for McDonalds," said the pastor-turned innkeeper of "Millers Motel."
Only volunteers on snowmobiles could get through to find where roads were blocked and deliver assistance to stranded travelers and residents in rural areas.
Reverend Kim R. Wenger followed Pastor Miller, and began his ministry at Saint John's in July of 1977.
Also, in July 1977, Edna Aust donated money in memory of her husband, Harry to landscape the parsonage grounds and refurbish the parsonage. In December of 1977, new carpeting was installed in the church.
From January 26 - 30, 1978, we had another blizzard-like snow storm leaving the area without heat and electricity for 61 hours. About this time, the Lutheran Book of Worship (green hymnal) was introduced. It replaced the (red) Service Book and Hymnal. We missed some of our "old favorite songs".
A strong wind damaged the west wall of the church and weakened the stained glass window in 1980. The wooden church sign was blown against the building and destroyed.
Dr. James A. Dumke who had been serving Saint John's Lutheran Church, Groton Township, gave pastoral assistance to our congregation the remainder of 1981.
Pastor Wenger served our congregation until July of 1981.
On February 8, 1982, Pastor Dumke was called to serve the duo-parishes of Saint John's Union Corners, and Saint John, Groton Township. This arrangement proved to be a positive move for both congregations, as we combined for many activities such as Lenten Services and Vacation Bible School.
On Thursday afternoon, June 30, 1982 there was damage to our church by vandalism. To our knowledge, only one person was involved. He gained entry to the church through a basement window and left destruction throughout the entire church.
Professionals were contracted to clean up the mess, and services were held on Sunday as usual. Luckily, the stained glass windows were left intact and no major monetary damage was incurred.
In May of 1983, Lillian Druckenmiller purchased material and paid for making new basement curtains.
In June of 1983, new choir robes were purchased as a gift of Irvin and Bernice Ohlemacher.
In April, 1984 a more permanent stone sign was erected in front of the Church. Peter Scheid was instrumental in obtaining the design and Louis Zorn obtained the necessary limestone from buildings being demolished at the Soldiers and Sailors Home. The stainless steel letters were purchased by individuals or families of the congregation for approximately $56.00 each, allowing everyone to take part.
The structure not only identifies the congregation but also beautifies the church property. Because it is illuminated at night, it serves as a Christian beacon to the church.
Pastor W. L. Hutflies was installed.
Pastor Hutflies was still ministering to our congregation. Nine scholarship grants were provided this year, the largest group since the scholarship program was established. Lutheran Memorial Home opened a new wing. Fundraising for new church carpeting was approved. Amy Bliss was Superintendent of Sunday School. Women of the Church made seventy-six quilts this year. Since October 1, 1990 there were twelve baptisms performed.
Fund raising began for the purpose of blacktopping the parking lot. In a church survey, supporting our Pastor was the #1 criteria.
New organ and speakers were purchased. Paving of parking lot was completed. Clifton and Jean Nottke were delegates for the Lutheran Memorial Home. Pastor Hutflies left our congregation.
Pastor Beth Huener began as our minister. Women of the Church made eighty-nine quilts this year.
Our congregation had two hundred fifty nine baptized members. Average Sunday attendance from 11-1-94 to 11-30-95 was seventy-two. William Scheid celebrated fifty years as a church organiSaint Seven scholarships were awarded.
The cemetery fence was painted. A new boiler was placed in the parsonage. A handicap railing and new sound system were installed this year. The church basement was painted. Sunday School had twenty attendees.
Pastor Huener resigned. Pastor Loren Hoch served as our interim minister.
In April the congregation issued a Letter of Call to Pastor William Hlavin. Mindy, our celebrity dog, got her fifteen minutes of fame with a Sandusky Register story about her continued church attendance. In Pastor Hlavin’s first seven months fifteen new members joined the church.
The Saint John's Mission Statement was established: “A family of disciples faithfully making Christ known”. Anne Witt began making our delicious communion bread.
Handicap accessibility project (elevator) was completed. Photo directory and update of active membership was completed. Sunday worship attendance averaged ninety-five. A funeral pall for covering a casket was donated by Esther (Lucht) and Ron Svoboda and Bill and Sue Lucht in memory of Erma (Smith) Lucht. We began taping of worship services for homebound members. Fourteen new members were installed this year; nine members passed away. Sunday School attendance was running between 26-34.
Good Shepherd wall tapestry was donated by the children of Arthur and Wilma Schlessman in honor of their 60th wedding anniversary. Council approved support of a project to upgrade and add an addition to the parsonage. New choir robes were donated by the William Scheid family.
Sandusky Area Lutherans in Mission (SALM) is putting together a “Covenant of Mutual Ministry” to set the basis for work being done for the local Lutheran congregations on joint planning and ministry in the Sandusky area. The parsonage addition was completed. Two new benches were placed in Saint John’s Cemetery.
Pastor Hlavin received support from the congregation to allow him to join the Navy Reserve Chaplain Corps in 2004. Sunday School was still going strong with an average attendance of twenty-five.
Pastor Hlavin became an active member and Chaplain in the United States Navy Reserve. Eight confirmations took place this year. Sunday School was still a very active part of our congregation. Allison Young was Superintendent and was supported by Michelle Washburn, Barry Burdue, Cindy Schlessman, Judy Deehr and Kelly Hlavin. Women of the Church made and shipped seventy-six quilts to Lutheran World Relief. The ladies also established a fund to buy folding chairs for the social hall. A raffle of a quilt brought in $415.00
The 140th anniversary of our congregation was celebrated. Pastor Hlavin encouraged us to “raise the bar” by finding creative, faithful and good ways to better serve our congregation, community and world. The Congregation continued to support the Scholarship Fund, which provides monies to members attending an institute of higher education. Five were given scholarships this year. Women of the Church President, Bev Hohman, reported the ladies were involved in a Mother/Daughter Potluck, Spring and Fall Eastern Conferences, Harvest Breakfast, and Christmas Fellowship at Groton Lutheran Church. They also sent eighty-one quilts and several blankets to Lutheran World Relief.
Formation of the “Dream Team”, a visioning group to help determine, “Where is God calling us in the next five to seven years as a congregation?” was affirmed by the Church Council. Pastor Bill Lucht convened it with the input of Pastor Hlavin. Contemporary worship was mixed with traditional services this year. Norma Zorn and Kathleen Rudiger relinquished their positions on the Scholarship Committee after thirty-seven years.
Improvements to the church included resealing the roof, installing a new ladder in the bell tower and re-mortaring the chimney. We dedicated the large outdoor sign donated by Dave and Judy Deehr. It displays short messages of faith, as well as times of worship. Three Ministry Teams were established: Stewardship, Worship and Property.
We celebrated the tenth anniversary of having Pastor Hlavin as our minister. New carpeting was installed throughout the church. Splash was started, a ministry for parents of children newly born through age 3. This program encourages parents in keeping their Baptismal vows.
Faith Life Team was added to the ministry teams. This team will focus on servant events for the community and church. Saint John’s was licensed by U.S.A. Foreign Assets Control to commission and send Sue Lucht and friend, Mollie Wilson, to Cuba on a mission trip. Seven young members were confirmed this year. Women of the Church purchased one hundred padded folding chairs for the Fellowship Hall. SALM continues its many activities in the community. This year much support was given to Firelands Habitat for Humanity projects. They also sold four hundred sixty-four cookbooks.
Saint John’s Choir donated a piano in honor of Bill Scheid’s retirement as our church organiSaint Pastor Hlavin’s deployment to Afghanistan began in May. The congregation accepted this risk of deployment embracing his military ministry as an extension of its own. Pastor Jerry Bauer was our interim pastor during Pastor Hlavin’s absence. A new sound system was installed in the Sanctuary and downstairs. A new deck was built on the parsonage. The congregation was awarded the “Golden Sneaker” as part of the Crop Walk for participation and funds raised. SALM Retreat, DAYBREAK, “Renewing the Hope” held at Kalahari, was an overwhelming success. Also, SALM sponsored the Elisabeth von Trapp Concert, which resulted in $14,000.00 going to Care and Share of Erie County. Initial deposit of $80.00 was made to start the church’s Endowment Fund. The initial committee members are John Miller and Mary K. Schlessman for a one- year term and Pastor Jerry Bauer, Jim Moore and Lou Zorn for a two- year term. The committee meets quarterly. The Dream Team Vision Statement was accepted by the Church Council and congregation. Members of the team were decommissioned.
Renovation of the parsonage kitchen included new cabinets and updating the half bathroom. Pastor Hlavin returned from duty in Afghanistan. During that deployment, the congregation created and shipped more than six hundred personal hygiene kits, which were distributed to Afghan villagers during NATO village medical outreaches.
Much work continued to keep the Saint John’s Church Cemetery clean and headstones straightened. Our resident seminarian, Sharon Brown, worked with the Worship Team. She provided morning prayer during Lent. Eighty-five new Evangelical Lutheran Worship hymnals were donated by the Rolland Schlessman family in memory of Janet Schlessman. Faith Life Team led the way on numerous events this year. This included the welcome home party for Pastor Hlavin, potluck dinner for Pastor Jerry Bauer’s service during Pastor Hlavin’s deployment, thanking Sharon Brown for her involvement during her schooling, Rally Day, Fall Fling, and fellowship activities. SPURS Team was established (Support Persons of Saint John’s Understand a Renewed Spirit) for the purpose of following up the Dream Team Vision Statement.
Ten new members joined our congregation this year. Through SPURS a community Giving Garden was developed and implemented. A big screen was added to the sanctuary for worship, information and presentations. The Faith Life Team sent birthday boxes to college students. Dale Osbun became church Treasurer and was assisted by the Finance Team to make the transition from long-time Treasurer Kevin Young. Assisting Dale as counters were Bill and Jan Fulton and Clem and Candace Rudy. Bob Hoffman
deposited weekly congregation offerings. Ladies of the Church provided quilts for Lutheran World Relief.
Pastor Hlavin and the congregation welcomed eleven new members. The Endowment Fund balance at year-end was $20,046.00. Robert Krawetzki, Elder, was our Representative to SALM. He reported the success of Daybreak 2013, “Doing a New Thing”, and stated the Synod is interested in SALM’s help with their Synod Assembly. A new printer was purchased to be used by Ann Witt so that she could continue her long time ministry of acknowledging all memorials and gift donations. All ministry teams were very active in providing assistance to worship, planning events, overseeing the church’s finances and upkeep of the church property. The land east of the parsonage was donated to Saint John’s church by The Wilma and Arthur Schlessman Family. The Giving Garden had a very successful year and was able to provide produce to Victory Kitchen, Crossroads, Care and Share, Senior Center, Assembly of God Food Pantry in Huron, Salvation Army in Norwalk, Norwalk Food Pantry and residents in Harbor View Apartments. Beverly Hohman, President of WELCA at Saint John’s, retired after many, many years of service and leadership. Ann Witt took over when Kathy Rudiger retired from her long time work of caring for the church’s flower beds. An anonymous Saint John’s member donated $10,000 to fund new landscaping for the entire church perimeter.
A beautiful new metal roof was installed on the church. It should last a very long time and eliminate many problems the church has experienced over the years. The congregation donated funds for installation of air conditioning and a heat pump for the Sanctuary. Ray Witt installed underground tubing out to the Giving Garden for watering. Pastor Hlavin took a sabbatical leave during the summer months. Pastor Ray Vance volunteered to preach and visited housebound members during the thirteen week sabbatical. The Giving Garden continued to thrive with Pastor Paul Stengel leading the team. Thanks was given for the generosity of the Schlessman Seed Company and David Schlessman for ground preparation and planting of the sweet corn; and to Colonial Gardens and Cindy Schlessman for their contribution of the eggplant, pepper, squash, pumpkin, and tomato plants. The Bruns family donated Ruth’s electronic piano, which sits next to the organ and is often used by the choir and organist. The Women of the Church provided another eighty-one quilts to Lutheran World Relief.
Congregational support of Elizabeth Pietro, a child enrolled in Compassion International, continued after many years of sponsorship by Saint John’s. Ann Witt, with help from Vicki Johnson, painted the fellowship room. Pastor Bill Hlavin resigned his position as our minister to become a full-time Navy Chaplain. He completed his service with us on August 2, 2015. A Transition Team was implemented to begin the work needed to call a new pastor. Lay members were educated and installed as Eucharistic Ministers for the purpose of distributing communion to housebound or hospitalized persons. We celebrated 100 years since the dedication of the current church building, and 150 years since the establishment of Saint John’s congregation. Many events took place for our 150th Celebration under the theme: Rejoice, Renew, Reach Out. These included: A special worship, potluck, and commemorative bookmark celebrating the 100-year anniversary of our church building. A church service to honor all pastors, followed by a potluck and ice cream social. Two sons of Saint John’s, Pastors William Lucht and Lynn Schlessman, each preached one Sunday during 2015. Historical and memorabilia displays were at each event. A special hymn about the history of Saint John’s was written by two of our retired Lutheran pastors, Jerry Bauer and Ray Vance. A Christmas ornament was designed using Saint John’s church building and Garden of Gethsemane stained-glass sanctuary window. The celebration culminated on Sunday, November 1, 2015, with a worship service, dinner and program. Bishop Marcus Lohrmann of the Northwestern Ohio Synod was both guest preacher and speaker.
Pastor Merlin Jacobs served as our Sunday preacher while he also served as Interim Pastor at Saint Paul's in Sandusky. Mid-week Lenten services and Sundays when Pastor Jacobs could not attend were covered by the retired pastors of the parish who lead worship. In July the Call Committee, with the help of Pastor Kathleen Suggitt representing the Northwestern Ohio Synod, presented to the congregation a recommendation to issued a Letter of Call to Pastor Stacy Lauer-Scovanner . This recommendation was overwhelming approved by congregational vote. Pastor Stacy accepted the Call and was installed as pastor on September 7th and began her worship leadership on September 11th.