Our Story - Part 4: 1976-Present

Following Pastor Hallerberg, Reverend Allen Wickman accepted the call to serve St. John’s as pastor. Pastor Wickman started giving children’s sermons and joined the Blessing Hospital chaplaincy program. During this time the monthly newsletter was started as well. During Pastor Wickman’s tenure, the Ladies’ Aid celebrated their 100th anniversary, a senior citizens’ fellowship group began, and congregational member Emma Miler bequeathed a large sum of money to the church (which the church presently utilizes for special activities and projects). In observance of the church building’s 20th anniversary (1983), the stained glass windows located on the sides of the sanctuary were installed. Plans were made to celebrate the congregation’s 150th Anniversary. Dr. Oswald Hoffmann, Lutheran Hour Speaker, preached at the 150th Anniversary Service on April 19, 1987.

With much activity underway, the congregation voted to acquire additional help for Pastor Wickman. In order to gain assistance, in addition to serving the church-at-large, the congregation decided to enter into the Vicarage program. In the Missouri Synod, a “vicar” is a third year seminarian. The seminarian is placed in a LCMS congregation for one year of practical experience before they are ordained after a fourth year of classroom learning. St. Johns’ first vicar was Ken Hessel (see the Part VI for a listing of all vicars). Over the years, our congregation has been fortunate to mentor young men preparing for the Holy Ministry. God certainly has given our pastors a variety of talents and gifts which are used to extend His kingdom!

St. Johns’ next pastor, Reverend Harold J. Bender, Jr., was installed in December 1996. During Pastor Bender’s time with us we began a number of different ministries and Bible studies, as well as the introduction of our contemporary service on Sunday mornings.  In addition his time here included several updates to our facilities, most significantly the building of new classrooms, offices, and the Family Life Center in 2007. During these years St. John also once again became involved with the vicarage program, helping to prepare several more men for service in the church as pastors.

In 2009, St. John chose to step out of the vicarage program and instead call a second pastor.  Reverend Jeremy Latzke was installed as the new associate pastor on July 5, 2009. 

In 2012, St. John celebrated its 175th anniversary. This was a year marked by inviting past vicars and sons of the congregation to preach, with the visiting pastors capped off by the president of Concordia Seminary, Dr. Dale Meyer. At the 175th anniversary banquet, former St. John pastor J.C. Landskroener served as our special speaker.

2012 was also a year of transition for St. John, as Pastor Bender accepted a call to West Allis, WI, leaving after 15 years of faithful service. That summer also marked the arrival of Kimberly (Kimmie) Powers Hedding as the new Director of Christian Education. Following in the footsteps of his vicarage supervisor, Pastor Steve Hayden accepted the call to serve as St. John’s new senior pastor and was installed in December of that year.

There is no question that God has graciously preserved us throughout the past 175 years. During days of joy and sorrow, God’s forgiving love in Jesus Christ has been with us, forgiving us, strengthening us, and renewing us. We do praise God for past accomplishments and future opportunities. As we continue on to the next 175 years, the words Pastor Landskroener wrote in the 1962 history booklet still ring true: “We trust that the words and pictures in this booklet will inspire each of us to more consecration, zeal, love, courage, and determination to make St. John’s Church a haven for sin-sick souls, a refuge for the weak in spirit and a home for both young and old where God’s Word is supreme, His Sacraments rightly administered, and His people built up in their faith.” May God continue to bless our efforts at extending His kingdom and showing others of His forgiving love.

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