Our Story

There aren’t too many churches in this part of the country with the history of St. John.  This congregation was founded in the spring of 1837.  For over 180 years, this church has been faithfully proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.  These years have been full of both many joys and many sorrows.  Over the years, the location has moved, the buildings have been renovated and expanded, and both the people and the language have changed.  But through it all, we have clung firmly to the truth of God’s Word and remain dedicated to sharing and spreading the love of God both in our community and around the world.

If you are interested in reading a more in-depth history of our congregation, please refer to the below sections, which offer a wealth of information covering the different eras of St. John’s past.

Part I: 1837-1873

The Lutheran Church of St. John was established as the first German Protestant Church of Quincy. For some years prior to 1837 a small flock of German Protestants assembled regularly on Sunday afternoons in a building on Fifth between Maine and Jersey Streets, where a Pastor Hunholz would preach to them. This small flock was undecided about the exact type of church they wanted.

In spring 1837, under the leadership of Pastor John Gumpel, the group drafted and adopted a constitution and became known as "The German Evangelical-Protestant Congregation and the United Lutheran and Reformed Confessions". This little group went forth with much enthusiasm.  In fact, civic leaders John Wood and Archibald Williams donated three lots on South Seventh Street between York and Kentucky so that this group might immediately erect their own house of worship.  In 1838 this goal was realized by the completion of the so-called "Hill Church". It was a frame structure, 30 feet by 55 feet, built about thirty steps above the street level.  Construction cost was $1,600. At this time, the church had a membership of 102 genuinely German names.

One of the biggest difficulties in establishing this congregation was the rapid succession of clergy who served the small flock.  Pastors came and went in rapid succession during the first eighteen years of the Congregation’s history. Pastor Carl Daubert came in 1840 and served for three years.  He was succeeded by Pastor Drude from Germany, who only preached a short time because of health reasons. Next came Pastor William Bauermeister, who served until 1845. On April 5, 1845, Pastor Christopher Jung came to serve the Protestant congregation.  During his pastorate, internal dissensions concerning Scriptural doctrines arose. One group accused the other of teaching false doctrine. This caused a schism; Pastor Jung and his adherents seceded in 1848 and established an opposition congregation (presently known as Salem United Church of Christ). Such a division proved to be a severe blow for the little band of faithful Lutherans and, to make conditions more precarious, they were now without the guidance of a Lutheran pastor.

The next seven years are about the saddest chapters in the history of St. John’s.  During the years 1848-1855 the church was served by Reverends Reiss, Burmeier, Harding, Vollmer, Kuhl, Geitz, and Harkey, though none confessed and practiced an adherence to the Lutheran Confessions.  One bright moment during these years was the fact on December 26, 1848, the congregation discarded its former name and adopted the name "The Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. John, U.A.C." (The initials "U.A.C." stands for "Unaltered Augsburg Confession of 1530;" numerous congregations have these initials carved into their cornerstones to indicate that they subscribe to the original Augsburg Confession and not to its later revisions).  Soon after, the congregation acquired its incorporation permit.

On May 16, 1855 Reverend Christian Popp began his tenure as Pastor of the Lutheran Church of St. John.  Pastor Popp was a hard working pastor who insisted on sound Biblical teachings.  The congregation experienced real inward growth in Christian knowledge and love and outward growth by adding many people to her membership.  During this time a new constitution was drafted and adopted.  The first school building was erected with Pastor Popp serving as the teacher.

During this time the congregation was a member of the General Synod of 1820, which was the first joint body of smaller American Lutheran groups (i.e. the Pennsylvania Synod, the Ohio Synod, the Tennessee Synod).  The General Synod had a liberal reputation.  No mention of the Bible or Lutheran Confession could be found in the General Synod’s constitution, and its leadership maintained a lax Confessional base.  It is not known how St. John became a member of this church body.  In 1861, however, Missouri Synod Leader Dr. C. F. W. Walther heard about this group of Lutherans and through Dr. Walther, the congregation secured Reverend William Baumstark, a graduate of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, who served as pastor during 1861-1863.

Reverend Jacob Seidel was the next pastor to serve at St. John’s.  It was during Pastor Seidel’s tenure that the congregation affiliated with the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.  Since the congregation was now prospering, it became necessary for the pastor to devote his time to pastoral duties and not to school teaching duties.  In 1864 Mr. G.A. Wiesel was called to teach in the school.  Thirty-six (36) pupils were enrolled in 1864, and additional help was needed.  In 1866 Mr. H. Steuber was called to take charge of a second room.  Soon the old "Hill Church" proved inadequate.  In 1868 the first church was razed, the ground was cut to a lower level, and the church and parsonage were built in spite of “war-time” prices.  This new church was 92 feet long, 43 feet wide, and 29 feet high. Originally the tower was 175 feet in height. The cost of these buildings was $20,000. 

Part II: 1873-1922

Pastor Seidel was followed by Pastor Louis Hoelter, who served from 1873 to 1878.  The congregation continued to thrive, and under his leadership the Young People’s Society was formed.  From 1878-1892 the church was served by Pastor A. Willner.  During this time, the congregation reduced the burdensome debt and organized the Ladies’ Aid in 1880.  Also in 1880 a new pipe organ was purchased and installed in the balcony of the church.  The organ had to be manually pumped.  The janitor and older parochial school boys provided the power.

Pastor Louis Zahn succeeded Pastor Willner and served until 1901.  The church grew during Pastor Zahn’s pastorate.  He organized the Sunday School and was instrumental in having regular English services introduced.  In 1901 ground was broken for the erection of a modern school building, but Pastor Zahn did not live to see this work completed.  On May 26, 1901, Pastor Zahn died of a heart attack while delivering an address at the cornerstone laying for St. James Lutheran School, Quincy.

The new school building was dedicated on October 28, 1901.  School was held in the two first floor rooms for grades one through eight. On November 23, 1901, Reverend William Schaller was installed as pastor.  During his pastorate various improvements were made in the interior of the church.  In 1904 the church was redecorated and a new altar, pulpit, and marble baptismal font were installed.  In 1906 he accepted a call as professor at St. Paul’s College at Concordia, Missouri.  Reverend Theodore Walz served the congregation from 1906-1915.  In 1908 the congregation celebrated the fortieth (40th) anniversary of the dedication of its church edifice which was made debt-free that year.  In 1909 a new pipe organ was installed in the chancel.

Though the congregation’s earlier problems now had been overcome, the school experienced internal disunity.  Therefore, the school closed in 1911. Teachers serving the school throughout the years were:  Mr. H. Schuricht, Mr. Werner, Mr. R. H. Treiber, Mr. J.H. Hargens, Mr. Waschilewski, Mr. John Bruening, Mr. G. Eigel, Mr. H. Hoelter, Mr. R. Held, Mr. C. Scheiderer, Mr. Emil Brackmann, Miss Marie Waach, Miss Margaret Frei, and Miss Colleen Zelle.  The school’s closing presented another challenge to the church:  finding a new organist.  In the past, the teachers served as organist.  Following the close of the school, Miss Matilda Zelle became the organist and served for thirty-three (33) years.

Though closing the school was discouraging, the church continued to grow.  The congregation’s diamond jubilee was celebrated in 1912.  An increase interest in beautifying the church property led to building a canopy over the church steps, the rebuilding of the front porch of the parsonage, the construction of a retaining wall, and the laying of a sidewalk in front of church property.

Part III: 1922-1976

Reverend W.C.A. Martens served the congregation from 1915-1918. Plans for a new church building were discussed during this time. Such discussion culminated with the Voters’ Assembly creating a Building and Sinking Fund to be prepared when the time came to rebuild the church at a favorable location. Reverend E. F. Schueler guided the congregation following Pastor Martens’ departure, from 1918-1922. In 1918 the Young People’s Society affiliated with the International Walther League. In 1921 the original high tower of the church was removed.

Pastor C.A. Weiss served St. John’s congregation for the longest period of any pastor (thus far) from 1922-1946. The German language was being used less and less with Pastor Weiss conducting German services only two Sundays a month in addition to the regular English services. Sunday German services were dropped entirely in September 1927. For the next five years the only German service conducted was the Maundy Thursday communion service.

There were numerous financial problems during the depression years. The Building Fund especially suffered from a lack of gifts, though a new parsonage was purchased from the Building Fund in 1943. During June 1937 the congregation celebrated its 100th Anniversary with special serves each Sunday and a fellowship banquet. Much redecoration was done prior to the celebration. Also during this time, Miss Zelle retired as organist in 1944. Mr. Elmer J. Holzgraefe served as organist and choir director beginning in 1944 until 1986.

Upon Pastor Weiss' retirement in 1946, Pastor Edwin H. Hahn assumed the pastorate. In 1947 the Voters' Assembly officially adopted the present name, “The Lutheran Church of St. John.” The Men's Club was reorganized in 1946, at which time they also became affiliated with the Lutheran Laymen's League (LLL). The financial condition was greatly strengthened. Regular gifts began flowing into the Building Fund and the congregation once again thought about building a new church.

In 1953 Pastor Hahn accepted a call to serve a mission congregation in Urbana, IL. Pastor J.C. Landskroener succeeded Pastor Hahn. Under his leadership plans were made and realized for the relocation of the church. A successful financial drive for the new church began in November 1959. A tract of more than six (6) acres of land was purchased for $25,000 in 1960 on East State Street. Architect Don Hafner’s plan for the new church and educational unit was presented to the congregation on May 28, 1961. These plans were adopted later by the Voters’ Assembly. The ground-breaking ceremony for the present sanctuary was held on October 29, 1961 with Pastor L. J. Wyssmann, circuit counselor and pastor of St. James Lutheran Church, Quincy, delivering the sermon. The cornerstone was laid on August 12, 1962. The new sanctuary was dedicated on April 12, 1963. Final costs for the sanctuary, new parsonage, and furnishings were around $300,000. It is interesting to note that the old church altar, pews, pulpit, and lectern were purchased by Central Baptist Church for $1,000. The altar now can be seen at the Gardner Museum of Architecture in Quincy.

Besides building a new edifice, the congregation also began the "Mary and Martha Guild" in 1961. This organization and the existing Ladies’ Aid were affiliated with the International Lutheran Women’s Missionary League. Also during this time, St. John’s joined with other area congregations in sponsoring a religious television program called "Chart and Compass". And in 1960 a joint “Preaching, Teaching, Reaching” mission was held.

Pastor Landskroener received a call from a congregation in Evansdale, Iowa, and left on April 23, 1963, a few days after the new sanctuary was dedicated. Reverend Herbert Hallerberg was then installed as pastor. The years following 1962 were very busy for the congregation as they settled into their new home. An electric carillon system was installed, communion was offered twice a month (and now the communicants no longer had to sit in a reserved section), a youth group was started, the former church property and parsonage were sold, and various external enhancements were made to the new building. 

Perhaps the biggest “enhancement” to the building was the installation of air conditioning, which cost only $4,000 (labor was provided by congregational members). By October 13, 1968, the congregation paid off their mortgage and became "debt free". 

After twelve years of service, Pastor Hallerberg announced his retirement, which was effective on July 1, 1976.

Part IV: 1977-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.  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 180+ 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.