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For close to 150 years, the ‘German’ Lutheran Church has been a mainstay

by Jane Lightbourn • Staff writer

It began when a pastor came to Hastings from Prescott to observe weekly worship services in Teutonia Hall. The first church building for St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church was part of the Seventh and Tyler street neighborhoods.

Today, St. John’s Evangelical  Lutheran Church maintains its rich history at the corner of Eighth and Eddy streets (202 W. Eighth St.).

When the Rev. Jacob Shadegg began his weekly services, there were 15 members. By 1875, the German United Protestant Lutheran St. John’s Congregation decided to build a church. A year later, the church was dedicated. It cost $2,000. The Ladies Aid Society raised money to add a new bell and bell tower in 1891. In 1897, members paid for the construction of a church annex to serve as Sunday School and meeting room.

The Rev. August Warnecke began serving the church in 1915, delivering the services in German. He initiated a four-year Saturday school. Several more pastors served the growing congregation.

In May of 1936, St. John’s Lutheran Church became affiliated with the Wisconsin Synod and changed its name to St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church.

In 1940, the Rev. Percy Kurth came to St. John’s.  Three years later, a new building fund was established for a new, larger church. Fundraising potluck meals were held at different sites. Much of the construction costs were raised through these meals.

The corner lot at Eighth and Eddy streets was purchased in 1945. The Rev. LeRoy Ristow was installed as pastor in 1948. The cornerstone of the new church was laid in a ceremony July 27, 1952.

On June 27, 1954, in procession, the entire church members walked from the old church to the new church for its dedication. Again, much of the work on the building was completed by members. Valuable items from the old church, including the statue of Christ,  the picture of The Last Supper, and the organ and church bell were moved to the new building.

When the Rev. Paul Borchardt became pastor (1957), the church was further enhanced. Sixteen art glass windows depicting scenes of salvation were installed. St. John’s became a charter member of the Lutheran High School Association supporting St. Croix Lutheran High School in West St. Paul.  In 1961, St. John’s celebrated its 90th anniversary with the burning of the church mortgage. A 23-rank pipe organ was added to the church in 1966.

The church continued to grow and new multipurpose area and narthex were added. A parsonage was built.

In 1981, the Rev. Percy Damrow was installed as pastor, and remained for 31 years. He retired in 2012. The Rev. Jonathan Zimpelmann was installed as pastor in September 2012.

 Editor’s note: This is another part of an ongoing series about the history of Hastings-area churches.