Rural church to celebrate 135-year anniversary
St. John's United Church of Christ has three large scrapbooks filled with photos, newspaper clippings, church bulletins and numerous other items documenting its history including a diary written by its first minister.
It's not surprising the scrapbooks are bulging with artifacts considering the information they contain document the Worden church's entire 135 years of existence.
"We like our heritage and we want to celebrate it," Ruth Stoebener, church historian, said.
St. John's will have a lot to celebrate Sunday when it commemorates its 135th anniversary as a church.
"We have had services there every Sunday for 135 years," Stoebener said. "We think it's quite an accomplishment. It's certainly nothing to sneeze at."
St. John's, one of the oldest churches in Douglas County, was first organized Aug. 2, 1868 by Rev. Christian Haas, a German immigrant. Stoebener said many of Haas' ancestors still attend the church today.
Church members, made up of German immigrant farmers, met in a local school house until a church building was constructed in 1878 at its current location in Worden for $588.
Stoebener said because a majority of the members were German, church services were in German until the early 1900s.
"We had German services until World War I came along, and then it wasn't popular then," she said.
German school was also taught in the church by the minister for a short while in the early 1900s.
In the early 1950s, church members decided the church building was too small and did not meet the needs of the church adequately. In 1954, a second church was built in the same location as the original building for around $16,000, where it stands today.
In the 135 years as a church, St. John's has had 30 pastors and hundreds of members. Stoebener said even though the 70-member church is small, its members are committed, which is what has kept it active for so long.
"It's due to the persistence of the German people," she said. "They're committed to their religion and they stuck it out. We are a very small church, but the people are very committed."
Sunday will mark St. John's celebration of 135 years as a church. The events are open to the public. The church service will be at 10:30 a.m. The speaker will be Rev. Richard Brueseke, who will present a monologue impersonation of the church's first minister, Haas.
Dinner will be at noon, followed by a 2 p.m. program featuring Rev. Ruth Hotle. Hotle is the great-great-granddaughter of Haas, and has visited the founding pastor's church and community in Germany.
Those attending are invited to wear clothing of any era between 1868 and 2003. A quilt and a handmade wooden trunk will be raffled off during the celebration.
St. John's is located at 396 East 900 Road, one mile north of Worden.