THE LUTHERAN CHURCH—MISSOURI SYNOD
CENTER POINT, IOWA 52213
A Brief History of St. John Lutheran Church
In October of 1942, Pastor Edmund Frese of Zion Lutheran Church in Shellsburg began the groundwork for a Lutheran congregation in the Center Point area. The first organized service was held in August 1943 at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Carl Vaupel. During that year services were also held at the Evangelical Church in Center Point and Green's Grove Community Church. In 1947, the first church building, a reconstructed army barracks, was erected on the south side of Center Point. In that same year on May 18, St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church was officially organized as a congregation affiliated with the Iowa District East of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, and as a sister congregation of Zion, Shellsburg. (Arlene Titler, widow of one of the seven charter members, is still an active member of the congregation in 2010.) In 1948, Pastor Frese accepted a call, and so St. John, along with Zion, called Pastor Arnold Aschbrenner to become its second pastor. By 1953, the increase in communicant membership, worship attendance and Sunday School enrollment, made it necessary to plan for a larger facility. So it was that the present church building at the corner of Water and Vine Streets in Center Point was constructed in 1955, and dedicated on April 18, 1956. Early in 1957, when Pastor Aschbrenner accepted a call to another congregation, St. John felt that it was ready to become an independent congregation. In February of that year, in a spirit of mutual respect and fellowship, the members of St. John and Zion met for the purpose of formally dissolving their joint parish. St. John then called Rev.W.E. Heddrich to be its first resident pastor, and constructed the parsonage located just south of the church building. In 1959, following Pastor Heddrich's departure, the congregation called Rev. Martin Hoyer to be its next pastor. During the next five years the congregation experienced dramatic growth, again necessitating an expansion of the facility. In April 1965, an addition to the west end of the building, including Sunday School classrooms, an office and increased seating in the sanctuary, was completed. Shortly after this, Pastor Hoyer accepted a call and the congregation was vacant for fifteen months. The vacancy came to an end with the installation of Rev. Harry Henneman as pastor in July 1966, who served until 1972. In 1971, a seven-rank pipe organ was installed and dedicated. In the fall of 1972, Rev. Randolph Mueller was called and installed as the sixth pastor of St. John, serving until 1980. In the spring of 1981, the congregation called seminary graduate David Hansen, to be the seventh pastor of St. John. Pastor Hansen was installed in July of that year and is currently in his thirtieth year as St. John's pastor. In 2001, the congregation began to share Pastor Hansen with King of Glory Lutheran Church in Swisher, where he served as vacancy pastor for 8 years and to which he was called as pastor in 2009.
Throughout its history, the members of St. John have organized themselves in various ways to enhance the ministry of Word and Sacrament among them and to share the Gospel with others. A women's society, affiliated with the Lutheran Women's Missionary League was formed in 1950 and was active until 1995. Many of its activities are still carried on by current circles, the Altar Guild, and the funeral food committee. In 1957, a men's club, affiliated with the Lutheran Laymen's League, was organized, and later expanded into a more inclusive fellowship club. In 1958, the young people of the congregation formed a youth group affiliated with the LCMS Walther League, and in the early 1980s joined the reorganized LCMS Lutheran Youth Fellowship. St. John LYF (in recent years joined by youth from King of Glory) has been represented at all recent LCMS National Youth Gatherings, including the one at New Orleans in July 2010. Off and on throughout the years, an adult choir has provided special music for our worship services. In recent years the choir was reorganized under the direction of Carol Hanneman, who in 1995 also organized a junior choir. Carole Krumm faithfully served the congregation as organist from 1957 to her semi-retirement in 2010, and now serves as our digital accompanist. An important aspect of our educational ministry, the Sunday School, has been functioning continually since the early years. One of the teachers, Mary Kay Krumm, has taught the nursery class for nearly 60 years. A Vacation Bible School is held for one week each summer, currently directed by Pamela Swales. In the early 1990s, growing out of a Sunday School project, the congregation also started a food bank, initially managed by Melonie Buelow, and currently managed by Rose and Cliff Beauregard.
In addition to the building of the church and parsonage, and the building expansion in 1965, various improvements have been made to the property over the years. Made possible through memorial gifts and other special contributions, these have included new carpeting and pew cushions in the sanctuary, new furnaces and air-conditioning in both church and parsonage, a new garage for the parsonage, and improvements of the drainage system in the church basement. In the mid 1980s, an arrangement was initiated to purchase the piece of property directly west of the church. In 1993, that sale was finalized and the house on that property was removed, making way for future parking lot expansion. The parking lot was eventually developed and was hard-surfaced in 2003. In 2006, part of the 1965 addition to the church was remodeled into new narthex and fellowship space, with grade level access from outside, including a restroom, new sacristy and space for the church library, as well as new indoor access to the basement, including a chair lift. In 2004, when Pastor Hansen moved out of the parsonage into his own home, the parsonage was redesignated as office, meeting and storage space. In 2009, an illuminated sign identifying the church was installed on the property on the corner of Vine and Main Streets. Also in that year, more improvements were made to the restrooms and stairway to the church basement.
Only our gracious and loving God knows what He has in store for St. John in future years. But we thank and praise Him for the blessings He has bestowed on us through Word and Sacrament in these first six decades of our existence, and we know that He will continue to be faithful to His promises to us to strengthen and equip us for ministry to each other and our communities for many years to come.