St. John Lutheran Church

100 years of History

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Our congregation was really conceived in the minds and hearts of a few individuals in Linthicum Heights who conducted a Sunday School service on May 25, 1919, at the residence of Howard N. Wunder, Hawthorne Road, Linthicum.

It was felt by this small group that there should be offered Christian instruction for children in the community. On May 28, 1919, a meeting was held and officers were chosen to serve the young Sunday School: F. D. Jennings, Superintendent, John G. North, Teacher, Mrs. H. J. Holland, Secretary, C. H. North, Teacher, C. H. North, Treasurer.The membership of this school, including teachers, was 46. Weekly instruction was given to the children through the summer of 1919.

On August 20, 1919, Frank Jennings was appointed chairman, and the official name of the organization became the West Linthicum Heights Sunday School. A committee was appointed to purchase a lot and erect a building to be used for Sunday School and church worship services.

When negotiations for the purchase of property failed to materialize because of some local opposition, the organization felt the necessity of identifying itself with a denominational group. A ballot was taken on October 8, 1919, showing a majority favorable to the Lutheran Church. Immediate communication was made with the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Maryland, and on November 2, 1919, the first preaching service was held at the residence of Mr. Wunder. The Rev. H. D. Newcomer preached the sermon. The Rev. J. E. Bowers and Mr. John Distler, represented the Synod. .

On December 19, 1919, a Lutheran congregation was organized by Pastors Newcomer, Bowers and Hartman with the name St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church of West Linthicum Heights, Maryland. Mr. and Mrs. Howard Wunder, Mr. Charles Kues, Mrs. Frank Marten and Mrs. Henrietta Schnitzlein were confirmed at the service of organization. St. John was an official congregation with 26 members. In the next two years, 19 new members were received, making a total of 45 confirmed members. The first Holy Communion was celebrated on Sunday, January 4, 1920, with the Rev. H. D. Newcomer officiating.

After considerable discussion concerning a church building, a building site on Hammonds Ferry Road near Maple Road was purchased on March 4, 1920, from Mr. John Diedriech for the sum of $700.00. The lot was paid for in cash by contributions from 25 members, the Ladies’ Guild and the Church Council.

Because of the high cost of material and labor the congregation rejected the idea of building a permanent church structure. On March 17, 1920, the church council voted to purchase a portable building, 25 feet by 41 feet from Mershon and Morley of Saginaw, Michigan, at the delivered price of $2,573. The money to purchase and erect the building, approximately $4,000, was loaned by John Stoll, a member of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Baltimore, who showed a fine Christian interest in the new congregation.

A call was extended to the Rev. Charles H. Corbett to become the first full time pastor. He was installed on May 15, 1921. A few months later the first parsonage was erected on Maple Road. Pastor Corbett had a very successful 6 ½ year ministry at St. John in Linthicum, but resigned in November, 1927, to accept a call to St. John Lutheran Church in Thurmont, Maryland. He served there until his retirement in 1958.

On January 22, 1928, the Rev. Willis R. Brenneman was installed as the second pastor at St. John’s. During his 14 year pastorate, many fine additions were made to the church. New heating plants were installed in church and parsonage, a new organ was dedicated, the chancel was renovated, and a Sunday School addition was added to the side of the existing church building by the men of the congregation. A new altar, brassware and paraments were contributed. A kitchen was added to the church. During Pastor Brenneman’s years at St. John, financial aid from the Board of American Missions was reduced from $1,100 to $110 yearly. The church debt was reduced from $6,000 to $1,500. During the depression years, this was a fine accomplishment, especially considering the small size of the church membership. The congregation had grown to include 100 communing members. The Rev. Charles Birx, a son of the congregation was ordained to the Christian ministry during these years. Pastor Brenneman served St. John for 14 years before accepting a call to Salem Lutheran in Westminster, Maryland.

On April 20, 1942, the Rev. Carl W. Folkemer was installed as pastor of St. John’s Church. In 1942 the existing mortgage of $1,500 was liquidated and a building fund was begun for a new church. On January 21, 1951, the new building was dedicated. The construction of the original church building at 300 West Maple Road is something that cannot be passed over lightly. The church was erected, brick by brick by the men of St. John. Under the direction of George Law, the men worked four nights a week after their regular jobs were done, and all day on Saturday. The women of the church supported the efforts by keeping the coffee, sandwiches and hot dinners ready. In just three years, these inexperienced but dedicated men completed the building. Within one year membership of the church doubled.

Soon after the dedication of the new church building in 1951, it became evident that the congregation would soon be faced with the necessity of building additional facilities, especially for educational purposes. Because property was not available in 1953 for enlarging the facilities immediately to the north of the existing structure, the congregation voted to purchase a piece of property directly opposite the church on the south side of Maple Road (we now call it St. John field). The congregation purchased this property from the Warnken estate in the event that property was not available to the north of Maple Road.

In December, 1954, the original parsonage at 408 W. Maple Road was sold and a new parsonage erected on the recently purchased property. Only 100 feet frontage was used for the parsonage, leaving approximately 580 feet for future use in expanding the facilities of the church.

In 1956 the congregation conducted a fund raising program designed to raise $30,000 for the new construction immediately after the current mortgage was retired. Mr. Philip Frohman, a Washington, D.C. architect, and his associate, F. Morse Holcomb, provided the architectural plans for the new educational wing. The Kirby-McGuire company was given the contract for erecting the new building for $300,000.00. Plans included the enlargement of the Nave of the Church, a balcony, new narthex, memorial chapel, and three wings for educational purposes with four offices immediately below the chapel. The educational portion of the new structure was designed in the form of a quadrangle, producing a beautiful courtyard between the wings of the new building and the existing structure. Ground was broken for the new edifice on Anniversary Sunday, January 18, 1959. Construction began in March, and the cornerstone was laid on Sunday, July 26, 1959. On March 27, 1960, a dedication service was conducted.

Over the next few decades, the congregation of St. John continued to grow and in the early 1990’s, it was clear that additional building space would be needed.  A groundbreaking ceremony for a new church wing was held in 1994, and a two-story addition with dedicated space for a youth group, music department, and a roomier office area was erected.  This latest addition was dedicated in June, 1995.