Saint John Lutheran Church

When was it founded: 1848

Where is it located: 1100 Linneman Road

Has it moved: No

Notable Members: All the early German Lutheran founders

First Pastor or Priest: Clements Klein

History and interesting stories about the church:

In 1848, Pastor Francis A. Hoffman, a German immigrant from Schaumburg, came to what-was-then the Elk Grove area to preach in the native tongue of the Lutheran Germans who had settled the area. By establishing a parish based on a common language, Pastor Hoffman believed the conservative religious traditions vital to the German culture would be easier to adhere to. Some founding members of the congregation were also prominent members of Mount Prospect: Frederich Busse, Christian Heinrich, Christian Linnemann, and Conrad Moehling.

As with other churches started in the Mount Prospect area, a community effort was made to both build and fund the congregation’s new home. Money was collected, construction was completed, and eventually, a church was dedicated on December 26, 1848. Immediately following the dedication, Pastor Hoffman installed Pastor Clements Klein to the church. However, his stay as pastor was brief, lasting only a year; so, in 1850, the congregation was forced to welcome Pastor John G. Kuntz. During his term of service to the church, Pastor Kuntz established a cemetery and was involved in Saint John’s decision to affiliate with the Missouri Synod in 1852. The year after the affiliation served to be a year of “new,” as a new pastor was installed, Karl Sallmann, and a new church building was constructed. Although the church experienced hardships in the form of a parsonage fire and the subsequent destruction of congregational records in 1859, Saint John, under the guidance of Pastor William Bartling, enjoyed relative peace during the Civil War years. This peace continued for the church following Pastor Bartling’s departure and Pastor Henry Schmidt’s installation. Under the leadership of Pastor Schmidt, Saint John gained not only a new school facility in 1864, but an expanded congregation as well. It was because of the latter achievement that Pastor Schmidt was nicknamed “the Missionary.”

Following Pastor Schmidt in the pulpit were men who brought with them leadership, guidance, and significant changes to the church and its surrounding community. Pastor William Dorn influenced and witnessed Saint John’s first bell and steeple in 1874; while, Pastor Herman Ramelow preached to the congregation during the church’s support of an Addison orphanage, Kinderheim, in 1879. He also helped to form a congregational band in 1881. Affectionately called “the Builder” by parishioners, Pastor J. Henry Haake was responsible for the rebuilding of the church in 1892, the schoolhouse in 1901, and the parsonage’s north wing in 1904. Further under his leadership, Saint John became incorporated and celebrated its 50th anniversary. In 1907, perhaps a sign of the changing times, the church’s wood walls and ceilings were fortified with metalworkings under Pastor Julius Drexler. Pastor Louis Millies witnessed and perhaps instigated the departure of thirteen parishioners who eventually founded another church and parish school: Saint Paul Lutheran Church.

Since its initiation in 1848, Saint John has been plagued with the “revolving door” syndrome concerning its pastors. Few if any have lasted long enough to sit down and leisurely enjoy a cup of tea. However, Pastor Ferdinand Gehrs managed to escape from the revolving door’s glass prison and become Saint John’s longest-serving pastor. Throughout his forty-three year term, he has both observed and supervised various changes at Saint John. Some of those changes were physical and inconsequential, such as the installation of a new altar and Jesus statue in 1921, while, others were not as tangible and yet highly significant–the offering of English-speaking services in 1922. It can be inferred that the shift from German to English-speaking services was Saint John’s attempt at establishing a relationship with the non-German populace as well as to distance itself from the unpopular image of Germans following World War I. This gradual self-destruction of German heritage continued, reaching its climax in 1940 following the Allies’ declaration of war on Hitler’s Germany, when German was dropped from the parish school’s curriculum and English was more intensely incorporated. The World Wars also adversely impacted Saint John’s congregation, permanently taking away five men including Adolph Busse Jr. In 1948, the church valiantly celebrated its Centennial amid the public’s still fresh anti-German sentiments. Eventually, those negative feelings subsided and Saint John was once again a pride of the community. In 1954, still under the direction of Pastor Gehrs, a new parsonage was constructed. Unfortunately, he was only able to occupy the parsonage for two years before resigning in 1956.

Following Pastor Gehr’s departure was the installation of Pastor Waldemar Streufert. Although he did not achieve the former’s record in longevity, Pastor Streufert certainly was a catalyst for considerable changes at Saint John. As the congregation grew yearly, it became increasingly difficult to keep all of the congregates informed about the church. So, in response to this glaring failing, Pastor Streufert began to print an informative church newsletter, “The Herald,” highlighting Saint John’s various undertakings. In 1958, to reflect the post-war baby boom, a new school was built to house the upper-level grades. Fourteen years later in 1972, a new school building was constructed in response to the new residences sprouting up around Saint John. The era of suburban living had begun.

Amid the suburban population boom, Saint John celebrated its 125th anniversary in 1973 and its annexation to Mount Prospect three years prior. A year after the anniversary, Pastor Theodore Staudacher took over the church’s leadership from Pastor Streufert. Under his guidance, Bible school and youth groups were started; while, Pastor Streufert’s newsletter was continued with a different name, “The Contact.”

Unbeknownst to Saint John, strife within the Missouri Synod surfaced as conservatives and liberals clashed over various issues. A permanent schism had been formed and widened between the two parties, eventually leading to a split in the Synod. As a result of this division, conservative people from liberal Synod churches flocked to the established conservative congregation of Saint John.

In 1978, the parsonage built in 1954 was demolished; while, a year later, tragedy struck as the 87-year-old steeple collapsed. However, with Pastor Robert Kass at the helm, a new church steeple was installed and the church itself refurbished. Also, under Pastor Kass’s supervision, the Bethesda Group Home–designed to assist developmentally disabled adults–was built and dedicated in 1984. Nearly a decade later, in 1992, Pastor Jeff Gavin took over for Pastor Kass and made it his mission to increase the severely stunted membership at Saint John. A few years earlier, low student enrollment at Saint John’s school forced the discontinuation of grades 3 through 8. With congregation and student enrollment numbers down, Pastor Gavin hoped the addition of variety to the worship service would reverse the sliding trend. Yet despite those problems, in 1998, Saint John Lutheran Church celebrated 150 years in the community.

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