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History of St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church

 

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In recording historical events, it is not enough merely to record dates and events. In order to bring to life, or to make live the past, stimulate interest in the present, and encouragement for future endeavor, the activity of people must be a vital part of the picture. The contribution of individuals, and groups of individuals is essential. The achievements of the past serve as inspiration for the present and for the future.

In recording the history of St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church, we are impressed with the determination of those stalwart Lutherans from Bethphage and St. Mark's Lutheran Churches living in the vicinity of Cherryville, who wanted a place of worship for themselves and for those who would come after them. Realizing that they like other generations would eventually pass, off the stage of action, their thinking and planning was for the future as well as for the present.

Like all true Christians, they realized that they were a part of the Church of Christ upon earth, which does not die with the passing of a generation, but will continue to live and function until the Church Militant becomes the Church Triumphant.

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized in the year 1881, being the same year that the town was incorporated. At that time there was no church building in town. The organization was effected in a corn house or granary, which stood near where Roy and Troy grocery is at present, near the intersection of East Main and Mill Streets. The above building had been used at times as a school house.

The charter members numbered 41. Their names are as follows: Mrs. Laura Anthony, Mrs. B. Catherine Barnhill, Jacob Beam, Miss Alice Beam, Mrs. Sallie Blakely, Mrs. Annie Black, Robert Brown, Mrs. Rachael Brown, Miss Lavinia Brown, Mrs. David Hallman, Mrs. William Heavner, George Hovis, Mrs. Mary Hovis, Miss Salome Hovis, Miss. Sarah J. Hovis, J. Calvin Houser, Mrs. Roxanna Houser, Pinckney Lackey, Mrs. Sarah A. Lackey, David Mauney, Mrs. Fannie Mauney, S. S. Mauney, Mrs. Margaret C. Mauney, Peter Neill, Mrs. Amanda Neill, Miss Laura Anne Neill, Mrs. Elizabeth Pendleton, Mrs. Laura Pendleton, Miss M. Jane Reynolds, Mrs. Fannie C. Roberts, Melville L. Rudisill, Mrs. Barbara C. Rudisill, Eli Sellers, F. Cicero Sipe, Mrs. Annie Sipe, Miss Margaret J. Sipe, Lawson C. Sipe, Mrs. Jane S. Sipe, Mrs. A. John Stroupe, Henry Summitt, Mrs. Amanda Summitt.

The first church building was erected some time after the organization on a lot 200 feet by 552 feet, on what is, now West Church Street, donated by Henry Summitt. This lot is the location of the present sanctuary and educational building. The first bulilding was a framed building, rectangular in shape, having a bell tower and two front doors. It stood near the rear of the present sanctuary.

The first church officers were: Jacob M. Beam, David Mauney, and F. C. Sipe, elders; M. L. Rudisill, Secretary; and Henry Summitt, Treasurer. David Mauney, M. L. Rudisill and F. C. Sipe were trustees.

The Rev. M. L. Little was the first Pastor. He served for about ten years. His pastorate was severed when he suffered a fatal accident in a train wreck near Maiden, N. C. During his pastorate, the first church was built.

The Rev. L. L. Lohr was called as pastor and served during 1892-1893. He was succeed ed by the Rev. John J. George, who served from 1893-1899. The Rev. R. H. Cline be came pastor in 1900 and served till 1903. It was during his pastorate that the present sanctuary tuary was built. This building occupies the lot originally given by Henry Summitt. It was built in 1902. The building Committee was composed of Peter C. Beam, S. S. Mauney, and Melville L. Rudisill. (See cut of original Building.)

The Rev. E. H. Kohn was called to succeed the Rev. R. H. Cline. He began his pastorate in 1904. During his pastorate the first parsonage was built. It was located on East Main Street on property now occupied by Sullivan Motor Company. This building was used as a parsonage till 1921. It was destroyed by fire a number of years ago. Pastor Kohn was pastor until 1909. At the conclusion of his pastorate the Rev. J. C. Dietz was called in 1909. He served as pastor until 1912, when he was succeeded by the Rev. B. D. Wessinger who was pastor until 1924.

During the pastorate of Pastor Wessinger a number of renovations and additions were made. The tall tower at the Southeast corner of the sanctuary was changed to its present form. Another tower and vestibule was Prected at the Southwest corner. About the year 1919 the first educational unit was built. It consisted of six classrooms for Sunday School purposes. This is now occupied by the church offices on the first floor.

During the year 1921 the present parsonage was built on property across from the Church on the corner of Church and Dixie Streets. This work was accomplished during the pastorate of the Rev. B. D. Wessinger. He resigned in 1924, and was followed by the Rev. C. A. Linn who began his work in the late Summer of 1924. He served till February, 1927. The Rev. W. G. Cobb was called and became pastor the first of June, 1927. This pastorate terminated the first of June, 1951. During this pastorate, the educational building containing about 3500 feet of floor space, including the present Sunday School Auditorium and 9 classrooms was built. The work was begun in the Fall of 1936 and completed early in 1937. It was dedicated in April, 1938.

Again in 1949 there was a need for more room for educational purposes. As a result the annex containing about 6000 feet of floor space was built. This building contains a number of class rooms, kitchen and toilet facilities. Dedication services were held on the fourth Sunday in May, 1951.

Also, during this pastorate some old debts were paid, Street and Sidewalk assessments paid in full, and more property purchased adjoining the cemetery for cemetery purposes.

Effective work as student assistants was rendered in our parish by Marion Starr, who served for two Summers, and Gilmer Boggs, who came the following Summer. Also, another Seminary student, Keith Beam, supplied the pulpit and did an effective work in the Summer of 1951 after the departure of Pastor Cobb.

In June 1949 Miss Barbara Yount of Hickory, N. C., who had just completed her college training at Lenoir Rhyne, was called to the congregation as its first full-time Parish Worker. Miss Yount served in this capacity until the end of 1951. Since that time an Office secretary has been employed by the congregation.

Pastor Leroy C. Trexler was called to succeed Pastor Cobb. He began his work the first of January 1952, and is the present pastor. Recently a lot 80 by 200 feet adjoining the educational building has been purchased. This gives the property a frontage of 280 feet on West Church Street. Due to a Scarcity of records, exact dates for many of the activities in the early years uf the congregation are not available.

From the organization of St. John's till the merger in 192l, St. John's congregation was a member of the Telinessee Evangelical Lutheran Synod. In the year 1921 along with all other congregations of the Tennessee Synod, merged with the North Carolina Lutheran Synod, to become the United Evangelical Lutheran Synod of North Carolina.

According to available material, a Sunday School was organized in 1889. L. H. J. Houser was the first superintendent; P. C. Beam, Secretary and S. S. Mauney, Treasurer. This auxiliary has functioned successfully through the years, and has contributed much in the educational program of the church.

Through the years there has been evident a definite interest in Home Mission work. The minutes of a congregational meeting on January 23, 1887, read as follows: Ordered that six collections be taken in the congregation yearly; four for missions and two for church purposes. According to the records, on March 17th, 1889 an offering was received f or the Knoxville Mission. In May of the same year, an offering was received for the Augusta Mission. In 1890 an offering was received for the Monroe Mission.

Through the years the interest in Home Missions has been in the forefront in the. congregation. The congregation and individual members have shown a consistent interest ill this phase of The Lord's Work.

In more recent years the larger activities in the field, is the work at Chapel Hill. The congregation was the prime mover in it. A lot was purchased by the congregation, and much equipment was given by individlial members. The congregation also supplemented the salary of pastors at Chapel Hill for a number of years.

The latest activity was aid to the Spindale Mission. A considerable amount was contributed for the building progiam there.

The above activities were carried on in addition to the contribution made through the regular channels of the churen.

In the field of edunition, St. John's has contributed substantially to Lenoir Rhyne College, and the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. Many of the youth ofthe congregation have received their college training at Lenoir Rhyne.

The Lutheran Children's Home of the Southern Synods, and the Lowman Home, have received substantial gifts from the members of St. John's

Our church has contributed not only io the financial activites of the Church at large, but there have gone out from this congregation four men in the ministry. The Rev. D. P. Rudisill, Ph. D., a member of the faculty of Lenoir Rhyne College; The Rev. M. R. Farris, pastor of First Lutheran Church, Lexington, N. C.; The Rev. John W. Cobb, pastor of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, Bethlehem, Pa.; and The Rev. James K. Cobb, pastor of Immanuel Parish, Blou-ntville, Tenn. At present there are two candidates for the ministry, Mr. Wayne Allran a senoir in the Lutheran Seminary, Columbia, S. C., and Howard Crane, temporarily serving the armed forces, but who eveiatually plans to complete his training for the gospel ministry.

Three of the daughters of the congregation have married Lutheran ministers. Besides these a large number have entered the field of teaching.

Through the years, St. John's has been recognized by the Synod of which it is a part, being represented on the Lenoir Rhyne Colleige Board, the Board of the Children's Home, and the Lowman Home Board. Also, by ministerial and lay representation to the ULCA conventions.

The Ladies' Guild

Next to the Sunday School, the Ladies' Guild is the oldest auxiliary in the congregation. Organized May 4th, 1904, The Rev. EH Kohn was pastor at the time of organization.The first regular officers were, Mrs. E. H Kohn, President; Mrs. J. J. George, Vice President; Miss Pearl Beam, Secretary; Mrs. D. A.Rudisill, Treasurer.

In the main, the work of the Guild, pertained to the temporal welfare of the congregation, especially the proper care and improvement of the church building. The members also interested thernselves in the well being of the members and all who might need such care as could be given.

This organization was in existence half a century, which might be said as a half a century of useful service to the church and community. Lately in harmony with the recommendations of the ULCA synodical, the Guild has been merged with the Women's Missionary Society. The merged organization now looks forward to many years of useful service in the Kingdom of God. Of the charter members, 9 are still living.

The Women of the Church

As an organization, the Women of the Church is the youngest auxiliary. This organization is the result of the merging of the Guild and the Women's Missionary Society. Instead of interruption in the great work of these separate oganizations, there has been an enlargement of the efforts in the merged group. It has also meant the enlistment of a much larger percentage of the women of the congregation.

The Children of the Church

The early activities of the children of the congregation was "The Children's Missionary Society. The children were organized into the "Children's Missionary Society during the pastorate of the Rev. J. C. Dietz. Mrs. D. A. Rudisill was the first leader. The interest and endeavor of the children was Missionary. Their first major project was aid in support of The Rev. A. J. Stirewalt, Missionary to Japan. He was affectionately known as "The Chhdren's Alissionary of the United Lutherart Synod of the South, now a part of the ULCA. This organization later became the "Light Brigade".

Mrs. Julia Hall was the leader of this group. Much interest was manifest in the missionary activities of the church. Being under the general supervision of the Women's Missionary Society, this organization made large contributions in a financial way to the work carried on by the women.

The Light Brigade has been superceded by "The Children of the Church." Mrs. J. G. Sherrill is the leader of this group. Being rather young as an organization, with different sponsorship, it has taken some time to become adjusted. However, the work is growing and our children are being given a larger view of the whole work of the church. It might be said that this group serves to train future membership of the church.

The Luther League

Through the years, the Luther League has made a valuable contribution toward the training of young people in the service of the Church. It is not known when this part of the chureb activity began, but it has continued to function, and is at this time active in training our young people for greater service in the Kingdom of God. The local league has been honored by the Luther League of America, by offices in this body. At present one of our young people, Miss Judy Ford, is President. She is also serving as one of the caravaners. The advisors at the present time are: for the Intermediate League, Miss Lavinia Rudisill and ior the Senior League, Mr. and Mrs. Bill Nail.

The Brotherhood

It is not definitely known when the Brotherhood came into existence. However in later years it has functioned actively. A considerable amount of money has been contributed to the Loan and Gift Fund of the Synodical Brotherhood. The beginning of the Church building program at Chapel Hill was instigated by the local Brotherhood, (later a congregational project.) The Brotherhood is active in the affairs oi Lhe church, and co,itributes much to the spiritual life of the men of the church.

Not all of the activities of the congregation can be written. Only a small part of the work of the congregation has been indicated. Possibly the largest contributions have been made by members of this church of which only God knows. These have been written, not on perishable pages, soon to be forgotten, but on the everlasting records, kept by God Himself, which shall be revealed in full in eternity.

And now as we receive inspiration from the hills and valleys of the past seventy-five years, we face the future with courage, confident that the same God and Saviour who has kept and guided our forbears, lights our path today, and will continue to guide us in the days that are ahead. It will be ours to pass the torch of the love and goodness and mercy of God in His Son Jesus Christ to coming generations.

Pastor WG Cobb