The first morning service for St. John Lutheran Church, conducted by Pastor Powell, was held on September 10, 1995, in the City Council Chambers. This initial service was attended by 55 people, and the first baptism was performed at St. John. The delightfully large initial attendance pointed to the fact that a larger, more permanent worship facility was essential. In addition, there was an amount of inconvenience associated with the City Council Chambers because everything had to be carried in and out for each service—including the altar. All present at the first service signed the guest book. For the occasion, Redeemer Lutheran Church, Pastor Powell’s congregation and former home to many future St. John members, presented St. John with a set of Altar Books including the Lectionary, Agenda and Altar Book.
As time passed, it was obvious that more room, as well as a place to store worship materials, was essential. After negotiations with the Primitive Baptist Church fell through, an agreement was reached with Macedonia Apostolic Church. Services were moved to the new location March 10, 1996. The new facility offered more opportunity for Sunday School and limited fellowship activities.
In the midst of the move, Pastor Powell was concluding his first adult instruction class. The fruits of this labor were realized in April when eight adults were confirmed, of which four were baptized, six members were received by Reaffirmation of Faith, and two children were baptized. At about the same time, the exciting news was received that a seminarian, John Gierke, had been placed as a Mission Developer in the Mid-South District to serve St. John. Pastor Gierke was to arrive in July 1996.
With a new pastor on the way, the group organized swiftly, securing office space and a temporary residence. A series of church work days were held to paint the outside of the church building and to make some modifications to the interior.
The installation of Pastor Gierke was held on Sunday afternoon, July 7, 1996. Attendance was 113 with a reception following at the Senior Citizen Center. This was truly a momentous occasion in the history of St. John. Following the installation, Pastor Gierke assumed the duties that had been performed by Pastor Powell.
Shortly after the installation, the Coordinators agreed that April 27, 1997 would be the date for the Charter Service. This date was chosen to coincide with the 150th anniversary celebration for Synod. There was indeed much to do in the meantime…..
- A five-year financial plan was completed and submitted to the District.
- A mission statement was developed for St. John: “Sharing God’s Love in Christ”.
- A committee was organized within the congregation to begin work on a Constitution for St. John. After three months of considerable effort, a document was sent to the District Constitutional Committee and was approved.
- Incorporation documents were filed with the State of Tennessee in January of 1997. A tax exempt status was filed for in February of 1997. A president and corporate secretary, Bill and Lois Wehman, were elected for the purposes of incorporation and would serve until Charter Sunday.
- A nominating committee was established to develop a slate of officers for the first church council. A president, vice-president, recording secretary, financial secretary, and two elders would be elected. These officers would assume their respective offices after installation on the Sunday following the Charter Service.
The Charter Sunday service was on April 27, 1997 at the Senior Citizens Center in Dickson. Numerous guests, area Lutheran ministers and St. John members attended and participated. Members and friends of St. John signed the Charter which is now framed and on display at the church.
The first council meeting was held May 14, 1997 for the newly installed council: President Bill Wehman, Vice-President David R. Riesland, Recording Secretary Lois Wehman, Financial Secretary Carmel Dotson, and Elders Paul Darcey and Pete Van Doren.
The congregation was looking for property on which to build a permanent church structure for St. John. An offer made to Bruce Peery for property near the small airport on Highway 96 was not accepted. In May of 1997 the Lutheran Church Extension Fund offered St. John a 6-acre parcel of property on Highway 96 and Hogan Road for $83,000.00. On the 27th of that month the congregation voted to buy this property.
St. John moved services, offices and a newly acquired organ to a warehouse at 1436 Highway 96 on September 1, 1997. St. John congregation was, for the first time, located in a building which was available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. This warehouse building was transformed from a cold, open, airy structure to the home base of St. John’s worship and ministries for over two years. The congregation grew in number over 20% while located in this facility.
In October of 1997 a Call was extended to our Mission Developer, Reverend John Gierke. After accepting the Call, Pastor Gierke was installed on Sunday, November 30, 1997. The service was well-attended by members of St. John, guests and several Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod ministers participating in the ceremony. Pastor Gierke and all of St. John’s members were charged with the mission to extend God’s Kingdom in all our decisions, actions and events.
During our first Advent season in the warehouse/church we enjoyed more freedom to choose times of services and St. John put up our first Christmas tree in a facility we did not share with someone else.
January 1998 expanded the ministries and leadership at St. John with the birth of two new boards: Education and Discipleship. A Youth Group was formed and started meeting in the winter of 1998. Three elders now assisted Pastor Gierke and attended the growing congregation. St. John was blessed with a choir offering a music ministry during worship services. In June of 1998 we offered our first Vacation Bible School held in the evenings during the course of a week. The theme was “Hooked on Jesus”.
September 20, 1998 marked the first youth class Confirmation with six students being confirmed.
In spring of 1998, with a new church building project at hand, it was decided to hire a fund-raising consultant to assist with the process. Capital Funding Services of Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod Foundation was chosen to guide and encourage leadership during this Sustained Giving Stewardship Emphasis. A leadership team was formed in June. The summer-long emphasis, named “Love Keeps Building” (LKB) consisted of leadership training, member visitation, a 6-hour Prayer Vigil and a Commitment Dinner which was held on August 30, 1998 at the Tennsco Community Center. As a result of the Stewardship Emphasis, over $115,000.00 was pledged by members to be given over a three-year period. The LKB emphasis continues today as a building debt reduction opportunity.
A Building Committee was formed in 1998 and many hours were logged to bring the building process from dream to turn-key condition. The Groundbreaking Ceremony was at the Highway 96/Hogan Road building site before Sunday morning worship service on March 21, 1999. The event was attended by our contractor, Sovereign Constructors, and the architects, Deal and Cain. The building loan was provided by Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF).
The erection of the new St. John church building brought many new opportunities to the members and friends of St. John. During the construction process, a prayer circle was held at the start of each workday, led by a member of St. John and attended by the work crew. Before the wallboard was installed, members wrote favorite scripture, prayers and hymns in the framework of the building. Each Saturday, and many days in between, members and friends of St. John gathered at the building site to clean up, mow, paint, caulk, hammer nails, feed the volunteers, etc………and the fellowship grew, thanking God our Heavenly Father for His abundant gifts.
On October 3, 1999 St. John Lutheran Church filled to overflowing (estimated 250 souls) to dedicate the new building to the worship, service and glory of God. Members and guests marched into the sanctuary singing “The Church’s One Foundation”. Also dedicated on this day were a new keyboard, the Baptismal Font, the Altar and the Pulpit.
For the first time, St. John welcomed Baby Jesus in two services on Christmas Eve; one at 7:00 p.m. and another at 11:00 p.m. We also enjoyed our first New Year’s Eve Service in the new building as the congregation welcomed the new Millennium (without any Y2K mishaps!).
The newly-formed Board of Properties inherited the responsibilities of the Building Committee, including care and maintenance of St. John’s church building, contents and landscape. In January 2000 a fourth elder was added to the Board of Elders to help care for the growing congregation.
Flagpoles for the American, Christian and Tennessee flags were dedicated February 13, 2000 in memory and honor of U.S. Veterans. Mid-South District President David Callies participated along with the congregational veterans leading the members of St. John.
The first Oktoberfest was held in October 2000. This fun event produced proceeds which provided help to Care Net and the local prison ministry. In December we offered the first “Journey to the Manger”, a live portrayal of events leading up to Jesus’ birth.
We bid farewell to the Tim Freeze Family in 2001, as they were going to Papau New Guinea to begin support work for Wycliffe Bible Translators.
In the summer the sun’s glare through the large window behind the Altar was softened with the installation of a covering with symbols of the Trinity. Now we could concentrate on the sermon without sunglasses.
Two services were begun on September 23, 2001 to encourage better attendance and offer a choice of types of service. The early service was traditional while the late was contemporary. However, after two years, it was decided to return to one service.
In January of 2002 Pastor Gierke accepted a Call to Conway, Arkansas. His farewell was February 24, 2002. This new congregation now faced a “vacancy”, but many faithful retired pastors assisted and encouraged us during this time—17 months in all.
Five young people were confirmed in September 2002.
Oktoberfest was held again, with a craft auction. The proceeds this time were sent to the Freezes in New Guinea. This continued to be a fund raiser for the family’s support in New Guinea.
Our first Valentines Day Dinner was held February 14, 2003, with a catered meal instead of a Potluck. Don Wharton entertained us with humor and music. There has been an annual picnic, usually around our Charter Anniversary date. In May of 2003 Divorce Care was started, and was well received by those attending. After two successful years, it had to be dropped as the leader moved to another state.
In May 2003 St. John extended a call to Pastor Nathan Jansen. He and the family came to visit and liked what they saw. The Call was accepted in June and Installation was on August 10, 2003. All the Circuit pastors attended and Reverend Ronald Jansen preached at his son’s Installation.
The “big” event of 2004 was the paving of the parking lot. The ladies, especially, were quite pleased with this improvement.
A delivery truck caused some excitement in April 2005 when it became stuck under the canopy. It wasn’t even delivering anything to St. John. There was some minor damage which was quickly repaired.
Now we prepare to celebrate our Tenth Birthday, which is September 10, 2005. A Committee is preparing a special day for us. And so we enter our second decade of “Sharing God’s Love in Christ” with the community.