From the Lincoln Sentinel
The St. John and Bethlehem Lutheran churches celebrated a milestone as both houses of worship observed their 135th anniversaries with special events and activities.
According to historians, both churches were chartered on the same day, and even shared a pastor their first few years.
St. John Lutheran Church, of Lincoln, celebrated 135 years in mission and ministry August 20-21.
The community was invited to join the church by celebrating to the theme, “The Church’s One Foundation.”
The celebration began with a social at 4 p.m., Saturday. At 5 p.m., the Rev. Dr. R. John Mehl, who was the former pastor at St. Paul Lutheran, Westfall and a former missionary to Russia and China, discussed his mission efforts in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. He currently serves as the mission and admissions recruiter for Concordia University in Seward, Neb.
Following a light meal, choir rehearsal begian at 6 p.m. with a youth gathering at 6:30, followed by Christian music from 7-9 p.m., provided by Hays radio station KPRD 88.9 FM. All area youth were invited to an evening of fellowship and entertainment.
On Sunday, a communion worship service was planned at 10:30 a.m., featuring three former pastors, including the Rev. Bruce Zimmerman, the Rev. Gerald Radtke, the Rev. Matthew Schneider, along with current pastor the Rev. Benjamin Siebert.
Immediately following the worship service, the congregation gathered in the Fellowship Hall for a noon meal catered by Sunrise Café.
Following lunch, Tyler Breneman presented an organ recital. A cake and ice cream social followed the recital as a formal end to the two-day celebration.
St. John Lutheran Church was established in August 1881 at its current location two miles south of Lincoln. The first church consisted of a small native stone building. Later, a second church was built as the congregation grew. However, a lightning strike sparked a fire, destroying the second church building.
The current church building was completed and dedicated in 1936 and still stands. In 1975, an education wing was added to the west end of the church to accommodate an active weekday school during the school year and Vacation Bible School in the summer. The current parsonage was purchased and moved to the current site in 1982.
St. John Lutheran has been served by 11 pastors, including Siebert, who was installed on July 17.
The Bethlehem Lutheran Church, of Sylvan Grove, also had a special celebration on August 21.
The congregation marked the event with an 11 a.m., catered meal, which following Sunday worship services. Other special presentations included church member Les Walter, who gave a history of the church, and a music program by the members of this year’s Vacation Bible School class.
According to historians, the first Lutheran Church was built on four acres in 1884, about a half-mile southwest of Sylvan Grove.
Five years later, a 24-acre tract of land was purchased on the town’s east side. The church building was relocated to this location and an addition was built. The parsonage was also constructed the same year.
According to an article in the August 6, 1981, edition of the Lincoln Sentinel-Republican, in 1890, the Bethlehem Lutheran congregation voted to build a new church, which was completed in 1892 for $4,570.50.
The laying of the cornerstone for the existing church was observed during a celebration on Sept. 10, 1961. In February of the following year, the present church building was dedicated.