In September of 1879, 9 men from Bethel Lutheran Church (rural northwest Frankenmuth) met with 5 men from St. Paul’s Lutheran Church (rural congregation four miles south of Frankenmuth) and 11 men from St. Lorenz Lutheran Church to pursue the formation of a new flock to be shepherded under God’s Word. The result was that one month later, on October 31, 1879, on the Festival of the Lutheran Reformation, 25 members gathered to form St. Johannes Lutheran Evangelische Kirche.
This newly formed assembly extended a divine call to Reverend Johannes Fritz of the Pittsburgh Synod. Reverend Fritz accepted that call to serve as pastor and so became the first to shepherd this fledgling flock. Even without a church building this small flock of believers gathered around the true foundation of their new church, receiving Jesus’ body and blood in holy communion for the first time on December 7, 1879, in a village home of one of the members.
The first church building, an A-frame located on West Tuscola Street, was erected in 1880 at the cost of $4,000. This church building, dedicated as a sanctuary of God’s Word and sacraments on November 7, 1880, served as such until 1996.
Now 130 years and some 20+ pastors later, St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church still gathers. Many things have changed, including the location of the church building, now residing at 1200 East Genesee Street. Yet one vital thing especially remains the same: The Foundation. God’s Word and His Holy sacraments still, even as in those founding days, remain the bedrock of this humble flock of God. In spite of many aesthetic and visual changes, the gathering song remains unchanged:
“To Your temple I draw near; Lord, I love to worship here. Here are sacrament and Word; Here believers meet their Lord. Christian Worship: 226 vs. 1.”