By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN Pastor Friedrich Boesche couldn’t help but be pleased if he were able to see the results of his efforts to share God’s word with a few Winsted residents 140 years ago.
Boesche, who served congregations in Hollywood and Bergen townships, also took time to conduct services in the homes of Winsted residents.
In July 1872, Boesche conducted the first service for the newly organized St. John’s Lutheran congregation, according to the German church record books.
Today, St. John’s Evangelical Church stands proudly in Winsted, representing generations of its faithful followers’ support, and currently houses the services for its 300 members.
Pastor Mark Loder, who became pastor at St. John’s in August 2009, is the 16th pastor, the ninth pastor in residence.
A special 140th anniversary celebration will take place Sunday, July 22. Everyone is welcome.
The day will begin with a worship service at 10 a.m. Following the service, a meal (hamburgers and hotdogs) will be served at 11:30 a.m. in the church’s lower level.
At 1:30 p.m., a musical program will feature the singing of Loder, the church choir, the Winsted Area Community Choir, as well as performances by other musicians.
During the program, senior members will share some of St. John’s history.
One of the longest, living members at St. John’s is Gordy Kubasch of Winsted. He has been a member of St. John’s since 1936. He remembers attending the original wood-framed church, which was built in 1882.
The structure was built on a foundation of field stone on land donated by William Gahl Sr.
“The boys sat on one side, and the girls sat on the other. That was just the way we did things back then,” Kubasch said.
A wood-burning stove, used to heat the original church, was in the center of the building. During the winter, if you sat too far away from the stove, you would freeze, and if you sat too close to it, you would get burned, according to Kubasch.
For the first 75 years of the church’s existence, St. John’s had to share a pastor.
But in February 1946, the first resident pastor, Rev. Amandus F. Vomhof was installed.
“He was a good preacher,” Kubasch recalled. “He could really bring them in. He also knew his Bible.”
According to Kubasch, at meetings Vomhof knew his Bible so well he would answer questions using the Bible as a reference.
“We loved it,” Kubasch said.
A parsonage, still used by St. John’s pastors today, was built in 1946 for Vomhof and his family with funds donated entirely by Len Hermann, who was co-owner of Pure Milk Creamery in Winsted.
By 1951, St. John’s formed a building committee to organize plans to build the first unit (basement) of St. John’s Church. The old church was moved to the back of the property, so the basement could be built on the same site as the original church.
“The old church was taken apart board by board, and another house was built in Winsted using that same lumber,” Kubasch said.
By Jan. 18, 1959, the loan had been repaid on the church basement and new plans were made to build what the congregation called “the super-structure.”
Another building committee was formed, and architect and contractor Edward H. Pinske and sons from Plato were hired to build the new church.
Construction began in June, and a dedication ceremony took place Dec. 4, 1960.
Lenora Kubasch remembers the dedication, which had a Christmas theme.
She also compared services in the basement to what it was like the first time services took place in the new church.
“I remember going to communion downstairs and it was depressing because the ceiling was so low,” Lenora said. “When the super-structure was built, it was like, ‘Wow. This is really something.’ You walked in and it was massive.”
By 1970, the congregation had repaid the loan on the super-structure. Gordy estimated the total cost to build it, including the pews and altar, was $50,000.
With the arrival of Pastor John Temple in 1978, plans were made to offer a Christian day school which opened the fall of 1980.
At its peak, there were 44 children enrolled in kindergarten through grade 12.
“It had accelerated Christian education and kids could go at their own pace. They were well-educated when they left school,” Lenora said.
The school was staffed by the pastor, three full-time teachers, and a dedicated group of volunteers.
Eight students graduated from St. John’s High School before the school closed in 1989.
The most recent change to the church structure came in 2008, when a major addition was built onto the church which included a handicap-accessible entryway, and an elevator.
“We have an elevator now and that’s a good thing,” Gordy said. “We have some members that couldn’t make those steps and now, they can use the elevator.”
A well-attended dedication for the new addition took place April 27, 2008, with guest speaker Pastor Gerald Bode of Peace Lutheran Church of Hutchinson. Bode commended St. John’s members for their sacrifice and commitment in furthering the mission of their church by making it accessible to all.
Pastor Loder looks at St. John’s history
“We have had a ministry here (St. John’s in Winsted) for 140 years, and have some families that are still in the congregation tied directly to those founding fathers of the church, which is very remarkable,” Loder said.
“The knowledge and comfort in knowing that the Lord has supported the ministry at St. John’s for 140 years; and if you read through the history of the church, there have been ups and downs, and all through those ups and downs, the church has continued to be a steady ministry for this community.”
“And that’s what I thank God for every day when I come into the office,” Loder said
“No matter what mistakes I might make in a given day, as long as I am being faithful to what this church represents, there is no doubt in my mind that God will continue to bless the ministry here. So, 140 years later, I am not going to be around, but the Lord’s ministry will continue to go through St. John’s.”