Life in early Carver County
Only 10 years prior to the organization of the congregation, Carver County was organized. Carver County was known as one of the “big woods” counties, because of its dense forests. German families from Rheinland, Germany had immigrated and settled in Benton Township. Others followed from Wisconsin and neighboring states.
It took a great deal of hard labor and courage to clear the forests and begin farming here. Acre after acre had to be cleared and then the seed sown among the stumps. Log houses and log barns had to be built. However, the ground was fertile and brought returns for the necessities of life. Roads were but paths in the woods, hardly fit for ox-cart. Flour and other groceries were often carried on the back from the nearest town, Carver.
Early Days of Our Church
It was January 2, 1866 that a meeting was held for the purpose of found and organizing a Reformed Church in the Township of Benton, Carver County, Minnesota. Prior to this, services were conducted in homes by the Rev. J. Romeis, who had come to this territory in 1865. At this meeting, a constitution was adopted and signed by sixty members.
This newly organized congregation was to be named “Deutsch-Evangelish Reformierte St Johannes Gemeinde.” Later, it was changed to “St. John’s Evangelical and Reformed Church.” In 1958, it was again changed to “St. John’s United Church of Christ,” which it is known as today.
At this meeting, Gerhard Bongard and Heinrich Bergmann were elected as elders and Frederick Lemke and Theodore Spicier as deacons. It was decided to build a frame log church with the members furnishing the logs. Two acres of land were purchased from Arnold Willemsen, with part of it to be used for cemetery purposes.
After its organization, for a short time, St. John’s congregation was affiliated with the Sheboygan Classis. However, during the year 1866, a Minnesota Classis was organized of which it became a charter member. After the merger of the E and R and CC denominations, St. John’s congregation became a member of the Northern Synod.
In 1883, the current framed church was erected and in the late 1890’s the church’s first organ was purchased. In 1937, the church was enlarged and moved to a full basement which included an office, restrooms, meeting facilities, and a kitchen.
Our cherished, stained glass windows were installed in 1943. By In 1969, a new entry way was constructed. Throughout the years, St. John’s has taken great pride in maintaining the history of the church, parsonage, and grounds, while making improvements including an elevator for handicap accessibility.
The Language of Our Church
During the year 1928, the English language was introduced and utilized once a month. By the time the church celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1941, two sermons were given, one in German one in English.
Church records, including the Constitution written in 1866 [seen below], were penned in German.
In 1946, it was the first time the annual congregational meeting was recorded in English. During the years of 1948 to 1950, the congregation wrestled with German-English language problem, which resulted in the ratio of two sermons in English to one in German.
By the late 1950’s all sermons were in English.
The History Of the United Church of Christ
The United Church of Christ came into being in 1957 with the union of two Protestant denominations: the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches. Each of these was, in turn, the result of a union of two earlier traditions.
The Congregational Churches were organized when the Pilgrims of Plymouth Plantation (1620) and the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony (1629) acknowledged their essential unity in the Cambridge Platform of 1648.
The Reformed Church in the United States traced its beginnings to congregations of German settlers in Pennsylvania founded from 1725 on. Later, its ranks were swelled by Reformed immigrants from Switzerland, Hungary and other countries.
The Christian Churches sprang up in the late 1700s and early 1800s in reaction to the theological and organizational rigidity of the Methodist, Presbyterian and Baptist churches of the time.
The Evangelical Synod of North America traced its beginnings to an association of German Evangelical pastors in Missouri. This association, founded in 1841, reflected the 1817 union of Lutheran and Reformed churches in Germany.
For more information on the history of the United Church Christ, visit www.ucc.org.