The History of St. John's UCC
A dozen families gathered and constituted St. John's Church in August 1862. Today, there are nearly 1,500 members. This growth, made possible over the past 150 years by thousands of active and dedicated church members, was inspired by five evangelical-minded men under the leadership of Rev. Kroehnke of Rock Run, Illinois. The fruits of their labors have far surpassed the bounds of their hopes and imagination. Known as the founders of the church, they were: J.J. Tschudy, a man of books and learning who was registrar of deeds for many years; John Kaderly and Peter Spahr, two Monroe tailors; Samuel Schneider, a harness maker; and Andreas Lanz. The five men were selected as trustees at the first organizational meeting, along with Mrs. Jacob Weber and Henry Walter.
The first church building, a little white frame structure, was dedicated on Aug. 31, 1862. It was constructed on the present church site for a cost of $400. Records show the first church meeting, however, was held two years earlier in the home of Andreas Lanz (corner of 17th Avenue and 12th Street) There are no pictures of this first church, but windows were arched and the first known decorations were oak leaves. Rev. Kroehnke and several guest pastors officiated at the dedication.The first Holy Communion was held in the church on that Sunday in August, and so was the first baptism. The baptized child was Samuel Schuler, who spent his entire lifetime as an active member of the church.
Rev. Hageman . . . He was the first resident pastor. He helped erect the first parsonage for $400.
Rev. Meyer . . .
Rev. Dippel . . .
Rev. Angelberger . . . A second and larger church, at a cost of $2,559, was built and dedicated on Oct. 12, 1873. Rev. Angelberger left in 1876 to answer a call to Buffalo, New York
Rev. Fotsch . . . He died in 1880 at the age of 48 while serving and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery. The site is marked with a special church monument.
Rev. Hirtz . . . The first Sunday School Building was added to the back of the church and three bells, imported from Switzerland, were installed and dedicated in 1883. The bells cost $600 and weighed 2,000 pounds. In August 1885, Rev. Hirtz was called to a church in Milwaukee.
Rev. Koch . . . He started parishes in Browntown, Wane and Jordan. All three later became self-supporting churches. Leaving Monroe, he entered the mission field in Milwaukee where he founded the Emanuel Church.
Rev. Tanner . . . He came to Monroe after serving in India. During Rev. Tanner's pastorate, a hot air furnace was installed in the church and a two-story (18x23) addition was built on the parsonage. He resigned in 1895 to accept a call to Texas where he served as district synod president for many years.
Rev. P.A. Schuh . . . He served the church for 43 years, until his death at the age of 70 on Feb. 7, 1938. His story of devotion to the church and community is a legend which has gone far beyond the confines of St. John's congregation itself. A native of Strasbourg, Alsace, Germany, Rev. Schuh came to the United States in 1887 in answer to requests by immigrants to send them more ministers. He came with five other theological students after graduating from Teubingern University, Alsace-Lorraine. He first went to Elkhart Lake and then came to Monroe eight years later. Best available statistics indicat Rev. Schuh baptized more than 3,000 persons, confirmed more than 2,500, married more than 1,500 couples, and officiated at nearly 2,000 funerals. In 1896 the first Youth Fellowship was organized and this group paid for wiring the church for electricity. In 1897 the church was enlarged by the addition of a sizable wing to the west, and a hand pump organ was installed. The present Sanctuary portion of our building was completed and dedicated in 1923 for a cost of $125,000. The former building, which was in good structural condition, was moved in part to the site of the then Union Church on 10th Street and 20th Avenue. Rev. Schuh also was instrumental in organizing the Immanuel Church in Darlington and for many years also held services in Arena.
Rev. P.C. Kehle . . . Dr. Kehle was called to become president of the South Wisconsin Synod. He came to Monroe from Ripon, where he was pastor for 14 years. Previously, he had been pastor at Berlin for three years and at LeMars, Iowa, for three years. During his service here, the Evangelical denomination, which originated in Germany, was merged with the Reformed Church. St. John's continued as an Evangelical and Reformed congregation until 1957 when it merged with the Congregational Christian Churches as the United Church of Christ. In 1950, both the present parsonage and the first of two Christian Education additions were erected.
Rev. Paul Olm . . . Rev. Olm resigned to become minister of the Northeast Association of the Wisconsin Conference of United Church of Christ. Due to a large increase in the number of pupils, it became necessary to erect a more adequate Christian Education Building in 1962.
Rev. Donald Stork . . . He was the first full-time assistant pastor.
Rev. Calvin Fischer . . . He came to St. John's after pastorates in Merrill and Belvidere, IL; and served in Northwest Wisconsin Association, and church camp. He left in 1968 to serve Wisconsin Rapids UCC. A second parsonage on 5th Street was purchased in 1966.
Rev. Milton Petzold . . . He was called to be Associate Pastor.
Rev. Wolfgang Koehler . . . During his ministry, St. John's Garden Apartments were completed. Koehler had served Ft. Atkinson and Neillsville churches before coming to St. John's. He accepted a call to Fairfield Glade, Tennessee, in 1982. In 1969, Miss Ida Derendinger, gave the church her house adjacent to the Christian Education Building.
Rev. William Dushek . . . He served as Associate Pastor.
Rev. Paul Warder . . . He became and served as the Associate Pastor.
Rev. Keith Hunholz . . . Pastor Hunholz was called as Associate Pastor.
Rev. Dean Christianson . . . St. John's called him to serve as Associate Pastor.
Rev. Frederick Bachman . . . He came to St. John's with prior service in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Long Island, New York, and St. Paul, Minnesota. Pastor Bachman took up his duties as Senior Pastor on Reformation Sunday. In 1985, the Chapel was renovated, including the installation of the stained glass windows, designed and made by Susan Van Galder of Janesville, the windows a gift of the Women's Guild and Ladies Aid. In 1986, the Sanctuary organ is renovated with the Zimmerman Memorial Fund.
Rev. James Fishbaugh . . . He served as Associate Pastor.
Rev. Arthur Ellersieck . . . He had served congregations in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. In 1987, St. John's celebrated its 125th anniversary.
Rev. Richard Williams . . . An interim minister specialist who served congregations in Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan as the congregations searched for a senior pastor.
Rev. W.T. 'Mike' Heath arrived in 1993 and served the congregation until his retirement in 2013. His wife Kay served as director of Christian Education. Pastor 'Mike' served churches in Oconomowoc, LaGrange, Illinois, and Bremen, Indiana, before coming here. During Mike's tenure, the church observed its 135th anniversary in 1997 and its 150th anniversary in 2012. Also the church retrofitted many of the sanctuary's windows. In 1999, the church began the initial construction stages of a joint effort with Monroe Clinic and New Glarus Home to provide an assisted living facility and St. John's Garden Apartments expansion at the church-owned site on Monroe's north side.
In September 2002, St. John's kicked off a $1.5 million capital campaign project entitled "A Church for Tomorrow, A Faith for the Ages." Staff offices were moved to the old parsonage and a link room was built to connect this building to the main church building. The sanctuary and existing offices were remodeled and updated and an elevator installed in the northeast corner of the main building.
In November 2002, Associate Pastor Rev. Scheryl Seymour resigned her position. The Rev. Jon Schultz, and then the Rev. Ree Hale, are called to St. John's as interim pastors while the Search Committee begins the process of finding a new Associate Pastor.
Rev. Gretchen Sylvester . . .is called to serve as Associate Pastor. She left in May 2013 to become senior pastor of a Chicago-area congregation.
Rev. Tiff Bates . . . is called to serve as interim senior pastor, a position he held until December of 2013 and then served as interim associate pastor until October of 2016.
Rev. Todd Hackman . . . was called to serve as Senior Pastor beginning on Dec. 1, 2013. He comes to St. John's from Swiss United Church of Christ in New Glarus.
Rev. Kathleen Rinear . . . was called to serve as Associate Pastor beginning Oct. 1, 2016. She comes to St. John's from Brookfield Congregational United Church of Christ in Brookfield.
Rev. Christie Mandas. . . was called to serve as Associate Pastor beginning Feb.10, 2020. She comes to St. John's from The Monroe Hospital Chaplain.