The Holy Spirit has been working in Salt Lake City through the people of the Lutheran Church for the spiritual benefit, that is the forgiveness and salvation, of all people in the valley for well over 125 years. The impact of St. John’s gospel ministry to Salt Lake and Utah now extends from Logan to St. George and from Tooele to Vernal.
The first Evangelical Lutheran St. John’s Church was organized by Rev. Otto Kuhr of the New York Ministerium of the General Council. At first, Kuhr held German services at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church until a site was purchased. Construction began July 3, 1894, on a chapel at 700 South and 500 West.
Cornerstone laying and dedication were held on September 9, 1894. Pastor Kuhr changed the name of his group to the Erste Deutsche Evangelische Lutherische St. Johnnes Germeinde. The site proved to be too far removed from the city center. Kurh began holding additional services at St. Mark’s Episcopal school. August 1, 1897, Kuhr left Salt Lake City, later becoming a missionary to Brazil.
Shortly, after Kuhr’s departure, Rev. Herman Hoffman (1898-1900), a General Council minister from Wisconsin, accepted a call to Salt Lake City. Since very few people attended at the west side chapel, Hoffman began holding services at Zion Lutheran Church. He also continued a free Lutheran Parochial school there.
In an attempt to efficiently serve the German Lutherans, he reorganized the congregation in early 1898. June 4, 1898, President Weiskotten of the General Council Mission Board informed the congregation that after July 1, 1898, the Synod would no longer be able to provide financial aid. The years 1898 and 1899 proved difficult for the little German congregation.
Ultimately, the Missouri Synod offered to subsidize the congregation with a Synod’s promise of support in the amount of $300.00 annually. Pastor Hoffman resigned and Johann Graebner (1900-1904) was installed on August 12, 1900. He began holding German services at Zion Lutheran Church. He also inaugurated an English service on the last Sunday of each month. In 1900, the congregation purchased a site for a new church at 130 East 700 south for $2,100.00.
Pastor Graebner left July 1904 for Ft. Wayne, Indiana. The vacancy was served by Chaplain Paul T. Brockman, a Wisconsin Synod chaplain at Ft. Douglas. Services were conducted at the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church of Our Savior on 400 East Street.
Rev. William J. Lankow (1905-1913) of Tacoma, Washington, became pastor in the summer of 1905 and continued to hold services in the Norwegian church until the Germans dedicated their church at 130 East 700 South.
Construction began in September. Dedication services in German and English were held on December 17, 1905. Pastor Lankow also designed and built the first school building in 1908. It opened in 1909 with 23 pupils, under teacher H. Pfueger (1909-1914.)
Nine pastors, chaplains, and vicars served the small congregation from 1900 to 1926. After Lankow, they were H. Ruphoff (1913-1914); Vicars Arnold Grumm (1914) and Lawrence (Lorry) Meyer (1915-1918); and J.C. Kaiswer (1918-1922.)
During World War I, the government required the congregation to use the English language in worship and in the school. The school, then under Mr. B. J. Dubberstein (1915-1918) closed in 1918.
During the pastorate of J. A. Schlicting (1922-1926), the congregation became self-supporting and was assigned to the newly organized Colorado District. The Walther League (1922) and a mission society were organized and the school building was enlarged to double its size to serve as a parish hall.
The pastorate of Pastor F. E. Schumann, (1926-1945), was the longest in the congregation’s history. It was also the greatest outreach efforts to other Utah communities. In 1829, Pastor Schumann worked with the congregation in Spanish Fork and laid the foundation for St. Mark’s, Provo in 1931. St. John’s Christian Day School opened again in July 1935 and continued until 1971.
In 1937, a new church building was dedicated on December 19th at 1030 South 500 East, in Salt Lake City, where the congregation of St. John’s continues its work for the Lord to this day. The education wing was added in 1950 while the Rev. R. F. Schulz, (1945-1953) was pastor.
In 1941, Christ, Murray was formally organized through Pastor Schumann’s efforts, and worship services were held in Ogden leading to the founding of St. Paul’s, Ogden. In 1937, Pastor Paul Hansen was called as assistant pastor to help with the expanding work. They held services in Brigham City and Logan, where Holy Trinity, Logan was organized in 1960.
Services led by Pastor Schumann and the pastor from Christ, Murray, were begun in Tooele in 1942 at prisoner-of-war camps. First Lutheran Church, Tooele was organized in 1952. Pastor Schulz began services in East Salt Lake in 1947 and Redeemer Lutheran Church, Salt Lake City, was organized in 1950. Pastor Schulz also began services in Bountiful that led to the founding of Cross of Christ, Bountiful, in 1957.
Since Pastor Schulz, there have been six pastors called to serve St. John’s congregation: Pastor I. Brandt (1953-1958), Pastor C. Stockamp (1958-1967), Pastor I. Meinzen (1968-1975), Pastor R. J. Schrank (1976-1993), Pastor J. Mau (1994-1999), Pastor B. Lindemood (2000-2013), and Pastor H. Malone (2013- present).
In 1984, St. John’s offered its educational facility to Salt Lake Lutheran High School for eight years until the high school moved to its own campus at 4120 South 900 East.
St. John’s Community Child Development Center (CCDC) was established by the congregation in 1998 under the direction of Pastor Jon Mau. The Sudanese Ministry began in 1997 when 3 young Sudanese men came to the church looking for help with the needs of the newly arrived Sudanese refugees.
Under the direction of Pastor Malone, both the CCDC and the Sudanese Ministry continue. The CCDC has been providing preeminent childcare and early childhood education to Salt Lake City for over two decades and has grown to four locations, bringing Jesus into the lives of over 300 families.
The Sudanese ministry has grown to include mission trips to South Sudan to plant Lutheran Churches and train native Sudanese church leaders. One member of the congregation in South Sudan was trained and ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sudan (ELCS) to serve the Lutheran congregations in that area. One local member of St. John’s Sudanese Ministry is currently completing his education and training under the mentorship of Pastor Malone to become the Lutheran Church Missouri-Synod Special Ministries Pastor to Salt Lake’s Sudanese congregation.
The Sudanese ministry in Akobo continues. Pastor Malone, representing St. John’s, taught the Book of St. John at the Sudanese Seminary in Yambio for two weeks in 2018 as part of the Lutheran Heritage Seminary Education program. St. John’s Sudanese Ministry supported the Akobo mission ministry by supplying funds to rebuild their church in war-torn South Sudan and continued active involvement with Pastor Stevens and his refugee camp mission outreach program.
The congregation continues its gospel ministry of the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ to individuals, families, and the community into this new millennium.