GREENVILLE—The Rev. Alliyah Greaver, first full-time female pastor of St. John Lutheran Church, north of Greenville on State Route 121, is among the committee which is preparing to host the 170th anniversary celebration of which the theme “Come Home” has been set, on Sunday, Sept. 11.
Serving with her on that committee are Barbara Anthony, Carol Hoop, Donna Howdieshell, Birdie Kitchen, Louise Lucas, Lori Trittschuh, Ann Starks and Bruce Strobel.
Those taking part in the worship program that will take place at 11 a.m. will be David Jon Priebe, organist and pianist; Lector Linda Brown; Cantor Shelley Sander; processional participants, Lorri Trittschuh, Barbara Anthony, Louise Lucas and Donna Howdieshell; Ushers Dave Watts, Don Lucas, Bryan Sharp, Jeff Gower and Terri Watts; Greeter Mike Boyer; Communion Servers, the Rev. Don Bachman, Tom Boyer and Kent Beisner; Dave Watts, as live-streamer; Mark Wentworth, sound technician; Jeff Gower, media technician; Lorri Stephan and Maggie Rismiller, of the Altar Guild; and Carol Hoop, One Call.
The special anniversary offering envelopes that will be collected will go to St. Peter’s and the St. John Seminarian Fund, and offerings not in envelopes or in the usual offering envelopes will be toward the usual Sunday offering funds at St. John.
Fellowship and a meal is set to be served at 12:30 p.m. in the Parish Hall. Set for 1:30 p.m.
Also featured at the event will be a room in which a variety of artifacts will be on display, including a dress from the 1800s belonging to Donna Howdieshell’s great-grandmother, Wilhelmina Prasuhn.
“These items also include some tools used in the building of the churches; many photos of the old church; albums; bulletins; an Old German Bible from the 1800s; and German catechism items,” Greaver said. “They worshiped in German mostly and even taught confirmation in German for quite a long time.”
There will be a guest book for people to sign and it will be located outside the sanctuary entrance before leaving.
Holy Communion will also be featured.
St. John was founded Sept. 1 in 1852, by German settlers and farmers who sought to have a place to worship and receive God’s word. It was first called Evangelical Lutheran St. John Church. Those who met in the beginning were Johann Gottlob Deubner, Frederick, Meier, August Feltmann, Karl C. Kruckeberg, Frederick Dohme, Charles Meier, Charles Kruckeberg, Wilhelm Hiddeson, Ludwig Fauth, John Paulus, Christian Kruckeberg, Heinrich Kruckeberg, Ferdinand Prasuhn, Louis Prasuhn, Louise Fauth, Wilhelmina Deubner, Charlotte Koester and Karolina Kruckberg.
According to historical accounts, St. John was known in its early days as the woodlands church and was referred to as the “bush” church while the “town” church was St. Paul’s Lutheran in the City of Greenville, which was founded in 1850.
At first, the meetings at St. John were held in the homes of congregational members until a church building could be constructed.
That church was built in 1854 and was a log structure that stood across the road from the current building made from trees on the property which members gathered for the new church. It was a 30×60-foot building and was later weather boarded and sealed.
The first brick church was built in 1876 and, from this building, the bell tower remains as part of the present building.
Then, in 1990, St. John purchased 31 acres of land north of the original church site and cemetery, and, on April 13, 1997, the present church building, including a new worship center, gathering area and offices, was dedicated.
According to Greaver, that church was turned around several times to make the entrances more approachable.
“When they brought it here, they used old building materials, the rafters were used in different windows and it was made from brick from the second church,” she said.
With the various phases of building and adding to the buildings, it was noted that members of the congregation contributed their skills and time to help construct the needed space for their worshipping community. In 1854, members Fred Entdorf and Frederick Meier provided their carpentry skills for building the altar and pulpit, and similarly, in 1996, under the leadership of Pastors Ed Battiste and Charles Boomhower, member Gene Hoellrich hand-crafted the altar rail and Battiste constructed the altar and pulpit from lumber taken from the 1876 building.
History has it that St. John’s current building also features stained glass windows that had been preserved from the second building along with the distinctive 120-foot steeple and bell tower. Many of the bricks and lumber taken from the one-room church schoolhouse were used in the construction of the 1935 parish hall.
As noted before, Greaver is the first full-time minister of the church. However, there was an interim minister, Patricia Morlock who served sometime between 2013 and 2015.
Pastors who have served the church, in chronological order, are listed as follows with the interims in parenthesis: Paulus Heid, Gotthilf Reichard, Joseph Lehner, John Lautenschlager, C.H. Althoff, Carl H. Mayer, William Benzin, August W. Zell, Otto A. Heinzelman, Dr. P. Buekring (interim), J.C. Weigand, R.G. Otto, George Schuster, R. Wayne Willmann, E.J. Katterhenrich, E. Harold Kettner, Dr. E.P. Ebert (interim), John W. Auer, Bernard E. Heuer, George J. Wright, Marvin V Ritterling, Don R. Bachman Jr., Ed Battiste, Charles Boomhower, Hal Robarge (interim), Alan Knoke, Patricia Morlock (interim), Brian S. McGee, Jess Abbott (interim) and now Allyiah Greaver.
“For a while, St. Paul’s Lutheran and St. John shared a pastor,” said Greaver, who noted that Bachman and Abbott as well as local clergymen in the community will be coming to the homecoming.
In 2010, St. John became part of the North American Lutheran Church (NALC) denomination.
That came about, Greaver said, because of problems in theological differences with the previous church body.
“We are part of the Southwest Ohio Mission District of NLAC,” she said. “Dan Selbo is the bishop for the whole denomination. He was here when I was ordained. He does all of the ordinations.”
For the celebration Sunday, the committee created a church history booklet.
The church’s other activities throughout the year include a community ice cream celebration in early August, and the All-Saints service at the cemetery across the road from the church.
Attendance at the church has been averaging 95 for quite a few years.
“We’ve kept up our numbers after COVID,” the pastor said.
When asked who the oldest church member is, Greaver was unsure, but did say that member Bernadean Kochersperger was 95 when she died on Aug. 22 and she was active in the church for many years.
Greaver was ordained pastor of the church a year ago on Sept. 12; thus will be observing that first anniversary the day after the 170th festivities.
Greaver, who will be a featured speaker and leading the service of remembrance at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church south of Versailles at 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 18 at the annual Homecoming Celebration there, is from Yankton, S.D., and is the daughter of pastors.
She went to seminary in Minnesota and Pennsylvania and did her internship in Texas.
“This was my first-call congregation. It was a great pick,” she said, beaming.
Why did she want to become a pastor? “I felt the call when I was at a very young age,” she responded. “As I got older, my interests and gifts would be suited to that. I have a love for God’s people and sharing God’s word.”
A member of the Greenville Ministerial Association, she has a framed project she did with colorful lines and no verbiage in her office.
“I was 4 when I drew that and showed it to my mom and said that was my sermon,” she said, proudly. “This is where God led me.”
Her mother, Dani Jo Bierwager, is planning to visit her in October. Also the daughter of Bill Greaver, Alliyah also has a sister, who is working on becoming a teacher.
Serving with Greaver on the St. John Church staff are Renea Monsauret, secretary; Kent and Pam Beisner, custodians; David Watts, treasurer; Shelley Sander, financial secretary; David Priebe, organist; and church president, Ron Smith.
“This anniversary will be a good opportunity to look with gratitude and thankfulness to the past, and look to excitement for the future,” she said. “We are so very excited to celebrate our history this weekend and praise the Lord for His faithfulness.”