HISTORY OF ST. JOHN'S

St. John's was begun as a mission church in early 1934 in the old public school building on Folcroft Avenue. It was chartered with 66 charter members on October 7 of that year. The present building was dedicated in 1949, and the educational-wing extension in 1962.
 

A View of Fifty Years

On that October day in 1934, the congregation was formerly organized with the Reverend Roland M. Banes having been called as the church's first pastor. The Board of Home Missions of the United Lutheran Church in America had previously met with 20 area residents and helped to form a Sunday Church School, which first met on April 8th of that year. Seventy children and adults convened for Sunday School in the vacant public school building on Folcroft Avenue (now the home of American Legion Post #193).

There were 66 charter members of the new congregation in Folcroft, organized as a mission church of the Central Pennsylvania Synod under the direction of Dr. Calvin P. Swank, executive secretary of that Synod's Board of Home Missions. The name "Saint John's" had been selected at a meeting of those forming the new congregation on May 11, 1934.

The first formal congregational meeting was held during the week following the October 7th founding of the church, and the first vestrymen were Messrs. Harry Anderson, D. Sterling Bousum, J. Albert Gulden, I.L. Horn, Frederick Jacobs, William Miller, C.E. Uhler, Dr. Kimber E. Vought, and Henry Wendte. On April 11, 1935, at a congregational meeting, it was agreed to purchase the building in which the congregation was worshipping. So the story of St. John's began in this vacant school building. The first furnishings consisted of a kitchen table and table cover, some chairs, a second-hand piano, and a Bible. With sacrifice and the work of the congregation, the building was transformed into a suitable place for worship and the membership continued to increase.

Pastor Banes accepted a call to Ferndale, Pa. in September 1936, and so ended the period of the foundation of St. John's. In February 1937, the Reverend Robert J. Keeler was called as St. John's second pastor. Under his guidance the church continued to grow, the building was improved, and a new heating plant was installed.

For approximately five months in early 1941, Pastor Keeler was on leave from St. John's to the Board of Home Missions, where he directed the establishment of a congregation in Johnstown, PA. During this period, the Reverend Charles K. Wyncoop was acting pastor. Pastor Keeler returned to St. John's in July 1941. In June 1942, he entered the service of our country as a chaplain in the U.S. Army.

At the start of the new year, 1943, the Reverend John I. Cole accepted a call to become pastor of St. John's. The church's indebtedness from the former school building purchase was paid off, and it became apparent that for future growth potential and to fulfill its mission, the church would have to seek a new location. A committee to assist Pastor Cole in the initial planning consisted of Messrs. Sterling Bousum, Russell Buckingham, and George Koch.

In March 1946, a building committee, chaired by Sterling Bousum, was authorized to proceed with the project. An architect, T. Norman Mansell, was hired in January 1947, and in May 1948 the present site for St. John's was purchased. Congregational action to proceed with the actual building was taken in June 1948. Ground was broken for the new building at the corner of Glen and Folcroft Avenues on January 2, 1949. In June, ceremonies to lay the cornerstone were conducted. Upon completion, dedication services for the new building were held on October 9, 1949, two days after St. John's 25th anniversary.

Pastor Cole resigned in March 1953, after ten years at the helm. St. John's, having been transferred from the Central Penn to the Ministerium Synod (the forerunner of the Southeastern and Northeastern Pennsylvania Synods), then called the Reverend Harry E. Smyser to serve as pastor. He came to St. John's in April 1953. In response to a need for more adequate facilities, during Pastor Smyser's service with St. John's, a fundraising campaign was begun for an educational wing and enlargement of the core building. Pastor Smyser directed the campaign's initial stages but then finished his pastorate at St. John's in July 1959, accepting a challenge to establish a mission church in Levittown, N.J.

In October 1959, the Reverend Walter J. Kopperman, a native of Estonia, was called. Successful in its drive to fund the educational building, St. John's held groundbreaking ceremonies in March 1961. Building Committee chairman was William E. Brandt. The enlarged church and educational unit were completed and the dedication was held in April 1962.

Because of the crowded public school conditions, that Autumn the Folcroft School District began using the church's new educational building for daily kindergarten classes. St. John's provided this service to the community for several years. Pastor Kopperman resigned in April 1966 to accept a call to a bilingual church in Allentown.

The Reverend Adam E. Polcrack came to Folcroft from Port Carbon, Pa. when he accepted a call to St. John's in October 1966. He served the congregation for 13 years before retiring on November 30, 1979, when he returned to the Pottsville area. It was during his tenure that St. John's paid off all of its mortgage indebtedness.

The Reverend Charles E. Romanowski, began his ministry at St. John's on June 16, 1980, having come to Folcroft from the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Columbia, S.C. He is a native of Philadelphia.
 

 

The Pastors of St. John's:
Rowland M. Baines................................................................1934
Robert J. Keeler....................................................................1936
John I. Cole..........................................................................1943
Harry E. Smyser...................................................................1953
Walter J. Kopperman...........................................................1959
Adam E. Polcrack................................................................1966
Charles E. Romanowski.......................................................1980
Christopher E. Hagen..........................................................1993
Paul Townsend....................................................................1997(interim)
Andrew Lowe......................................................................1998(Vice Pastor)
Cindy L. Ray......................................................................1998-2010

Kris Peterson....................................................................2010 (interim, bridge)

Stacey-Kyle Rea.................................................................2012-