In July 1841, a small group of twenty-five met to organize their own congregation. Under the leadership of Rev. Martin Schaad, the organization was effected, incorporation papers were filed with the State of Ohio, and first leaders of the church council were selected on July 25th of that year.
The original and legal name chosen for this congregation was The St. John’s German Evangelical Protestant Church of Newark, Ohio. In 1919, the church became a member of the Evangelical Synod of North America. In 1940, the Evangelical Synod merged with the Reformed Church in the United States and the church was called St. John’s Evangelical Reformed Church. Then in 1962, this denomination merged with the Congregational Christian Church to become St. John’s United Church of Christ.
About two months after the congregation was organized, September 30, 1841, the cornerstone of the first church was laid. The lot on which the church and parsonage was built was given by its first president, Mr. Henry Rickenback and his wife, Barbara. The church was built at the corner of Fifth and Poplar Streets. The structure was of brick and stone with dimensions of 30’ x 40’. In those days it looked quite imposing when the “South Side” of Newark was “country” with perhaps a half dozen houses scattered over an area of miles. The church was built with all free-will gifts, most of which came from the members, and the first service of worship was held in the new church on January 16, 1842. In 1857, a house costing $450 was erected on the lot to the rear of the church and was to serve as both parsonage and school house.
The church continued to grow and in 1870, the building was removed and a new church was completed in its place. This church still stands and is at present The Old Country Church.
Up until 1906, the German language was exclusively used at St. John’s. In October of that year, Rev. H.M. Wiesecke introduced English into the Sunday School, The Young People’s Society, and the Evening Service. The last German service was held on Good Friday Night, April 11, 1941.
The church outgrew the Fifth Street building, and in 1949, the Miller property on National Drive was purchased as a future building site. In 1952, the lower level was finished and services were held in Hermann Hall. In 1957, the sanctuary of European Gothic design, and constructed of Ohio limestone, was completed and dedicated. The Education Facility was dedicated in 1968 and the final building phase was completed in 1983.
Twenty-five pastors have served St. John’s and the surrounding Newark and Licking County area through the years with the present pastor being the Rev. Mark Katrick.
St. John’s continues to be a source of Grace, Hope and Good Works in the community in which it has made its home for over 160 years.
Compiled by Mary Ellinger
Revised February 17, 2009