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
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
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.
In March 2016, St. John's kicked off a Campital Campaign Project to be divided
between capital improvements at the church and to support the two Wisconsin church camps at Pilgrim
Center and Moon Beach.