Quasquicentennial – it's not a word that rolls easily off anyone's tongue, but it is an appropriate description of the upcoming celebration at St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church in Rocky Ridge. The church is located about four miles west of Oak Harbor. On Sunday, April 7, the church will celebrate its 125th year, the quasquicentennial of its birth in 1888. On April 8th of that year, the St. John parish first known by the German name “Evangelische – Lutherische St, Johannes Gemeinde” was organized by twenty-four charter members under the leadership of the Reverend Samuel Kusthardt.
On November 5, 1888, a frame building constructed using material and labor largely donated by its members was dedicated. Just over two months after the dedication, fire completely destroyed the building. However, the members were not discouraged, as even with their humble means they began the construction of a brick building that very spring. In October of that year, less than twelve months after the dedication of the original church, the new brick building was dedicated. This structure served as the church's home until it moved into its present sanctuary less than a mile away in 1967.
German services were held every Sunday until 1933, when they began to be held only once per month; they were eliminated completely in the early 1940's. The church was initially a member of the Iowa Synod, but voted to remain independent when the Iowa, Ohio and Buffalo Synods merged. It joined the American Lutheran Church (ALC) in 1946 as part of its Michigan District and remained so until 1988, when it became part of the Northwestern Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The ELCA was created by the merger of the ALC and the Lutheran Church in America (LCA). Synod Bishop Marcus Lohrmann will be officiating at the April 7th services.
The church began its celebration in January with a chili cook-off sponsored by its youth group, and entertained the Oak Harbor High School Mixed Choir in February. Other events planned as part of this year's festivities are a picnic following worship services with afternoon activities planned for children and adults on June 30th and the finale on October 13th, at which time former pastors and confirmation class alumni will be invited to reminisce with the congregation. Pastor Ralph Schibler is currently serving the church as its interim pastor.
As it celebrates, the church remembers those who showed the way and overcame challenges, yet faithfully shared their love for Christ. The church's current mission statement, “Celebrating Christ, Serving Others”, serves as a lamp to its future but also captures the driving force of its past.