Much of the early history of St. John’s church, Northfield, has been lost to us. All definite documents holding the desired information were destroyed when the first parsonage was completely razed by fire. From other sources and by tradition we learn that St. John’s was the last church organized by the well-known Rev. Frederick Schmid, who started some twenty congregations throughout southern Michigan from 1833 to 1869. In the year 1869 he took up the all-important work of Gospel preaching among the Lutheran families who had settled in Northfield. The first services were conducted in Sutton School, one mile south of the present church site. Organization was effected and the name St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church chosen.
Charter and early members were: Mr. and Mrs. C. F. Kapp; Mr. and Mrs. A. C. Steffe; Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Bender; Mr. and Mrs. Geo. J. Cook; Mr. and Mrs. Christian Rauschenberger; Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Schweikert; Mr. and Mrs Ludwig; Mr. and Mrs. Geo. Kempf; Mr. and Mrs. Karl Prochnow; Mrs. and Mrs. Bernhard Bauer; Mr. and Mrs. John Gerlach; Mr. and Mrs. Schmid; Mr. and Mrs. Christian Frey; Mr. and Mrs. H. Wagner; Mr. and Mrs. Henry Wessel; Mr. and Mrs. Gottlob Bessinger; Andrew Geiger; Mr. and Mrs. John Kapp; Mr. and Mrs. David Maier; Mr. and Mrs. Geo. Maulbetsch; M. Fahmer; J. Fred Braun; Philipp and Gottfried Bauer; Andrew Rentschler; Jake Kapp; Dr.. C. F. Kapp; M. Kern.
In the early years of St. John’s existence, many reading services were necessary due to the lack of a resident pastor. These services were ably and faithfully led by Mr. Christian Rauschenberger.
In the year 1874, after determining upon a site three were under consideration: Sutton's corners, Bauer place, and the present location, a church was erected, large and beautiful, considering the small number of members and their humble circumstances. This church though altered, enlarged, and beautified, served the members of St. John’s for 58 years.
Rev. Klingmann followed Rev. Schmid in serving St. John’s with word and sacrament. Both of these men served as itinerant pastors.
Northfield soon, however, received the long hoped and prayed for resident pastor in the person of Rev. Stein in 1878. In late 1878 and early 1879, St. John’s was served by Rev. W. Rein. Rev. George Turch and Rev. R. Hoecks served for the remainder of 1879 and into 1880.
For the following two years, St. John’s had a full time resident pastor, Rev. G. F. Schoemperlen; succeeding him in 1882 and serving until June, 1888 was Rev. H. Abelmann. It was during Rev. Abelmann's pastorate that our Ladies Aid Society was organized on February 9, 1888. Rev. F. Buerkle filled the vacancy through the summer of 1888. Rev. P. Kionka arrived in October 1888 and served as resident pastor until 1892.
For the next sixteen years the congregation worshiped without pastoral vacancy under the pastorate of Rev. William Fischer (1892-1909). However, the following four and a half to five years again saw vacancies, with Rev. H. H.Heidel serving from 1909 to 1911, and Rev. H. C. Wesphal serving from 1911 to 1913.
Rev. George N. Luetke accepted the call to St. John’s in 1913 and continued as pastor here until 1920. In 1914, the church was renovated and new windows and new pews were installed. In July 1920, Rev. Alfred F. Maas was installed as pastor and served for thirty-two years, until the spring of 1952. In 1925, eleven years after it had been renovated, the church was rebuilt, enlarged and extensive improvements made.
1926 - 1950
In the year 1927 a new Moeller, two manual tubular pneumatic pipe organ, costing $2300, was installed by the Ladies Aid. In the summer of 1929 the parsonage was remodeled, completing the modernization of our buildings.
In June, 1926, The Young People s Society was organized, followed by the establishment of the Men s Club in December, 1929.
Showing its zeal for missions, Pastor Alfred Maas conducted the first service of Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Lyon on March 16, 1930. Until 1961, the pastors of St. John’s served jointly the Northfield and South Lyon parishes.
Not for many years was St. John’s to enjoy her material buildings. The night of March 13, 1932, 9:20 p.m., the pastor noticed evidences of fire. Hastening to the church he found his fears justified. Fire which had gained considerable headway was discovered. The alarm immediately was broadcast far and near, help summoned, but all to no avail. It was apparent at once, that, all the help to the contrary notwithstanding, the church could not be saved. Yes, it was impossible even to enter the flaming building to carry some of the treasured furnishings, grown dear to us in the course of the years, to safety. All efforts were therefore centered on the saving of the parsonage. An earnest but vain battle was fought against wind and fire. Soon this building also was a mass of raging flame. In a few hours, church and parsonage were reduced to a smoldering heap of ruins and ashes.
Truly, a great loss, a loss not only to be counted in dollars and cents, has been sustained. The old church, which still was the nucleus of the rebuilt church, held many a treasured memory. Many scenes, many events, both glad and sad were inseparably connected with these buildings.
A severe, staggering blow had been dealt her, yet St. John’s lifted up her eyes with courage. The following morning found the church board looking for a house for their pastor, who with his family had been received into the home of Mr. and Mrs. A. C. Steffe for the night. Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Kern invited the pastor and his family to make their home with them until the new parsonage would be completed. This invitation was gladly accepted as the pastor and his family wished to be near his members in this sore hour of trial.
Plans to rebuild at once were made. The erection of a parsonage was undertaken first. Plans were prepared, bids called for and the contract awarded. Work on the parsonage progressed rapidly and on the 12th day of June it was dedicated.
At the same time preliminary plans for the new church were made. Building Committee and members drove many miles, visited many churches to get ideas and suggestions for the new house of worship. Building operations began in July. On the 21st day of August we observed cornerstone laying. The work on the building progressed smoothly and without mishap. Dedication of the completed church was held on November 27, 1932.
To demonstrate the passage of time in the history of our congregation, we note that the cost of the parsonage was about $4600, and the cost of the church under $15,000.
Again, showing mission zeal, Rev. Alfred Maas and Rev. Bodamer answered a call to visit the Brethren in Faith of the Poland Mission, now scattered over Germany.
1951 - 2000
In June, 1952, Rev. Alfred Walther was installed and served for seven years until the summer of 1959. In preparation for the celebration of the 25th anniversary of our new church building, new carpeting for the church and sacristy was installed.
Rev. Raymond Frey accepted the call to St. John’s in November, 1959. He served for nine years until September, 1968. During this time, the Lutheran Women's Missionary Society was formed in May, 1964, and the Boy and Girl Lutheran Pioneers, for children aged 8-13 years, were formally organized in February, 1968. The Pioneer groups presently are inactive.
From September, 1968, until July 1969, Rev. George Tiefel served as vacancy pastor. In July, 1969, Rev. Edward Pinchoff was installed. He served until September, 1978. St. John’s celebrated the centennial of its founding in September, 1969. In 1973, in time for the centennial of the church building, the church was decorated, with the ceiling panels being painted, new symbols placed on the front walls, and the beams removed from the chancel so that the ceiling could have the domed effect. The old lamps were removed from the choir loft, and replaced with two new fixtures. New chancel lights and the two spotlights for the pulpit and lectern were installed. The cost of this project was about $5,000. The church basement received new, lowered ceiling panels and lights in 1974. During this same year, the first Easter sunrise service was held, and individual glasses for communion were purchased and put into use. In 1975, the LWMS group made the Chrismons which still adorn our tree each Christmas. A refugee Laotian family was sponsored in January of 1976. Later that same year, the pew cushions were purchased.
In November, 1978, Rev. Floyd Mattek became the pastor of St. John’s, serving until September, 1986. Storm windows were put on to protect the stained glass windows and the rose window in the fall of 1980. In 1981, the ceiling fans were installed in the sanctuary. As a project for the 50th anniversary of the church building, the new garage was built.
In November 1986, Rev. Jeffrey Weber was installed as our pastor. In July 1989, the floors were refinished, and new carpeting was again installed. As a project for our 125th anniversary, we installed an elevator to assist those who need help with the stairs to be able to enter our church.
In 1996 Pastor Weber accepted a call to Dowagiac MI. Pastor Porinsky from neighboring Faith Lutheran Church in Dexter served as vacancy pastor. In November 1996 Pastor Andrus of Trinity Lutheran Church in Elkton MI accepted a call to become our new pastor.
2001 - Present
In June of 2000 a deck was built between the parsonage and garage. A new roof was also put on the old garage by church members. Pastor Andrus' farewell sermon was October 14, 2001 as he accepted a call to Minnesota.
Pastor Mark Porinsky of Faith Lutheran Church in Dexter stepped in, once again, as our vacancy pastor. It was in this period of time that the entire church basement floor was redone. Also, natural gas lines were installed under ground running to the church and parsonage. The parsonage had a major remodeling completed including new copper plumbing, new kitchen cupboards and flooring, new stove, refrigerator, and dishwasher. All bedrooms, baths, and kitchen were painted, wood floors sanded and refinished, new basement floor poured and new carpet in some areas.
March 20, 2003 Pastor John Gierach arrived in Northfield in answer to our call for a pastor. He had previously been a missionary pastor serving in Zambia, Africa. In 2005 and 2006 tuck pointing of the entire exterior of the church was completed. The parsonage was insulated and repairs were made on the front porch including new cement porch steps. Two pictorial directories have been completed in 2003, and 2010.
As we rejoice in God s grace, we have reflected upon how He has been our Help through these past ages. At the same time, we confidently place our trust in Him as we look to the future. We do not know what events that may include, but we know that through it all, our God gives us the one, sure hope that is always our goal eternal life with Him in heaven.
These words, taken from the dedication folder in 1932, are still applicable to us today: "May God grant, that we cherish this our new church aright, that we therein diligently hear God’s word as often as it is proclaimed. May we in these trying times be admonished to follow cheerfully the direction of St. Paul, I Cor. 15:58: 'Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for as much as ye know, that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.'"