St. John Center Lutheran Church
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1832 - 1836 - The Reverend Johannes W. Reichert
(Sometimes referred to by his English name - The Reverend John W. Richards)
* An 1834 report from Pastor Reichert indicates that he is serving five congregations, including Bergstrasse (Ephrata). Prior to Pastor Trumbauer's ministry, Bergstrasse was known to be included in the "New Holland Charge," which also included Trinity (New Holland), Allegheny (Knauers),
and Muddy Creek (Denver). The assumption is being made that St. John Center was the fifth congregation served by Pastor Reichert, since St. John is located in the "center"
of these four congregations.
1836 - 1856 - The Reverend Samuel Trumbauer
* The minutes of the 1836 Convention of the Synod include a report from Pastor Trumbauer
indicating that he was serving four parishes:
Bergstrasse (Ephrata), St. John Center (East Earl),
Salem (Reamstown), and Zion (Mechanicsburg/Leacock.
In 1855, Voganville was added to make this a five-point parish/charge.
1856 - 1858 - The Reverend David P. Rosenmiller
* The minutes of the 1857 Convention of the Synod include a report from Pastor Rosenmiller
indicating that he was serving Bergstrasse, St. John Center, Salem, Zion, and Voganville,
plus the New Haven parish.
1859 - 1868 - The Reverend Simon R. Boyer
1869 - 1873 - The Reverend Ruben S. Wagner
1874 - 1882 - The Reverend Samuel S. Henry
1883 - 1886 - The Reverend John H. Umbenhen
1886 - 1921 - The Reverend Benjamin G. Welder
1921 - 1952 - The Reverend Ambrose W. Leibensperger
1953 - 1958 - The Reverend Celo V. Leitzel
1959 - 1965 - The Reverend Walter L. Hafer
1966 - 1970 - The Reverend Phillip D. Long
1972 - 1974 - The Reverend B. Penrose Hoover
1974 - 1978 - The Reverend Paul L. Showalter
1978 - 1982 - The Reverend Torben G. Aarsand
1983 - 1991 - The Reverend Howard J. Tanner, Jr.
1992 - 1995 - The Reverend Jeffrey A. Truscott
1996 - 2002 - The Reverend Vicky G. Schaffner
2005 - 2014 - The Reverend Robert A. Kramer
2018 - Present - The Reverend Thomas Darr
*“The History of Bergstrasse Evangelical Lutheran Church,” authored by Henry Snyder Gehman,
copyright 1978 Science Press, Ephrata, Pa.
The history of St. John Center Lutheran Church began with the Schneder family, who arrived in the New World in 1729. Three names were included on the captain's list of the ship which brought them to this country - Christian, Jacob and Mathias - two of these men bringing their wives as well.
It is believed that they were originally from Switzerland and settled near Weaverland (Weberthal) to join friends, the Weber family, who had come to this country earlier.
Christian Schneder remained in Weaverland. Mathias and Jacob headed northeast and obtained a patent (an instrument transferring public land) for 250 acres of land, about two miles south of Bowmansville, where Center Church now stands.
Jacob Schneder had a son Jacob, born in 1736. This son settled at a splendid spring of water and built a large house which still stands near Center Church. Even though the house has been enlarged and remodeld, the date of 1770 remains plainly visible on the west gable.
Jacob died in 1829 at the age of 94. He is buried some yards from the gate of the Center Church Cemetery beside his daughter, Elisabet, who was buried there in 1777. Burials were made in the stony land on the Jacob Schneder farm before the Center congregation was formed.
The beginnings of the congregation seem to coincide with Elisabet's burial. At first, a small, rough building was used for services, most probably on the present cemetery property.
The congregation was named "Center Church" because of its central location to the four congregations from which its early members came - two in Lancaster County (New Holland/Zeltenreich and Muddy Creek) and two in Berks County ( Allegheny and Forest/Plow).
The first cornerstone for the church was place in 1819. The church was torn down and rebuilt in 1872 on the west side of what is now Route 625 at Turkey Hill Road (now Center Church Road). It was in 1872 that the name St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church was given to the congregation.
From its beginning, St. John was a Union Church, being built and used by both a Reformed congregation and a Lutheran congregation. Services were held on a twice a month basis with a pastor traveling to all congregations making up the territory of which St. John was the "center."
More recently, services were held alternately each Sunday - the Lutheran service in the morning and the Reformed service in the afternoon one Sunday and the Reformed service in the morning and the Lutheran service in the afternoon the following Sunday.
This union continued until 1969 when the Reformed congregation (United Church of Christ) built its own church a mile south of Center Church along Route 625.
The structure of the original church building has changed since its construction in 1872. Originally there was a balcony that extended as far as the second stained glass windows. In the 1920s, the balcony was shortened to its present size. Straight-backed pews were also replaced at that time with the "new" pews that are still in use today.
Kerosene lights hung from the ceiling until the church was wired for electricity, about 1927. Heat was supplied by a coal stove located in the corner of the Sunday School room next to the nursery. A large pipe led up to the chimney. The church council sat together as a group in the area opposite the choir loft. This area was then known as the "Amen Corner."
Men and women sat on opposite sides of the church. Men sat on the east side and women sat on the west side. A 'good' child sat with its mother; a 'bad' child sat with its father.
A short fence enclosed the front to the church until Route 625 was widened. Team sheds ran along the property from Route 625 to the site of the present Fellowhship Hall and behind the Fellowship Hall in the grove. It is believed that these were taken down in the late 1940s, before the Fellowship Hall was built.
Four large trees grew in the parking lot on the north side. When needed, additional parking was provided across the road on the corner of the cemetery property. This land was deeded to the cemetery after the break up of the Union Church.
For many years, music was provided by a pump organ. One person sat and pumped air into the pipes while the organist played the organ.
In the early 1950s, the structure was expanded. The present altar area is part of that expansion, as well as the restrooms on the first floor. Before this addition, the altar was straight across the front of the church, not in an alcove as now exists.
The painting that graced the back of the wall then was one of Christ ascending into heaven. It was replaced with a painting of Christ, the Good Shepherd. It was while these changes were being made that the church steeple was struck by lightning during a thunderstorm near midnight. A passing motorist noticed the fire and alerted the fire department, probably saving the building.
For over two centuries, people have gathered on this site to worship and praise the Lord. Despite the many changes that have taken place in the congregation, the neighborhood, and the world, we remain committed to active participation in service to and worship of our Lord at St. John Center Lutheran Church.
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