St. John#039;s has a #039;belonging feeling#039;

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 22, 2002

The cross of St. John's Lutheran Church of Elkton can be seen glowing from the roof top at night when heading east on Interstate 90.

The interior of the church has a "belonging feeling" said parish secretary Norma Huffman. This church was made from locally-sawed thick wooden beams and golden wood paneling in 1963. It was built by parishioners and they feel as if this is their second home.

The original St. John's was built in 1887 and incorporated in 1888 and rebuilt in 1907. The old church was located across from the cemetery.

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Berniece Hokeness' grandfather was instrumental in building the first church. Her grandfather, Detlev Hagen, along with Henry Holst and C. Hayman signed a constitution to have the parish started.

Before the church was built, missionaries came to private homes and a schoolhouse near by to hold services. There were 17 members when the first church was built. Today there are 60 to 80 regular members on Sundays during the months of September through May. In the summer months attendance is between 35 and 50. Summer services are not held in the sanctuary, but in the church hall because it is air conditioned. Daniel Wees is the pastor of St. John's and has been the last year and a half.

"This parish has three main strengths. They are the congregation, the Sunday school program and the great location we are at. We have 12 Sunday school teachers and Sunday school is held right after the 9 a.m. service during the school year," Wees said.

St. John's congregation really pulls their weight and joins forces each September when it holds its annual Beef and Ham Dinner. This is a family style sit down dinner that is all you can eat.

"You don't want to eat for three days before coming to our ham and beef dinner." Berniece Hokeness said.

This famous church dinner includes pickles, potatoes, gravy, corn, cole slaw, buns, pie and coffee and milk.

"There are so many young people that turn out to help serve guests, it is a great event." Wees said.

Hokeness said, "Everyone in the parish from age 8 to 88 helps with this dinner."

Besides pitching in with Sunday school and helping with church dinners there are four women who take turns playing the organ. They are Linda Gilles, Betsy Matheis, Courtney Kiefer, and Jane Orvik.

"They are all good performers, which is great," Wees said.

Sheila Donnelly can be reached at 434-2233 or by e-mail at