St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church

Lyons Creek

Herington, Kansas

The congregation at Lyons Creek (rural Herington, Ks.) has much for which to be thankful. Its history is a testimony to the kindness and grace of God and it remains a vital congregation due to the power of God's Holy Spirit.
A seminary candidate named F.W. Lange came to Clark's Creek, near Junction City, in the early 1860's to begin his ministry. Soon he became a traveling missionary founding preaching stations at upper Lyons Creek, lower Lyons Creek, upper and lower Mill Creek and at Diamond Creek. These preaching stations became the first Lutheran congregations in Kansas. Services at St. John's, Lyons Creek date back to Sept. 18, 1861.
Work was difficult due to a lack of good roads and railways. In fact, there were no roads at all. The first missionaries were taken westward from Leavenworth in ox-drawn wagons. They went long distances to do their work on horse back or in open wagons.
The early missionaries had to combat many difficulties. Indians, though not usually hostile, would often come to their homes and beg for food. Separation from loved ones was also to be endured. The Grangers and Methodists were busy trying to win over German Lutherans. Worship services were most generally held in homes or public schoolhouses.
A salary of $180 anually plus a house in which he could live was established for Rev. Lange. In addition, he was to be given five bushels of corn and one half sack of flour from every member. However, crop failures, drought, and the hardships brought about by the Civil War made it difficult for the settlers to get a start in Kansas. Therefore, after Pastor Lange had served for two years, he had received not quite one hundred dollars in cash. The poverty during this time was made evident in a letter written by Pastor Lange to Rev. M. Meyer in Leavenworth in which he remarked: "It's easy enough for you to scold; for although you have no surplus of money either, you can at least scrape up enough to buy a postage stamp. That I cannot do here, for my people have no money." He was so destitute that his parents, who lived in Washington, Missouri, provided new clothes for him. Rev. Meyer, the second missionary to Kansas, also shared a few dollars with Pastor Lange. Pastor Lange served the congregation for only two years and in 1863, he accepted a call to serve the new congregation at Humboldt, Ks.
In 1863, Rev. C. Berner accepted the call to serve the preaching stations established by Pastor Lange. He was installed by Pastor Lange on Pentecost day of the year 1863 and made his home near Council Grove in the Diamond Creek parish. Pastor Berner took care of all of the stations that had been established by Pastor Lange, but after two years, it was found advisable to divide the parish.
The parish was therefore divided in 1865 and Pastor Berner moved to Upper Mill Creek where he served the stations on Mill Creek and Diamond Creek. Rev R. Koehler was called and installed on the Seventh Sunday after Trinity, 1865 to serve the stations on Lyons Creek and Clarks Creek. He resided at Lyons Creek with Mr. William Ziebell and later occupied a house owned by Mr. John Poerich. Pastor Koehler served the congregation for two years and accepted a call to Missouri in 1867.
In 1867, the future of the church was uncertain. The Civil War was over and many people were experiencing hard times. For two years, the congregation had no regular Lutheran pastor - many depended on the ministry of a pastor of the Reformed faith. A visit in 1869 by the Rev. F. J. Buenger, President of the Western District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, gave the people new hope. In 1869, a call was extended to the Rev. C.H. Lueker of Cape Giradeau, Mo. He accepted the call and became one of only seven Lutheran pastors in the state. Pastor Lueker served the church for 19 years and was also instrumental in establishing preaching stations at Cottonwood Falls and Elmdale in Chase County. As early as the fall of 1870, he made a long trip up to Mitchell and Lincoln counties to help establish a congregation on Bullfoot Creek, south of Lincoln Center.
The congregation at Lyons Creek built him a two-room log parsonage. The parsonage was also used for church services. Due to an increase in attendance, a new church was built at a cost of about $1000.00. The church building was dedicated on Jan. 29, 1871, the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany. Rev. Theobald F. Walther of St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Humboldt, Kansas was the guest speaker for the dedication service. Two days after the church dedication, Rev. Walther mysteriously disappeared on the way back to his home church in Humboldt and was never heard from again.
The present stone parsonage was built in 1881 at the cost of $1,300. The rock for the parsonage was quarried and hauled from a place near the Marion/Dickinson county line. When it was completed in October of 1881, the two-room log parsonage was converted into a school.
In 1887, the people of the Shady Brook area (near Woodbine, Ks.) were given permission to organize a separate congregation and in November of 1888, Pastor Lueker accepted a call to Indiana.
In 1889, the Rev. Otto Mencke received and accepted a call from St. John's. He was installed on April 2. A new school house, which is the present one, was built the following year at a cost of $600. In 1891, the congregation became a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and other states (later the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod). On August 6, 1899, the cornerstone of the present church building was laid and the building was dedicated on December 3, 1899. The cost of the building was $6,000.
In the early 1900's, a number of daughter congregations were founded, St. Paul's of Ramona in 1904 and St. Paul's of Herington in 1908. The churches at Okarche, Oklahoma and Tampa, Ks. Also owe their beginning to the mission efforts of Pastor Mencke. All this mission work did have a stunning effect on the financial abilities of St. John's, but the congregation continued to work for the expansion of God's Kingdom.
Pastor Mencke accepted a call to Bremen, Ks. He gave his farewell address on August 30, 1914 after serving the congregation for more than 25 years. Pastor Mencke died while in service at the congregation at Bremen.
The next pastor, the Rev. Paul Pennekamp, began his ministry at St. John's in 1914. Pastor Pennekamp helped organize the Ladies Aid Society which was established in May of 1918. It joined the Lutheran Women's Missionary League on December 13, 1957. Mrs. C. A. Hass, a member of St. John's was instrumental in organizing the LWML in Kansas and was also the first president of the Kansas LWML.
The Ladies Aid has been a helping hand and a great blessing to St. John's congregation. Much missionary and charitable work has been accomplished through their efforts. The members have always been deeply concerned about the spiritual welfare of the aged and shut-ins. They have been leaders in making the church look presentable and keeping it in good repair. They have purchased folding chairs, new altar and pulpit paraments, and have given generously to the renovation of the parsonage and interior of the church. They often make quilts and gather clothing for Lutheran World Relief, the Good Shepherd Mission in Kansas City, and the Haskell Indian students in Lawrence. The Ladies Aid serves bereaved families and also participates in bridal and baby showers. The ladies visit nursing homes, entertaining them with singing and bringing them lunch. The ladies also extend help to Lutheran Braille work, Lutheran Social Service, and Vacation Bible School. The records reveal the Society's liberal financial aid for the Kingdom of God at home and abroad.
After 5 years at St. John's, Rev. Pennekamp accepted a call to Clayton, St. Louis County, Mo.
The next pastor called was Rev. John H. Rengstorf of Kansas City, Kansas.  He accepted the call and was installed on Jan. 9, 1921. During his pastorate, Rev. Rengstorf helped effect the separation of the position of pastor and teacher. After 1922, the work of teacher of the day school was delegated to someone besides the pastor. Pastor Rengstorf served the congregation for 9 years. Ludwig Janzow, one of the teachers called by St. John's, served the congregation from 1933 to 1940.
The next pastor, Rev. George Klattenhoff, began his ministry at St. John's on May 10, 1931. On August 13, 1933, a pipe organ, costing $1,325, and a newly decorated church were dedicated. In the autumn of 1933, the basement of St. John's was excavated, all the work being done by the members of the church. On August 14, 1952, a tornado completely destroyed the church steeple. The Jarvis Construction Co. Of Salina rebuilt the steeple. In 1955, the church was again renovated and redecorated. Several items, such as candelabra, cross, Agenda, pulpit Bible, and flood lights were given by individual members.
Rev. Klattenhoff accepted a call to Iola, Ks. His farewell sermon was given on Sept. 30, 1956 after serving the congregation for more than 25 years. The Christian day school was closed in 1957.
The Rev. J. Einar Bach was called from Palmer, Alaska and was installed on Nov. 17, 1957. Again the property received a "face lifting." This time, the parsonage kitchen and utility room were added and a new garage and barn built. In June of 1961, Pastor Bach received and accepted a call to Clay Center, Ks.
In 1957, the Ladies Aid joined the Lutheran Women's Missionary League and a Couples Club was organized.
The St. John's Lutheran Laymen's League was organized on March 16, 1959 with 27 members. Their chief purposes were to aid the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod in word and deed, to encourage one another to participate actively in the work of the local congregation, and to help increase in the members a deeper consciousness of Christian stewardship. Sponsoring the "Lutheran Hour" and the Lutheran television "This is the Life" has been an ongoing project of the International Lutheran Laymen's League. This local group started as a men's organization. During the years of this men's group, a memorable event of the men frying steaks for their wives around Valentine's Day comes to mind. Another event was sponsoring the boy's ball team, involving boys from St. John's and Immanuel, Shady Brook.
In early 1967, the original Couples Club disbanded to merge with the LLL, thereby welcoming women to attend LLL meetings. Through the years, the group has served the congregation in various ways: buying flag stands for the front of the church, the lighted church sign outside in the front of the church, gifts of money for the redecorating of the church basement and sanctuary, and membership in the audio visual library. International and District LLL scholarships and college grants have been supported, as well as the Lutheran Hour program and special children's programs on television. A booth at the Tri-County Fair in Herington has been the most recent project for the group.
St. John's was without a pastor for four years following the departure of Rev. Bach. In 1965, a call was extended and accepted by the Rev. R.D. Baerwolf to serve the dual parish of St. John's and Trinity Lutheran Church, Ramona, Ks. He was installed on July 28, 1965.
In October of 1965, St. John's Altar Guild was organized with 11 members, 5 of whom are still active in the group. The guild prepares the church, especially the chancel, for worship. It also keeps the vestments of the pastor and organist clean and in good repair.
The basement was renovated and remodeled in 1967 and 1968.
St. John's has had a Young People's Society for many years. On March 28, 1936, this group became affiliated with the Synod's Walther League. In 1979, the group became affiliated with the Synod's latest youth fellowship, namely, the Lutheran Youth Fellowship (or LYF). The LYF holds meetings each month. Some of their annual activities include: an ice cream social, Christmas Caroling, Thanksgiving baskets for the elderly and shut-ins, Easter breakfast and distribution of Wheat Ridge seals. The main purpose of the organization is to provide Christian fellowship and activities for the confirmed young people of the congregation.
Pastors who have served St. John's after becoming a dual parish in 1965 are as follows:
Rev. R. D. Baerwolf................1965-1972
Rev. George Kristik................1972-1974
Rev. Joe Jones.....................1975-1978
Rev. Dale Werling..................1980-1983
Rev. Tony Troup....................1984-1989
Rev. Allen Wolzlein................1990-
Rev. John Riebhoff.................Current
In 1984, a preschool was organized by Mrs. Cindy Troup. Meeting in the church basement, enrollment has been anywhere between 6 and 12.
In 1986, St. John's again received a "face lifting." Pew cushions and ceiling fans were donated by individual members, new carpet was installed and the exterior of the church painted.
We don't know what lies before us, but remembering God's blessings of the past and recalling his promise to love us and leave us never, certainly, "He who began a good work in us will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." Lord Jesus, come quickly!

Summer, 1986

(Sources: History from St. John's 100th and 125th Anniversary celebrations.)

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