History of St. John’s

The Rich History of

St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church

of Hamburg

1773 Land was donated by Martin Kaercher for the use of the Lutheran and Reformed inhabitants of Hamburg and vicinity, to bury their dead on it and to erect a United Lutheran and Reformed church-edifice.

Hamburg at that time resembled a desert, the vicinity was a forest, the inhabitants were few and poor, and these few were altogether in want of means and ways, they, out pious ancestors and first settlers could not as soon as they wished, accomplish the erection of a church; they in the meantime, worshiped God in private dwellings and where they found protection and shelter, and used the lower part of the land as a burying ground, and reserved the upper part for the church. (excerpt from the 175th Anniversary Booklet)

February 12, 1790 The first Church of Hamburg was consecrated as a German Lutheran and Reformed United (Gemeinschaftliche) Church. The church was built of logs, the lower story was used as a school-room and the second story was set apart as a place of public worship… and named The United Evangelical Lutheran and Evangelical Reformed St. John’s Church. It was near the southeast corner of Peach Alley and Pine Street.

This church was used for public worship for 21 years until the building became too small to accommodate the members. The congregations agreed to erect a new and larger church, namely The United German Lutheran and German Reformed St. John’s Church of Hamburg. The Church was located near the southeast corner of Peach Alley and Pine Street.

This church was built of stone 45 by 35 feet upon a cornerstone which was laid on the 16th of June A.D. 1811 and put under the roof, but for want of means was not finished till the year 1814… (excerpt from the 175th Anniversary Booklet) In order to raise the necessary money to build this church the congregation asked the State Legislature to grant them the “privilege” to conduct a lottery. They were allowed to raise $3,000.

1815 Second St. John’s Church was consecrated and named The United Evangelical Lutheran and Evangelical Reformed St. John’s Church. It was located at Church and Pine Streets.

After this church was in use for 46 years… it was decided on Whit Monday, June 1, 1857 to build a larger church, 60 by 80 ft the same name and title as before. (from Rev. Kline’s 10 Anniversary Booklet (1907)

…the foundation being constructed of the stones of the former church building, and the superstructure of brick. During the rebuilding operations (in 1857) the congregations worshipped in the new brick schoolhouse which had replaced the old log structure. P122 Lutherans in Berks County (1923).

August 16, 1857 The Third Evangelical Lutheran and Reformed St. John’s Church at Hamburg cornerstone was laid. The church was built on the corner of Church and Pine Street.

The building was the typical colonial structure and had balconies on the three sides.
April 4, 1898 St. John’s Church was destroyed by fire after a fire started in the Bicycle Works and embers set fire to the roof of the church. By 1:20 pm the church had been totally destroyed.

The day before the congregation had sung the last hymn “My Church, My Church, My Dear Old Church.” When the congregation saw that their church was destroyed many said “We can no more sing “My Church, My Church.’ (excerpt from Tenth Anniversary Booklet of Pastorate of Rev. H. C. Kline.

May 9, 1898 Vote taken to dissolve The United Evangelical Lutheran and Evangelical Reformed St. John’s Church and build separate churches.

May 10, 1898 it was decided to build a Lutheran Church on the old site and call it St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hamburg, the same name that is used today.

The church was constructed of yellow pressed brick with grey sandstone trim. Much of the brick and stone from the ruins of the old church was used in the constructions of the new church and can be seen on the outside back walls of the church.

While the new church was being built the congregation worshipped first, at the Bethany Methodist Episcopal Church and then held services in the Armory Hall on North Third Street until December 25, 1898.

September 4, 1898 the cornerstone was laid. The old cornerstone was placed in the foundation of the new church and can be seen today in the south wall of the Primary Room of the Sunday School.

December 25, 1898 the first service was held in the Assembly Room of the new church.

March 12, 1899 Worship was held in the new chapel.

May 21, 1899 Whit-Sunday St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church was consecrated. The congregation again sang “My Church, My Church” but this time it was the first song in their new consecrated church.

Since that eventful day many renovation have been made to the church which can be seen today.