Four years have already gone by since St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of Clarkston was blessed with the celebration of one hundred years of God’s grace as an organized congregation. It all began in the late winter and early spring of 1912, when several Lutheran families sent a letter to the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) asking to be considered as a mission outreach effort. This was done, and two months later, on April 30, 1912, over fifty people assembled to officially organize the congregation. The sermon that Sunday was preached by the President of the Wisconsin Synod, Pastor G.E. Bergemann.
Worship was held in rented facilities until the construction of the first church building, on the corner of Seventh Street and Diagonal in Clarkston. The new facility was dedicated on November 18, 1923.
Through the years, the Good Shepherd has sent this orthodox Lutheran congregation twelve called servants to serve as under-shepherds to tend and feed His flock. St. John’s has continuously been gifted with a core of faithful and active laymen and women whose earnest prayers have always requested the Lord of the Church to bless them through pure Word and sacrament.
On October 6, 1957, the congregation withdrew from the WELS, in faithfulness to Scripture’s teaching on the doctrine of church fellowship. They joined the Interim Conference, which later became the Church of the Lutheran Confession.
In April of 1962 the congregation celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. Shortly after this, a new location was sought, and a new church building was erected at the current location of Fourteenth and Birch Streets. The new church was dedicated in September of 1965. In 1980 the property to the south of the church was purchased, and a new parsonage was built and dedicated to the Lord in September of 1981.
The seventy-fifth anniversary celebration was held October 4, 1987. The theme for the day was “God’s Word Is Our Great Heritage.” The guest speaker was the Reverend Leland Grams, who had served St. John’s as vacancy pastor in 1947-48 and again in 1990. He preached the sermon based on 1 Kings 8:57, “May the LORD our God be with us, as He was with our fathers. May He not leave us nor forsake us.”
The one-hundredth took place on May 27th, 2012, with former Pastor Paul Schaller and his son Pastor David Schaller as guest speakers. The text of the day was from 1 Peter 2:1-10, “You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house.” This 2:00 P.M. worship service was followed by a meal and a special centennial program. Former Pastor Paul Krause and family also traveled to be with us for this once-in-a-lifetime celebration. The Word of God preached that day reminded us all of our Triune God’s plans of grace carried out in the past, given in the present, and promised for the future. The building swelled with songs of praise and joyous laughter from the dozens who joined us, including visitors from our sister congregations in Seattle and Spokane. A pastor’s choir sang an anthem, as did the regular church choir. A delicious meal was served by the Ladies of St. John’s, and an afternoon program featured three speakers and a DVD presentation highlighting many of God’s blessings in the last one hundred years.
The Christian education of our young people has long been on the minds and hearts of the members here at St. John’s. In 1957 there was serious discussion on starting a parochial school, but a committee decided against it at that time. In 2005 a great effort was put forth to begin a Christian grade school, but again the congregation decided to wait. Finally the Lord granted the heartfelt desire of His people, and in 2014 work began on bringing St. John’s existing classroom facilities into compliance with local building codes. The name Valley Bible Academy—St. John’s Lutheran was adopted in 2015. Our first teacher, Desirae Naumann, was called, and school opened that fall with six students. To date, eleven students are enrolled for the 2016-17 school year.
We close with a prayer Pastor Bertram Naumann wrote to this congregation nearly thirty years ago, a prayer that truly still applies to all those who may read this series of articles in the Lutheran Spokesman:
“May the Lord of the Church, who by purest grace moved your forefathers to establish your congregation in times past, also continue to inspire you with that same undeserved love and mercy until the Great Day when the Church militant shall be transformed into the Church triumphant.”
To God alone be the glory!
David Naumann is pastor of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Clarkston, Washington, and Peace Lutheran Church in Orofino, Idaho.