St. John’s church has been a vital part of downtown Lansdale, Pa. since 1876!
Below is a history of St. John’s church from 1976 to 1963 (when this was written) for the children of the church at that time. It was recently found in our St. John’s archives.
A postcard image of St. John’s original building – connected to what is currently the Anchor House (then the manse) across Richardson Avenue (where the empty lot and parking is now). Postcard from collection of Steve Jarinko. Below: Photo of the original building; photo of a Music Stand from our original church building as displayed during our 125th anniversary, October 15, 2000.
Above: Inside the original St. John’s church sanctuary – probably taken in 1926 during the 50th anniversary of St. John’s founding (see decorations). Photo from St. John’s archives
Above: Inside the original St. John’s church sanctuary – probably taken during World War II era 1940’s. Photo donated by Richard Drissel. Below: St. John’s cornerstones.
Below: St. John’s groundbreaking for our current buildings (1925) – original church building in background
Above: Program from Service of Dedication for the St. John’s Church School building, June, 1926. Below: Article about our Golden Jubilee in the January 17, 1926 Herald.
In the Spring of 1945, a special congregational meeting was held, which voted to move worship services from the old sanctuary to the new Assembly Hall. Worship was held there each Sunday from after Easter, 1945 until Christmas Eve, 1952, when the new sanctuary was completed and used for the first time.
Above: St. John’s building as seen from Main St. & Richardson Ave. in 1949. The construction of the sanctuary has not been started. Photo by Earl Swartley.
St. John’s building as seen from Richardson Avenue in the 1940’s. The Assembly Hall (below ground level) has a flat roof where our sanctuary sits today. The narthex is shown but the main sanctuary was not built until the early 1950’s. The Assembly Hall was used for worship while the new sanctuary was built. Photo by Earl Swartley.
St. John’s building before the sanctuary was completed. Photo by Earl Swartley.
The following is an historical sketch from the St. John’s Reformed Church Golden Jubilee program of January 24-31, 1926:
April 30, 1944 St. John’s Herald – last Sunday for Dr. Alfred N. Sayres as Pastor
September 10, 1944 St. John’s Herald – first Sunday for Rev. Harold C. Baer as Pastor
November 6, 1949 St. John’s Herald – first Sunday for Dr. Harold E. Ditzler as Pastor
Below: Photos believed to be from the first Christmas in St. John’s new sanctuary, 1952. The first service was December 24, 1952. Photos by Earl Swartley.
On Sunday, September 30, 1973, Rev. John W. Touchberry was installed as Senior Pastor at a 4:00 pm Installation Service.
Program & article from St. John’s Centennial Celebration February 1, 1976:
Program from St. John’s 125 Anniversary dinner – October 7, 2001
St. John’s has had only 7 senior pastors in our long history since 1876. These portraits of our first 6 pastors from 1876-1999 hang in our church Library. Our current Senior Pastor, Rev. Dr. Susan C. Bertolette, has been our Senior Pastor since 1999.
Below: Rev. Sue celebrates 25 years at St. John’s – June 5, 2005
Assistant & Associate Pastors
St. John’s first full time, ordained Assistant Minister was Rev. Howard R. Whitebred, starting on July 1, 1958. He left St. John’s on April 24, 1960 to serve as pastor of First UCC in Palmerton, Pa.
Rev. Frank S. Landis, Jr. was our third Assistant Pastor, installed June 16, 1963. In his first three months he served as primary pastor as Dr. & Mrs.Ditzler took a sabatical trip to England and Switzerland. Just eight months after joining St. John’s, Rev. Landis passed away on February 25, 1964 at age 27.
On October 1, 1964, Rev. Martin ‘Marty’ L. Bupp became St. John’s Assistant Minister and served until August 31, 1969, when he accepted a call to First Congregational Church UCC in Westfield, Ma.
In 1969 the Rev. Evelyn Deardorff became part-time Director of Children’s Ministry. In 1970, Rev. John A. Denlinger became Associate Pastor, accepting a call to St. Luke’s UCC in Lititz, Pa., leaving St. John’s on August 9, 1973.
Rev. Bernie Dunphy-Linnartz became Minister of Christian Education starting on August 18, 1974. On June 6, 1980, Rev. Sue Bertolette was installed as Associate Minister (see below).
After almost 20 years as Associate Minister and ‘Co-Pastor’, Rev. Sue was elected Senior Pastor after Rev. Touchberry retired. In 2000 Rev. Russell D. Clark from St. Luke’s UCC in North Wales became Associate Pastor until 2002, when he was elected Senior Pastor at St. Paul’s UCC in Dallastown, Pa. In 2004 Rev. Ryan W. Henderson from Monson UCC in Monson, Maine was elected Associate Pastor, serving for 10 years until he was called to be Associate Conference Minister for Youth, Young Adults & Emerging Ministries for the UCC New York Conference in 2013. (See our ‘Where Are They Now’ page for more information on Pastors Russ and Ryan.)
Below: Pat Reiker presents stole to Rev. Ryan Henderson & Pastor Ryan with Rev. Sue – Rev. Ryan Henderson’s Installation Service December 5, 2004
Rev. Adelaide (Pastor Addie) Stong from Hershey, Pa., after recently graduating from Lancaster Theological Seminary, was elected to this position in 2014 and currently fills this important role at St. John’s. (See our Staff page for more about Pastor Addie.)
St. John’s Student Associate Pastors
Over the years St. John’s has had a number of Student Pastors, beginning in the summer of 1946 with Henry K. Haines, a graduate of Ursinus College from Maytown, Pa. while he was studying at Lancaster Theological Seminary. He went on to serve as a pastor in Waynesboro, Pa. Unfortunately, he died in a car accident in March, 1952.
More to come about St. John’s Assistant & Associate Ministers.