First Saint John's Evangelical Lutheran Church

Our Heritage


The services at Christ Church, York, Pennsylvania, after the formation of Zion’s congregation, were conducted entirely in German. Later, an infrequent English service in the evening has been introduced and these services should be in English. This decision aroused a determined opposition from the more German portion. On March 26, 1869 a committee of four presented a petition stating that the German members of this congregation find their rights restricted and themselves slighted and therefore requested the Vestry to revoke the resolution.

By June 12, 1869 the Vestry refused to change their earlier decision. Some discontented German members then decided to take legal action to attain their goal. There was a special Vestry meeting on June 15, 1869, to which the committee of four was invited. It was a stormy meeting without coming to a conclusion. The Vestry maintained that it had the power of making such rules and regulations in the government of the church. The Pastor offered to “forgive and forget all prior proceedings if the Germans would lay down their petitions, be quiet and peaceable members according to the church’s regulations.” The Germans refused. Then on August 14,1869 the Vestry decided to obtain legal advise to defend the congregation in the suit brought against it.

As a consequence of the disturbance, no Vestry meetings were held for a very long time. On July 26, 1873 it was decided that the Honorable Robert Fisher, President Judge, be requested to give his decision, or, if in his judgment it seemed right and proper, to refer the case to the Synod. Judge Fisher decided that the Vestry had a right to regulation it’s own affairs.

On November 8, 1873 a petition was handed by nine men to the Vestry asking for half of the graveyard at Duke and Princess Streets to be given them unconditionally and free, upon which to build a church. This request was denied, and on October 27, 1873, a decision was made by the nine to organize a new congregation called St. John’s Lutheran Church. On December 10, help was sought from the German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio and other states. On December 15, a Missouri Synod pastor was asked was asked to preach.


On December 26, 1873 the first church council was elected. The first service was held in the county courthouse on January 4, 1874. February 15th of that year, the first pastor, Rev. H.H. Walker was called. It was also decided to purchase a plot of ground 115’x115’, which included a house, barn and coke oven for $9,000 plus $2.00 for the two shade trees. March 5, 1874 a resolution was adopted to erect a church. Ground was broken April 6, 1874 and a cornerstone was laid July 12, 1874. The tin box for the cornerstone cost $5.00.

The carpenter labor hours for the construction of the church were 24,813 ½ hours at a cost of $6,606.19 The 504,465 bricks used cost $4,534.07. The Peach Bottom Blue slate was $1,193.75. The furnace cost was $150 with the installation and all the accompanying pipes, ducts and registers costing $162.65. Painting and papering was done by Watt and Bro., York. It took 1,687 hours at a cost of .22 ½ cents per hour. The gas lighting, including fixtures was $345. (Outside lights, $21.79. Two dozen choir chairs, half chairs, hat rack, and cradle came to $30. Used benches from Union Lutheran were another $5.00. Freight on the 4,490 pounds of used pews shipped out of New York was $48.19.

The church was dedicated on October 17, 1875 at a final total cost of $35,921.63. The original building committee consisted of Henrig W. Grothe, Louis Plitt, Wm. Oermann, Wm. Becker, E.C. Grevemeyer, John Pamltag and James S. Bayley.

In 1914 and 1915 the church was completely renovated, electric lighting installed, the 200 foot steeple lowered to 120 feet, the present windows installed and extensive organ work done. In 1922 some members split from the congregation and formed The Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd. The Parish Hall was built in 1928, a major interior decorating and the rose window added in 1940.

German Language services ended in 1947. In 1959 a new school building was dedicated at 2580 Mt. Rose Avenue. In 1964, a decision was made to build a church next to the school. Dedication services for the new church were held on November 12, 1967 and a decision was made October 28, 1968 to sell the downtown church. On December 16 of that year, a group of congregational members decided to form a new congregation called First St. John’s Lutheran Church.