by Jamilyn Hiskes
LANSING, Ill. (April 28, 2019) – About 200 people gathered at St. Archangel Michael Serbian Social Center on Stony Island Ave. April 28 to celebrate the 125th anniversary of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School. Former students, faculty, staff, and clergy of all ages came out to celebrate the institution’s longevity, sharing food, hugs, and memories throughout the afternoon.
So much history
St. John’s was established in 1893—the same year as Lansing—as a two-story schoolhouse with no bathrooms at 18100 Wentworth Ave. It evolved over time, as did the community around it, and eventually became the brick building Lansing residents recognize today. During its history, it has seen two World Wars, 21 U.S. Presidents, and the invention of zippers.
Honoring and celebrating
The anniversary gala included lunch, a touching video put together by the Anniversary Committee, the reading of letters from alumni who weren’t in attendance, and congratulatory statements by Northern Illinois District Representative Lois Stewart and Lansing Mayor Patty Eidam.
“The history here is so rich and there’s so much to thank God for,” Stewart said in her statement. “You’ll notice we have various ages [of alumni] here. It’s wonderful to see that you’re here celebrating. Well done, St. John’s Lutheran on Wentworth.”
Eidam delivered a formal proclamation to St. John’s during her statement, briefly detailing the institution’s history and offering congratulations. She also revealed some of the personal connections to the church she’d discovered during her time at the event—for instance, she learned that two of her neighbors and friends were long-time members, and that her aunt, Marilyn Schultz, is a member of the church as well.
“It is absolutely amazing the personal history that’s oozing from all of you,” Eidam said. “I’ve only lived in Lansing 40 years!”
Eidam also thanked St. John’s for giving her the opportunity to write her own proclamation for the event, rather than having her deliver a pre-written one. “That was so valuable to me, and I was thrilled to be able to do that,” she said.
One of the most entertaining parts of the gala was listening to alumni and former faculty and staff share their memories of St. John’s. Hal Gronewald, a former principal, talked about the many sporting events he attended for the school in the 1960s. Master of ceremonies Hank Zimmerman recalled the old playground and the Christmas Eve pageants. Mary Wells, a member of the 1972 class, simply told the crowd what each of her teachers had taught her from kindergarten through eighth grade.
“Everything I needed to know in my life, I learned at St. John’s,” Wells said.
The gala concluded with a closing prayer from St. John’s current pastor, Rev. Dr. John Richy, and the Doxology.
“One of the reasons I took the call to St. John’s was because of the school,” Rev. Richy said in his closing statement. “I’m so proud of our dedicated staff and teachers. I’m proud of our kids—they may be both sinners and saints, but aren’t we all?”