Farmers feeding their faith
By Denise Moran For The Courier-News January 13, 2013 7:58PM
The church was established in 1888 as a congregation of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. In 1902, a new church was built along Main Street in Burlington shown here. Eventually, the present church is at French Road. Submitted photo
Updated: February 15, 2013 6:04AM
One of an occasional series about local churches and synagogues celebrating major anniversaries.
BURLINGTON — The anniversary committee of St. John Lutheran Church chose the theme “Fed by the Word: Feeding the World” to best describe the church’s ministry as the church celebrates its 125th anniversary.
The theme is based on the Bible passage John 6:35 in the New Testament, where Jesus tells his followers: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.“
“We believe that when we come to church, God nourishes our faith,” said Pastor Howard Gleason. “St. John Lutheran Church has been nourishing the faith of its people for 125 years in a northern Illinois farming community.”
The church, now at 13N535 French Road, was established in 1888 as a congregation of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Founding members included Julius Peplow, Henry Meyer, John Kanies, Henry Struck, August Jahn, Henry Lenschow, Fred Lenschow and William Biesterfeldt — names that still appear on local road signs and mailboxes.
The church site has moved over the years. Services were first held in German at a former Methodist Episcopal meeting house on Main Street in Burlington. The church rented and later bought the building. The Rev. Otto Gruner was called to be its first pastor.
In 1902, a new church was built along Main Street in Burlington. Farm families often brought stones they had gathered in their fields to be used to build the foundation. The building was designed to accommodate 100 people.
The church continued to grow. In 1967, the church purchased three acres along French Road for a new site. The Lenschow family donated the adjoining 5½ acres. The old parsonage along Main Street was sold, while a new parsonage was built at the new site.
In 1984, Associated Church Builders of Palatine was hired to draw plans for a building that would accommodate 225 people. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held on June 1, 1986. The former church building in Burlington was sold. The new church was dedicated on Aug. 28, 1988.
Gleason was called to be the pastor of St. John Lutheran in 2001. He is married to Diana; they have two children, Andrea Diana and Howard Jr.
Currently, St. John averages 150 worshippers a week, according to Gleason. Norma Lenschow, who will turn 94 years old in May, is the church’s oldest lifetime member.
In 2011, the church decided to bring on staff Kayleigh Belvery, a director of Christian education intern. She served during 2012 as a youth leader and teacher. She graduated from Concordia University Chicago with a degree as a certified DCE.
The church called her, and she is now a permanent staff member. She established a junior high youth group known as Ignite and a high school student group known as Noiz, along with other ministries.
In recent years, Gleason said, the church has established new ministries such as “Comfort Dog Adeena.” This golden retriever is a certified and trained service dog that interacts with people in areas where there has been a tragedy. Adeena’s caregivers are David and Shar Farran of Hampshire.
Adeena once traveled with Gleason and the Farrans to Joplin, Mo., to help its tornado victims.
To celebrate the anniversary, the church is working on a hardbound pictorial directory for this year. Five celebration worship services with meals are planned.
The theme is “What the congregation means to us.” The public is welcome to attend all five events.
The celebrations kicked off on Sunday, with one worship service followed by a meal of a hot dogs, chips and homemade cookies for, appropriately, $1.25.
Pastor Loren Krout wrote a “125th Hymn” for the anniversary. He also completed a commemorative quilt by hand. The quilt was blessed on Sunday and mounted at the back of the sanctuary.
On April 14, there will be a 10 a.m. service and a “pot-bless” meal. Three previous pastors — the Rev. James Ilten, the Rev. Paul Brunner and the Rev. Henry DeQuin — have been invited to attend.
On July 14, First Vice President Alan Buss, senior pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Belvidere, will represent the Northern Illinois District president. There will be a 10 a.m. service followed by a pig roast and roasted corn.
Founders Day will be celebrated Aug. 25. In addition to the 9 a.m. Sunday worship, there will be a celebration at 3 p.m. followed by a catered dinner. The guest preacher for the 3 p.m. worship service will be a representative from the Synodical office in St. Louis, Mo.
The closing celebration for the anniversary is slated for Dec. 29. There will be a 10 a.m. service followed by a fellowship dinner.
For more information, contact the church at 847-683-2338 or visit www.stjohnburlington.com.