The History of St. John's Lafayette

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A Rich History and a Bright Future

St. John’s Church, Lafayette, has not been unconscious of its history.
— from the forward to the Second 50 Years by Louis Martin Sears
At the corner of Sixth and Ferry Streets stands St. John’s Church as a symbol of strength. This stately 129 year old building which houses a congregation established 150 years ago is like a shelter in the storm. That is not to say that there are no differences of opinion and all is “wise and wondrous” inside these hallowed walls. One need only to attend a vestry meeting or a committee discussion to realize the turmoil, for all of us are human and, therefore, subject to the frailties thereof. But, when we gather at the Lord’s table and participate in the breaking of bread, “a peace that passeth all understanding” reigns supreme.
— from the forward to St. John’s 1937-1987 by E.L. VanBuskirk

On July 29th, 1858, St. John’s first rector, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Roosevelt Johnson returned to Lafayette to preach at the consecration of the new church building. In his sermon, he reflected on the church’s past and imagined it’s future. “Busy memory wanders over the past, and imagination pictures out the future,” he said. “Here, how many babes and adults will pass within the higher covenant of grace by holy baptism, how many will kneel for confirmation, how many will gather around the table of the Lord, to partake by faith of the Body time to time at the regular occasions of public worship, to unite in the devotions, to listen to the word of God, and to the preacher's voice, and to swell the sacred song. Sometimes, too, the church will be open for holy matrimony and alas! crowds will be here at the service for the burial of the dead.” These are “Images of the past and of the future,” he said, and O “how their lines traverse and intermingle!”

St. John’s has a rich history and a bright future. It is meet and right that we should remember those who helped lay the foundations of this church community—the Rev. Dr. Samuel Roosevelt Johnson, St. John’s first rector; Bishop George Upfold, rector of St. John’s and Bishop of Indiana; the St. John’s Women’s Guild, who, according to the church’s history, bailed the church out on more than one occasion; Jane C. Harvey, the church’s first historian; the Ball family; and many others. We can also look to those closer to our own day who have given so much and meant so much to this church—the Rev. Ben Tinsley; Mary Jane Watson, who donated her entire estate and allowed the church to purchase the original 1844 rectory; Gee Wiselogel; Charlotte Tomes; Robert & Betty Stephens; Jean Jones, who collected gifts for Jubilee Christmas year round; Barbara Cook; Fran Meeks; Marian Chalmers; Ruthanna & Jon Amy; Ted Paget; and so many more. Their faith in God and their dedication to the mission of St. John’s made this church’s rich history what it is and has made the bright future Dr. Johnson imagined for St. John’s possible.

As we look forward to that bright future, let us not forget those who have worshiped in this place, shared God’s love and their lives in this community, and made Christ known from one generation to another. Let us give thanks for their commitment and sacrifice, and let us look for opportunities to do our part to make that future a reality.

To read some recent reflections on St. John's history, click the links below.

Reflection 1

Reflection 2

Reflection 3

To read a compilation of St. John's History including The First 50 years by Jane C. Harvey, the Second 50 Years by Louis Martin Sears, and St. John's 1937-1987 by E. L. Buskirk, click here.

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