ST. JOHN LUTHERAN CHURCH
(The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod)
A family united by faith in Christ gathering around God's Word and Sacraments.
To reach out in Christ-like concern and Christ-borne love to each other and to those without Christ!
140 Years of History
In 1882 St. John Lutheran Church became The German Evangelical, a member of Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and other states, now LCMS. Pastor Senne continued teaching Christian Day School in the first church until 1882. In 1882 St. John also called its first teacher, Mr. John P. Emrich, to relieve Pastor Senne of the work in the school. He and his family lived about two miles south of Alma. He walked to school fording Mill Creek as there was no bridge. He made many trips across the creek carrying the smaller children of his classes. In June, 1885, after teaching three terms he resigned on account of his advanced age-sixty-five (65). He had his house moved to the present address of 217 W. 4th in Alma, where he and his wife lived until their deaths. They are buried in St. John Cemetery. Before 1883 Pastor Senne, a veteran missionary, had canvassed the eastern two thirds of the entire state of Kansas visiting vacant congregations and mission posts and looking for new openings as far northwest as Smith County and south to the Oklahoma border. In 1883, another congregation was formed west of Alma. Zion Lutheran Church, of Templin, was organized and called its own pastor. (Later, after the church building at Templin burned down, this church joined with the church in Alta Vista, which is St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church. St. John Lutheran Church did not have a bell in the steeple. There was no money with which to buy one.
Mr. Adam Kratzer (grandfather of Miss Dorothy Kratzer and Mrs. Berneice Johnson), one of the founders of St. John had serviced in the Union Army during the Civil War. In the early 1880's the United States Government offered honorably discharged veterans a bonus for having served their country. Because of his heritage of the German 'work ethic' - accept no money without having directly worked for it, he hesitated to accept the bonus which he really wanted and could have used.
He consulted his pastor, Rev. H.C. Senne who said, "Nay, nay." At that time some pastors of German heritage in Synod considered accepting money from any governmental agency to be wrong. Mr. Kratzer had ten children and wanted to accept the money for his family. Pastor Senne said, "Nay, nay," each time the two discussed it. After several more discussions Mr. Kratzer, asked, "Would it be alright to accept half of it?"
Pastor Senne's answer was still, "Nay, nay." At another time he asked, "If I use some of the money to buy a nice bell for our church may I accept it?" Pastor Senne quickly replied, "Yah! Yah!"
The 513 pound bell and hangings were ordered from Vanduzen & Tift, Cincinnati, Ohio. It was cast by Buckeye Bell Foundry, Cincinnati, Ohio. The receipt for payment of $144 to Vanduzen & Tift by A. Kratzer on account of 'Bell' to be furnished for St. John Lutheran Church is dated July 18, 1883. The bell was placed in the steeple of the second church building in late summer or early fall of 1883. When the present church was built in 1907, the bell was hung in the steeple at a level just above the ridge of the church roof. When it is rung its beautiful tone can be heard five or more miles from town. From the time it was hung in the second church, it has always been tolled the number of times corresponding to the age of each member at death. It also has been tolled at the time funeral cars process to the cemetery, just as it was when wagons and buggies were in use. The bell was also tolled three times during the Lord’s Prayer at each worship service and after each name of each confirmand at their confirmation. Until July 1984 (and again from 1986 to 1989) it was rung every Saturday evening at 6 o'clock. Until 1992 it was rung on Sunday morning one hour before services began to invite all who love the preaching of God's Word in its truth and purity to worship. (Now the carillon is used to call the community to worship, using a preset tone of invitation called an angelus, though it plays only fifteen minutes before Sunday worship services begin.) The bell has been used to peal in great tidings or to toll a message of sorrow. The bell was rung on Armistice Day, November 11, 1918, in thankfulness to Almighty God that World War I hostilities had ended. The bell was also tolled at special prayer services conducted at the time of a national tragedy (the death of President John F. Kennedy or after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks). The bells of all the churches in Alma were rung 200 times on July 4, 1976, in observance of the United States Bicentennial. It tolled out the end of the millennium in 2000, and pealed in the New Year at midnight. Built on the Rock the Church shall stand Even when steeples are falling. Crumbled have spires in ev’ry land; Bells still are chiming and calling, Calling the young and old to rest, But above all the souls distressed, Longing for rest everlasting. Grant, then, O God, Your will be done, That when the church bells are ringing, Many in saving faith may come Where Christ His message is bringing: “I know My own; My own know me. You, not the world, My face shall see. My peace I leave with you. Amen” N.F.S. Grundvig, 1783-1872, LSB #645,vv1,5