Recorded history of the Lutheran influence within our area dates back to the latter half of the 18th Century. In March, 1774 the Lutheran Ministerial of Pennsylvania chose the Rev. Conrad Roeller to serve the Tohickon and Indianfield congregations. On December 12, 1792, a tract of land in what is now know as West Rockhill Township was conveyed to certain persons in trust to and for use by the Lutheran and Reformed Calvinist societies. Research shows that a settlement had already been established here, as well as a graveyard. In the Hetrick cemetery, there is an epitaph that reads, “Matties who died in 1789, son of Johannes Matties and Susana.”
In the same year that President Jefferson proceeded to buy the Louisiana Purchase from France in 1803, Henry Guittleman ordered a draft to be prepared to set aside one acre and 76 rods for a house of worship and burial ground. Thus, these dawning hours of the 19th Century saw the beginning of the Lutheran and Reformed congregations, which now occupy these lands.
A log schoolhouse served the community as a place of worship until 1833 when a stone addition was added to accommodate the increasing number of worshipers. The burial of George Haring, a highly respected citizen of the community, took place during the pastorate of the Rev. Fred Waage. Because of the large crowd who attended, Rev Wagge was obliged to hold the funeral service outdoors, using the large rock to the south of the building as his pulpit. By this time, three congregation Lutheran, Reformed, and Mennonite all made use of the building. Together, they resolved to erect a new and larger church building; its cornerstone was laid on Ascension Day, May 25, 1854.
Our Lutheran congregation had been served up to this time by both the Rev John George Roeller, son of Conrad Roeller, and the Rev Fred Wagge. Pastor Wagge was succeeded by his son, the Rev Oswin Wagge, who Served until his death in 1873. A three-year pastorate was then served by the Rev S. A. Ziegenfuss. The Rev James L. Becker then led the congregation for the next eleven years.
It was in 1889 that the Rev John H Waidelich, D. D. began his pastorate in Ridge Valley. Under his leadership, the Lutheran congregation voted to build its own church building, the church we presently occupy. The church was to be fashioned of native gray stone, and at a cost not to exceed $8000 dollars. The cornerstone was laid in June 1899, and a year later the new church was consecrated.
On May 25, 1901 a 2,000 pound McShane bell, costing 632 dollars, was donated by the members of the Luther League. An original Haskell organ was installed at a cost of $1,700 dollars. It was dedicated on Oct 9, 1904. Pastor Waidelich continued on until 1916, at which time he was succeeded by the Rev Elmer S. Kidd. It was during his pastorate that St. John’s, Ridge Valley and Jerusalem, Almont because known as Ridge Parish. In 1920, these two congregations erected a parsonage on Lawn Avenue in Sellersville. In 1929 Electric lights were installed in the church. The following year, Pastor Kidd submitted his resignation. He was succeeded by the Rev Edwin S Andrews, who remained until 1943 at which time he became chaplain in the United States Armed Forces.
The Rev A Ellsworth Grove, S.T.M., was called to Ridge Parish on June 1, 1943. Under his leadership, which lasted nearly twenty years, the sanctuary was renovated, the organ was rebuilt with a new console, and 192 new adult members were placed on the church rolls. On January 21, 1963, the Ridge Parish was officially dissolved and St. John’s was now in a position to call its own pastor, independent of Jerusalem, Almont. On July 1, 1963, the Rev Donald C Simmons began his ministry as a full time pastor. Pastor Simmons remained at St. John’s until 1970, when he accepted a call to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Fleetwood, PA. During these years, and under Pastor Simmons guidance, a new parsonage was built adjacent to the church.
A still greater milestone was When a new two story educational facility was built. It was dedicated on November 19, 1967. Shortly after Pastor Simmons had gone to his new parish, St. John’s called the Rev Eric P Wogen. During his pastorate, the observance of our 75th anniversary took place. Pastor Wogen will be remembered for his efforts in leading the congregation in more active participation in special programs, especially in the area of social ministry. Throughout his time of service, St. John’s grew and prospered. On many, the adult Sunday school room was used to accommodate the large number of worshipers. In 1975, Pastor Wogan was called to become a member of the staff of the Southeaster Pennsylvania Synod.
During that same year, a call was extended to the Rev. David S. Fritch, who remained until 1983. During his tenure, Pastor Fritch took an active part in promoting our youth programs and was instrumental in having the parking lot enlarged and resurfaced, as well as establishing the first church office. He also introduced the new Lutheran Book of Worship. Early in 1983, he resigned to accept a call to a congregation in Virginia. Within a few months after Pastor Fritch concluded his ministry at St. John’s, the Rev William A. Vanderslice, a new graduate of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, was called to St. John’s. Under his leadership, a major renovation of the church’s sanctuary was undertaken, as well as its pipe organ, and the youth programs flourished. Pastor Vanderslice served at St. John’s until 1991.
In March 1992, the Rev Nickolas H Bastian was called to serve St. John’s. Early in his tenure, Pastor Bastian initiated our congregation’s weekly sponsorship of Lutheran Vespers on WNPV radio starting in 1995 through 2005. Pastor Bastian was known for his beautiful singing voice and his dramatic flair to enlighten his sermons. The Reverend Shirley S. Guider began her pastorate at St. John’s in 2001 and served up to and including 2008. Two important things were initiated and fostered under her leadership. First, an informal service was started which incorporated instruments and the teaching of songs. This service was created with help from the worship and music committee and the congregation. Second, she was instrumental in energizing many of the
ministries that were already in place.
As of February 2010 new history is being made as St. John’s is under the leadership of Rev Amy Hotter. Pastor Amy lives with her husband John in Montgomeryville, Pennsylvania. Between the two of them they have four children and two dogs, and they love spending time with family and friends. Pastor Amy brings a new, fresh approach to worship! We love her children's sermons and the way she encourages worship and prayer from the heart!
Points of Interest
The original cross which stood atop St. John’s Lutheran Church, Ridge Valley, was made of wood covered by a thick, stainless steel shell. The cross had been found dangling by cables in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy in October of 2012. Because the wooden interior of the 50 year old cross was rotting, it was removed, rather than righted. On June 23, 2014, a 9 foot tall heavy-guage, stainless steel cross with base was installed atop the steeple at St. John's. The original cross and new cross are sponsored in memory of Kober family members.
St. John’s Mural
The 10x20 Foot mural of Christ and The blessing of the children on the front wall of the church sanctuary was unveiled during a special afternoon service in the fall of 1945. The mural took quite some time to finish, as it was war time and the necessary colors of paint were difficult to procure. When ready for its presentation to the congregation, the painting was shrouded with covering for the unveiling with Mr. Hallman personally doing the honors. Mr. H. Theodore “Ted” Hallman was born in Milford Square, Pa. in 1904. He was known for his local landscape and portraits of prominent people and church murals. Mr. Hallman was a member of Emmanuel Lutheran in Souderton and was married Mildred Hallman, who was the principle of Franconia Consolidated School. He died at the age of 95 at Doc Terrace in Lansdale.