Our Church History
St. John Lutheran Church in Libby, MontanaIn the early years of the last century many Libby families were of German ancestry and were professing Lutherans. It was only natural that they would soon band together for public worship. On August 10, 1909 the first worship service was conducted by Rev. Emil Ziegler, of Kalispell, Montana. The service was held in a building belonging to the Presbyterian Church and there were 15 people in attendance.
Candidate Paul E. Rohlfing was ordained into the Holy Ministry on September 1, 1912, and was installed as the first resident pastor of St. John Lutheran Church. This service was held at the First Methodist Church, located at 8th street and Montana Avenue. On March 3, 1913, the congregation was officially organized by Rev. Rohlfing with seven members signing the newly adopted constitution. Worship services were conducted in both English and German until 1918 when the German services were dropped in compliance with a request from the Montana State Council of Defense.
The first worship facility for the St. John Congregation was built in 1924 just south and across the street from the parsonage. In 1925 the congregation joined what was then known as the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Missouri, Ohio and other states... now known as the Missouri Synod.
St. John built it's present worship facility at 1017 Montana Avenue in 1951, and it was dedicated on Sunday, February 17, 1952 with appropriate services. The first unit of St. John Lutheran School, consisting of four classrooms was built and dedicated in 1956, and in 1957 the gymnasium was added. The school facilities were expanded with the addition of two more classrooms in 1960. After several years a gradual down-sizing of the school became necessary due to financial and other considerations. Only pre-school and day care were offered during the final years of the school's operation. In 2005, St. John Congregation sold the school building and adjacent land to Kootenai Valley Christian School.
In the early days of the congregation it's organizations included Ladies Aid, the Men's Club, the Fellowship Club, the Walther League and choirs for all ages. Present day organizations include the Lutheran Women's Missionary League, the Altar Guild and Youth Groups. An adult choir is now being organized.
In 1967, St. John had 873 baptized members and 447 communicant members... this was the highest number of members the congregation has known. Heavy losses to the congregation numbers have suffered through job re-locations, plant closures and a poor local economy. There have also been many losses due to the death of many of our older members. At the end of the past year, and again, by God's grace, conditions remain fairly stable.
July 21, 1997 was the day of the big storm, or "micro-burst" as it was named, hit the Libby community. Many trees on the church grounds were either uprooted or their tops blown out. Thanks to the providence of Almighty God;, our facilities did not receive any severe damage. Clean-up of the church grounds began the following day.
In 1998 a vertical lift was installed in the northeast corner of the church building, which was originally the coat room. This was for the benefit of the elderly or handicapped members and visitors attending our church. This has proven to be a much appreciated improvement to our facilities.St. John Congregation has been serviced by the following pastors:
- Emil Zielgler, 1909-1912
- Paul E. Rohlfing, 1912-1919
- Otto Hoffman, 1919-1928
- Herbert L. Pfotenhauer, 1928-1942
- Hubert L. Haaskamp, 1942-1946
- Arthur O. Werfelmann, 1947-1969
- Theodore Dorpat, Spokane, WA., vacancy pastor
- Ervin Prange, 1970-1971
- Gerhard F. Kempff, 1971-1977
- Fred Riedel, Spokane, WA., vacancy pastor
- John A. Rasmussen, 1978-1982
- Darold A. Reiner, Kalispell, MT, vacancy pastor
- Michael L. Flannery, 1983-1988
- Wayne J. Berkoben, Eureka, MT., vacancy pastor
- Howard D. Schreibeis, 1989-1995
- James D. Wilson, Eureka, MT., vacancy pastor
- Eric M. Christiansen, 1996 - 2010
- Reverend C Tabbert Vacancy Pastor, 2010-2011
- 2011 - current Pastor Steven Thomas
Over these many years we have also been served by many vicars, including:
Robert Weinhold, Alfred Saeger, Eugene Juergensen, George Mock, Albert G. Pullman, Louis Reith, Thomas Hepting, Clarence Marquardt, John Mornes, Charles Geischen (married to Kristi Kienas 1985), Greg Williamson, Allen Vornhof, Douglas Breite, Matthew Payne, Eric Zacharias, and Troy Scroggins.
To God Alone Be The Glory
A Brief History submitted by Benjamin F. Baker, February 16, 2006