St. John's Ev. Lutheran Church located at 601 McCleary St., Dowagiac. This building was constructed in 1958. (The Daily News/John Eby)
St. John's Ev. Lutheran Church located at 601 McCleary St., Dowagiac. This building was constructed in 1958. (The Daily News/John Eby)

Archived Story

Pastor Mark Wessel returning to kick off St. John’s centennial

Published 8:50am Thursday, October 15, 2009

On Sunday, Oct. 18, St. John’s Ev. Lutheran Church of Dowagiac will begin its centennial celebration with a special worship service, beginning at 9 a.m.

Pastor Mark Wessel, who served the congregation from 1986 to 1995, will be the guest speaker.

Pastor Wessel currently serves a congregation in Sparta, Wis.

In 1909, a group of German immigrants, mostly from the southwestern part of Russia, had located in Dowagiac.

They approached Pastor H. C. Haase, who was serving at St. Matthew Lutheran Church of Benton Harbor, for his help in organizing a new Lutheran church in Dowagiac.

Pastor Haase began holding worship services with this group of 10 families in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Heinrich Rach.

It is for this reason that the centennial celebration begins this fall, 100 years after they began to meet as a church.

Because of the press of his duties in his own congregation, Pastor Haase was not able to serve the group in Dowagiac as often as needed, so he sent a plea to the Synod, asking to have a theological student sent to Dowagiac.

In the summer of 1910, Vicar Kurt Geyer came to serve this small group.

By resolution of the congregation, June 1, 1910, was set as the date of the official beginning of the congregation, since it was on that date when Vicar Geyer was called and regular Sunday services were begun.

The final centennial celebration will be held in June, 2010, when Pastor Glen Hieb, who served the congregation from 1980-1986, will be the guest speaker.

After meeting in homes for a time, St. John’s purchased the church building at 112 N. Mill St.

This building served the congregation until they purchased land and built a new church building at 603 McCleary St. in 1958.

St. John’s has been served by 12 fulltime pastors in its 100- year history.
They are currently being served by Pastor Jeffrey Weber.

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