The Log Church (used until 1857)
In 1835, The Rev. Adam A. Conrad gathered together a group of German Protestant families to form a congregation in Tiffin. This group was incorporated March 5, 1836 by the Ohio House of Representatives as “The United German Evangelical Lutheran and German Evangelical Reformed St. John’s Congregation.” Earlier, Rev. Conrad in 1834 had established St. John’s Reformed Church in Adams Township. He also served nine other churches in this section of the state.
St. John’s first home was a log building, probably 24 x 30 feet, which stood on a lot 60 feet wide by 180 feet long, fronting on Jefferson St. immediately north of an alley (now Main St.). This building, moved to make way for a new church, is thought to be still in use as a dwelling at 70 Coe St.
The first recorded baptism was in 1835, the first marriage in 1836 and the first confirmation class was 1837. Sunday school was started in 1841. In the early days, confirmation classes were conducted in German or English. Early church records were in German. By the early 1900’s, and English service was offered in addition to the German. In 1926, the last mention of a German service appeared in the local newspaper.
The Brick Church (1857-1918)
In 1856 plans were made for building a new church. The new brick church facing Jefferson Street was completed in 1858. A steeple was added in 1869. A walk along the north side of the building led to the brick parsonage at the rear. In 1871 the parish ended its long independent existence and joined the German Evangelical Synod of North America.
By 1900 it was apparent that a new church building was needed, as the congregation had outgrown the brick church, which had no basement or classrooms. The church had problems with its floor and roof, which needed constant repairs. A building fund was started in 1904. Funds for the new building grew slowly until the Flood of 1913 caused great loss to many members and delayed the building program until 1918. Demolition of the church and parsonage began that year. During the building of St. John’s new church, Second Reformed Church, now Second United Church of Christ, offered use of its sanctuary for Worship on Sunday afternoons.
The Stone Church (1919 – Present)
During 1918, Main Street from Jefferson to Washington was opened and that allowed the main entrance to be on Main Street. In order to save money, the building committee acted as builder and contractor. The men of the church donated many hours of labor and both men and women cleaned the old bricks to be used again. On November 10, when work was nearing completion on the tower, crowds of people in the street below called to the workers to come down because the Armistice for World War I had been signed and there would be a great parade. The men all climbed down and found it was only rumor and not the war’s end. That came the next day on November 11.
The cost of the new church was $40,000. It was built of Bloomville stone. Members contributed whatever money they could. Various groups in the church assumed responsibility for sharing in making interest payments on the debt. Projects were undertaken to raise money, resulting in the saying that “penny suppers” paid for the church. Rev. A.E. Klick was pastor when the church was built.
In 1984, a 100-year old church bell was installed. The bell was originally cast in Cincinnati in 1884. It was moved from the old Block Church in Adams Township and installed to mark the beginning of St. John’s 150th Anniversary.
During the 20th century, denominational mergers resulted in name changes for our church. St. John’s Evangelical became St. John’s Evangelical and Reformed in 1934. Further consolidation in 1957 with the newly formed United Church of Christ denomination (a merger of reformed, Evangelical, Congregational and Christian church streams) resulted in a name change to St. John’s United Church of Christ.
Throughout its 175 years, St. John’s has been blessed with the spiritual leadership of some outstanding ministers. In 1977, Rev. Ira R. Harkins was named Pastor Emeritus of St. John’s. In 1981, a scholarship in his name was established at Eden Theological Seminary. In 2009, Rev. David M. Culp was awarded the title of Pastor Emeritus following his thirty-one years of faithful service to the congregation of St. John’s.
All church records through 1983 are available on microfilm at the Tiffin-Seneca Public Library and the Center for Archival Collections at the Bowling Green State University, as well as the LDS Family History Library at Salt Lake City, Utah.