St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, located at 2235 W. 10th Ave Gary, Indiana has been added to the National Registry of Historic Places. It is the city’s oldest congregation, with baptismal records dating back to 1863.
When German settlers organized what would become St. John’s, they first met in a home, before building their first church in 1868. The current building was constructed in 1923. St. John’s Lutheran School, constructed in 1914, is also included in this historic designation.
The historic designation represents St. John’s significance to the history of Gary. According to the National Register of Historic Places, “The church is believed to be the oldest organized congregation north of the Calumet River in Lake County, Indiana. The church and its outreach missions provided stability for the pioneer settlement of Tolleston and much of northern Lake County for the second half of the nineteenth century.”
The church, which is a Gothic Revival structure, provided not only a Lutheran church for early settlers to Lake County, but also a school for children so they could read the Bible independently.
The church’s survival had to do with several factors, according to Reverend Delwyn Campbell. “As a graduate of the Cross-cultural Ministry Center at Concordia University Irvine, and a former California resident, I am accustomed to the story of churches closing because the neighborhood demographics changed,” said Rev. Campbell. “That seems to reflect the perception of the LCMS as being primarily identified with German immigrants and their descendants. When access to that pool of potential members shrinks, so does the expected lifespan of a congregation. That is not the story of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church. Tolleston changed from a German immigrant community to an American Descendants of Slavery community, and yet, St. John’s remained as such. It did not close and reopen as St. Philip’s or another name that tends to be common among African American congregations. It maintains its original identity, preserved by those who came because Rev. Norman Brandt heard the Word of the Lord, and believed that his call was not simply to preserve the legacy, but to build the ministry. We carry that vision today, as we continue to proclaim the pure Gospel and look to develop the next generation of Confessional Evangelical ministry in Gary, Indiana.”
Almost 100 years later, God is still doing His work through His people in this same building. We’re thankful for the ministry of St. John’s and how they’re impacting lives in Gary today.