The rich history of St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church reaches back to the late 1800s. After the Oklahoma land run of 1889, Lutheran missionaries were sent by the Missouri Synod to serve the scattered Lutherans in the newly populated territory. The first Lutheran services in Oklahoma were held at Marena in 1891. It was not many years after this that the first Lutheran missionary came to Shawnee.
The exact date of the first Lutheran services here is not known, but Lutheran pastors located at Wellston and Cushing gathered together the scattered Lutherans in the Shawnee area and ministered to them. This added duty became too great, however, and soon the first resident Lutheran missionary, the Reverend Theodore C. Otto, took up residence in Shawnee in 1909, three months after graduating from Concordia Seminary in Springfield, Illinois. Since that date, there has been a resident Lutheran pastor in Shawnee.
Pastor Otto served in the Shawnee area faithfully for three and one-half years. During that time, services were held at the City Hall and were conducted exclusively in the German language. Pastor Otto extended his services to include Lutherans in Earlsboro, Prague and Arlington, as well as Durant, Coalgate and Hugo. Then in 1912, he accepted a call from the Lutheran congregation in Okarche and for eight months there were no regular Lutheran services in Shawnee.
It was under Shawnee's next Lutheran pastor, Rev. Karl Freese, that St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church was truly born. Under his pastorate, the Lutheran congregation underwent many changes. Considerable growth took place. Services in English were introduced, with one service each month being conducted in German. Pastor Freese also encouraged his congregation to organize and on June 24, 1914, a meeting was held and the constitution establishing St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church was signed by the pastor and seven charter members.
Built in 1906 as a Dutch Reform worship center, the former Horton Memorial Church building provided for much growth in membership of the congregation. The first Lutheran services were held on Easter Sunday, 1916.
During the tenure of Rev. Edgar J. Buerger, a parsonage was constructed
and served as home to pastors and their families until 1968. Since that
time, the old parsonage has accommodated the kitchen, classrooms and
During this period of time, much growth took place in the congregation.
During the late 1950's, extensive remodeling was done in the church.
Luther Hall was constructed in 1959 and has since served as nursery,
classrooms and meeting space.
In 1971, Rev. Floyd Schoenhals (now retired Bishop Schoenhals) accepted
the call. Industrial growth in Shawnee brought many Lutheran families to
the city from Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. This resulted in a
period of congregational growth at St. John. Unfortunately, rising conflicts
within the Missouri Synod resulted in a vote to make a Synod change.
In 1979, St. John was received into the membership of the American Lutheran Church.
On January 1, 1988, three Synods of the Lutheran Church, the A.L.C., L.C.A. and the A.E.L.C., recognizing a need for unity within the church and a common goal, joined together to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (E.L.C.A).
Pastor Karen Fowler-Lindemulder was called to serve our congregation in 1989. She served St. John for 27 years before being called to another congregation in Bella Vista, AR.
In 2009, St. John completed construction of its new worship center at 3610 N. Union. The experiences of the past and the promise of a bright future keep St. John strong and united in its deep-rooted mission to celebrate and proclaim the good news of God's grace. To this day the people of St. John continue to unite in Christian ministry and spread the gospel throughout the surrounding communities.