History of Saint John Lutheran Church of Abingdon (1961 – 2012)

In 2012, St. John celebrated it’s 50th Anniversary! As part of that celebration, a chronology was developed to document major points that transpired from the outset of the church to the current date. We present that work here for posterity and hope to renew it periodically to underscore all of the great things with which we are blessed!

1961, September

Reverend Edwin Troutman wrote a letter proposing a meeting to plan a new Lutheran Church in Washington County, Virginia. It was so well received that this same month, sixty-four people gathered to begin the planning for the first worship service to be held on October 1, 1961, a very ambitious goal.

1961, October 1

The new Abingdon congregation met in the chapel of the Henderson Funeral Home.
There were forty-five people in attendance. Ten of those people were in the choir. A Sunday school class also began this month.

1961, November

The Board of American Missions of the United Lutheran Church (predecessor of the ELCA) granted approval for a mission congregation to begin in Washington County, Virginia.

1961, December

The Lutheran Synod of Virginia took under its special care the organization of a Lutheran Church in Abingdon and an organizational committee was formed. The first Potluck supper was enjoyed by the ladies of “A new Lutheran church, to be named, in Washington County”.1962, January 7
The church is officially named “St. John Lutheran Church” and the service is designated “Charter Sunday.” The membership rolls opened and the campaign slogan “62 in ’62” is coined.

1962, April 8

The first Church Council was formed and a constitution was adopted at a meeting of all charter members at the Smith’s Party House in Abingdon.

1962, April 15

The “Service of Organization” was held at Henderson Funeral Home’s chapel. The service was conducted by the Synod president.

1962, April 22

It is Easter and St. John’s first Holy Communion service is held.

1962, May 1

St. John has official representation at the Lutheran Synod of Virginia at which St. John was received into the Synod. The American Board of Missions accepted St. John as a mission church, arranged for a pastor’s call and a parsonage, and placed St. John on the list for a church.

1962, November

A lot on Gillespie Drive in Abingdon was deemed the location of the parsonage building site and approved for purchase.

1962, December

In the Order of Installation, conducted by Dr. J. Luther Mauny, President of the Virginia synod, St. John received its first pastor, Reverend Roger Kluttz.

1963, January

An organizational meeting of the Lutheran Church women of St. John was held, officers elected and a minimum budget determined.

1963, March

Church building plans began. The $9,000 budget was to seat 153 persons in the nave, five classrooms, a nursery, a fellowship hall, bathrooms and a kitchen. Mr. C.B. Kearfott was chosen as the architect for the church building program.

1963, Fall

The parsonage was occupied by the Kluttz family and was blessed and dedicated by Dr. R.G. Schultz, Dean of the southwest District of the Lutheran Synod of Virginia.

1963 – Overall

A very busy year as congregational life evolved. Luther League and the LCW were very active in the community. A youth choir began, the Wolfe hayride tradition began, and membership rolls continued to grow.


The church building site was purchased from Mr. Herbert Stuart of Abingdon and final plans for the first unit of the St. John’s church building were approved.


Construction plans were completed and Burwil Construction Company of Bristol was awarded the contract.

1965, April 11

The third anniversary of St. John was marked at the ground-breaking services conducted by Dr. J. Luther Mauny, president of the Virginia Synod.

1966, January 16

Memberships were transferred to St. John as Luther Chapel ceased to function as a congregation.


St. John recognized its fifth anniversary. There were 167 baptized members on the enrollment. Pastor Kluttz submitted his resignation.


The congregation received a pastoral greeting from Pastor Williams and his family.

1970 and 1971

These were years of struggle and slow growth but the spirit of St. John continued to take seriously its mission obligations and religious work. Congregation involvement in the community was strong.


Pastor Williams resigned to serve the Synod but Pastor Robert Anderson accepted the call to St. John in December.


A pre-school was started at St. John; five children enrolled in November of 1973.


St. John began sharing the church building with the Catholic Mission (which became Christ the King Catholic Church).


Mock’s Chapel was sold to Faith Baptist Church.


The parsonage was debt-free. Our first outdoor service was held at the Washington County Park.


St John accepted the first seminary intern family from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina.


St. John began using the new, green Lutheran Book of Worship. The parking lot was paved, and a monthly newsletter was started.


Pastor Anderson resigned to pursue another career.


Pastor Eric Moehring accepted the call to St. John.


St. John celebrated its twentieth anniversary with a special emphasis on its history. A new ecumenical project began-the Helping Hand Distribution Center.


Christ the King Catholic Church’s building was ready to be used. Although their congregation left our building, we continued to serve together ecumenically, such as with vacation bible school.


First meeting to discuss plans for expansion and renovation of St. John’s church building was held.


St. John became self-supporting and its ties to the Lutheran Church of American’s Division of Missions in North America were severed.


Ground-breaking ceremonies were conducted for the new addition to our facility. Service to bless the new addition was held in October.


St. John celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary. Special services were held at Mocks’ Chapel and later at Luther Chapel.


Richard Bansemer was installed as Bishop of the Virginia Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. He is the son of St. John members, Rheinhold and Oralee Bansemer.


Pastor Moehring accepted a call to Christ Lutheran Church in Richmond, VA.


Pastor Honeycutt began his service at St. John and was installed February 12.

1990, March

St. John now has used all three settings of the liturgy reflecting the entire church.

1990, July

The first Beartree Service, an outdoor service, was conducted. A new mission statement was approved for our congregation.
1991Weekly communion began. The font was moved to the entrance of the nave to visually reinforce our entry into Life through baptism.


Fred Crumley’s tenth anniversary as organist was recognized.

1992, January

1992, January
The Ecumenical Community Outreach-ECO-began with St. John Lutheran Church in order to serve the food, shelter, and transportation needs of the community.

1992, March

The first I-Talent Night event was conducted by the Senior Youth Group to raise money for their mission work.

1992, October

The first CROP walk to raise money to help stop hunger, was endorsed by St.
John with many of our members participating.

1993, March

McKinney-Boyd Architect, the architects for yet another expansion project, received information and “wish lists” from members.


ECO opened a food pantry to distribute donated food to the needy.


The building campaign titled “Grace, Growth, and Gratitude: Building for Mission” began.

1995, March

The parsonage that had served our pastors so well was for sale. It was first offered to congregation members for purchase before being placed on the open market.


A congregational meeting was held and the Harold Kistner Building Company was awarded the expansion contract. A mortgage burning ceremony was held in the church yard in recognition of a paid debt on the previous building project. A ground-breaking ceremony for the building of our larger worship space was then held.


Small group forums were in abundance in the New Year. The Bible Bowl Olympics were held this year during an international Sunday School event.

1997, June

The congregation voted to purchase the Glover property that lies adjacent to our back property line.

1997, November

In a special departure service held in the “old sanctuary,” St. John’s services moved to our new worship space where we began a new chapter in St. John’s history.

1998, April

Completion of the new sanctuary and building additions. “Festival Service of Dedication” was held to celebrate the beginning of worship services in the new space.

1998, September

The Lutheran Church Child Development Ministry opens its doors to 45 three and four year olds.


World Hunger/ELCA Disaster Response giving continues to be at the very top of all congregations in Virginia Synod.


A dedication celebration of the new electronic organ was conducted.

1999, November

Small group ministries continue with five to nine people gathering for spiritual growth, support, and outreach. Groups include, Hunger, Catechumenal, Prayer, Icon, and Spiritual Disciplines

1999, October

The St. John Quilters are organized and begin meeting bi-monthly to sew quilts to be shared with those in need in the community and beyond.

2000, August

The St. John website: www.abingdonlutheran.org is established as a new method of communication of events, newsletters, and sermons.


A Long Range Planning committee is established with the focus of exploring moving from a “pastor- centered” congregation to a “response-oriented” one. Informal cottage meetings are held and a plan is presented to council.

2001, August

Fifteen youth and adults travel to Guatemala for cultural immersion and service work. Ascension Lutheran Church in Quetzaltenango and Pastor Igacio Chan welcome the youth and make the trip memorable. Youth lead a six week Sunday School series sharing their experiences upon their return.

2001, October

A Hymn Festival Service “Commit Your Way to the Lord” is held to dedicate the organ to the “Glory of God” and in memory of longtime organist, Fred Crumley, Jr.

2001, December

The VDOT/Main Street road project is completed in front of the church which leads to doubling the capacity of the upper parking lot and new landscaping.

2002, Janurary

After 14 years of ministry, Pastor Frank Honeycutt accepts the call to serve as pastor of Ebenezer Lutheran Church in Columbia, SC.

2002, April

The Evangelism Committee produces a “St. John Informational Video” to share ministries and church activities with visitors and potential members.


The Reverend Melissa Chapell is called to serve as interim pastor.


The St. John Cookbook featuring recipes which follow the litungical calendar is polished and sold to purchase the lighting fixtures in the fellowship hall.

2003, December

The Call Committee announces its primary candidate, The Reverend Kent Peterson to the congregation. In January, he visits with his family and conducts worship.

2004, January

Pastor Kent Peterson accepts the call. He and his wife, Karen, and daughter, Kelsey are welcomed to Abingdon in the spring.


New committees are established to look at a new vision for St. John with the theme of
“Imagine” for the future. A Constitution committee, Visioning committee, and Alternative Worship committee begin their work.

2005, October

The WELCA women’s group hosts the annual regional meeting. Two St. John circles; the “Dorcas Circle” known as the “quilters” and the “Julian Book Circle,” a book discussion group continues to be active and meet regularly.

2006, August

Eight St. John youth and adults travel to Guatemala. Along with learning Spanish and getting to know the members of lour Sister Church, the youth construct a sign for the front of the church building; the design is centered around Luther’s Rose.

2006, September

Twelve St. John members travel to Biloxi, Mississippi to assist families affected by Hurricane Katrina. Church members sleep on the floor of the sanctuary at Bethel Lutheran, provide medical and counseling services, repair damaged homes, cook meals for volunteers, and distribute 40 quilts from the St. John quilters. A sign on the church door states:
“Hurricane Katrina was an act of nature, what is happening here is an act of God.”

2006, June

An evening service is added during the summer months with an “alternative style of worship” in a less formal setting lead by piano, guitars, drums along with a full choir.


A committee is established to explore the potential property purchase by EFIA from St.
John allowing the ministry to have a home base and ability to expand in the future.

2007, January & November

Eighteen church members travel to Biloxi, Mississippi to continue with recovery efforts through Lutheran Disaster Relief and Habitat for Humanity.

2007, June

Nine youth and three adults travel to Tampa, Florida for a week-long youth mission trip with “Team Effort.” Youth assist with the construction of decks and patios at a group home for adults with disabilities.


A Care Ministry program is established with members of the congregation assigned to care and pray for other members. A two day training session is held to learn responsibilities and skills for being a “care minister.”


A Men’s Small Group Ministry program is established to allow the opportunity for men of the church to be fed spiritually and gather for fellowship.

2008, March

An active Evangelism committee creates a new St. John brochure, sells t-shirts with the St. John logo, and provides visitors with a St. John mug as a welcome gift.

2008, April

Sale of the Stone Soup Food Pantry to EFIA is completed which allows for invesment in the Mission Investment Fund and refinancing of the church mortgage.

2008, September

Sunday morning worship services offer two styles of Lutheran liturgy: “Traditional” style and “Contemporary” style at 11:00am & 8:30am.

2009, April

A “Prayer Team” is established to specifically pray for individuals or families who may be experiencing difficulties or challenges in the church and community beyond St. John.


The first Financial Peace University classes are offered to church members and people in the community.

2010, February

A new church sign is installed facing Main Street.

2010, March

After six years of ministry, Pastor Kent Peterson accepts a position with the Mission Investment Fund of the church-wide offices of the ELCA.

2010, April

The Reverend Jim Bangle is called to serve as Vice Pastor during the pastoral vacancy period.

2010, May

The Adult Sunday School class begins the “Food for the Flock” ministry which prepares precooked frozen meals to be distributed to people in need. Over 100 meals are prepared and delivered in the first year.

2011, February

A 50th Anniversary committee is established to begin plans for events to celebrate the history of the church and “walking in God’s grace” together since 1962.

2011, April

The Reverend Scott Homesley accepts the call as pastor of St. John.

2011, July

Pastor Homesley and his wife Robin are welcomed to St. John and the community of Abingdon.

2011, September

The Evangelism committee organizes a Child Safety Seat Inspection Day with the local sheriff’s department. Fun activities for the children and health education information are provided for the parents in the fellowship hall.

2012, January

The first 50th Anniversary Celebration is held honoring all who have been baptized at St. John.