The population of the City of Troy in 1840 was 1,351. St. John’s United Church of Christ, the only church in downtown Troy with a steeple, began this year when a group of German-speaking people came together to worship and formed the German Lutheran Church. Methodist, Presbyterian and Episcopal churches had already been established in the growing village. In August 1848 a lot was purchased on West Main Street (near the present site of Wendy’s), and the following year the first church was built. Thirteen years later (1862) a pipe organ was installed, costing $415, and in 1868 a Sunday school was established.
In 1868, a division in this congregation materialized, with some members leaving to form the First Lutheran Church. The remainder organized under the name German Evangelical Congregation of St. John’s Church and continued to worship at the West Main Street site. At a congregational meeting convened in February 1882, it was decided to buy a more centrally located lot. They purchased a lot at the corner of Walnut and Canal streets for $3,000 and constructed a brick church, with a steeple, and a parsonage for $14,348.30. The new buildings were dedicated in January 1883 and the church was re-named First German Evangelical St. John’s Church. This name can still be seen on the steeple in its original German script. The Glocken Verein (English translation “Bell Society”), a newly formed young peoples group, collected $300 to purchase and install a 1300-pound bell in the church steeple, and it was dedicated in 1885. Two years later the congregation affiliated with the Evangelical Synod and was named simply St. John’s Evangelical Church.
English was finally introduced and embraced into the worship service in 1903. In the same year, the sanctuary was renovated and the parsonage refurbished. But most exciting, a fine pipe organ was purchased, with help from the Carnegie Foundation, for $3,200. At about this same time, the Ladies Aid Society and the Men’s Brotherhood were formed and were very active in the church and community. The Sunday school grew to 130 participants, and it was a dream to add a Sunday school complex to the original building. The onset of World War I and the escalating lumber prices intervened and the dream faded.
The diamond jubilee year (1923) of the church was very exciting for all. The long-awaited Sunday school hall with a full basement was completed and dedicated in December. The approximate cost of $25,000 was covered by individual members giving from $5.00 to $500 each. Also in that year, the sanctuary was completely renovated and eleven beautiful stained glass windows, donated by families and church groups, replaced the original plain glass windows. The church’s brick walls and the new Sunday school addition were stuccoed to blend the two buildings into one.
With the 1934 merger of the Evangelical and Reformed churches in the United States, the church had another name change and became St. John’s Evangelical and Reformed Church. The Evangelical and Reformed Churches of America merged with the Congregational Christian Churches in June 1957, and there was yet another name change: St. John’s United Church of Christ. The United Church of Christ is one of the largest denominations in the United States, championing social and economic justice and welcoming all.
Today St John’s is a congregation spanning all ages, actively participating in church and community activities. The church offers classes, programs and special events designed for all ages. Music is an especially important part of St. John’s activities with a senior and children’s choir, bell choir and chime choir participating in the worship services. Every summer there are children and families going off to UCC summer camps. The church premises are handicapped accessible.
St. John’s Pre-School, conceived in 1988 and serving the entire community, sits adjacent to the church on Walnut Street. The Pre-School served three-, four- and five-year olds, and prepared them in a Christian setting to enter kindergarten. Our preschool is now closed, but lives on in the memories of the children who attended.
That 1300-pound bell, first rung in 1885, still tolls signaling the beginning of worship service each Sunday morning. The Carnegie pipe organ fills the sanctuary at the church on the corner with glorious music each Sunday. St. John’s UCC has been a real and welcome presence in the Troy community for nearly 175 years.
No matter who you are or where you are in your life’s journey you are welcome to come and worship with us.