Sunday, June 19, 2011

St. John Education Building retired after years of service to church & community

Balloons marked the celebration
of the 50th anniversary
of the Sunday School
program in 1987
Martin Luther wasn’t just a pastor, he was a college professor. Luther emphasized the importance of education, saying that “where schools flourish, all flourish.”

When St. John Lutheran Church in Charter Oak was first organized in the 1880’s, they met and worshiped in a local schoolhouse. In 1902 they built their own school building since the schoolroom in the rear of the church had become too small to accommodate the large number of children.

In 1912, after Rev. Amstein had taught school for twenty-two years, he was given assistance: H. Ansorge, who received his education and training at our College at Addison, Illinois (now Concordia University, River Forest), accepted the call extended to him. Rev. Ansorge was installed September 1, 1912.

In 1914, it was necessary to engage the services of a second teacher, Miss Helen Amstein.

During World War I (1917-1919), German immigrants faced a great deal of scrutiny and discrimination. It was during these years that St. John’s Lutheran school was condemned.

Eventually this resulted in the erection of our beautiful school, measuring 50 by 50 feet, at a cost of $43,000.00. It contained two large classrooms on the first floor, a smaller classroom on the second floor, which was used by the pastor for confirmation instructions, and served often as a meeting place. This large brick building has been a landmark in Charter Oak, ever since.

The large auditorium was used especially by the young people and the ladies of the congregation and served also as the assembly for the Sunday School. The basement contained the modern rest rooms, and electrically equipped kitchen, a large playroom, and the heating plant.

“The building has served the community well through the years,” said Charter Oak Historical Society member Nancy Rosburg. “Unfortunately, like an old barn, it has become obsolete and now has more sentimental value than practical purpose.”

The over 90 year old building is now being retired from service as a school, preschool, Sunday school and site for Vacation Bible School and various other meetings. This past April an auction was held to sell the contents and interior architectural features of the school. On Father’s Day, June 19, 2011 St. John will have an “Old Fashioned School Picnic” to say farewell to the building.

They will hold a “Decommissioning” ceremony after church that day and hope to take group pictures of as many alumni of the school and of Noah’s Ark Preschool that attend the picnic. Later this summer, the building will be demolished and removed. There are plans to build a small memorial to the school on the property. The Church Council also hopes to sell bricks from the school with plaques on them as mementos.

The church is beginning work to renovate their basement so accommodate Sunday School classrooms. Pending a congregational vote, they may also build on a new handicap accessible fellowship hall and kitchen South of the Church itself.

In 1978, the congregation voted to close St. John Lutheran School, but in March 1981, Noah’s Ark Pre-school began with Sandra Bramley and Lynn Hoffman as teachers. In 1982 the “Christian Education Building” was also renovated with new windows, insulated and lowered the ceilings, and 5 additional classrooms at a cost of $22,743.82.

Lynn Hoffman filled the position of Christian Education Coordinator and a successful memory work program was begun for the entire Sunday School & Confirmation curriculum. Eventually Bramley took over duties at the Pre School and Marge Neddermeyer became Sunday School Superintendent. Ultimately the Hoffmans moved to Denison.
Neddermeyer remembers Hoffman’s great leadership and wonderful opening devotion with imaginative devotionals given by the teachers when she taught Sunday School in the building.

“I have very fond memories of being the Sunday school superintendent in the late 70’s and early 80’s. I worked at getting fathers involved in religious education and there were many dads teaching and listening to memory work,” said Neddermeyer.

In 1987, the 50th Anniversary of St. John Sunday School was celebrated. In 1996 - Noah’s Ark met in the church basement for a while, as there was a great amount of rain damage done to the school from top to bottom, as a result of the roof blowing off. Much work and many hands helped to clean up the mess.

Many children still have fond memories of Bramley as a preschool teacher. COU Seventh grader, Grace Mallory doesn’t want them to tear down the building, “because of all the wonderful memories of going to Noah’s Ark there.”

In 2004, the same year that St. John’s pastor L.C.Gebhardt retired, Sandy Bramley retired from teaching at Noah’s Ark after 23 years. Many avenues were explored in an attempt to keep Noah’s Ark open, but it was sadly decided to close Noah’s Ark Preschool in 2005. Those items purchased with government grants were given to other preschools in the area and all other items were put on a garage sale.

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