In many ways, St. John's is typical of a downtown "Episcopal parish" - and in other ways, unique and distinctly called by God in discipleship.
As a Place of Worship
The origin of our congregation begins in 1845. Like the disciples in the days after the death and resurrection of Christ, Episcopalians moved to the Elkhart region and met in homes for worship using the Book of Common Prayer (the edition of 1789).
The first church building was erected in 1873 on the present location of the northeastern corner of Lexington Ave and Third. Inadequate for the needs of a growing parish, this building was moved.
The second and current building was completed in 1895 and has since become an identifiable landmark in downtown Elkhart as "the Tower". It is considered one of the best regional examples of architecture in the Gothic revival, replete with nave, sanctuary, and choir chancel. The church is built roughly on a cruciform or cross-like design, with the eyes directed to focus on the altar and tabernacle. Some of the existing stained glass windows are from this era, including the stunning rose window. St. John's is well known for its famous wood carvings featured along the ceiling of the nave, including grape clusters and acorns. There remains a legend of a sculpted wooden squirrel hiding in the recesses of the ceiling trim. For pictures of the building, see Welcome and Tour.
The sanctuary space was substantially altered in 1983 with the inclusion of a world class Casavant organ. In recent years, St. John's works with organist and choral interns from the University of Notre Dame's Sacred Music Program.
In 1953 the Parish Hall was erected on the eastern flank of the church building. The Parish Hall included much needed office, classroom, and other utility spaces. Since that time, the Chapel of Christ the King, Nursery, Youth Chapel, the Common Room, the Theater Room, Food Pantry space, and the Choir Room emerged. The Chapel of Christ the King includes the St. John's Columbarium (1992). Currently there is in development a St. John's café-style lounge.
At the heart of St. John's as a place is our commitment to worship and ministry together through Word and Sacrament on Sunday and beyond. This worship feeds and strengthens us in our call of discipleship.
As a People of Discipleship
In 2012, the members of St. John's began a five year capital commitment to renovate the parish building in a variety of ways, from the roof to the kitchen to offices to the entry way. This commitment - entitled "Building a Stronger St. John's" is more than a collection of building improvements for this beautiful place of worship. Through God's call it is our commitment of stewardship to further embrace St. John's location in the downtown neighborhood. People who worship at St. John's live in surrounding suburbs and subdivisions and communities as far as South Bend, Mishawaka, Granger, Goshen, Shipshewana, Nappanee, Middlebury, and Michigan. Yet, St. John's remains a downtown parish with a local neighborhood that has seen better days. We are blessed with not just increasing members but an increasing presence in doing God's work in our neighborhood.
In recent years we have witnessed a revival of embracing our location in both worship and outreach. Our opportunity to bring Christ to the world - to the streets - remains undeterred and all the more so vital. We worship through a "Book of Common Prayer." We remain "common" in our mission to bring all to Christ as live St. John's statement of mission:
Joined in love
Like many downtown parishes, St. John's is comprised of elderly members who have staid the course through fads and trends and remain devout. St. John's is also blessed with young families and small children. Regardless of our age or set of life circumstances, both the beauty and the location of St. John's remind us of the variety of ways in which God intersects in our lives. The sign of this intersection is made visible in God's church and in our lives through the cross. Join us in celebrating a faith that is firmly rooted but still actively hopes for a better future.
While the community and building may change, the faith of St. John's remains strong. Above the old marble pillars of what was once the front entrance of the church are two readings from Scripture - still discernible in the stone arches. We pray that St. John's continues to live out the witness of both these verses:
I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go to the house of the Lord.
Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.