History of St. John's Unitarian Universalist Church

In 2014 St. John’s celebrated 200 years as a congregation, one of the oldest in Cincinnati. From its beginning in 1814, St. John’s has been a meeting place for diverse groups.;xNLx;;xNLx;The early congregation included immigrants from many countries, both Protestants and Catholics who found the church an independent haven for religious liberals. To continue in its liberal tradition, St. John’s joined the American Unitarian Association in 1924 and then the AUA merged with Universalist churches in 1961. We belong to the Unitarian Universalist Association, at uua.org.;xNLx;;xNLx;The church built at 12th & Elm Streets in 1868 is still standing, but missing the steeple. It was our home for 78 years. (In late 2015 that renovated building opened as a bar and meeting place called The Transept.) In 1960 our current Clifton location at 320 Resor Ave. was completed with a distinctive, modern sanctuary.;xNLx;;xNLx;image of old sign of St. John's;xNLx;This stained glass sign is on the front of The Transept in Over the Rhine.;xNLx;Over the years 13 settled ministers have served St. John’s, three women and 10 men. Each challenged and supported us on our spiritual journey. But the history of our church is not in affiliations, buildings or ministers – it is in our relations to each other and to the wider world.;xNLx;;xNLx;In the late 1800s, St. John’s provided leadership to found the German General Protestant Orphan’s Home (now Beech Acres), necessary because of the cholera epidemic. The church was active in promoting fair treatment of the local German community during WWI and WWII. And during the 1960s, church members marched for civil rights.;xNLx;;xNLx;Our “current history” is in the rest of these pages. We are passionate advocates for human rights for all. We teach our children to respect other’s religious beliefs. We support artist and musicians as change-makers. From our Peacemaking Initiative to having fun together, we are a community that cares for each other and the wider world. Would you like to make history with us?;xNLx;;xNLx;For a chronological list of past ministers, names of the congregation and locations of church buildings see this Timeline. Read below for a list of articles about St. John’s history. Come back to see additional articles as they are added.;xNLx;;xNLx;Note to genealogists:;xNLx;;xNLx;St. John’s Unitarian Universalist Church records from the 1800s and early 1900s are stored at the Cincinnati History Library and Archives, housed at The Cincinnati Museum Center (Union Terminal). Visit their web site at http://library.cincymuseum.org/ where you’ll find contact information. Look to the right and scroll down for a link to Archives and Manuscripts. After clicking on the link enter “St. John’s Unitarian Church” into keywords and click the search button. You’ll see a list of St. John’s items in the library’s collection.;xNLx;;xNLx;A complete history of St. John’s Unitarian Church by Rev. Hugo Eisenlohr was written in 1934.;xNLx;;xNLx;In fall 2020, a series of oral histories was recorded with long-time St. John’s members and our historian, Debbie Combs. You can find this playlist of oral histories on the church YouTube page. Learn the history and background of artwork and our tracker organ in a video art playlist and see some architectural history in the architecture playlist of videos.

1814-01-01 00:00:00

The German Lutheran Church

Organized by Rev. Joseph Zaeslin, Protestants and Catholics formed the congregation; they met in a school house.

1815-12-31 09:41:55


Watch the video to learn about our origins.

1818-01-01 00:00:00

The Rev. Joseph Zaeslin died

The congregation continued under the lay leadership of Jacob Guelich.

1820-01-01 00:00:00

The floor collapsed

The congregation met in a two-story wooden building on Arch Street, between Broadway and Ludlow, where the floor collapsed during a debate over the need for a new building.

1820-01-01 00:00:00

The Rev. Ludwig Heinrich Meyer became minister


1822-01-01 00:00:00

German Lutheran and Reformed Church

Named in a written constitution and article of incorporation.

1824-10-17 00:00:00

New brick church built

Located on Third Street between Broadway and Ludlow near the site of old Fort Washington where the German community lived at the time.

1833-02-07 17:16:53

Church Building purchased

Episcopal Society of Christ Church13 building at Sixth and Lodge Streets, between Vine and Walnut Streets, was purchased

1833-02-17 00:00:00

Congregation splits

United Protestant Evangelical German St. Peters Church forms under the leadership of the Rev. Hauser.

1835-09-01 17:16:53

The Rev. H.W. Lauer was minister

September 1835 through December 1837

1838-01-01 17:16:53

Rev. Wilhelm Moellmann was minister

January through December 1838

1838-01-01 17:16:53

Second and final split in the congregation

Formed the North German Lutheran Church with the Rev. Moellmann as minister.1,4

1839-01-01 17:16:53

Name was changed to German St. John’s Church

Incorporated as German St. John's Congregation according to the 1839 Constitution

1839-01-01 17:16:53

The Rev. F.M. Raschig became minister

in January 1839

1841-01-01 17:16:53

The Rev. August Kroell was minister

from 1841 until his death in 1874

1849-01-01 17:16:53

German Protestant Orphans Home

Now called Beech Acres, Rev. Kroell helped found the German Protestant Orphans Home

1866-01-01 17:16:53

Temporary location

Services were temporarily held at German United Evangelical Church St. Paul's at 15th and Race Streets

1868-01-01 17:16:53

Congregation at 12th and Elm Streets

The congregation moved to 12th and Elm Streets through 1946

1874-01-01 17:16:53

The Rev. J. Carl Scholz became minister

from 1874 until 1884

1875-01-01 17:16:53

Became German Protestant St. John’s Church.

The name was changed to German Protestant St. John’s Church..

1884-01-01 17:16:53

The Rev. Hugo Eisenlohr was minister

from 1884-1931. The Rev. Eisenlohr's ministerial training was at the Meadville Theological School established by a Unitarian. He was St. John's first native born minister.

1901-01-01 17:16:53

Church school began English-speaking classes

per Rev. Eisenlohr's recommendation.

1912-01-01 17:16:53

Began alternating language of sermons

Alternated between German and English sermons every other Sunday

1918-01-01 17:16:53

Sermons in English only except when German was requested.

Resolved to change the name to First Protestant St. John's Church.

1924-01-01 17:16:53

St. John’s affiliated with the AUA

the American Unitarian Association. The name became First Protestant St. John's Church Unitarian

1924-01-01 17:16:53

Rev. Eisenlohr admitted to Unitarian ministry

Rev. Eisenlohr applied to the General Unitarian Council, Fellowship Committee for admission to the fellowship of Unitarian ministry. His admission was approved

1928-01-01 17:16:53

Rev. Gladys B. Wheeler Installed

as Assistant to the Pastor

1930-01-01 17:16:53

Name changed to St. John’s Unitarian Church

in an amendment to the articles of the church

1931-01-01 17:16:53

The Rev. Julius Krolfifer was minister 1931-55

He was St. John's first minister to serve other Unitarian churches

1934-05-11 11:43:21

Church history presented at conference

History of St. John's Unitarian Church written by Rev. Hugo Eisenlohr D. D. was presented at the Western Unitarian Conference Historical Society

1946-01-01 17:16:53

Services held at Hanselmann [Masonic] Temple on Clifton Avenue

Temple on Clifton Avenue from 1946-52.

1949-01-01 17:16:53

Resor Avenue property purchased

after a $21,000 gift from member Jacob Haehnle.

1949-01-01 17:16:53

Petition signed by 62 women members

to have women serve on the Church Council.

1952-01-01 17:16:53

First service held at Resor Avenue

in what is now Krolfifer Hall.

1956-01-01 17:16:53

The Rev. Clarke Wells was minister

from 1956-65

1960-01-01 17:16:53

Resor Avenue sanctuary completed and first service held.

and the first service held.

1961-01-01 17:16:53

The Unitarian Universalist Association forms

from the merger of the American Unitarian Association & the Universalist Church of America.

1965-01-01 17:16:53

The first woman president elected

Margaret Koehnke became the first woman president of St. John's Church Council

1967-01-01 17:16:53

The Rev. David Sammons was minister

From 1967-78

1979-01-01 17:16:53

The Rev. Paul L'Herrou was minister

From 1979-87

1988-01-01 17:16:53

The Rev. Diana Heath was minister

From 1988-94. She was the first woman settled minister.

1996-01-01 17:16:53

The Rev. L. Annie Foerster was minister

From 1996-2001

2002-01-01 17:16:53

The Rev. Dr. Frank Carpenter was minister

From 2002-09

2003-01-01 17:16:53

Now St. John’s Unitarian Universalist Church

The congregation voted to change the church's name

2006-01-01 00:00:00

Capital Punishment

St. John's members unanimously adopt a congregational resolution calling for a moratorium on capital punishment.

2008-04-27 00:00:00

Peace Initiave Resolution

In response to the UUA's study action question on peacemaking, at a special meeting, the Congregation unanimously adopted ten proposals in a Peace Initiave Resolution.

2010-01-01 00:00:00

Memorial Garden

Memorial garden created in 2010.

2013-01-01 17:16:53

The Rev. Mitra Jafarzadeh became minister

Began as settled minister at St. John’s Unitarian Universalist Church on Aug. 1, 2013.

2016-06-01 00:00:00

Commitment to Racial Justice

Passed by congregation in response to systemic violence against black lives and an official call to action from the UUA.

2017-01-01 00:00:00

UUA Green Sanctuary

St. John's becomes part of UUA Green Sanctuary Program

History of St. John's Unitarian Universalist Church

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