St. John’s story began long before there was a church building. Beginning in 1841, German settlers in Cumberland gathered for worship in their homes. Heinrich Koch donated land for the construction of a church building and school. This small frame building on the National Road (U.S. 40) became the landmark for which German Church Road was named. In November of 1855 fifteen members signed the Constitution of the Congregation and in 1856 the congregation became a member of the Evangelical Synod of North America.
By 1864 church attendance had outgrown the original building and church members voted unanimously to build a new church. The Civil War, however, had made the cost of constructing a new building prohibitive, so it wasn’t until 1866 that the second church building was constructed. In 1872 the church tower bell was imported from Germany. All services were in German until 1912 when the members voted to hold a service in English once a month.
The church members celebrated the New Year on January 1, 1913, by voting to build a new church, the church’s third building. This church was dedicated on July 5, 1914. This 1914 Church building has served us well for 100 years.
The 20th century was a busy time for the Church. The church’s message has never changed, but the name has. In 1934 the Evangelical Church merged with the Reformed Church, and the name became St. John Evangelical and Reformed Church. In 1936 a state-of-the art pipe Kilgan organ was dedicated. The sanctuary was updated in 1954. In 1957 the Church formed a union with the Congregational Church which gave St. John its present name, St. John United Church of Christ. The “baby boom” meant more space was needed, and in 1958 the Sunday School wing was added.
As we entered the 21st century, it became apparent this grand old building could no longer serve the needs of the current and future worshippers. Planning began to erect a new Church on land donated by the will of Harry Muesing at the corner of Prospect Street and Carroll Road (County Line Road). As we prepare to make the move, many of our artifacts will become part of the new building including the beautiful stained glass windows stained glass windows, our Kilgan pipe organ which was totally refurbished in 2008-2009, and our German bell. Also included in the move will be generations of memories and traditions. It is our hope that this 4th Church will continue to serve Cumberland and the surrounding areas for another 100 years!