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The first worship services among the Finnish Lutherans of Detroit were held in the years 1913 and 1914. Dr. John Wargelin preached and also advised the worshippers in the early plans leading toward official organization. Fifty years ago on May 13, 1914 twenty-six persons gathered at the home of Mr. John Piippo for the purpose of organizing a congregation which was incorporated under the name "The Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church of Detroit". The new congregation joined the Suomi Synod on January 5, 1917.
Services in the early years were held in rented quarters in the German Lutheran Church at 15th and Lysander and the Presbyterian Church on Thompson in Highland Park. Reverend L. R. Ahlman served as minister during this period. The first church building owned by the congregation was built at Indiandale and Montville and dedicated in 1923. In 1926 the church purchased a new site at 14th Street and Buena Vista and in 1928 construction began. 1929 saw the completion of the building and the first worship services. The pastor of St. John's at that time was Reverend Emil J. Paananen. The Reverend F. W. Kaskinen served the church from 1947 to 1949 when the Reverend M. K. Sallmen succeeded him. Since February, 1958 the congregation has been served by Pastor V. A. Puotinen.
In the fall of 1954 an 80 acre Bible Camp site was purchased near Brighton, Michigan. Today Luther Vista has a total of six buildings and provides camping facilities for 80 campers and the staff to serve them.
1958 saw St. John's Congregation make the important decision to relocate. When the Metropolitan Baptist Church offered to purchase the building at 14th and Buena Vista, the congregation sold. From the first of March, 1959 until the end of May, 1961, the congregation met in the former Calvin Presbyterian Church building on Hubbell in Detroit. During this interim period, the Property Committee located a three-acre parcel of land on Mercedes in Redford Township. Ground breaking for the new church took place on September 18, 1960, and the cornerstone was laid on Advent Sunday, November 27, 1960. The congregation held its first service in the new building on June 4, 1961 and impressive dedication services on October 15, 1961 were conducted by Dr. Raymond W. Wargelin, Suomi Synod president, assisted by a number of other clergymen. A week later the congregation had the thrilling experience of having President and Madame Urho Kekkonen of Finland, as well as their official party, as guests at the Finnish worship service.
Another new era in the life of St. John's congregation began as a result of a merger which took place in June, 1962 at Cobo Hall in Detroit. At that time, St. John's became a member of the Lutheran Church in America.
Published in: St.Johns 1914-1964. 1964.
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