Little church saved and restored brings German heritage to life

The historic St. John’s Lutheran Church west of Isanti is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It will host the German and English Epiphany services on Sunday, Jan. 5. 

Epiphany (arrival of the Three Kings) is one of the top three or four celebrated liturgical events in the German Lutheran Church calendar (following Christmas, Easter, Good Friday). 

Historic St. John’s Lutheran Church, at 900 County Road 5, Isanti, was built and opened in 1882, and Epiphany was celebrated there (in the German language) until about 1946  when “all English” services were instituted. 

The historic church closed its doors for good in the mid 1950s, and remained unused for many, many years. 

In the late 1990s, Valorie Arrowsmith, then the Executive Director of the Isanti County Historical Society (and an excellent ‘program’ developer) re-established the Epiphany tradition. 

At that time, Sharon and Ralph Sheppard volunteered to clean and decorate the interior of the building for services. Their involvement grew into taking over the planning/programming of the Epiphany services in 2003, when Valorie left ICHS to go on to other opportunities. 

In addition to planning and executing the now fully-restored German language Epiphany service (‘Lesungen und Weinachtslieder’ – Lessons and Carols, including favorite German hymns and Scriptural readings) – a couple of years later, a second totally English language service (Candlelight Lessons and Carols) was added for sundown in the same afternoon. 

In 2017, members of “The German Club” took over planning the German service after the Sheppards moved from the area. 

Since the Historic Church and grounds had fallen into disrepair, the Sheppards (along with many others) created the “Friends of Historic St. John’s, Inc.” – now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit – to generate funds which led to a complete renovation/restoration of the historic church and provide on-going funds for maintenance/upkeep.

Those seeking to contribute to the Friends of Historic St. John’s can find information on Facebook at or email or call 763-444-4261.

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