May 31, 2013 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff WriterThe first worship service of St. John Lutheran Church in Riverton was no small one: 170 attendees filled the multi-person room at Jackson Elementary School on March 10, 1963.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the church, and the first formally appointed minister of the church, the Rev. John Johnson, will return with four other former pastors to the anniversary service at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, June 2, the exact date 50 years ago when the first service was held in the church.
The first baptism was Michael Knapp's on March 17, 1963, the son of Don and Helen Knapp.
Don Knapp started the church, along with Tony Kehl, Hans Neilson, and the Division of American Missions of the American Lutheran Church. A church council also was formed to oversee the business aspect of the church.
"Both work very well hand in hand," said current church council president Larry Bauman. "The pastor is in charge of running the spiritual and emotional aspect."
Formal admissions of the first 86 members were accepted during morning worship services on June 9, 1963. Those 86 members are considered the "charter members" of the church. By the end of 1963, 25 families were actively involved in the church.
Current pastor Scott Jorgenson said the church also will have a potluck and camp fire Saturday on church grounds. Everyone is invited to attend and "reminisce" on the church's history, Jorgenson said.
He said anniversary events will continue throughout the year, and they may bury a time capsule and have a special choir service.
Bauman said pastors Gerald Houge, Neil Kvern, Eric Yochheim and Mike Johnson will return to help with the special service.
"It's just good solid ministry," Jorgenson said.
A 1980 expansion project on the west side of the initial building added to the original 2.5 acres that had been purchased in 1962.
Additional remodeling projects in 2010 improved the altar, pulpit, lecturn, communion rail, pews and carpeting. Other changes, like the placement of a forced air heat system, were added in 2012.
A tree was planted in the church's front yard for the 25th anniversary in June 1988.
St. John Lutheran Church has served as the meeting spot for vacation bible school, Boy Scouts of America, Riverton Youth Hockey, Wyoming Star Quilt Guild, Good Sam RV Club and P.E.O.
More information on the church and its events are available at stjohnlutheranriverton.weebly.com. St. John Lutheran Church is located at 606 N. Eighth St. W.
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