About Us

The Beginning

In the summer of 1920, an Episcopal mission under the direction of Rev. Browning began to meet at the corner of Kenilworth Avenue and Riverdale Road. The small congregation included members of diverse denominations. Worshippers sat on railroad ties under a beech tree and music was furnished by Mr. Warner who played the cornet. Eventually, Rev. Browning left to accept a call to a church in New York and the Episcopal mission was transformed into a Lutheran mission.

The first services of St. John's  were conducted in July 1921 by the Rev. J.C. Twele, Pastor of St. John's of Washington D.C. and Riverdale resident. Rev. Twele conducted services every Sunday, weather permitting. When the weather became too cold to hold outdoor services, the meeting place was moved a short distance away to a vacant building (previousl a real estate office) in an open field. The owner had kindly donated the building to the church. Sunday School met at 3pm under the leadership of Mr. Charles B. Cameron as superintendent. Services were from 4-5pm, and music was played on a beat-up piano.


In December of 1921, Rev. Twele was called to St. Stephen's Lutheran Church in Baltimore, and the work of developing the Mission was then taken over by the Lutheran Alliance of Washington. On April 1, 1922, Article of Incorporation were adopted at a Congregational meeting. Construction soon began on a church building on the northeast corner of Kenilworth Avenue and Riverdale Road.

The new chapel of St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church of East Riverdale, MD, was dedicated Sunday afternoon, April 22, 1923 with exercises in which ministers from Washington and Baltimore participated.

The first full-time Pastor, Patrick H. Williams, was called in 1924, but after nine months it became apparent that the small congregation could not support a Pastor. With moral and financial support from the Women's Guild, a succession of Supply Pastors, who had other responsibilities as well, followed. Though they did their utmost, it became evident that the Church could not succeed under these circumstances.

In 1946, an offer was made for the property. By a narrow margin it was voted to refuse the offer and to continue in that location. The faith of a few kept the property  from being sold, and the insistent efforts of two of the men gained the promise of aid from the Board of Lutheran Missions.

In 1948, Pastor Musser White was called with about forty members on the active roll of the congregation. The Riverdale community was growing rapidly, and the Congregation grew with it, reaching its peak of growth in the early 1970's with three services, from which point it leveled off and remained constant.

The School

As a result of the dynamic growth of both Riverdale and St. John, it became evident that a larger building was needed. A location was found on Riverdale Road and construction began. After thirty-seven years in the little white church, the present building was dedicated on September 20, 1959. In 1964, an addition was built into the west wing. During this boom period, a Christian day school for kindergarten through 6th grade was started, rolling out with a kindergarten class in 1959, and first grade in 1961. In 1961, we expanded to three Sunday morning worship services.

In 1965 the property on Kenilworth Avenue was sold. That same year the name of the church was officially changed from St. John's to St. John


Pastor Musser White served 24 years, from 1948-1972. When Pastor White left St. John in 1972 to accept a call to Pittsburgh, PA, Pastor Booher, who had served as associate pastor since 1969, assumed leadership of the congreagtion. Two years later, in 1974, Pastor Russell Fink was called and served for 13 years until 1987. 

These were difficult transition years as the Riverdale community was again experiencing change and the church changed as well. During this period the parochial school was closed. In the mid-1980s, reconstruction was undertaken to update the building, and in 1986, we moved with the times by getting the first computer in the office.


Pastor David Eisenhuth was installed in February 1988 and served for six years. Pastor Doug Cox was installed on October 1, 1995. Under his leadership we revitalized youth ministries and instituted a Saturday evening contemporary worship service called "Saturday Night Alive!". In April 1997, we celebrated out 75th Anniversary with the theme "Remember, Rejoice, and Renew".

In July of 2000, Pastor Cox discerned that God was calling him to be a missionary. St. John then called Rev. Rachel Wangen-Hoch in October of 2000 to be pastor, and under her leadership, St. John continued to thrive. In September of 2003, Pastor Rachel resigned. From 2003-2007, in addition to having services led by congregation members, we were blessed by the leadership of 3 interim pastors. Pastor M. Gregory Shannon, Pastor Michael Kuchinsky, and Pastor Richard Reichard.

Throughout all this time, God was watching out for us, and He answered our prayers on December 1, 2007, when Pastor Sue Tyykila began her ministry at St. John. Shortly after she was called, God provided us with a new organist/Minister of Music on May 4, 2008, Amy C. Kraft. Since Pastor Tyykila has been here, more people have started coming, some new members have been added, and the Church's online presence is being expanded. In addition to a complete revamping of the website, we are now also on Facebook, and, if the webmaster has his way, a YouTube channel may be not too far off.

It always seems that whenever St John is on the verge of going out, God re-ignites this church. This is a sure sign that He has important work for us to continue in the Riverdale community. With the addition of Pastor Tyykila, we rejoice in the Ministry God has given us, which is to share His love with our neighborhood and the world.