St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 1857-Present
Motto: To God Alone the Glory
During the middle part of the 19th century, thousands of German people, in search of peace and freedom which had been denied them in Europe, came to Texas to find a new home. For them, Texas was “ Das Land des Wiederanfangens” (the land of another beginning). The first families landed in Indianola in 1844 and moved westward by covered wagon to San Antonio. Some of these families stayed in Fredericksburg and New Braunfels but most came to San Antonio.
These sturdy pioneers established the first Lutheran church in 1857 under Pastor Phillip Zizelmann. St. John’s has the distinction of being in three different buildings all on the same location—the corner of S. Presa and Nueva streets. The church began its ministry with only 15 members. It grew because of the development of a school for the children of the community. At its peak, St. John’s was blessed with around 3,000 members making it the largest Lutheran church in Texas. We were known as the Lutheran Cathedral of the Southwest.
St. John’s has had over 30 pastors during its history. In its early years, the pastors served only a short time because of illness or moving on to establish new parishes in other cities in Texas.
St. John’s helped to establish many new parishes in the community. In the beginning, there were only two Lutheran churches, Grace and St. John’s. As San Antonio spread, the churches spread as well with our help:
Hope Lutheran (North Side)
Beitel Memorial (North East)
Good Shepherd Lutheran (South)
Highland Park Lutheran (South)
Amazing Grace Lutheran (West)
Our Savior’s Advent (West)
St. John’s, as it appears today, was built during the Great Depression (1932). The beauty and grandeur of the structure with all its stained-glass windows, wooden carvings, and embellished stone give all honor and glory to God. Please refer to the Explanation of Symbols in this website to truly get a picture and meaning of our inspirational church.
Why is St. John’s Lutheran Church called the “rooster church?” Originally, the name came from a weathercock which was placed on the steeple of the first church which could be seen from afar. People were amused by the name as they are today; however, the cock had a deeper significance–it was a reminder of Peter’s denial of Christ on Maundy Thursday. The name stands today–we are now called the “historical rooster church.”
Giving to the community since its birth, St. John’s was instrumental in the establishment of Meals on Wheels, Christian Assistance Ministry, and San Antonio Metropolitan Ministry. Celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2007, St. John’s continues to serve Christ in the church, the society and the world.