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A History of Saint John’s

It all began on June 1, 1964 when the 35 year old Rev. Norman Aronson, fresh from a .year of internship in Helena, Montana accepted the Call by the Board of American Missions of the Lutheran Church in America to begin as Mission Developer in Grover City.
 
Referred to as the “The Missionary on a Motor Scooter”, Pastor Aronson buzzed around town knocking on doors and making visitations. The first worship service was held in the Grover City Elementary School on Sept. 20, 1964. Realizing that the permanent site was to be in Grover City, the Mission moved to the Grover City Women’s Civic Club and was formally organized as a congregation on March 13, 1966. There were 56 confirmed and 65 child members at this time. Here the first youth confirmation classes were celebrated. St. John’s accepted the kind offer of a farmer to purchase 5 acres of land in the agricultural area of south Grover on Farroll Road.
 
Inspired by the design of the Roman Catholic church‑in‑the‑round, Cambria, California, Lloyd Gilbert of San Jose was hired as architect. On November 12, 1967 Terry Guy, Chairman of the Building Committee, welcomed participants to the “The Blessing of the Church‑Site and Ground Breaking”. Contractor Addison Wood began work and the huge crane lifted the 50‑foot spire to the top of the 3600 square foot building in May, 1968. The event was big photographic news for the local newspaper.
 
During the next several years St. John’s was under constant financial pressures. This small congregation was unable to pay the large mortgage payments. The financial pressures were eased by selling the bulk of the 5 acres to developer Rueben Kvidt. The complicated plans culminated in June, 1983 with the mortgage burning and ground‑breaking for Fellowship Hall.
 
 
With the all too familiar taste of turmoil came a new day. The formation of the new Evangelical Lutheran Church in America wedded the former ALC and LCA into a single body on January 1. 1988. For a church that only a year earlier saw itself as a retirement congregation, the change in spirit and activity was truly a miracle. With adult baptisms and young faces beginning to appear, the joy of mission and evangelism was infectious. Having secured the approval for a 2‑year mission status financial support, the congregation set out to call its 6th Pastor (excluding interims) in 23 years. On May 1, 1989 the Rev. Randy Ouimette began as St. John’s pastor.
 
The Congregational worship life in the early 90’s developed with the first handbell choir, called Jubilate Ringers, the Children’s Choirs, and the acoustical guitarists who widened our musical expression. Meanwhile the Sunday School grew to overflowing in the few makeshift rooms for classes. This led the congregation to consider an expansion program.  Meeting two months later to discern the Lord’s direction, the congregation voted to relocate if either a suitable existing church was available or if property was available. The story will live in our history about the $200.00 local ad: “A growing congregation looking for land on which to relocate.” Two calls came from this one ad. The first was from the Garing Family saying they had five acres that they believed would always be a wonderful place for a church. The other call was from a member of the Presbyterian Mission meeting in the 7th Day Adventist Church (same as we did in 1964) who asked that since we were searching for land, did this mean our site was for sale? Three months later, after a series of negotiations, the sale of 1830 Farroll Rd. to the Presbytery of Santa Barbara was completed, and the purchase of the Valley Road corner site was made. Now we were committed! Meeting for 100’s of hours over 1,000’s of details, they navigated through the maze of county requirements and conditions, and came in under cost.
 
So, June of 1997 we moved into our new site and immediately felt at home doing ministry at the foot of the mesa and Nipomo. In 2002 we began a Phase II project that culminated in a wonderful expansion program that included: annexation into the City of Arroyo Grande, city water and sewer connections, expanded fellowship hall to seat 200+, flexible meeting and class rooms for week day ministry and classes, enclosed front patio into a spacious and welcoming ‘Commons’ entrance area, expanded parking, Resurrection Garden Columbarium, remodeled office work space, and west entrance cover. We celebrated the dedication of Phase II, with great thanks to the Lord, in June 2006. That winter the congregation approved a process leading to the Call of a second full time ordained pastor. We are so thankful and blessed to have been matched by the Holy Spirit to Luther Seminary graduate Rev. Sarah Sumner-Eisenbraun who accepted our Call to serve as Associate Pastor for Youth and Family, with her installation service on August 19, 2007. In September 2010 Pastor Sarah concluded her active service here as she considers a Call to further her ministry. We were very blessed through her bright and inspirational life and care for all, especially youth.
 
In September of 2010 the congregation punctuated a year long process of discernment and tough discussions and voted to leave the E.L.C.A. denomination and affiliate with the 10 year old Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) and The North America Lutheran Church (NALC). Along with many other congregations scattered throughout the country, Saint John’s could no longer identify with the structural procedures and priorities, nor abide by the recent major changes in qualifications for rostered leaders.
 
In June of 2016, Pastor Randy retired after 27 years of faithful service.  After a brief interim, the church called Greg Wallace to serves as Pastor in December of 2016.
 
Saint John’s continues to welcome all who seek the good news of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ as we continue in the orthodox, confessional, and evangelical tradition of the Body of Christ. We continue growing in mission and service as “a little church with the big heart.”