My Nana was a lifetime parishioner of St. Michael’s Greek Catholic Church in Passaic, New Jersey. As a child, I was often walking around Passaic to the various Catholic churches to visit for a Mass or holy day. However, I was never a parishioner at St. Michael’s. Neither of my parents was religious, but they did feel it was important to send me off to church activities. However, my mom had the last say and she wasn’t Catholic, so the non-Catholic compromise was St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, not very far from our house on Summer Street.
St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church
Source: My Personal Collection
To begin with, the church sat on, for Passaic, a rather odd shaped block with Lexington Avenue running to the right side and Hamilton Avenue running to the left side, as we approached the church from home.
Source: Google Maps
Here is an aerial street view today:
Source: Google Maps
My family moved from Passaic 54 years ago and they say you can’t go home again because things change so much. Not St. John’s!
Source: Google Street View
This is exactly how I remember it, with more tree growth on the left, which was the side entrance the kids used to go to Sunday School. Even the choppy cement sidewalk in the crossing area (very front on the left) is still there and with the weeds growing in it!
I didn’t realize it at the time, but St. John’s is a beautiful old German baroque style church on the National Register of Historic Places. It is particularly known for its gorgeous stained glass windows in the church. Its website has a few scrolling photos of them. Click the arrow on the left side of the photos until you come to the two of the windows. There is even a great 39 second YouTube video that gives a panoramic neighborhood view. There is also a great inside photo of the church on Flickr.
The church was built in 1896 and was originally a German parish. It was still heavily influenced by Germans at the time I attended, but parishioners were of a more ethnically mixed background. It appears to be a mostly Hispanic community church today, which fits with Passaic’s mostly Hispanic population.
Rev. William O. Bruckner was the pastor through all my years attending St. John’s Church. His wife was active in the church activities, too, particularly in the Sunday School. Notice that she signed my nursery promotion certificate.
I began my Sunday School career there in the pre-school program, back then called the Nursery Department.
I only have these two certificates, even though I attended Sunday School regularly into the sixth grade, when we moved away.
I only have vague memories of the Sunday School lessons, but we started as a larger group and then separated to tables with us grouped by grades.
Then, there were weekly Bible story lessons for us to do. The paper was a glossy, heavier than usual kind of paper and was folded in half, about the size of an 8.5 x 11 inch sheet of paper that has been folded. When we finished the Bible story, there were questions to be answered. I don’t have any specific memories of hands-on crafty activities, but I imagine there were some, especially around holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.
When I was in 4th grade, I decided I wanted to join the Girl Scouts. Troop 26 met at St. John’s during the week (or perhaps on Saturdays – I don’t remember). The blouse, skirt and beret are long gone, but I still have my sash.
Linda’s Girl Scout Sash
I had lots of parts of badges completed, but only got around to getting six of them signed off. I don’t know which ones they are either.
I earned several of the pins, but they have broken and gotten lost through the years.
I still have the Emergency Preparedness pin, but I had four in total and I can see the hole marks where the others were pinned.
When we moved to Wayne, I transferred to a Scout troop that met at Alps Road School. The new troop was #267, so I just had to add the #7 to my sash.
I also sang in the choir at St. John’s Church for a couple of years, but, as I don’t carry a tune very well, that didn’t last too long.
There was one coincidence after I moved away from Passaic. I had made friends with two sisters who were classmates. We were talking about Passaic and they mentioned that their grandfather was a minister there. I asked what church he was at and they said St. John’s. Their grandfather was Pastor Bruckner! Small world.
Pastor Bruckner died in 1975, but I remember him as a kindly man. Mrs. Bruckner lived a much longer life, passing away in 1987. Both remained in the Passaic area for many years.
I am pleased to see that St. John’s Church is still vibrant and healthy. I spent many fun years there.
2 thoughts on “St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church, Passaic, NJ”
Hi Linda – I attended St Johns for about a year when I worked for Siemens Corp out of Pine Brook. I moved to Clifton to live near work. I used to take long walks into Passaic, when I was awestruck by the site of St. Johns. I was looking for a church so I decided to attend. Somehow, I took a liking to the Spanish Services, though I am a Jewish believer of European descent. I loved singing the Lutheran hymns in Spanish, for one thing. I got into Mexican music at the time, also. I took a special interest in once a week, cleaning the grounds around the church – as a lot of debris built up at that windy triangle. I also went up in the tower a few times and repaired some leaks, though professional attention was in dire need for the roof. As a classically trained musician, I approached the organist with the idea of doing a Bach Cantata in Spanish translation. We pulled it off using some “ringers”, as well as local people. We packed the church in what may have been the first and only time these two language paths crossed in such a manner. I eventually moved from Clifton to Long Island, though I have fond memories. Passaic, in general, was becoming a vibrant Mexican community. I was impressed by the strong sense of family. Clifton should be noted for its success as a truly integrated community of middle class people. Andy
Hi Linda–As a young boy, perhaps 7-8 years old, I saw this church when visiting an aunt and uncle who lived within sight of it. Many times my mother told me that her grandfather, Johann (John) Schroeder, a German immigrant, was a founding member, and a cabinet maker. He hand carved the doors and woodwork for the pulpit and other furnishings at the front of the church. The church members tracked my mother down in Texas (our home) and invited her to the 100th anniversary of the church–around 1995-6. She traveled up to Passaic with my Dad, and they were treated very thankfully and graciously by the congregation. My great grandfather died about 1928 when my mother was age 7 or so. She was very moved by the anniversary celebration and the regard they had for their churches history. She said as a girl the areas second language was germen, but now it was Spanish.