Members of the Finnish community in Maynard gathered in August 1894 for an outdoor worship service and picnic in a pine grove on the banks of the Mill Pond. The enthusiasm that developed led to the start of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Congregation of Maynard, Massachusetts. Property at 18-20 Glendale Street in Maynard was purchased for the congregation. Construction began on June 24, 1907 and was completed on November 17, 1907. Gradually the small Finnish congregation suffered through the great depression of 1932, functioned without a pastor, survived the rejections of many pastoral calls, and experienced the fears and sorrows of World War II. Members cut wood and also donated produce to the church that was sold to townspeople. The sanctuary was rented to groups for two dollars; the church hall for three dollars. Spiritual needs were met without a pastor as the congregation managed to hold monthly services as well as festivals at Thanksgiving and Christmas. The 40th anniversary was celebrated in 1933 by 130 members as the church became debt free.
The congregation celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 1944 as the end of World War II drew near. Membership had grown to 225 and the name was legally changed to St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church. Employment in the mill began to decline, and the congregation once again experienced financial difficulties. The town of Maynard became depressed after World War II as the woolen mill gradually moved south and finally closed in 1950. Manufacturing was gone, and nothing took its place until companies such as Bradley Container, Beacon Press, Dennison, and a startup, Digital Equipment Corporation, rented space in the mill complex. Population increased as the high-tech industry expanded, bringing a diversity of professionals into the community. Membership growth was still a problem. Very few new people moving to the area came to St. John's. The present pastor was convinced that it was necessary to relocate in order to survive and grow. Under the guidance of the New England Synod, the congregation called Dr. H. Allison Linne to assist in relocating and building the new church. The congregation acquired the land at the intersection of Route 117 and North Road in Sudbury, a finance committee was elected to raise funds, and a building committee was formed. After consideration of various proposals, a plan was submitted and unanimously accepted. Members gathered on December 17, 1967 for the first worship in the new building. The people were the same, old friends still met at worship, the choir served faithfully, little children heard stories of faith and heritage, confirmation classes struggled with the catechism, and the coffee pot still warmed conversations and fueled meetings.
With increasing membership, the congregation began to gather strength and vision for a new beginning, and a sense of self and service began to emerge. Following a suggestion of Dr. Olander, a pulpit committee attended a service in Brockton conducted by a young assistant pastor, Larry K. Wolff. The committee was excited and impressed, votes were quickly taken, and a call went to our Pastor who had grown up in South Carolina. He was of German heritage and the son of a Lutheran pastor. He quickly became acquainted in this, his first congregation, listened to interests and problems, and preached a needed message – God loves you.
New people moving into the area for high-tech employment were drawn to St. John by its location and by opportunities for worship, service, fellowship, and education. By 1973 growing membership resulted in lack of classroom space, and Fellowship Hall was inadequate for congregational dinners. By 1980 it was clear that the facility was too small for worship, fellowship, and service. The congregation voted to build an addition providing a new fellowship hall, additional space for education, new offices, and facilities for the handicapped. The addition was dedicated on June 19, 1993. Average worship attendance reached 205 in 1985.
St. John became part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in 1987 as three synods merged into one. By then, Senior luncheons were serving nearly 80 members of the community. Outreach focused onto a satellite congregation in Groton as Shepherd of the Valley was founded to better serve the community of faith in the Nashoba Valley region. Social ministry expanded with outreach to Namibia, homes in Honduras, the Lutheran World Hunger Appeal, ministry to inmates of the Concord prison, and the Acton Community Supper.
Today the community of faith that is St. John is grateful to the immigrants that nurtured and supported our church, adapting and adjusting to the changing times. We are thankful for members that have conquered many challenges; many apparently insurmountable. Their witness to the power of personal faith, hope, and love strengthen and sustain us today in interpreting the Gospel message.