Parish History

Huggett Wedding Exterior

At Stan and Ruth Huggett’s wedding, the first service held in the current church building.

In 1926, the first church services in Flossmoor–then a small village–were held by a group of Episcopalians who met monthly in Flossmoor Public School (later known as Leavitt Avenue School, located where Leavitt Park now is). The Reverend Edwin Randall, then executive secretary of the Diocese of Chicago, led the services. In 1929, St. John the Evangelist was formally recognized as an organized mission of the Diocese and services moved to the Village Hall. By 1931, there was a full-time priest-in-charge, a church school had been organized and the mission was thriving.

Over the next few years, a series of seminarians and priests served St. John’s. By the mid 1930’s services were being held in a commercial building on Central Avenue which later became the St. Mary’s Thrift Shop. During the war years, plan for a church building were put on hold, but by 1946 plans had been drawn up. The Revered John Griffiths was appointed priest-in-charge in 1946.

Worship continued there until the present church was constructed.  St. John’s became a parish of 40 households in 1947 and the Rev. John E. G. Griffiths, formerly priest-in- charge, was installed as the first Rector. The church was constructed on its present site. St. Mary’s Guild held a rummage sale to support the building fund. The success of this and subsequent efforts lead the Guild to establish a permanent shop in the store where the congregation had previously worshipped. The shop– appropriately named the St. Mary’s Thrift Shop–played a leading role in paying off the church mortgage in 16 years. Two years later, in 1949, the parish had grown to 88 households and the Rectory and cloister were completed.

The Rev. James W. Montgomery was called as priest in 1951 and under his guidance the parish grew rapidly. Several building projects were completed – the church school wing, a sanctuary expansion and transepts, as well as the connecting building with Guild Room and Curate’s apartment. By 1959 the parish numbered 390 households.

mortgage burning

Burning of the mortgage with Bishop Montgomery (center).

When Father Montgomery was consecrated Suffragan Bishop of Chicago in 1962, St. John’s called the Rev. Howard William Barks as priest. The parish continued to grow. In 1963, the mortgages were burned and the very active St. Mary’s Thrift Shop redirected half its profits to Episcopal Charities and half to the parish’s building fund for upkeep and special projects. Sadly, at the start of the year 2000, the St. Mary’s Thrift Shop closed its doors, succumbing finally to the realities of a changing economy.

Father Barks oversaw the addition of the stained glass windows in the church and the renovation of the sanctuary, completed in 1977. He served as Rector until his death in 1977.

The Rev. Thomas Vanderslice, one of St. John’s early curates, was called as priest in 1978. Shortly after his arrival, St. John’s Episcopal Church Women sponsored the first “Country Fair”, which was a regular biennial autumn event until 2002. In 1982, a group of parishioners took a $500 grant from the vestry and opened the St. John’s Center for Early Learning, a parish preschool. In the 24 years of its operation, the preschool grew from its initial 28 students to over 160. Also during this time, a chapter of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew was started, as well as a chapter of the Daughters of the King. Father Vanderslice retired in January, 1994.

In March of 1995, the Rev. Mary Grace Williams was called as Rector of St. John’s. During her tenure, the parish focused on increasing both membership and attendance through a renewed sense of evangelism. A variety of classes in Christian formation offered opportunities for personal spiritual growth for all age groups, and outreach increased to the surrounding community.

January 2004 marked the beginning of a new year and a new rector for St. John’s, the Rev. Kristin Orr. During Pastor Orr’s tenure we saw growth in adult education opportunities and participation, a strong focus on community life and fellowship events along with an ongoing commitment to serve others in our local communities and beyond. Rev. Orr served as rector until July 2017.