Evangelical – Augsburg (Lutheran) St. John’s Parish in Grudziądz:
Protestantism in Grudziądz goes back to 1524, when Erhard von Queiss of Kwidzyn, the bishop of Pomesania, who stayed here on his trip, preached the first Evangelical sermon in the parish church. He was invited to do this by starost Jan Sokołowski. In 1552-1553, doctor Joachim Mörlin, a praised theologian of Königsberg, the future pastor in Brunswick and,
following his return to the Ducal Prussia, the bishop of Sambia, preached sermons, probably at the Holy Spirit church. In 1563, the town officially accep¬ted Lutheranism and appointed Eberhard Sperber its pastor, as confirmed by the royal privilege of King Sigismund August (1569). At that time, three muni¬cipal churches became Evangelical, an Evangelical school having already been in place since 1540, and a pastor for Poles was appointed in 1568 (the majority of citizens being German). During the reign of King Sigismund III Vasa, the Counter-Reformation resulted in the churches being returned to Catholics in 1598 and the citizens started their struggle for the right to worship, in accordance with the royal privilege – a struggle which lasted almost two centuries. Services were held at St. George’s cemetery chapel outside the town walls, at the castle, at a granary and finally at the town hall; but even here Evangelicals would experience persecution and accusations from the Catholic parish priest and the Jesuits. Charges included preaching sermons in Polish, and not exclusively in German. When Grudziądz was occupied by Swedes during 1656-1659, the Protestants were given the parish church, deserted by the parish priest. After the war with Sweden, the parish church returned to its prior owners, while the Evangelicals started rebuilding the town hall that was burnt down when the Polish army re-conquered the town. The generous donations and bequests by the local Protestant community and those of Toruń and Gdansk contributed to the new Baroque interior of the chapel.
Grudziądz has seen many well-known and highly-praised clergymen and teachers including Benedikt Morgenstern (1588-1599), a distinguished though controversial representative of orthodox Lutheranism, who fostered schools; Jan Barawski (or Zbarawski, 1618-1624), a Latin poet and preacher in ordinary to Anna Vasa, Princess Royal, who preached at her residence in lirodnica; Severin Rosentreter (1632-1665), who participated in the famous Colloquium Charitativum, an ecumenical „brotherly conversation” of Polish Catholics, Lutherans and Calvinists, in To run in 1645; Otto Matthesius (1656-1659), a student of Jesuit schools in Vilnius and Lutheran universities in Koningsberg and Rostock; Jan Herbinius (1677-1679), a praised theologian, teacher and humanitarian; Jan Moneta (1692-1696), the author of a Polish grammar manual; and Jakob Schmidt, who published the revised version of the Holy Bible of Gdansk, a translation of the Bible into Polish, in the 18th century.
Following the seizure of Grudziądz by Prussia during the first partition of Poland (1772), in 1785 a small church at the Market Square was consecrated and services were held for some time in Polish there. Its construction was largely funded by King Frederick II. In 1896-1898, this church, which was now too small, was replaced by a large parish church at the present-day Mickiewicza Street. The Evangelicals dominated in terms of number. Apart from that church, they had a large garrison church (built in 1897-1900 and destroyed during World War Two) and planned to erect a third one. The modern Parish Hall and the City Mission housed large rooms. There were also several charities and cemeteries. At that time, almost all Evangelicals were German, while Polish Lutheran traditions in Grudziądz were almost forgotten.
The situation changed radically in 1920, when Grudziądz returned to Poland. The majority of German citizens left, and Catholic Poles quickly became the majority. Those who arrived from other parts of Poland included Polish members of the Evangelical – Augsburg Church, whose authorities were based in Warsaw. On 31 May 1923, Rev. Józef Mamica from Poznań, an army chaplain, held the first Polish service for the army at the German Evangelical Union church. The local parish council objected to any further services, arguing that civilians were present; as a result, subsequent services were held at the officers’ mess room on an irregular basis. In October 1930, Rev. Jerzy Kahane from Bydgoszcz started seeking an organisational framework for Polish Evangelicals, holding the first service for civilians on 7 April 1931. Owing to the friendly attitude of Rev. Reinhold Dieball, until 1939 these services were held at the Union church at Mickiewicza Street, and were even announced during German services. After the service of 24 May 1931, the church council was elected, headed by Mikołaj Bruno Ernst, a merchant. In the following year, the first confirmation took place (and subsequently in 1934,1937, and 1938). There was also a choir and the Ladies’ Circle headed by Marta Lipowska. In 1932-1933, Rev. Waldemar Preiss of Bydgoszcz was the administrator, and from 1933 to 1935, Rev. Ryszard Danielczyk, a resident of Grudziądz, was the pastor; in this period the community was in its prime. Publication of ,,Przegląd Ewangelicki” (Evangelical Review) started
(it was transferred to Bydgoszcz after one year), and excursions and social events were held. Services were held every two weeks, with Rev. Danielczyk also serving Polish congregations in Tczew, and occasionally Starogard Gdański and Wąbrzeźno, where he also appeared in Evangelical Union churches. When pastor Danielczyk left for Silesia, Rev. Preiss became the administrator again. He was followed by Rev. Ryszard Trenkler of Toruń (1937-1959, interrupted by World War Two).
The Nazi invasion of 1939 all but destroyed the achievements of the Polish Evangelical congregation. After the heavily damaged town was liberated in 1945, the parish’s efforts recommenced in 1946, initially at the Methodist chapel. As early as on 3 November 1946 Rev. Trenkler held the first service at a rebuilt former Catholic Apostolic Church chapel at Szkolna Street, built in 1916, which has since been St. John’s church, picturesquely located on the edge of the Old Town, close to the medieval town walls. The furnishings, transferred from several disused Evangelical churches located in the vicinity, required a further two years for completion. Since then the church has been renovated on several occasions. Cemetery buildings were also renovated and efforts were made to preserve remnants of historical tombstones. During the post-war period, the parish periodically numbered several hundred persons, mostly former members of the Union Church who, however, left Poland over lime. Confirmation was held several times. Today, as before World War Two, (he parish comprises several dozen people dispersed over a large area.
After 1945, apart from Rev. Senior Ryszard Trenkler, pastors included Rev. Bogustaw Wittenberg of Rypin, Rev. Waldemar Preiss of Bydgoszcz, (again), Rev. Gustaw Burchart of To run and Rev. Senior Edward Dietz of Sopot. Since 1980, Rev. Jerzy Molin of Toruń has been the parson and administrator. Services are held on every Sunday at 10.00 a.m.