Chicago Lutheran History: Christ English Lutheran Church-1892

James Huenink
5 min readMay 8, 2021

Check out more photos and buy prints of Christ English here.

In 1896, the German Lutheran churches of Chicago published Geschichte der Gründung und Ausbreitung der zur Synode von Missouri, Ohio und Andern Staaten gehörenden Evangelisch-Lutherischen Gemeinden U. A. C. zu Chicago, Illinois, a history of their growth in the city beginning with First St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, now located on LaSalle and Goethe streets in Chicago. As far as I know, there is no English translation of this document, so I offer this translation to share this history with you. Follow me to get updates about the rest of this work.

The tradition of the “English” congregations is funny. They still maintain “English” in their names even though it’s been 70 years since most congregations had a large number of German speakers in them. This tradition persists so tenaciously that one Lutheran Church in a primarily Spanish-speaking neighborhood occasionally produces publication material with “English” in the name long after voting to official remove it.

While most German congregations planted a school before the church, Christ English didn’t start their school until 1960. The church published several histories between its founding and 1991, and the school was still going strong at that time. Between 1991 and now, the school closed, and the school building has fallen into disrepair. Last year, 2020, the congregation received a grant to repair the roof and remodel the facilities to begin programing for the neighborhood children. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the work.

Like St. Paul in Austin, Christ English’s neighborhood changed from white to black, and the congregation did, too. Christ English’s congregation has dwindled over the years, and the pastor reports that most, or all, of his current members live in the suburbs and commute on Sunday mornings, or at least they used to. At the time of this publication, Christ is still doing only virtual worship services.

Because it is closed, I haven’t been able to get into the church building or look at their archives. All of the photos are undated, and they come from slides I found at Bethesda Lutheran Church. The style of clothing suggests the early 1980's.

English Lutheran Christ Congregation

There is the only English Lutheran congregation in Chicago which is in full fellowship with the German Lutheran congregations in the Missouri Synod. It is this English Evangelical Lutheran Christ Congregation which shortly after their organization joined the English Missouri Synod.

In the year, 1891, the true Lutheran Norwegian Synod, which has several congregations in Chicago, called Pastor A. Sloan Bartholomew of Springdale, Ark., as the English missionary in Chicago. In May of that year, he could be installed into his new field. The Norwegian congregation of Pastor D. Kvaase on the North Side, which dissolved for various reasons, had not only bequeathed a considerable sum of money to the new mission, but also assigned a number of their young members to it, was to form the center of the newly founded congregation.

In September 1891, they rented a chapel on West Erie Street, in which the missionary regularly preached. But scarcely had the zealous, faithful servant begun the difficult mission work, that God translated him into the triumphant church of the heaven after a short illness. He died on the 26th of December, 1891, at the age of 33 years.

During the vacancy, the Norwegian pastor, J. B. Torrison, oversaw the mission with the assistance of several German brothers in the ministry. Under the supervision of this pastor, the congregation was organized with 7 members on January 19th, 1892.

In May of that year, this little congregation, encouraged by several German pastors in Chicago, called the brother of their sleeping pastor, Pastor H. J. G. Bartholomew from Franklin, PA. He accepted the call, and he was installed into his office on the 19th of January, 1892 by Pastor F. W. Herberger.

From the beginning, the conference of the German Evangelical Lutheran Pastors of Chicago took an active interest in this mission work. With the Norwegians, they founded founded a separate mission committee to support it. The pastors of the conference not only reported on this mission in their congregations but also arranged to gather a regular collection for this work of the Lord. From then on, the English congregation experienced the significant support of the German and Norwegian sister congregations.

Through the goodness of Pastor Kvaase’s previously mentioned church, this congregation had been put in the position to buy two lots on the corner of Hoyne Avenue and Augusta street on which they would build a church. On the 7th of may 1893, The cornerstone of the new house of God for the congregation could be laid, and in September of that year, the lower floor of the church building was completed so the divine service could be held there. Only two years later, the building of the church was finished.

November 10th 1895, which was also Luther’s birthday, was a great day of joy for the congregation when their beautiful brick church building could be festively dedicated. Many participants came from the German and Norwegian congregations. The president of the English Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri and other states, Pastor F. Kügele, preached in the chief divine service, Pastor J. B. Torrison– preacher of the Norwegian St. Paul congregation in Chicago– in the afternoon, and Professor F. König from Addison, Ill. held a lecture about the life and work of Doctor Martin Luther.

In this church, which had seating for 500 persons, preaching services are being held every Sunday, a quarter to 11 in the morning and a quarter to 8 in the evening. Presently, the congregation numbers 92 communicant members, and the Sunday school has an average attendance of 150 children.



James Huenink

A pastor, writer, historian, and photographer who lives in San Diego County, CA.