Chicago Lutheran History: Christ Lutheran Church, Humboldt Park- 1885

In 1896, the 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.

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I have found few records of Christ after a 1950’s book, The Lutheran Trail. I know that it closed, but I don’t know when. As best as I can tell, the site is now Salem Christian School, located at 2869 W McLean Ave. The architecture fits, and it’s on the same street as the pastor’s home in 1896.

Note: After publishing, a friend sent me to Chicago Ancestors, which claims Christ closed in 1991.

Evangelical Lutheran Christ Congregation

In the summer of the year 1882, the Evangelical Lutheran Bethlehem congregation (Pastor A. Reinke) built a mission school about one and half miles away from their church, in the new part of the city called, “Humboldt.” The same was dedicated on the 20th of August, 1882 by Pastor Reinke. On that day, the pastoral candidate, Mr. Ernst Werfelmann, who had been called as the associate pastor of Bethlehem congregation was ordained and installed. He was supposed to hold school and Divine Service in the new mission district. On the 21st of Aug., 1882, he began teaching with 17 children. On the 8th of March, 1885, this district was branched off from the mother congregation and 13 members who lived in the mission district were released. They constituted themselves as the “Evangelical Lutheran Christ Congregation.”

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Rev. Ernst Werfelmann, the first pastor of Christ Lutheran Church

This new congregation called the associate pastor of the mother congregation, Pastor E. Werfelmann, as their pastor, and he was installed in August 1885 by Pastor A. Reinke. The building of a church was decided and undertaken in earnest. On the 6th of June, 1885, the foundation stone was laid and the new church was dedicated on the 9th of August the same year. This first church was a wooden building 26 feet by 60 feet with a 50 foot tall tower. At the same time, a second schoolroom was built and a second class was set up. Teacher B. Steinbach, who was installed on the 29th of November, 1885, was called to the first class. The pastor taught the first class until a second teacher was gained, in April 1888, in the person of teacher O. Kolb, who was installed on the 8th of April 1888.

In the year 1890, the congregation had to undertake a second church building, since the previous church building was no longer large enough for them. In the beginning of June, the foundation stone for the new church was laid, and on the 23rd of November 1890, it was consecrated in the service of God. The building was 50 feet by 85 feet and had seats for some 1,000 persons. The principal tower had a height of 150 feet, and the smaller ones were 75 feet high. Including the inner furnishings, the church cost almost $18,000.

In the same year, the construction of a new, larger school had begun, and it ended in the spring of 1891. The cost amounted to $4,000. Since the two existing school classes were overcrowded, a third class was set up , which the pastor administered until Teacher Johannes Wagner was called as the third teacher in the year 1892. He was installed on the 14th of June 1892.

In the year 1891, the members of the congregation who lived in Avondale, and they founded Concordia congregation which stands there now.

In the month of May 1896, a strong blow struck the congregation, in which their church was completely consumed by fire from the night of the 29th until the 30th of May. On the 31st of May, this congregation also wanted to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Lutheran church in Chicago with her sister congregations with a celebratory divine service. Instead, the congregation met in the school house next to the remains of their house of God for a touching, sorrowful, and repentant divine service. In the beginning, the song, “When we are in utmost need,” (№387) was sung.

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When In The Hour Of Utmost Need, from the hymnal they used after the fire. Kirchen-Gesangbuch für Evangelisch Lutheranische Gemeinden, 1892

Hymn translation “When In The Hour of Utmost Need”:

When we are in the highest need
And know not where to turn
And find neither help nor counsel
Whether we search early or late

So this is our only comfort
That with one voice we
Cry out to you,O faithful God,
For rescue from fear and need

And we lift our eyes and hearts
To you in true repentance and grief
And we seek forgiveness of sin
And relief from punishment

Which you promise us by grace
Therefore we ask you
In the name of your son Jesus Christ
Who is our help and intercessor

Therefore, we come, O Lord God
And pour out all our trouble
Because we know stand indeed
In greater sorrow and peril

Do not look at our great sin
Speak to us yourself out of your grace
Be with us in our anguish
And make us free from all trouble

So that in our hearts we can
thank you, some day, with joy
In obedience to your word
Praising you always here and there

It was more like crying than singing. Pastor Werfelmann preached about the text: “Such things are done by the Lord of Sabaoth; because his counsel is wonderful and it guides us wonderfully” (Isaiah 28:29). The main idea of the emotional sermon was in short: God has taken our beautiful church from us, and it is because we deserve it. Our sin, disregard for his word, careless disregard for the divine service, have brought this disaster on us. By it, God calls us earnestly to repentance. If we follow this call, then comfort which lies in this text also applies to us: God guides us wonderfully. The pastor frequently had to stop speaking, because he was so emotional. It often was necessary for him to stop because of the congregation’s loud wailing. It will be unforgettable for everyone who was present at this divine service. In the afternoon, the congregation assembled for a congregational meeting, and they decided, trusting that God would graciously see them through it all, to undertake the cleanup of the building site and to begin a new construction as soon as it was possible.

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The caption reads, “The new Christ church, under construction”

The congregation had a debt of $19,000. Before the fire, the congregation’s property constituted a worth of $26,000.

140 voting members and 727 communicant members belong to the congregation. The school is attended by 225 children. The current teachers are: Teacher O. Kolb, Joh. Wagner, and Louis Steinbach.

A pastor, writer, and geek who lives in Chicago.

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