Chicago Lutheran History: St. Luke Evangelical Lutheran Church U. A. C.- 1884

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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Many of the churches, see Zion in Washington Height’s story in particular, in this series struggled through a conflict between the Lutheran Church––Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the Ohio Synod over predestination. St. Luke Lutheran Church’s story illuminates a tragic split in the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod’s recent history.

In the 1970’s, the LCMS was split by another controversy over the approach to the Bible. Many churches left the LCMS, and they eventually joined with several other synods to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The divergent approaches to Holy Scripture led the LCMS [note: I am a pastor in the LCMS] and the ELCA down sharply divergent paths in theology and practice.

Still, St. Luke is also an example of creativity in ministry. They built an assisted living home focused on providing affordable living to seniors. Churches founded Lutheran schools to meet their neighborhoods needs. Now that these schools are in less demand, the same principle led St. Luke to offer affordable housing in their neighborhood.

Evangelical Lutheran St. Luke Congregation

This congregation is a daughter of St. James congregation. After their associate pastor, Pastor J. E. A. Müller, had taught and preached for two years in the mission school on the corner of Hoyne and Wellington Avenues, the number of school children and church goers had become so large that it seemed urgent to found an independent congregation there. To that end, 34 members of St. James congregation received a peaceful release, and they organized themselves as St. Luke Congregation U. A. C. on the 20th of January, 1884.

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The exterior of St. James Lutheran Church, St. Luke’s mother church.

The once associate pastor of St. James congregation, Pastor Müller, was called by the new congregation. At once, they also decided to build a church, specifically out of brick, since the same were given to the congregation. Unfortunately, there was division during the choice of the building site. So, several members of the congregation left, and they went to the Union church.* But the faithful God placed his protective hand over the young congregation. They built their church at the right place, the corner of Belmont Ave. and Perry St., in the middle of Lake View and the congregation’s district. Admittedly, it didn’t look like the site was in the middle of the congregation’s area, because the church was built in the middle of a cabbage patch. But within ten years, the church was surrounded by many miles of beautiful homes.

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A side entrance to St. Luke. Photo courtesy of Sean Birmingham

The church was not built as large as the image shows, but it was built for their needs at the time. Only the front part is now the same. On the 5th of October 1884, the church was festively dedicated at two Divine Services. Pastors E. Brauer and A. Reinke were the festival preachers.. The organ, equipped with 11 registers, was installed several weeks later. In the same year, before the church was completed, the congregation had built and consecrated a new school with a teacher’s apartment in a second school district, at Diversey near Southport Avenue. But later, this school was relocated to the church.

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Many Lutheran churches have U. A. C. in their names. It stands for Unaltered Augsburg Confession, a reference to a theological controversy in the generation after Martin Luther.

The church had been open for three years, and already it had become too small. Since the congregation had needed to build a new school, their debt was immense. But, trusting in God, who had so richly blessed the growth of the congregation, the church was enlarged to double the size, so the expanded church now offered seats for 1,250 persons. Because of the transepts, the church changed into a cross-shaped church with an altar niche and side pulpit. On the 11th of November, 1888, the enlarged and beautified church was newly consecrated.

The congregation’s oldest school, inherited from the mother congregation, was sold because of its inconvenient location and in its place a beautiful brick school, with an apartment for the teacher, was erected. It was dedicated on the 16th of November, 1890.

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The entrance to St. Luke’s current school building. Photo courtesy of Sean Birmingham

Over the course of the year, the congregation had to buy three lots in addition to the five church lots on Belmont Ave. Near the church there were now: a four-classroom brick school, two teacher apartments, and a building for five classes with a teacher’s apartment. The clubs have set up a meeting hall under the church.

In the year 1889, the church received three beautiful bells. Three years later (1892), the inside of the church was repainted by the clubs of the congregation, the niche was set up with an intricate oil painting, representing Christ’s resurrection, so that the St. Luke’s church also made a wonderful impression from the inside.

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Clubs and societies were an important part of the social structure of these immigrant churches. They offered a place to belong when their extended families lived across the ocean.

After this, in the year 1893, the congregation had erected a mission school in their neighborhood to the north, which the called associate pastor, Pastor W. Ganske, oversees. It is surely finished with construction and it can now work all the more on its internal development.

The St. Luke congregation numbered 286 voting members and 1,300 communicant members, and it had 490 school children in two schools, at which the following six teachers taught: W. Burhop, R. Leinberger, C. Schwanke, H. Baumgart, C. Decker, and H. Borchers.

*Editor’s note: A union church is a congregation of both the Reformed and Lutheran traditions. These churches were common on the frontier, especially when there weren’t enough Lutherans or Reformed to form independent congregations.

A pastor, writer, and geek who lives in Chicago. https://jameshuenink.wordpress.com

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