First Evangelical Lutheran Church — A History

What was happening in the year 1862? The American Civil War was raging to the south of us. The Emancipation Proclamation freed American slaves that year. Victor Hugo published Les Misérables. Stephen Foster published the song The Merry, Merry Month of May. Julia Ward Howe published The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Composer Claude Debussy was born. Symbolist painter Gustav Klimt was also born that year. Confederation wouldn’t happen for Canada for another 5 years.

And on Palm Sunday of the year 1862, April 13, St. Paul’s Lutheran parish in Humberstone was organized. Originally services were held in a Methodist Episcopal chapel on Erie Street until they could build their own church at our current location. The first church building on this site was completed at the end of 1863 and dedicated on January 24, 1864. On August 3, 1867 two acres of land in the outlying community of Bethel were bought from widow Maria Overholzer for 150 dollars to become St. Paul’s Cemetery.

In the early decades of the church’s history, worship was in the German language. In 1902 some English speaking Lutherans founded their own congregation, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, a couple of blocks away on King Street. By the 1920s the two congregations, St. Paul’s and Holy Trinity, were both worshiping in English and decided to amalgamate. The two congregations became First Lutheran Church, worshiping in the St. Paul’s Church building and keeping the Holy Trinity building to serve as the church hall and Sunday School.

In 1940-41 the church building was renovated and expanded. In 1952 a parsonage was built on the lot to the north of the church building. In 1954 a church hall and Sunday School building were built at which time the former Holy Trinity building was sold. That building on King Street has had various different tenants and still stands as a variety store. In 1985 an office wing was built.

When looking back over our history we can often feel a sense of pride. But then we might consider that “pride” is one of the Seven Deadly Sins, actually considered the original and most serious of the seven. Instead of pride, which could be equated with boastfulness and conceit, we ought to look back on our history with thankfulness.

We give thanks for the faithful members of St. Paul’s, Holy Trinity, and First Lutheran churches who have served their Lord, his church, and the world. We give thanks for the witness of pastors and members through the years. Most of all we give thanks to God whose love and grace have sustained us this far and who continues with us in our present and future ministry. We let our thanks be heard as praise to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Praise to the Lord! Oh, let all that is in me adore him!
All that has life and breath, come now with praises before him!
Let the amen sound from his people again.
Gladly forever adore him!
Joachim Neander, 1650-1690;
tr. Catherine Winkworth, 1827-1878