NOTICE: We now have a full website dedicated to the preservation and archiving of the history of First Lutheran in Galveston! Please visit: FirstLutheranGalveston.com/history
First Lutheran Church of Galveston History
In the mid 1800’s many of the early colonists that came to Texas were Lutheran. The beginning of First Ev. Lutheran can be traced back to one of these colonists writing to the Seminary of Saint Christchona near Basel, Switzerland and complaining of a lack of spiritual leadership on the island.[/ezcol_2third_end]
This letter resulted in the seminary sending two Lutheran pastors to Texas.
These two pastors organized Galveston families into what would become, in the fall of 1850, the First German Evangelical Church.
In Galveston during that time, the center of culture was the Lyceum Hall, located on the corner of Winnie and Bath Avenue (25th Street). It was in the Lyceum that early services were held. This Lyceum still sits on the church grounds today and its cornerstone still reads,
Knowledge is Power
which reminds us of the great scriptural truth,
And the truth shall make you free.
With the year 1900, first Lutheran would celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of its founding. The anniversary event never was held, for in September, Galveston suffered the great 1900 storm. The editor of the Tribune describes First Lutheran on that never-to-be-forgotten Sunday that followed September 8, 1900:
Go with me over heaps of ruined homes to the churches – the German Lutheran church has much damage to the interior furnishings, but the old Lyceum is in perfect order and is a shelter for the homeless and desolate.
During that difficult time – as today – First Lutheran played a part in serving the needs of the people of Galveston.
From the original building, a new structure was constructed in 1915. The building still stands today as a reminder of the earliest history of the congregation.
First Lutheran was responsible for several missions on the island:
- The Bethany mission was founded in 1916
- a west end mission that later became St. Paul’s in 1929
- Pastors from First Lutheran founded St. John’s in Santa Fe, Texas and in 1949, for the first time, all services were held in English
In November of 1945 the church vestry voted to
Build a fitting and worthy project to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First Lutheran Church’s splendid contribution to the up building of God’s Kingdom in our beloved city.
It took many years of hard work but on June 23, 1957 groundbreaking ceremonies were held for the sanctuary that the congregation worships in today. February 1, 1959 the newly completed church was dedicated.
The structure features massive stone walls, jeweled windows, and a rich wooden interior of Gothic design. A sacristy and a 41 rank Freiburger, tracker action, pipe organ have since been added.
In 1984, First Lutheran Church was entered into the National Register of Historical Places as the oldest Lutheran parish of German origin in Texas with a continuous ministry.
First Lutheran remains a place where people can be loved and cared for, and a place where people can find the compassion and acceptance of Jesus. A place where the Gospel is alive!
Come and visit us, regardless of your beliefs and background, as we continue today to keep the Gospel alive through worship of God and love to others!