The Association of Downtown Lutheran Churches

The Association of Downtown Lutheran Churches

Archive for January, 2008

Downtown: Inaugural Issue – January, 2008

Posted by admin on January 31, 2008
A Quarterly Publication of the Association of Downtown Lutheran Churches
c/o Historic First Lutheran Church, 808 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena, CA 91104
Inaugural Issue – January, 2008


A warm welcome to this inaugural issue of “Downtown,” a new, quarterly newsletter full of interchange and exchange between downtown Lutheran churches across our great country!  As your editor, it’s my hope you’ll find this a helpful, powerful resource to further equip and empower your ministry in the great downtown.  As your editor, I can only accomplish that goal when you respond to the content of this newsletter and feed me information about what’s going on with your own particular ministry.  Responses, comments, constructive criticisms, etc. can be directed to .


The Association of Downtown Lutheran Churches was founded in 1996, an outgrowth of the great vision of Dr. David Eberhard at Historic Trinity, Detroit.  Besides myself, supporting vision for the Association has been provided through the years by Sam Goltermann (⊥), Dave Marth and King Schoenfeld of Historic Trinity, St. Louis, Del Pauling (now retired) of First St. Paul’s Chicago, Ron Wiese of Trinity, Memphis, and Ron Fink (now retired) of Trinity Downtown, Orlando.


This inaugural issue of “Downtown” is dedicated in loving memory of one of my great friends and mentors in life and ministry, The Reverend Dr. David V. Koch.  David was a truly metropolitan, downtown pastor.  His ministries across our great country showed and proved his pastoral, shepherding heart.  David served congregations in New York City, Shelbyville and Greenburg, IN, Washington, D.C., Milwaukee, Denver and Ann Arbor, MI.  In addition, he served The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod for 4 years as Chief Editor of Concordia Publishing House.  David was granted eternal rest from his labors on 27 September 2007, at the age of 68.  God’s peace and joy is being provided his wife, Ruth (of downtown Denver), his daughter and son-in-law, Anne and Scott (also of downtown Denver) and his daughter, Abby (of downtown Chicago) and three precious granddaughters.

If you have suggestions for future issues of “Downtown” to be dedicated in memory of other great veterans of downtown ministry, please do not hesitate to pass that information along to me at .


The great news I can share with you today is that downtowns across our great country are revitalizing at an amazingly rapid pace.  If your particular downtown region hasn’t yet benefitted from this trend, just hang on!  It’s on its way!

Remember the old Petula Clark song?  “When you’re alone and life is making you lonely you can always go DOWNTOWN.  When you’ve got worries, all the noise and the hurry seems to help, I know.  DOWNTOWN. Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city.  Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty. How can you lose?  The lights are much brighter there.  You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares, so go DOWNTOWN. Things will be great when you’re DOWNTOWN, no finer place for sure.  DOWNTOWN! Everything’s waiting for you.”

So many years after that song hit the charts, it’s becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Statistics tell us that, after many years of fleeing to the “‘burbs,” people are discovering anew the secret of their ancestors: “Downtown is the place to be!”

Why do we have the monstrous, cavernous church buildings downtown?  Because the streets and the houses used to be packed with people.  Excited reports I have received from downtown churches across the country have confirmed what I myself have experienced in downtown ministry.  There is again growth in our downtown churches.  Not all that growth is simply coming from people commuting back in from the “‘burbs.” A lot of that growth is happening because of all those people moving back into the lofts and apartments and condos located DOWNTOWN.  Property prices and quality of life issues are driving people back into our cities, back into our downtowns, back into our downtown churches.  Praise God!

Brothers and sisters in Christ: do you and your congregation have a plan for dealing with the repopulation of the city that is either happening around you right now or is guaranteed to happen around you within the next few years?  If you do, share those insights with the rest of us at .


Every time something gets mailed out on behalf of the Association of Downtown Lutheran Churches, I always get letters and e-mails asking that specific churches be removed from our contact lists.  The common refrain is “We’re not a ‘downtown’ church.”

Now I admit that there may indeed be some errors in our data base.  For the most part, however, our data has been carefully gathered from the District Presidents, the Bishops and the appropriate staff members of both the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.  These are people in the know.  We’ve not simply gone through annuals and picked churches that fall within certain zip codes.  Knowledgeable local church leaders have been asked to supply us with recommendations based upon specific criteria.

If you’re still not quite sure why you’re receiving this newsletter, please review the enclosed yellow flyer. For some reason, even if you disagree with your designation as a “downtown” church, know that someone has identified you for some reason as a “downtown” ministry. My own congregation is not technically “downtown,” but rather eight blocks north of “downtown” in what is known as the “first ring” of residential neighborhoods around downtown.  We fit so many of the other criteria that we have discovered what a joy it is to call ourselves a “downtown” church.

What I have learned during the past 14 years I’ve pastored a “downtown” church is that there is no such thing as a “typical” downtown church.  There is no one model.  There are no two look-a-likes.  Just because there’s something about another “downtown” church you don’t like doesn’t mean that you’re not a “downtown” church.

I have also learned that being a “downtown” church is nothing of which to be ashamed!   “Downtown” does not mean “depressed.”  “Downtown” does mean “declining.”  “Downtown” does not even mean “unsafe” or “undesirable.”  Those may be the perceptions of many people, but those in the know tell me that some of the most exciting mission and ministry in the world is happening right now in our downtowns.

What unique ministries have you “invented” or “reinvented” to meet the needs of people in your own specific circle of God’s Kingdom?  Email .


A great majority of those repopulating our cities are people born after 1970.  These are the people who have seen firsthand what stress and toil commuting in from the “‘burbs” have caused their parents.  These are the people who are becoming our newest neighbors.  Most of them are extremely computer savvy.  The computer is how they order their merchandise, how they find dates and spouses, how they make restaurant reservations and purchase movie tickets and even how they find their new church home.

What creative electronic outreaches have you created?  Have you effectively used on-line directories?  How about Craigslist?  Facebook?  My Space?  You Tube?  God Tube?  Share your experiences and ideas at .

There are some great “downtown” church websites out there that might give you some good ideas.  This month, check out,,, and  Check out these websites, then send your own website for others to peruse to .

The key to a great website is a great webmaster.  If there’s not at least one webmaster in your congregation (ask your high school or college age folks), consider advertising for one at a local high school or college.  It will be well worth your investment to join the great frontier of the world wide web.


At this point, Historic First Lutheran Church of Pasadena is underwriting the cost of the printing and mailing of this newsletter.    At this particular time, each of these newsletters cost about 25 cents.  That’s not a great expense, but multiply it by about 500 and you’re now starting to talk cost.  We’re not going to charge an annual subscription, but if you have found this an insightful tool, gifts of any size would be appreciated to help defray the ongoing cost of this resource.  You may make checks payable to Historic First Lutheran and mail to 808 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena, CA 91104, designated for “Downtown.”  Personal gifts will be receipted for tax purposes.  Individual and congregational donors will be acknowledged in future issues.


In closing, my sisters and brothers in Christ, my wish for each of you is simple: KEEP PREACHING THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST IN SEASON AND OUT OF SEASON FOR HE IT IS WHO IS THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE.

As you preach Him, may He bless you in all ways, enabling you to continue to bless those around you!

Joined with you serving Christ and His people,

The Reverend Christopher Schaar
Senior Pastor, Historic First Lutheran, Pasadena, CA