The Association of Downtown Lutheran Churches

The Association of Downtown Lutheran Churches

Archive for March, 2010

Downtown: Issue #8 – March, 2010

Posted by admin on March 25, 2010
A Quarterly Publication of The Association of Downtown Lutheran Churches
c/o Historic First Lutheran Church, 808 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena, CA 91104
Issue #8 – March, 2010

  4. THANKS!


A warm welcome to this issue of “Downtown,” a 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 celebrates the mission and ministry of the Lord through congregations in downtown neighborhoods, sharing and developing ideas and programs by communicating, networking and encouraging one another.”


Sometimes an outside ear can hear things that insiders can’t hear – or don’t want to hear. Sometimes an outside voice can say things that insiders can’t say – or don’t want to say.

With that in mind, Rev. Christopher Schaar, your editor and Leader of the Association of Downtown Lutheran Churches, has embarked on a new personal ministry.  He is making himself available as a consultant to downtown churches across the country.  With 16 years experience in downtown ministry, not counting the three years he spent as a Seminary student at Historic Trinity Church in St. Louis, Rev. Schaar hopes this new ministry might prove to be the turning point in the ministries of many downtown churches.

What Rev. Schaar envisions is the opportunity to sit down with the staff, leaders and members of downtown churches to listen to their hopes and fears of the present and the future, and provide encouragement and creative direction to them.  He will conduct advanced study on each specific ministry location, then meet with staff, leaders and members over several days, typically a Thursday through Sunday.  He will be available to lead Sunday morning adult Bible class and preach at worship services.  He will guide and mentor staff and leaders during the months following his visit, with the intent of better equipping and empowering downtown churches to overcome their fears and achieve their dreams.

This is offered to downtown churches and ministries at no consultation cost.  Rev. Schaar does ask for reimbursement for his out-of-pocket expenses, including airfare, hotel and rental car (to enable him to survey the area on his own).  Only a couple of these consultations are available annually.

Interested downtown churches are encouraged to contact Rev. Schaar at .


Since the distribution of our last newsletter, the following downtown ministries have graciously added the Association to their newsletter mailing lists or have added the Association to their electronic distribution list, listed here in alphabetical order:

“Grace Notes,” Grace Lutheran, Springfield, IL;

“The News Around First,” First Lutheran, Chattanooga TN;

“The Word,” St. Paul Lutheran, Austin, TX

That leaves only about 400 of you out there still to share your news with the Association.  Please rest assured that every single newsletter received IS INDEED READ, with information gleaned to be included in future issues of “Downtown.”

If you’ve not yet added the Association, won’t you please do so today?  If your congregation publishes a printed newsletter, would you please add us to your mailing list?  Please address them to Rev. Christopher Schaar, Historic First Lutheran, 808 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena, CA   91104-4317.  If your congregation publishes an electronic newsletter, would you please add us to your e-dis list?  Please send them to .  If your e-news requires an email address to subscribe to receive your newsletter, please send notice of that fact to and we will make sure we subscribe.


The Downtown Ministerium’s winter event (a one-day “winter Vacation Bible School”) for children in kindergarten through sixth grade (with youth in grades 7-12 serving as camp counselors) was held on 27 February at First Lutheran Church of Pittsburgh.  Under the theme “Fire and Ice,” during the morning the children learned about Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush through music, crafts and other activities.  During the afternoon, the campers went ice skating at PPG Place.  The suggested donation of $15.00 included a t-shirt, lunch and ice skating.  Scholarships were available for cases of financial need.

A member of the ELCA, more information about First Lutheran’s outreach to downtown Pittsburgh can be found at .


An intentional merger of two historic downtown churches, Bethel Grace Lutheran Ministries proves how diverse is today’s great downtown!   A recent review of their members and friends who attend regularly showed that they are indeed a very diverse group of believers.  Of the 115 people, 37 are Caucasian, 36 are African American, 35 are Asian, 4 are Hispanic and 2 are in the “other” category.  Pastor Terry Chan notes, “Not many congregations are so well mixed but it reminds us that this diversity is a picture of what Heaven will look like one day.”

A member of the LCMS, more information about Bethel Grace Lutheran Ministries’ outreach to downtown San Francisco can be found at .


“Bloom where you’re planted!”  That’s exactly what Historic Trinity Lutheran has been doing for the past 161 years it’s been located on the south side of downtown St. Louis, including since 1864 at the corner of 8th and Soulard.  Historic Trinity has ridden the wave of regentrification in it’s immediate neighborhood over the past 20 years.  In addition, capitalizing on its status as the “Mother Church” of the entire St. Louis area and The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, Historic Trinity has also seen the influx of new members who drive into the city from the suburbs.  “Blooming where it’s been planted” perfectly describes the mission and ministry of Historic Trinity Church.

But all the growth and vitality at its current location hasn’t kept the leaders and members of Historic Trinity from dreaming about the present and future.   A few years ago, the realization was made that the entire central core of downtown St. Louis was absent any Lutheran presence.  Even 20 years ago that would not have been important as the central core was simply the home to large offices and abandoned warehouses, a virtual ghost town on evenings and weekends.  More recently, though, a thriving loft district has flourished in the central core, with lots of younger singles and newlyweds buying or renting the newly developed residential lofts.

To meet the spiritual needs of those new inhabitants of downtown St. Louis, Historic Trinity founded “Vintage 10,” a second-site ministry about 10 minutes from Historic Trinity, in the very heart of the loft district.  The “Vintage 10″ ministry, led by Historic Trinity’s Associate Pastor, Rev. Jason Rust, moved on All Saints’ Day 2009 into its first permanent worship location, located under a newly opened wine bar.  A unique partnership was effected between Historic Trinity and the wine bar owner, which provided some financing to the owner through a loan secured from the Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF).  “Vintage 10″ is distinctively contemporary in its approach to worship and ministry, while retaining historic Christianity (thus the name “Vintage”).  “Vintage 10″ worshipers are definitely post-modern in their thinking.

This is a wonderful example of “Blooming where you’re Planted” while also being concerned about the “garden opportunities” in other areas of the city.

A member of the LCMS, more information about Historic Trinity Lutheran’s outreach to downtown St. Louis can be found at .    More information specifically about Vintage 10 can be found at .


Probably the only Lutheran church located within the boundaries of a National Park (The Lincoln Home Historic Site), Grace Lutheran tackled a common, recurrent problem facing all downtown churches and rose to the challenge a few years ago to purchase a small (60 space) public parking lot across the street from the church, at great cost (approximately $500,000.).

Ultimate dreams for that property include the construction of underground parking with a several story building on top, housing a creative multi-purpose area for worship, meetings, and child care.  Apartments for senior members of the congregation would be on the floor above that.

Meanwhile, Grace Church rents the majority of the spaces on a monthly permit basis to those working in downtown Springfield (this income is considered “unrelated business income” and is subject to income tax by the congregation). Some parking spaces are reserved 24/7 for Grace Church staff and visitors.

The property is also currently used as a unique ministry.  Senior Pastor, Rev. Tom Christell, and his wife were vacationing in a tourist area some time back when they happened upon a church parking lot manned by an older gentleman, sitting in front of a sign “Parking Lot Ministry.” The man explained to Pastor Christell that his volunteer efforts raised money for his church that owned the parking lot. A “copy-cat” idea was spawned in Pastor Christell’s mind and he has started “Pastor’s Parking Lot Ministry.” He mans the parking lot on Saturdays when big events are happening in Springfield, including President Barack Obama’s announcement of Vice-President Joe Biden  as his running mate from the steps of the Old State Capitol. A tax-deductible receipt is issued parkers, with the fee called a donation to Grace Church. Such donations are deposited into a discretionary fund to assist the costs of Grace Church’s mission outreaches.

[As an avid student of history, the editor would be remiss not to mention that Grace’s founding pastor, Rev. Francis Springer, was a neighbor of President Abraham Lincoln immediately prior to his election as our 16th President. The editor was recently hosted by Pastor Christell and received a personal tour of Grace Church and the Lincoln Home Site.]

Grace Church was just named a “Sesquicentennial Church” by  the Illinois State Historical Society. A sesquicentennial church has the distinction of being an active, operating congregation for at least 150 years. Grace is naturally the mother and grandmother church to many Lutheran (ELCA and LCMS) congregations in Springfield.

A member of the ELCA, more information about Grace Lutheran’s outreach to downtown Springfield can be obtained by contacting Pastor Christell at [Their web site is currently under re-construction].


About a year ago, an effective new model was developed in Seattle to discover and minister to Lutheran students attending the University of Washington.  That new model is called “Chapel on the Ave.,” served by Director of Student Ministries, Andrew Potsko.  Starting in the traditional way of talking with Lutheran congregations within the Northwest District of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, identifying their college-age students attending the University, a unique new challenge has fallen into their grasp.  The Husky Union Building will be closing for renovations on 14 June this year, leaving students to search for alternative places to relax and study.  Exponential growth is anticipated at the Chapel by simply opening their doors to these displaced students.  Not only can they offer a safe and quiet place to hang out, but also a place to find something more.  The hope is that students wandering in to use the computer will find them asking about God also!

A ministry outreach of the LCMS, more information about Chapel on the Ave.’s outreach to downtown Seattle can be found at .


Trinity Episcopal Cathedral held a Lenten Eucharist on Saturday 13 March set to the music of “The Boss,” Bruce Springsteen.  The service featured an assortment of instruments and intergenerational musicians leading the service using Springsteen’s unique songs of struggle, redemption, courage and hope.  The offering collected benefitted Trinity’s Food Pantry, which served nearly 20,000 people in 2009.

More information about Trinity Episcopal Cathedral’s outreach to downtown Portland can be found at .


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 IS THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE.

As you preach Jesus, 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