The Association of Downtown Lutheran Churches

The Association of Downtown Lutheran Churches

Archive for November, 2016

Downtown Issue # 31 – November, 2016

Posted by admin on November 6, 2016

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 #31– November, 2016




A warm welcome to this issue of “Downtown,” a newsletter full of interchange and exchange between downtown Lutheran churches around 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 sent 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.”



While not a downtown pastor for most of his long ministry, The Reverend Vernon Gundermann (1937-2016) spent the last years of his life and ministry serving as the interim / vacancy pastor at Historic Trinity Lutheran in downtown St. Louis, MO.  Vern recently succumbed to the ravages of ALS.  This issue of “Downtown” is lovingly dedicated in his memory.

If you have suggestions for future issues of “Downtown” to be dedicated in memory of other great veterans of downtown ministry, please contact .



Please include in your personal and corporate prayers the following vacant, calling downtown ministries:
    Augustana Lutheran / La Comunidad de Santa Maria (ELCA), downtown Washington, DC  (pastor)
    First Lutheran (ELCA), downtown San Diego, CA
    First Good Shepherd Lutheran (LCMS), downtown Las Vegas, NV (pastor)
    Historic Trinity Lutheran (LCMS), downtown St. Louis MO (senior pastor)
    Trinity Lutheran (LCMS), downtown Orlando, FL (senior pastor)           
    St. John Lutheran (ELCA), downtown Albany, NY (pastor)
    St. Paul Lutheran (ELCA) and Roman Catholic Community of Faith, downtown Denver, CO (Lutheran pastor)

If you have a vacancy you desire added to our prayers please send notice to .



St. Paul Lutheran (LCMS), downtown Raritan, NJ, is happy to welcome Pastor Joseph Weatherell as its new pastor.  His installation was on Saturday 1 October.  We welcome Pastor Weatherell to the exciting mission and ministry in the “great downtown!”



Historic Trinity Lutheran (LCMS), downtown Detroit, MI, recently  honored Mr. Karl Osterland for his 25 years of service as Music Director.  The choir remembered him with a surprise party after rehearsal on Wednesday 28 September.  The congregation remembered his 25 years of service with prayers and a reception on Sunday 1 October.  Reflecting on his ministry at Historic Trinity, Karl commented: “The people are super.  The building is gorgeous.  And Skinner Opus 808 is truly lovely.  Soli Deo Gloria!”  Karl has now dubbed himself the “Historic Organist at Historic Trinity!”

Thanks, Karl, for your ministry of music!  Wishing you many more years of fruitful, inspirational ministry!   
Historic First Lutheran (LCMS), downtown Pasadena, CA, will celebrate its 125th Anniversary, as well as the 80th Anniversary of its historic landmark church building, during 2017.  Events begin on 31 December 2016 as The Reverend Dr. Dale A. Meyer, President of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO, preaches to ring in the New Year.  The Reverend Dr. Larry A. Stoterau, Bishop / District President of the Pacific Southwest District, preaches on Sunday 22 January 2017.  Other events are scheduled on 26 February, 30 April, 4 June, 15 October and 3 December, each featuring a former pastor or son of the congregation in the pulpit.  For more information, contact or check out .



It’s fascinating not only to see what downtown churches are up to in mission and ministry but also just as interesting how they define their mission in their respective communities. Here are a couple more mission statements of different downtown churches:

Bethlehem Community Church (LCMS), downtown Euclid, OH: “Joyfully Celebrating and Passionately Sharing Life in Jesus Christ.”

First Good Shepherd Lutheran (LCMS), downtown Las Vegas, NV: “Connecting People to Christ and One Another.”

Historic Trinity Lutheran (LCMS), downtown St. Louis, MO: “A Loving, Christ-Centered Community Actively Reaching Out to All People.”

St. John Lutheran (ELCA), downtown Des Moines, IA: “In the City for Good.”

St. Paul Lutheran (LCMS), downtown Austin, TX: “The Mission of St. Paul is to spread and model the Good News of Jesus with our members, the community, and the world.”

What is your congregation doing to celebrate Reformation 500 in 2017?  Special services?  Special service projects?  Special trips?  Special offerings?  Special joint events?  Send your plans to .



The good folks at Grace Lutheran in downtown Tulsa recently did something to remind the rest of us of the need to always be forward-thinking.  Like almost every downtown church, Grace struggles with the chronic downtown problem of parking.  So, when a home across the street fell into decline and became available for purchase, Grace moved into action.  The property has been purchased.  The now-eyesore, potentially dangerous house will be demolished.  Eventually expanded parking will occupy the space.

What creative solutions has your congregation developed to remedy your parking problem?  Send your stories to

A member of the LCMS, more information about Grace Lutheran’s outreach to downtown Tulsa can be found at .



We all have too much “stuff.”  We all have people in our communities much less fortunate who could use our “stuff.” 

Combining those two statements, St. John Lutheran in downtown Albany hosted a “Come and Get It” event during October.  Church members were encouraged to clean their closets, bringing their fall and winter clothing, as well as toys, books, and household goods for people of their community to take at no charge.  Yes….think rummage sale with no money exchanging hands.  It cleans the closets while creating connections with the community!

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



“Let the little children come.”  “Feed My Sheep.”  “Unless you receive Me like a little child.”  “Go.  Baptize.  Teach.”

These words of Jesus are all very clear! They are words taken seriously around St. Paul Lutheran in downtown Austin.  They are words that are also celebrated joyously!

Featured top and center in the October issue of “The Word,” the monthly newsletter of St. Paul, was the headline “Welcome, Presley and Taylor!”  These 7th and 6th Grade sisters have attended St. Paul’s School since last year.  With strong support from friends, teachers and classmates they were baptized during school chapel services on Holy Cross Day, 14 September!

The editor of the newsletter comments: “This is a wonderful example of how St. Paul Church and School are fulfilling its mission to share the Gospel and bring others to saving faith.  St. Paul congregation is to be encouraged and gratified, lifting prayers of thanksgiving for Presley and Taylor.”   Can I hear an “Amen”?

A member of the LCMS, more information about St. Paul Lutheran’s outreach to downtown Austin can be found at .



Jesus made it clear: servanthood defines the life of His people.

So many call children and youth the “future” of the Church.  In reality, children and youth are the “present” of the Church from the moment of their baptism into the death and Resurrection of Jesus.

That’s why Historic Trinity Lutheran in downtown St. Louis is planning a return visit in July, 2017 to be part of Idaho Servant Adventures (  Besides lots of fun (a MUST for all youth events), servanthood is modeled and practiced.  Through the years, tens of thousands of hours of volunteer service has been provided to the under-served people, organizations, and communities as the hands and feet of Jesus.  As ISA advertises, it is a “Simple, significant and outrageous outdoor adventure for youth groups from around the country!”

What does your congregation do to confirm that children and youth are the “present” of the Church?  What opportunities does your congregation provide your children and youth to develop servant leadership for the present and future?  Send your stories to .

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



One of the basic definitions of the downtown church is not only that it is located in the greater downtown but that it serves as the “Mother” or “Grandmother” church to the local region.  As such, downtown churches often become the repositories of sacred history.
That’s why Historic First Lutheran in downtown Pasadena recently jumped into action when it heard that the 91-year-old steeple Cross from the former Bethany Lutheran in downtown Hollywood had been removed as part of a developer’s re-purposing of the building into office space.  All the other sacred “stuff” had already been long removed – the altar, pulpit, lectern, organ, pews, capstone Cross and – sadly – the gorgeous 1925-vintage stained glass windows.  But when Historic First Lutheran was notified the steeple Cross had been removed and was standing alongside the building (probably destined for the dump or metal recycler), it jumped into action and secured permission from the developer to obtain the Cross for historical preservation and display.  The 8′ tall Cross is destined for prominent positioning in “Holy Cross Hall,” a large room already displaying more than 50 Crosses from around the world.  A memorial plaque will be installed recognizing the 91-years the Cross stood high over Sunset Boulevard, making it clear why Bethany Church was there.

How has your congregation become the repository of sacred items rescued from daughter or sister churches?  Send your stories to .

A member of the LCMS, more information about Historic First Lutheran’s outreach to downtown St. Louis can be found at .



(The following article was submitted to us.  Recognizing there is a divergence of opinion and
 practice on this topic, we welcome your responses to

Explanation received when this article was submitted – “Like many downtown churches, we are the haven or target for men and women who call the streets ‘home.’  It is unfortunate that many of our church goers throughout the city consider the people who live in cars, hotels, temporary shelters, wooded lots, sleep behind abandoned buildings or in the shelter of a highway underpass, nuisance “thems” or “panhandlers.”  Because we are a city where outdoor elements are not too extreme, the population of homeless people looking for a handout is quite large.  In a recent edition of our weekly newsletter, I published the following article that may be exactly what other downtown churches experience and can use or at least a sharing of the way we choose to share what we have – as Peter shared with the lame beggar: the Name of Jesus and the Word of God.”

“For the past couple of Sundays, one or two of  Orlando’s chronic homeless men and women came to church.  Unfortunately, their desire was to pull the heartstrings of Trinity members rather than feel God’s heart touching them.

After you park your car and begin to exit the garage or cross the street, you may come face to face with a person asking for bus fare.  Her feet are sore; she is only $2.00 short; he asked at the other church; he can’t find anyone who acts like a Christian should.  You are the one person God is using to touch certain lives as His witness. Always be aware of the opportunity to connect someone to Jesus with compassion and mercy.

Please DO NOT give money.  It is tempting to pull the couple of dollar bills out of your pocket and hand it over so “that panhandler” or “they” will go away, but do not give money.  There is no such thing as a one time gift.  If you have it the first Sunday, then you will have it the second Sunday and the third and the fourth, etc.

DO listen actively.  You will likely hear the same story over and over and over again.  Be sympathetic, especially when you say you cannot give any cash.  Be firm but gentle when you say “I am sorry, but I do not give cash.  Our church financially supports Christian Service Center, Compassion Corner, and IDignity to offer you the help you need.”

DO invite the person to come inside.  Help him or her find a seat, hand them a worship folder and open the hymnal to the worship order of service.  But, do not promise money or offer anything other than peace of mind for an hour.

DO offer directions to the Christian Service Center on Central Blvd. for a FREE meal. Sunday’s the meal is served beginning at 11:00 a.m.  The Daily Bread program was established at the Christian Service Center in 1975 with a goal that no person in Central Florida would struggle with hunger.  Daily Bread has offered a free nourishing noontime meal to anyone in the community who is hungry.  On the usher table in the narthex, you will find a basket with pocket cards that are distributed by Homeless Services Network.  Carry some in your wallet or purse.  DO give this card to someone who approaches you with his or her story.  There is a listing of where to find shelter, where to find meals, and where to locate agencies that might be able to help.

DO learn how Trinity is working in our community to help our Lord’s hurting and poor people on the edges of society.  There are brochures in our tract rack in the narthex for all the following:

IDignity – Trinity Church was one of five founding churches to address the difficult process that poor and homeless persons struggle through in obtaining a necessary federally approved identification card.  Without an ID, no social services are available.

Christian Service Center – Again, Trinity congregation participated in establishing an organization that now serves families and individuals who truly want a hand up.  Case workers meet clients every day to help with plans for a fresh start.  There is a food bank and clothing store available for anyone who will meet with a caseworker and qualifies for the hand up.  SIX DAYS a week, Daily Bread serves hundreds of people FREE lunch.  An intentionally high protein and carbohydrate meal is served free to anyone who comes Monday through Friday noon until 1:00 p.m. and on Sunday 11:00 a.m. to noon.

Compassion Corner – This is a ministry begun by First Presbyterian Church of Orlando.  Trinity offers a discounted rent for the small building located at 425 N. Magnolia.  Monday through Thursday, Compassion Corner shares daily Bible study classes, a hot cup of coffee, and listening ears and guidance from trained volunteers. Donations of clean socks, reading glasses, and small toiletries are made available to anyone in need.  Compassion Corner does not offer services or funding on a regular basis.

Good News Breakfast and Worship – Organized by Central Care Mission and First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, The Good News Breakfast is an outreach ministry of Central Care Mission and an opportunity for community volunteers to make a difference to the homeless and at-risk of downtown Orlando.  Service time begins at 4:45 a.m. and ends at 8:00 a.m. with clean up.  In between there is a hearty meal and message of hope during a worship service for 150 or more men and women who have probably slept outside the night before.

– Deaconess Liz Borth
Trinity Lutheran Church & School, 123 East Livingston, Orlando, Florida  32801.



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