History of First Lutheran Church

Early Years

First Lutheran Church had its beginnings in 1899 as a mission congregation started by steel workers and their families, relocated from Pennsylvania by a flood. The congregation first met in a school building at the current intersection of Reid and 21st. In 1903 the congregation moved to the KOTM Hall on Broadway Ave., and constituted itself as First English Evangelical Lutheran Church (the mission congregation had also held services in German). In 1907 the congregation purchased the property on the corner of 6th and Washington. The church grew, and in 1924 the construction started on a new building. In the midst of the construction, the great Lorain tornado of 1924 hit. The church was spared most damage, and immediately opened an emergency soup kitchen, showing the care for the community for which it is still known.


Mid Century

After the struggles of the Great Depression, the church renewed itself in the 30's with new programs and increased membership. The 40's saw attention given to servicemen in World War II and the burning of the church mortgage. Pastor Harry Snyder provided strong leadership to the church in the 50's. Membership increased even more, an adjacent property was purchased, and an additional service was added. A new education wing was added to the church in the 60's, under the leadership of Pastor Rober Boettger. David Boe started his 40-year tenure as Director of Music in 1961, and was the driving force behind the church's purchase of a Brombaugh pipe organ, installed in 1970. In the 70's the sanctuary was remodeled, and a Meals on Wheels program was started (which functioned until 2011).



Pastor Woody Chamberlain arrived in 1981, forming a co-pastorate with Pastor Jimmy Madsen, who had been Associate Pastor since 1979. Their cooperative ministry, lasting over 30 years, has been a model for how team ministry can work, and has been a large influence on the congregation. New programs in the 80's included a summer day camp for children, LEAF, Lorain Cooperative Ministry, and the Free Clinic. The church property was renovated again in the 90's: air conditioning and a elevator were installed inside, and the rest of the property on the block was purchased and made into parking space. The church's mission in Ghana began in the 90's, and an endowment fund was established. In the 21st century First Lutheran has continued to grow and change. Family Promise and FIRST•music are new programs that serve the community, and the expansion of the Director of Music position has continued the church's focus on excellence in worship and music. In 2013 Pastor Woody retired, bringing this era of the congregation's history to a close.


Fire and New Building

The 2014 fire marks another turning point for First Lutheran. The congregation remained strong and continued its ministries over the three years of rebuilding, dedicating the new building at 1019 West Fifth Street in 2017. Also that year, Pastor Rosy Rivera was installed and Pastor Jimmy retired.

More Details

A thorough history of the church was compiled in 2003, First Lutheran's 100th anniversary. You can view a pdf version here.