The Lutheran Church has used the house church model in order to start churches. In Grace and Blessing (Malinsky) there is information concerning the beginnings of many churches in the Ontario District. Much of the information that follows was taken from that work. (In order to read the story of house churches in the 19th century, visit the blog posting of January 24th.)
The Twentieth Century
Similar stories can be told for countless other Lutheran congregations in Ontario formed in the twentieth century. For example:
1. St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Simcoe, held their first services (1940’s) in Steele’s Hall but soon moved to the O. E. S. Hall. After the congregation grew in numbers they rented the Parish Hall of Trinity Anglican Church. They dedicated a church building in October 17, 1948 (Ibid. 56).
2. Christ Lutheran Church, St. Catherines, had its beginnings in December, 1912. This group initially worshipped in the Standard Hall on Queen Street. By 1914 they purchased a building and remodeled it for church purposes (Ibid. 57).
3. A Lutheran congregation was planted in Niagara Falls in October 1930. During the early years they held Sunday School and worshipped in Adoniram Hall. They erected a chapel in 1934 (Ibid. 58).
4. In 1924 Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hamilton conducted services in a vacant store in the East Side of the city until 1928 when they dedicated their church building (Ibid. 58-59).
5. Another mission was started in Hamilton in 1964 by Rev. Edward Koehler “on the mountain.” Worship services were initially held in a public school with meetings in the parsonage basement. Within a year Pilgrim Lutheran Church was organized (Threinen 1989:126).
6. Trinity Lutheran Church, Toronto moved from place to place in its infancy. Services were first held in the basement of St. John’s Lutheran Church in 1931. In 1932 the congregation moved to its own quarters where the parlor and living room had been converted into a chapel (Ibid. 83-84). The following year the congregation rented quarters on Simcoe Street but soon moved to a Chinese Mission Chapel until 1945 when the congregation moved into its own basement church on Sherbourne Street near Bloor. In 1952 this place of worship received its “crown” when the church building was completed (Malinsky 59).
7. Beginning in 1928 Grace Lutheran Church, Oshawa, conducted worship services in various places, including a local funeral parlor and lodge hall. A church building was dedicated in 1931 (Ibid. 60).
8. St. John’s Lutheran Church, Toronto, started when four communicants interested in establishing a church requested services in 1902. Services were held in a store. Six months after the first service the average attendance was twelve. Gradually the congregation grew so they moved to a hall on Queen and Spadina and moved again to a hall on Spadina near College Street. In March 24, 1912 the congregation dedicated a church building.
9. In 1955 a mission was started in a Toronto suburb, Thistletown (Etobicoke). Seminary graduate Albin Stanfel began the mission. Services were held in a public school initially. Within six months a two-story house had been purchased by the District,
which provided living quarters for the missionary and his family on the second floor, worship facilities on the main floor, and meeting space in the basement. A church was built four years later. (Threinen 1989:124)
10. In 1960 a new mission, later called Prince of Peace, was planted in Burlington. Under the direction of Rev. Ken Zorn the congregation worshipped in a public school for a year and then dedicated a temporary chapel (Ibid. 125).
11. In 1934-1935 three Missouri Synod Lutherans met in a home to discuss the possibility of starting a church in Waterloo. The result of the meeting was that forty-two communicant members and nine baptized members were peacefully released from St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Kitchener to form a small house church that met in the town hall of Waterloo for services. On May 13, 1935, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Waterloo, was officially organized in a meeting held in the home of one of the members. In 1937 a basement church was built and opened for worship on June 20, 1937 (Malinsky 64). Threinen mentions Redeemer’s first pastor, Rev. Karl A. Kriesel, was an “enterprising missionary” for “Kriesel not only carried on a conventional ministry but also reached out to the deaf community in Kitchener-Waterloo.” (1989: 91)
12. Grace Lutheran Church, Kitchener, had its beginnings when some Lutherans met in H. L. Albrecht’s Dry Goods Store. The first service of this church was held on November 19, 1944 in the stone church, which was rented from the T. Eaton Company (Malinsky 65).
13. Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Kitchener, was started as a result of the bold steps of faith of the members of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. It was originally known as the East Ward Mission. This house church met at Sheppard School for public worship. Although the members appreciated worshipping in Sheppard School they recognized the need for their own church building from the moment of organization. In 1950 a church was dedicated (Ibid. 65-66).
14. In 1906 German services were held in a room above the City Gas Company in London. The services were attended by approximately one hundred people but this congregation was disbanded due to war conditions in 1915. In 1920 another congregation was started in London. The first service was held in rented hall. On October 9, 1921 the congregation was organized by ten voting members, assuming the name “Trinity Lutheran Congregation.” (Ibid. 76)
15. A Lutheran congregation was started in Chatham in 1942 when a Lutheran woman invited services to be conducted in her home. A church was eventually built in 1948 (Ibid. 77).
16. In 1942 a congregation was organized in Kingsville. The regular Sunday services were conducted in the town hall for the next three years until a chapel was built in 1945 (Ibid. 78).
17. The church in St. Thomas held its services in the Y.W.C.A. parlors for the first few months of its inception in September 1948. Beginning December 1948 this small group of fifty-six souls and twenty-nine communicants held worship services at the Seventh Day Adventist Church (Ibid. 78).
18. Eight families formed the nucleus of the Lutheran Church in West Lorne. The congregation worshipped in a number of places for a time: the town hall, the Anglican Church and the Disciples’ Church (Ibid. 79).
19. Malinsky writes, “The present First Lutheran Church of Windsor was begun in 1917 when Pastor Werfelman of Detroit conducted a service in a house on Pillette Road” for twelve people. A few months later the group moved to a rented hall where about thirty-five people attended divine services. In 1921 a bungalow-chapel became the first permanent home of this growing congregation (Ibid. 79).
20. Lutheran services were held at the Family Hall in Sarnia in 1934-1935. In 1935 the place of worship was changed to Castle Hall which was located in downtown Sarnia (Ibid. 80; cf. Threinen 1989:91-92).
21. A Lutheran Church was started in Sudbury in 1928 under the direction of Pastor N. C. Kritsch. The Lutheran group met in the Orange Hall for a time until they moved to a leased store building. It was here that St. John’s was organized in 1932 with twelve voting members. During Pastor Huth’s time (1933-1946) property was purchased. The house served as a chapel and parsonage. In 1947 a church building was built (Ibid. 90; cf. Threinen 1989:82-83).
22. The first missionary to be called to start a church in Montreal, Candidate Frank Messerschmidt, arrived in 1927. There was no suitable place to worship, so the missionary held services in a member’s home. The attendance fluctuated between four and fifteen (Threinen 1989:80-81). His successor, Rev. M. J. Michael, wrote two years later,
I began my work with three souls only, former members of our churches in Ottawa. Services were conducted in homes. Later on, the basement of the French Protestant St. Jean Church, on St. Catherine Street East, was rented. Beginning Easter, 1930, the congregation permitted us to worship in its auditorium. (Malinsky 101)
This brief historical overview illustrates there is a rich tradition in the East District (Lutheran Church — Canada) for using homes and other facilities to evangelize and catechize people into God’s family.
See Threinen 1989:87.
Threinen (1989:76-77) relates that in 1921 St. John’s asked to be released from the Ontario District so that it could join the English District (a non-geographic and entirely English-speaking District) of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. Unfortunately the move was not good for the Ontario District. According to Threinen the absence of a congregation in the large urban center of Toronto,
deprived the District of the urban perspective which such a congregation could have brought to it, a perspective which the District sorely needed to help address the changing, ever more urban Ontario scene. (Ibid. 77)
According to Threinen (1989:91) Redeemer was organized on March 8, 1935.
The history of Redeemer is especially significant for this author because it was at Redeemer that he was received into God’s kingdom through the sacrament of baptism, grew in his love for the Lord through the witness of the faithful Sunday school teachers, matured in his faith through the Word-based sermons of Rev. Gerald Scholz, publicly acknowledged his faith in Jesus Christ in the rite of confirmation, and was ordained in the Public Office of the Holy Ministry. The author thanks God for the faithful men and women who had the foresight and courage to leave the stable conditions of St. Paul’s and plant a church in Waterloo.