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Friday, June 19, 2015

A Brief Photographic History of San Francisco (ELCA) Lutheran Churches: From the Archives

1977 map of Lutheran Congregations in San Francisco.  Courtesy of the Grace Archive.
Grace believes that the sacred stories in the Bible help shape our lives and faith, but God's work did not end on the last page of this text.  Our lives and stories are a continuation of these sacred stories.  Here are some of the photos and stories of those who have been a part of the community of saints of the Lutheran congregations in San Francisco.  This exhibit was created by Pastor Megan Rohrer in June of 2015.

Click on images to make them larger.

We're in the process of making our history digital.  Know any of these individuals?  Help us identify the photos by emailing: pastor@gracesf.com

St. Markus (German) - St. Mark's Lutheran

Founded in 1860, the congregations first building was located on Geary street, facing Union Square. The congregation dedicated a new building on Ofarrell street on March 10, 1895.  St. Mark's was damaged and needed significant repairs after both the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes.
Learn more about the history of St. Mark's Lutheran.


In 1990, St. Mark's hosted the trial to remove St. Francis and First United from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), because they called openly gay and lesbian pastors to help serve the needs of the gay community during the AIDS crisis.  In 2010, St. Mark's served as the location for the rite of reconciliation to receive "the San Francisco seven" LGBTQ pastors onto the official roster of the ELCA.  One of the scripture readings for the day declared: "In the very place where it was told them, 'You are not my people,' they will be called children of the living God." (Romans 9:26).  St. Francis and First United each had services to reconcile with the ELCA in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

St. Paulus Lutheran (German)

A conservative splinter left St. Markus and founded St. Paulus in 1867 they built a cathedral style congregation a few blocks downhill from St. Mark's. 

The largest San Francisco congregation at the time, St. Paulus hosted the first extraordinary ordinations of the gay and lesbian pastors at First United and St. Francis Lutheran. 
A fire destroyed St. Paulus's cathedral sanctuary.


In 2007, the congregation walked from Eddy and Gough to a storefront on Filmore street.  The church became a "church without walls" during its preparation to rebuild the sanctuary on Eddy and Gough. Since then the congregation moved to two other storefront locations, on McAllister and Polk streets.  Plans are still underway for the rebuilding of a sanctuary at Eddy and Gough.  The congregation hopes to move in before it's 150 year celebration in 2017. 
Learn more about the history of St. Paulus here.


St. John's Lutheran (German) - Santa Maria y Martha (Spanish)

In October, 1886, an assistant pastor of St. Paulus labored in the Mission district and organized the Lutheran St. John's Church.  The congregation was located on 22nd street near Howard.  Later the congregation moved to the mission and became Santa Maria y Martha, a Spanish speaking congregation.
North Beach Fellowship




First United Lutheran

Original First English
First United's dedicated a congregation on Geary between Octavia and Gough in 1890. They moved to a second congregation in the Richmond District in 1946.  Then in 2007, they sold their building and began worshiping at the First Unitarian Church.  At this time, First United began integrating interfaith aspects into their worship services.  In 2012, they moved into their current home at St. Cyprian's Episcopal Church.  Learn more about the history of First United

St. Matthaus - St. Matthews Lutheran (German)

Founded in by an assistant pastor at St. Mark's who saw the need for additional German speaking congregations in San Francisco, St. Matthaus held their dedication service on February 10, 1895 in a rented church building on Eleventh Street between Howard and Mission Streets.Their current home is located across from historic Mission Dolores and was dedicated on March 29, 1908.  Learn more about the history of St. Matthews.

St. Ansgar (Danish)- First Finnish - St. Francis Lutheran

St. Ansgar
First Finnish Lutheran
Built by Danish immigrants, the cornerstone of St. Ansgar was laid on September 17, 1905.  During the great 1906 earthquake the parsonage served as a feeding station and hospital.   In 1964, St. Ansgar merged with First Finnish Lutheran (founded in 1899) which was located on 50 Belcher street.  The merged congregation could not agree on new name for their congregation so the settled on the name St. Francis, because they were located in San Francisco.

Located in the Castro District, St. Francis was located in the epicenter of the AIDS crisis.  The congregation served as a welcoming place for individuals and the families who loved them as they rapidly passed away.  St. Francis continues to march each year in the AIDS walk, holding the pictures of the saints of St. Francis who died of AIDS.

Swedish Evangelical - Ebenezer Lutheran - herchurch

 Swedish Evangelical Ebenezer Lutheran at Delores and 15th, dedicated its church and rectory (the building on the left) in 1904.  The sanctuary burned down in 1993.  In the 60's Ebenezer housed a Sunday School for youth throughout San Francisco.  Ebenezer redeveloped and is now called herchurch.  The congregation celebrates the sacred feminine and is recognized around the world as a leader in feminist Lutheranism.


Bayview Lutheran

Christ Church Lutheran

A missionary project of St. Paulus, Christ  Lutheran was built at the corner of 5th and Irving in 1913.  The congregation is currently located at 19th and Quintara.




Our Savior's - Bethlehem - Norwegian Lutheran - Ascension Lutheran - Golden Gate

Our Savior's Lutheran was located at 13th and Howard.  Between 1916 and 1917, Our Savior's and Bethlehem Lutheran churches merged and became Norwegian Lutheran.  Norwegian Lutheran moved from the South of Market District to the Mission and purchased a sanctuary across from Delores Park in 1930.  His Royal Highness, Prince Olaf of Norway and Crown Princess Martha attended services on April19, 1942 in the midst of World War II. In 1959 the congregation rededicated itself as Ascension Lutheran and later it became Golden Gate Lutheran.  The building was seized by the city and county of San Francisco, after the congregation ignored orders to seismically retrofit the building.  The building was then sold, with some of the funds being distributed to congregations in San Francisco and the remaining funds given to the Sierra Pacific Synod.

Parkside Lutheran - Grace Evangelical Lutheran

Beginning in the home of Dr. Olive Erickson in 1940, Grace Lutheran initially served as a Sunday School annex for the members of Ascension Lutheran.  As the group grew into a church.  Grace continues to keep children and music at the center of its mission.
Learn more about the first 50 years of Grace.
The grew out grew the home of Dr. Olive Erickson and became Parkside Lutheran, a storefront church.

Rev. William E. Baker in the sanctuary looking at the mosaic.


Rev. Norbert J. Boer preaching at a Sunday service.
The Grace Infant care center celebrated it's 30 year anniversary in 2014.  For a few weeks during a flood, the center moved upstairs during remodeling.  The sanctuary of the congregation became the nap room.

Our Savior's

The Lutheran Church of Our Savior's is currently and African American congregation.




Organizations and Mission Projects

Celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2014, the San Francisco Night Ministry provides care for individuals on the streets of San Francisco during the hours of 10pm and 4am.  They also provide crisis line counseling and open cathedral services.


The Welcome Ministry began as an interfaith response to homelessness in the Polk Gulch District of San Francisco in 1996.  A collaboration of 12 congregations including St. Mark's, Welcome had meal programs at Old First Presbyterian church for 12 years and helped revamp the meal programs at St. Francis.  Welcome also creates special programing to organize Lutherans in San Francisco and across the country to respond to local poverty.  San Francisco projects have included the Community Gardening Project, which created gardens at Lutheran congregations throughout the Bay Area.  The Free Farm grew 5 tons of produce on the former site of St. Paulus Lutheran at Eddy and Gough.  Other projects include the Homeless Vision Project, the Homeless Identification Project, History Projects with Homeless Youth across the country and the Singers of the Street Homeless Choir.

A collaboration of San Francisco congregations and mission programs, SF CARES have provided over 1,400 pairs of prescription glasses to individuals in need in the first two years of the project.