In 1874, a call was extended to and accepted by Pastor William Busse of
Poughkeepsie, New York.
Again, the congregation had outgrown its church on 43rd Street, and plans for
building a new church were under discussion. Sale of the building was authorized
and a large Presbyterian church on 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues
was purchased for $45,000. The newly acquired church was dedicated in August
of 1875. The building as it stood on the day of dedication cost $55,074 and the
43rd Street property sold for $18,590. Thus for a little over $36,000 a new church
In 1880, Saint Luke's resigned from the New York Ministerium and became an independent
congregation without any synodical affiliation. They remained independent until 1987 when they joined
the newly established Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Saint Luke's celebrated the 25th
anniversary of Pastor Busse's pastorate in October of 1899 with special services and a banquet.
However, hardly had the joy of the occasion subsided, when in the early morning hours of November
13, 1899 the shocking news of Pastor Busse's sudden death spread throughout the congregation.
Pastor Busse was laid to rest on November 17, 1899.
Since the church had been used extensively for the past 25 years, with only minor maintenance, there
was a need for renovation and repairs. Money was raised to take care of the essential repairs but there
were no available dollars to redecorate the church, The Ladies Aid Society volunteered to re-carpet the
church and furnish new altar coverings. In addition, the Ladies Aid and the Church Council each gave a
stained glass window for the chancel and other members replaced some of the stained glass windows in
the nave of the church.
In the spring of 1922, building began on our present structure, the
cornerstone was laid in October of 1922 and the church dedicated in
September of 1923.
From its 42nd street location, Saint Luke's brought the two stained glass
windows which had flanked the altar and placed them on the east wall of
the new building. At this time, the church also acquired the four foot hand
carved wooden figure of Christ mounted on the altar as well as the stained
glass window that extends the width of the building just above the main
During the years that followed, the church had to contend with the
indifference and materialism of the twenties and the severe depression of
the thirties. Church attendance nationwide reached an all time low and
Saint Luke's did not escape this trend.
Through all of these critical years, Pastor Koepchen gave faithfully and
untiringly of his time and strength to the problems facing him and his
church. It was a difficult period and in the spring of 1935 Albert Neibacher
was hired as his assistant. Pastor Koepchen passed away on
September 8, 1936.
A month later the congregation extended a call to Pastor Neibacher who was ordained into the ministry and
installed as Pastor of Saint Luke's on November 15, 1936.
In the fall of 1936, the Young People's Guild was organized as a replacement for the Young People's Society
which had been inactive for some time. The new group was well received and had an initial membership of 50
young people who met regularly each Monday evening.
In 1937, Children’s and Senior Choirs were introduced. The Children's Choir was recruited from the Sunday
School, and sang at regular intervals with the Senior Choir. The Senior Choir still participates in all of our
services except for the summer months when they take a well deserved vacation.
In 1938, children who were rarely seen after confirmation were organized into a society known as the Junior
Christians of Saint Luke's and met every Friday evening for a program of planned activities.
The World's Fair of 1939, brought large groups of visitors to the city and during six months in 1939, guests from
37 states registered their attendance at Saint Luke's.
The war years brought hundreds of service men and women to New York and the Young Peoples Guild set up
a program to help those who worshiped at our church during that time. Couples who met here and
subsequently married continue to make return visits to Saint Luke's.
A Reformation folio containing homilies by Luther, Melanchthon, Bugenhagen, Creuziger, Jonas and Major
was purchased and presented to Saint Luke's on the occasion of the congregation's 100th anniversary in
1950. Shown opposite is a brief homily in Martin Luther’s own hand. Note the date of 1543.
Pastor Neibacher continued his pastorate until retiring in 1974.
Pastor Dale Hansen, our sixth pastor, arrived from Wisconsin in the winter of 1975. He found the 46th
Street area in disrepair, populated by prostitutes and drug dealers and in need of a major overhaul. These
factors had a negative impact on the time people wanted to spend on the street and at Saint Luke’s.
The prostitute and drug problem was addressed by calling on the Guardian Angels who patrolled and rid the
street of the undesirables. Pastor Hansen worked with the 46th street restaurant owners, the mayor and
city planners to design and implement a traffic and pedestrian friendly street. Both programs had a
favorable impact on church attendance, people were no longer afraid to be on 46th street.
A soup kitchen opened in 1977 to meet the ever increasing needs of the street people and others lacking
funds to purchase food. The kitchen is still open in 2010 and serves over 200 hot meals twice a week..
Funding for the kitchen comes from the United Way, City Harvest, and contributions from the local block
association, our congregation and other concerned individuals.
In addition, those in need have the opportunity each month to
obtain new or good used clothing from our clothing bank. Clothing
for the bank is donated by a local department store as well as
concerned members and friends. Pastor Hansen retired and was
elected as Pastor Emeritus in 2000.
Pastor Paul Schmiege returned to the United States from St.
Anne's parish in London to become Saint Luke's seventh pastor in
the fall of 2000.
In 2007, Saint Luke's was added to the National Registry of Historic Places.
As we move forward into another decade in the life of our congregation, Pastor Schmiege continues as Saint
Luke's pastor. Under God's guidance, we pray for another 160 years of Christian service. We look to the
future, guided by our Mission Statement:
Saint Luke's is:
A Community called together by Christ;
Celebrating the challenge of passionate faith; and
Seeking to inspire creative service.
In 2007, a Columbarium for members and friends wishing to have their cremated remains interred within the
church was dedicated and placed in the southwest area of the nave behind the pulpit.
In January of 1900, a call was extended to and accepted by Pastor William Koepchen of Meriden,
|A Brief History of Saint Luke’s Lutheran Church
The history of Saint Luke's revolves around the services of its faithful pastors and loyal congregation.
Saint Luke's first pastor, William Drees, served
in the Dutch Reformed Church from 1847
After an internal disagreement within his
congregation in June of 1850, Pastor Drees,
along with a group of loyal parishioners, left
the church and formed the nucleus of what
was to become Saint Luke's. Their first
meeting place was in rented rooms on the
third floor of a building on 35th Street and
Saint Luke's joined the New York Ministerium in 1853 and
under its constitution became a Lutheran congregation. In
1859, Saint Luke's adopted as its legal name “The German
Evangelical Lutheran Congregation of Saint Luke's”.
In 1861 more space was needed and the second floor of a
larger house between 46th and 47th Streets on 8th Avenue
was rented. In the spring of 1863, a vacant Baptist church
of 43rd Street was purchased and in June of that year,
thirteen years after their formation, Saint Luke’s realized its
dream of worshiping in its own building.
In 1870, revisions to the constitution were enacted to deal
with the increased workload caused by the church's
expansion. Pastor Drees took exception to a segment which
provided for a layperson to chair the congregation and
tendered his resignation in June of 1870.
In 1871 a call was extended to and accepted by Pastor
William Buettner of Utica, New York. During his pastorate, the
Ladies Aid Society was organized and remained an active
organization for over 130 years. The society was
discontinued in 2002 after a decision by the women of Saint
Luke's not to have an exclusive women's society in the
future. Pastor Buettner resigned in 1874.
Saint. Luke's Lutheran Church NYC Copyright 2011 All Rights Reserved
In 1990, major renovation and restoration work was completed on the nave of the church, and a Walcker
organ was installed. Over $300,000 was needed for both projects and the work was accomplished as the
result of a major fund raising program. A generous bequest allowed for the complete renovation of the
lounge and meeting room in 1999.
During the following years, the difficult problems of a changing community had to be addressed. The
Times Square area was becoming the theatrical center of the city and wholesale and retail business
were invading the area. It was apparent from its declining membership, that the church had to change
its location and in July of 1921, the sale of the 42nd street property was authorized. Final services were
held on January 1, 1922, and from this date on ,while the new church was under construction, Sunday
Services were held in rented space at the Selwyn Theater.
Winter and summer retreats were introduced in 2001 at Koinonia
(A Lutheran camp and conference center) for anyone interested in a
weekend of worship, study, and fellowship, and have become anticipated
events every winter and summer.
He was at Saint Luke’s on September 11, 2001 when word came of the attack on the World Trade Center.
His immediate response was to open the church to anyone wanting a quiet moment and to offer his services
at the 43rd and 47th Street firehouses where many members were lost. He spent days counseling and
comforting those whose loved ones would never return.