St. Paul’s English Lutheran Church, the first English-speaking Lutheran Church in Washington, DC, was formally organized Easter Sunday, April 15, 1843 with 40 members. The original church at 11th and H Streets, NW, was located on land given by General John P. Van Ness, an Episcopal churchman well-known for his benevolent generosity.
The cornerstone was laid June 12, 1844, and the church dedicated October 1, 1848. Then President of the United States, James K. Polk, his family, and top ranking government officials attended the ceremonies. This cornerstone was re-laid in the east wall of the narthex of our present church edifice November 18, 1956.
In 1845, King Frederick Wilhelm IV, and his queen, Elisabeth, gave a silver communion chalice to our congregation as a token of “interest and good-will.” This historic treasure has been used at every communion service since.
During its early years, the struggling young congregation was burdened with heavy indebtedness. One of our first pastors, the Rev. John E. Graff, who came to St. Paul’s in 1846 following his graduation from the Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, canvassed for weary months in large country churches of Maryland and Pennsylvania, riding hundreds of miles on horseback, during winter storms and summer heat visiting from house to house among these rural parishioners, and was successful in soliciting substantial support for those days.
The cornerstone of the present church, at 4900 Connecticut Avenue, NW, was laid November 9, 1930 and the ground floor was dedicated on Sunday, June 21, 1931.
Plans for the completion of the church edifice suffered when the 1929 depression struck the country. However, the loyal and dedicated members of St. Paul’s worked tirelessly and prayerfully, and our majestic Gothic structure was completed and gratefully dedicated Sunday, January 12, 1958.
No history of St. Paul’s would be complete without mentioning that she has been named “the Mother Church of English Lutheranism” in Washington, and as such she claims three “daughter congregations”: Reformation, 1870; Luther Place Memorial, 1873; and St. Mark’s, 1889; and four “granddaughter congregations”: Zion, Our Redeemer, Keller Memorial and Epiphany, of later founding.
In its 173 years, St. Paul’s has been faithfully served by ten pastors including Rev. Albert A. Muller, 1843-1846; Rev. John G. Butler, 1849-1873; Rev. Samuel Domer, 1874-1900; Rev. John T. Huddle, 1904-1929; Rev. Henry W. Snyder, 1929-1958; Rev. Henry B. Luffberry, 1958-1984; and Rev. Thomas A. Omholt, 1984 - 2018 .