In 1854 the “Scandinavian Lutheran Congregation” was founded. It was an immigrant congregation.
It was also multinational, made up of Swedes, Norwegians and Danes. This “diversity” proved to be too much, and friction developed. The group who wanted to Americanize formed what eventually became “First Lutheran Church on the East Side.” A group of Norwegians who wanted to hold more to their Norwegian roots banded together in 1868; it became legally incorporated as “The Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Congregation of St. Paul Minnesota”; in time this would become what we now call “Christ Lutheran Church on Capitol Hill.”
Prior to the construction of a church building, services were held in the homes of members, in the old courthouse, and in Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church. Our first building was erected in 1870 on the Southwest corner of L’Orient and Mt Airy Streets, and was dedicated on December 4, 1870. That location was problematic; the church was on a hill and the soil was sandy, and when it rained, soil had to be moved from the upper side to the lower to keep the building from sliding down the hill! In 1875 the building was moved to the more stable Northeast corner of 13th and Canada Streets.
When the congregation outgrew that building, they sold it to “Immanuel Lutheran Church of the Hauge Synod,” who moved the building again to the Northeast corner of 14th and Canada Streets. During the construction of the new building, our congregation met at the State Capitol Building on 10th and Wabasha Streets.
A new building (our church’s second building) was constructed in 1881 on the vacated lot on the Northeast corner of 13th and Canada Streets, and was dedicated on June 22, 1884. Eventually, the congregation had another encounter with multiculturalism. Many of the original members no longer lived near that location, and other ethnic groups had moved in. So it was decided to find a new location. Our second building was sold to the Sons of Moses Synagogue.
Once again, services were held at the State Office Building on 10th and Wabasha Streets. Construction on the new church (our current church!) began in April 1911. The cornerstone was laid on Sunday June 25, 1911 during the convention of the Norwegian Synod. The first services were held in the basement on Sunday December 24. The first Christmas program was presented by the Sunday School in the afternoon. Service continued to be held in the basement until the church was dedicated on December 5, 1915.
By the late 1970’s the church struggled and wondered if it would be able to survive. But in the early 1980’s our church housed ESL classes for Hmong people who were moving into the neighborhood. These new immigrants were soon worshiping and getting baptized.
Once again, the church faced diversity, and again, the changing church demographics were too much for some people, and they left. However, those who stayed were determined to be a welcoming community that valued diversity.
That celebration of multiculturalism remains one of the hallmarks of Christ on Capitol Hill to this day! We are still a congregation of immigrants and there are around a dozen nationalities and ethnic groups who worship here every Sunday; the largest segment remains Euro-Americans. The gospel is read in English, Khmer (Cambodian) and Tigrinia (Eritrean), and the whole worship is simul-translated into Khmer.
On Sunday mornings, we look like the world! This year, as we celebrate our 143 anniversary, and the 100th anniversary of the laying of our cornerstone, we – people of many colors and many backgrounds – continue to praise God together.
This vibrant multicultural congregation will be praising God for the next 143 years as well!
God is good. All the time!