During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, a number of families of Lutheran background settled in East Dedham and West Roxbury (then known as Germantown). Pastors from neighboring churches in Boston would come occasionally to administer Baptism, solemnize marriages, and conduct funeral services. In September 1887, the Reverend Frederick C. Wurl was installed as Pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church in East Boston, and imbued with a zealous missionary spirit, he began to lead services in the East Dedham-West Roxbury field, held in the homes of people interested in establishing a Lutheran congregation. For the first twenty years of the church’s existence, Pastor Wurl would serve both St. Luke’s and the congregation in East Boston.
The first congregational meeting was held on November 20, 1892, and the congregation was incorporated on April 29, 1893 under the name: St. Lucas German Evangelical Lutheran Society. The first organization established in the church was the Ladies’ Aid Society, founded on January 17, 1893 with fourteen members, which remained active until 2013. While the church began to look at constructing its own building, the congregation met in a mission chapel on Rockland Street in West Roxbury, purchased from the Allin Congregational Church of Dedham for twelve hundred dollars. By the spring of 1895, the church’s Sunday School program had enrolled seventy-two children instructed by twelve teachers, and in May 1907, the congregation resolved to join the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
Though Pastor Wurl served the congregation well, his work in East Boston kept him from being as involved with St. Luke’s as he would have liked, and in 1920, after years of considering calling a resident pastor, Immanuel Lutheran Church requested that he serve in East Boston alone. The following year, the congregation raised the necessary funds to call the Reverend Robert B. Steup as the first resident Pastor of St. Luke’s. After years of holding services primarily in German, the congregation began to hold English services in addition to German every Sunday in 1921, and the last German service was held in June 1950.
Following the death of Pastor Steup after twenty-nine years of faithful service, the Reverend Richard W. Manns was installed in 1951. The following year boasted three significant events for St. Luke’s: a new Wurlitzer organ (a memorial to Pastor Steup) was dedicated on June 29; a Vacation Bible School program was held for the first time with ninety children enrolled on August 4; and a second morning service was held for the first time on October 14, 1952. In 1957, land was purchased on East Street in Dedham, and the current church building was dedicated on February 12, 1961. An Allen TC-3 organ was installed in 1969, and the following year, the Parish Education Wing was dedicated.
In 1972, Pastor Manns accepted a call to St. John’s Lutheran Church in Meriden, Connecticut, bringing to close twenty-one years of service. The Reverend Samuel Nafzger served as vacancy pastor until the installation of the Reverend John A. Jurik on August 12, 1973. During this period, the church suffered a split in its membership in conjunction with difficulties within the Synod. After Pastor Jurik accepted a call to St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in New York, the Reverend James E. Keurulainen was installed as Pastor on July 10, 1977. The congregation prospered with the establishment of the Director of Christian Education post and the church’s involvement in the Synodical Vicarage Program. In 1992, St. Luke’s celebrated its hundredth anniversary, and Pastor Keurulainen stepped down in 1997 to become President of the New England District (1997-2012) of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. From 1999 to 2004, the Reverend Benjamin T. Ball served as Pastor, before accepting a call to the Northern Illinois District.
Since 2005, the Reverend Dr. James E. Butler has served as the seventh Pastor of St. Luke’s. We have begun an annual 5K Race to benefit our local food pantry, increased variety in our worship offerings, and are in the process of reinvigorating our ministries. In 2017, we will share our 125th Anniversary with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.
Click here for more information about our Pastors over the years.