When St. John’s Lutheran Church was built in 1821, the West Village was considered the northern frontier of New York City. Now, its Pastor Mark Erson of St John’s Lutheran Church at 81 Christopher Street invites you to step through the virtual doors to this soon-to-be 200-year-old sanctuary as he shares with you the history of its structure, its theological evolution and its relationship with the West Village social conscience and vast artistic community.
On September 15, step through the virtual doors to the sanctuary and celebrate one of the oldest, if not the oldest, continuous houses of worship in the West Village. Discover the amazing stories and history behind St. John‘s gorgeous stained glass windows. Learn how St. John‘s evolved into an immigrant church in a rapidly changing 19th and early 20th century West Village and Greenwich Village. Witness St. John‘s transformation of its sacred space from Puritan Presbyterian to Lip Synching for the Lord. And see how this historic church is engaging the creative spirit of the West Village. The event is free for Untapped New York Insiders (and get your first month free with code JOINUS).
Tour of St John’s Church
According to Pastor Erson, “Two hundred years, from village church to urban parish. Two hundred years, from immigrant congregation to diverse community. Two hundred years, from puritan exclusivity to radical welcome. This Sanctuary has been a witness and participant through it all.”
Starting in 1797, Lutheran leaders in New York City began laying the foundation for a church. John Christopher Hartwick started holding seminary classes at the parsonage of John Christopher Kunze, which stood on the site of St. John’s. Kunze, a professor at Columbia University and pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, prepared young men for the ministry, and these classes continued until 1940 before the seminary was moved to Oneonta.
In 1821, the leaders of the Eighth Presbyterian Church bought the property from Pastor Kunze’s heirs and built the church that stands here today. The church was constructed in the Federal style, popular in the U.S. from around 1780 to 1830. The sanctuary passed to St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, which then sold it to St. John’s in 1858.
St. John’s began as a congregation of German-speaking Lutherans in 1855 by Rev. August Held, who joined after departing St. Mark’s in the East Village. After struggling for three years as a young congregation, members were able to raise enough money to purchase the property and expand operations. Over the past century and a half, St. John’s grew into a diverse community. According to their website, “We proclaim the radical nature of the gospel, teach the understandings of our denominational tradition, and engage the artistic spirit and the LGBTQIA+ traditions of the community we live in and serve.”
On September 15, step through the virtual doors to the sanctuary with Pastor Mark Erson, celebrating one of the oldest, if not the oldest, continuous houses of worship in the West Village. The event is free for Untapped New York Insiders (and get your first month free with code JOINUS).
Then on September 16, the church will hold an open house featuring a display of images and artifacts spanning the sanctuary’s 200 years. Following a panel discussion with Anna Marcum from Village Preservation, listen to a performance of Bach’s Goldberg Variations by St. John’s Director of Music Dr. Janet Sora Chung. There will also be a panel discussion on architectural theology, as well as an inspirational gospel showcase. Additional events will occur on September 19, with worship, lunch and a celebration of sacred space.
Tour of St John’s Church
Next, check out 10 Secrets of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine!