How We Came to Be

First English Evangelical Lutheran Church was born on January 15, 1837, as the first English-speaking Lutheran congregation west of the Allegheny Mountains. The Reverend J.C.F. Heyer was the first pastor of the congregation. Father Heyer was also the first American Lutheran pastor to become a missionary; he served in the Andhra region of India. Other notable pastors of First Church’s past were the Reverend Dr. William A. Passavant, founder of The Pittsburgh Synod of 1845 and father of Lutheran social ministries; and the Reverend Dr. Charles Porterfield Krauth, Lutheran confessional scholar, who later became professor of Dogmatic Theology at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia and Vice Provost of the University of Pennsylvania.

The present church building was dedicated in 1888. In recent years the facility has been extensively renovated and lovingly restored. It serves as a magnificent visible witness to the Gospel of Christ in the very heart of Pittsburgh.

Significant Dates

  • 1837 A missionary of the Ministerium of Pennsylvania, The Rev. J.C. F. Heyer (Father Heyer as he is universally called) establishes the First English Evangelical Lutheran Church in Pittsburgh. Father Heyer is commemorated on Nov. 7th in the Calendar in the Lutheran Book of Worship. See P. Pfatteicher, Festivals and Commemorations (Augsburg 1980).
  • 1840 The congregation erects its first building on Seventh Avenue, the first English Lutheran Church west of the Allegheny Mountains.
  • 1844 William Passavant becomes the fifth pastor and invigorates a dispirited and debt-burdened congregation.
  • 1849 At Passavant’s invitation Pastor Theodor Fliedner brings four deaconesses from Germany to establish what is now Passavant Hospital.
  • 1850 Catherine Louisa Marthens, the first American deaconess, is consecrated in First Church.
  • 1855 Charles Porterfield Krauth strengthens the conservative theological and liturgical movement in the congregation. The library at Philadelphia seminary bears his name.
  • 1868 The General Council (organized in 1867) meets in First Church.
  • 1885 The present property on Grant Street is purchased.
  • 1887 The cornerstone of the present church is laid.
  • 1888 (November 4) The present church is consecrated.
  • 1926 Pastor Adam J. Holl begins the radio ministry of First Church.
  • 1955- 1965 Pastor Harold Albert establishes a vision of what the parish could become.
  • 1966-1989 Pastor John T. Braughler has longest pastorate in history of parish, to this point.
  • 1985 The chancel is enlarged and the courtyard is built.
  • 1989 David P. Gleason begins as Senior Pastor of the parish.
  • 1992 Casavant Freres organ installed.
  • 1998 Philip H. Pfatteicher begins work as associate pastor.
  • October 1998 Tabernacle installed and dedicated.
  • November 1998 Steeple Cross Installed and Blessed.
  • May 7, 2000 Blessing and Rededication of Renovated Facilities.
  • November, 2000 Columbarium Installed and Dedicated.
  • February, 2002 Installation of Stations of the Cross.
  • September 8, 2002 Installation of Director of Christian /Youth Ministry, Elizabeth A. Caywood, AIM.
  • March, 2006 Appointment of The Rev. Daniel E. Hall, M.D.as Episcopal priest-in-residence
  • 2007 Painting of the Nave and Redecoration of the Narthex.
  • June, 2008 Installation of Cora Lazor Weiland as Director of Christian Education and Youth Ministry.
  • June, 2010 The Rev. Dr. Philip H. Pfatteicher, associate pastor, retires.
  • January, 2013 The Rev. Dr. David Paul Gleason, senior pastor since 1989, retires.
  • August 1, 2013  Brian A. Evans begins as Senior Pastor of the parish.
  • September, 2014 Lauren Elyse Scott begins as Director of Christian Education and Youth Ministry.
  • December, 2014 The Rev. Jennifer Peters McCurry, associate pastor, begins her ministry.
  • March, 2017 Extensive renovations to the Parish House are undertaken to create a new archival storage room and library.
  • August, 2017 The Rev. David Williams Hanssen is called to become the first Assistant Pastor of Christian Education and Youth Ministry.

Founded January 15, 1837