Vision, Mission & Doctrine
In an unstable and sometimes threatening world, and in the midst of this big city which can seem so very impersonal, our Lord Jesus builds His Church. In the waters of Holy Baptism He joins us to His Body, giving us forgiveness, life, and salvation. He welcomes us to His table and feeds His sheep there. Through His servants He speaks His words to His people. And, our Lord promises us that nothing -- not even the gates of hell -- will prevail against this Church He builds!
The Gospel is the foundation of our congregation’s proclamation: the eternal Son of God took flesh, was born and died for us and to forgive our sins, and rose again, triumphant over the grave. It is this wonderful, life-changing truth which we celebrate weekly. It is this love of God in Christ Jesus which, by the power of the Holy Spirit, propels us to love mercy and seek justice, and to care for those whom the world may despise or forget about.
What Does This Mean?
What does this mean for our regular, weekly gatherings at St. Paul’s in Bushwick, Brooklyn? We gather around God’s Word to hear and to give thanks for His promises to us. We gather, weekly, around His table to receive Holy Communion, through which He feeds and strengthens His people. And, empowered by these gifts, we serve each other, and the world. We do so at our jobs, and in our homes. We serve through leading Bible studies and small-group discussions, by teaching in our Sunday School and confirmation classes, and by participating in District and Synodical gatherings for youths and adults. We serve by praying together, and by praying individually. We serve by giving of our time and financial resources to support evangelism right in our neighborhoods as well as around the world. All of this we do joyfully in the power of God’s Spirit, for we have known His great love for us in Jesus!
As a congregation of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, the sisters and brothers of St. Paul’s are thankful for a rich heritage of Bible-based teaching, worship and practice -- all centered in the work and person of Jesus Christ. We are grateful for the truths so powerfully and clearly proclaimed by Lutheran Christians for the past five centuries: the importance of Law and Gospel preaching; ministry done by the Spirit working through Word and Sacrament; and justification by grace, for Christ’s sake, through faith alone.
If you’d like more information on the history and teaching of the LCMS and our beliefs, please click on the The Lutheran Confessions link, call the church office or email us. Pastor Schulze will be glad to speak with you about any questions you may have, or about specific biblical or spiritual topics you may wish to discuss.
Historical Reflection & Personal Remembrance
On the 125th Anniversary of our Congregation
Pastor Christoph Schulze
Immigrants… the newly arrived to this city… people speaking languages other than English… people who came from across the waters of the Atlantic, or from the Caribbean Basin, or from “down South…” all sorts of folks who were starting a new life in this big city – these are the people who have, for 125 years, gathered around the Lord’s Table here at St. Paul’s. Generation after generation, we have been a congregation of settlers and those from far-away lands who are “starting over” in Brooklyn, New York City, and who gather, week-to-week, to praise our Heavenly Father in the name of His Son, Jesus. Speaking of God’s people, the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews says that “…they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.”(11:13) Truly, many of the saints who have come through St. Paul’s over the years were keenly aware of this reality.
Take a moment to consider with me some personal reflections on the ministry of this congregation, and some of the fascinating historical nuggets which can be gleaned from the documents in our congregation’s files. This is no attempt at a comprehensive history, but is rather a personal remembrance.
When did we land here – at the corner of Knickerbocker Avenue and Palmetto Street? The people of our congregation were led to that decision at a meeting on December 11, 1887. For several months, a Lutheran missionary named Henry Luehr (called by St. John’s, Williamsburg) had already been gathering area Lutherans into a congregation. They met faithfully in the back of a grocery at 149 Grove Street, and on December 11th decided to purchase the land on which our building now sits, corner of Knickerbocker and Palmetto. The price for this plot of land? $6,750! By January of 1888 this fledgling congregation had a name: The German Evangelical Lutheran St. Paul’s Church, Unaltered Augsburg Confession. The congregation was composed almost entirely of immigrants from Germany, and services were conducted in German. (Indeed, it was not until September 1974 that the German liturgy was finally discontinued.) A Lutheran day school was opened by the congregation on Monday, April 30th of 1888, and St. Paul’s grew rapidly.
In 1897, the present church building was completed and dedicated. An article from the September 18, 1897 edition of the New York Journal had the following to say about the event St. Paul’s: “Tomorrow another beautiful sanctuary will be dedicated in the City of Churches. It is a magnificent edifice, standing on the corner of Knickerbocker Avenue and Palmetto Street, built of light pressed brick, in Gothic style, with a 160-foot spire, and is the property of Saint Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran congregation, of which Rev. H. Luehr is the pastor. No religious body in Greater New York can show a more phenomenal growth and progress during the last decade than the Lutherans.”
Despite all of the material and cultural challenges of the World Wars and the Great Depression, there was continued numerical growth for our congregation through the first half of the twentieth century. Under Pastor John Paul Riedel and Pastor Erwin Umbach, several generations of Christians were baptized, confirmed, and married. In 1912 alone, for example, the church records indicate that there were 99 Baptisms, 93 confirmations, and 63 weddings! With World War I came the introduction of English language worship, and major renovations to the building were completed in 1937 as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations.
Let’s pause to recall, though, that the lists of pastors and the church registers do not tell us everything important that happened over the last 125 years. Official histories tend to leave out lots of people, don’t they? Let us take a moment right here to thank God for all of the faithful men, women, and children who served here in so many ways. Praise God for all the nameless ones who gave offerings faithfully, that ministry in this place might be supported, and that a building could be put up and properly maintained. Praise God for the hundreds of Sunday school and day school teachers who worked as volunteers, or for a meager salary, so that generations of children and teens could hear the Gospel, and learn the songs of the faith. Praise God for choir members and musicians of every age who led and offered praise to God in song. Praise God for the hands of the countless servants of Christ who picked up brooms, mops, and paintbrushes to ensure a clean environment for all that goes on here. Praise God for the cooks, who fed thousands here over the decades, and for the caring hearts which led some here to fill bags from a food pantry, or deliver a turkey at Thanksgiving. Praise God for faithful Church Council members who, behind the scenes, gave generously of their time and talent so that the congregation’s resources could be stewarded well. Praise God for the anonymous givers from out of town who would from time to time write a check to this little church in Bushwick, so that a light bill could be paid in hard times, or that some kids could go to a national youth gathering. Praise God for the “regular folks” of all ages and ethnicities who enabled the growth here simply because they reached out to a neighbor and said, “Hey, come to my church with me this Sunday -- you’ll like it.” Praise God for men who were willing to get their hands dirty and work on pipes, water tanks, or boilers, so we’d have heat the following Sunday. Praise God for each and every saint in this place who provided a listening ear, or a shoulder to lean on, when others were facing storms in life. How marvelous to consider the many, many people from the Body of Christ contributed to the health and strength of St. Paul’s over the past century and a quarter!
The “Hymn of Praise” of the January 1938 “Church Rededication Service” of St. Paul’s included the following stanza of this great hymn:
Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things hath done, in whom His world rejoices,
Who from our mother’s arms, hath blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
I imagine that on that occasion Pastor Umbach and congregation sang these words with great feeling, as they thanked God for renewing them and bringing them that far. We still sing this hymn regularly, and should continue to do so with gladness, for the Lord has been very gracious to us, providing the many hands, hearts, and minds of people He has moved to serve the Church here.
As our historical reflection moves in the decade of the 1950’s, we move away from the unknown names and the dusty black and white photos, and begin to remember some people whom we ourselves have known and loved. It was in November 1956 that our dear sister, Marta Tauber, and her mom, Anna, traveled from Europe to New York City by ship, and landed in this great port city. On the Sunday after Thanksgiving that year they worshiped at St. Paul’s -- and never left! At that time the Rev. Robert Metzger was serving as pastor, and, through his tenure (and that of 12 pastors since) sister Marta has been present for almost every Sunday service. Some of my earliest St. Paul’s memories (from the early 1990’s) are of seeing this sister walking determinedly past the then-abandoned buildings on Palmetto Street so she could be in her pew for the service that morning. When I last spoke with Marta about the decades at St. Paul’s, she expressed her deep thankfulness for all of the people, especially the faithful lay leaders, who serve week in and week out to keep the doors of this building open. Indeed, without such gifts of God, we’d certainly have closed our doors years ago.
From conversations with long-time members, it seems that the first African-American family to join St. Paul’s was the Green family, in 1967. Beatrice Green, of 226A Palmetto Street, marched down the block with her children, and some of those children, most notably Linda and Miriam (both Atlantic District Deacons), are in leadership and service positions here to this day. Thinking back to the 1960’s and 70’s brings to mind other “matriarchs” who helped steady and lead the congregation through some of the particular challenges of that era. We remember Ida Mae Sanders and her family, as well as Mary Hardy, Lillian Krauleides, and the ever-joyful Analiese Aldag. Sister Shirley Morgan, also of Palmetto Street, brought her sons and daughters to church, and her grandchildren were active here for a time, also. Many of our older members today will remember these days at St. Paul’s as the “Schultheis Years,” when Pastor Vernon and his wife, LaNell, (just out of seminary) worked so hard to allow the Gospel of Jesus Christ to renew the fellowship of believers here. I recall hearing our beloved sister, Ele Diaz (now asleep in Christ) tell of how she came to join St. Paul’s. After a snowstorm, she walked by this building and noticed Pastor Schultheis shoveling the steps. In her normal, open manner, she walked up to him and asked: “Who are you?” He said, “I am the pastor of this church.” She replied, “Well, I want to join a church where the pastor shovels the snow.” And, she did! Her son, Sammy, still leads our sung praises with guitar one Sunday a month here.
The liturgy was first celebrated in Spanish in June of 1973, and there was evangelism and worship in the Spanish language here at St. Paul’s into the mid-1990’s. Some will remember Pastor Bailey, as well as Pastor Steve Brighton, and Pastor David Demera (now serving at Risen Christ, in Brownsville). The lay worker, Johan Echeto, oversaw much of the outreach to the many Spanish-speaking neighbors in the community, with the congregation hosting an English service each Sunday at 9 a.m., followed by the Spanish liturgy at 11:30 a.m. These were also years in we celebrated many house-services, when guitar, songbook, and Bible were brought into homes so that, right there in our living rooms, we could raise our voices in praise of the living Lord Jesus Christ. I have heard many warm reminisces of brother Bryan Haubein leading the singing in those situations; he also played the keyboard faithfully for many years for our Sunday morning services, leading us hundreds of times through, “This Is the Feast,” and “Thank the Lord and sing His praise, tell everyone what He has done…” from Setting Two of the old, green, Lutheran Book of Worship hymnals. Once or twice, when it was real cold in the building, I saw Bryan play through the liturgy with his gloves on!
Regarding this era in our congregation’s history, the destructive effects of the church and social conflicts of the 1960’s and 1970’s should by no means be understated. This little boat of St. Paul’s was tossed mightily in the storms of those years. I remember, as a 14-year old, making my way home through the looting in Manhattan which followed the great New York City black-out in the summer of 1977; those flames and that destruction had a major impact on Bushwick and surrounding neighborhoods, also. These were years of great change – much of it for good – but also of great conflict. In addition to the passionate racial and political divisions which racked our nation and our city in those decades, we may easily forget that our Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod also came through a major crisis in the early 1970’s. That denominational struggle split many congregations in this city, and caused lasting spiritual wounds all across our District and Synod. With all of these events swirling around us, it would have been easy, and even understandable, for the leaders here to close the doors of this graffiti-etched building – many Lutheran congregations in this area did just that. But through those years the Good Shepherd Himself sustained us, and continued to feed the flock here with His Word and Sacraments. The family of Christ at Knickerbocker and Palmetto continued to welcome fellow-pilgrims, to celebrate the gift of the Messiah, and to labor in His name.
The Church Council of 1988 included the following members of the congregation: Julio Lamboy, Herman Peters, Miriam Lamboy, Bryan Haubein, Irving Rodriguez, Linda McKinley, Ita Arroyo, Shirley Morgan, and Robert Criollo. To look over these names gives us some idea of the wonderful ethnic diversity with which St. Paul’s has been blessed over the years. God has woven together people of many nations and ethnicities to form our congregation. These sisters and brothers of the Council, along with Lillian Krauleides, lay minister Johan Echeto, and the vacancy pastor at the time, the Rev. A. Eugene Koene, all worked to organize the 100th anniversary celebration that year. The booklet for the 100th anniversary thanked the Atlantic District of the LCMS for its great support over the years, and added, “Although for four and a half years there has been no full-time pastor at St. Paul’s, these years have not been lean and barren ones. To the surprise of many, the work of the Gospel ministry and outreach has gone on.” Yes, how often God surprises us, and we are made to see again and again, as believers, that His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways not our ways! (Isaiah 55:8)
From page 7 of that same commemorative booklet for the 100thanniversary comes this sentence: “The English speaking congregation has recently added to its multi-cultural mix several families of East Indian origin from Guyana.” Drawing on their rich spiritual heritage from the Lutheran Church in Guyana, these families who came in the 1980’s brought a new zeal to our congregation culture, and through their work and leadership helped shape the ministry of the congregation over the next decades: Herman and Eva Peters and their children, as well as Reginald Peters and family; Sister Stella and the Pillay family; Dabi, Deochand, Deacon Basmatie, and the Bhagwatprasad family; Raymond and Chandramah Yarally and family; Sheela Pillay, Mukesh Cheedie (now Pastor Cheedie!) Cameel, and their daughters; the Durgana and Persaud families; the Chatarpal family; Deacon Vernon Mukhlall and family; the Ajodhia family; the Mohabir family.
And this was a time in our congregation’s history when the energy these families brought was needed, as we had plenty of work to do. Much of the building had fallen into disrepair: stain glass windows were disintegrating, the heating system needed major work, and there were big leaks in several roofs. We have always been blessed here with lots of space – a precious commodity in a big city – but this was space that needed some major overhauls. How many Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons did we spend here, with our sleeves rolled up, participating in “self-help work days?” I have so many memories of huddling in the boiler room with Pedro, Herman, Deo, and others, as we figured out again and again how to get the steam going; of working on the fences, doors, and wiring with Jack and Albert; of painting and tiling with Raymond, Chandramah, Leroy, and Bob; of sifting through and sorting out dozens of containers of church records and books with Deacon Chuck, Bobbie, Deacon Linda, and Deacon Miriam. Once, over the course of a few of these workdays, we pulled up all of the pews, and re-tiled the entire floor of the nave; Pastor Theimer got blisters on his hands from working so hard at pulling up old tiles on those days! And, none of us who have been around for a while can ever forget how (in the fall of 2004) brothers Randy, Richard, Leslie, and others from the Durgana family volunteered to take on the plastering and repainting the walls and ceiling of the entire sanctuary; I recall wanting to avert my eyes when I saw them balancing precariously on three-story-high scaffolding and reaching for the very highest patches of our nave’s ceiling!
Recalling the 1990’s must also include mention of the warm and capable leadership of Pastor John Durkovic, who served at St. Paul’s in a part-time capacity from October of 1989 to August of 1994. Although he’d been called by the District chiefly to develop new Hispanic congregations throughout Brooklyn and Queens, the Lord used Pastor Durkovic to strengthen congregational community among us, too. By developing lay leadership through programs like the Stephen Ministry, by strongly supporting house services among us, and by establishing a music schedule which encouraged our congregation’s musicians to share their gifts regularly, Pastor John helped establish some patterns of ministry which are still bearing good fruit among us today. It was hard for many of us to say goodbye when Pastor John and his new bride, Nancy, accepted a call to California in 1994.
The memory files of the last twenty years contain so many, many other important and grace-filled moments in our walk together. I am grateful, as are so many of us at St. Paul’s, for the constant support and guidance of our District’s leadership, and especially for the presence of our Bishop, the Rev. Dr. David H. Benke, who has demonstrated consistently his heart for the proclamation of the Gospel in urban ministry. I can name many situations in which representatives of the Atlantic District were there for us when we were in need, providing advice, encouragement, and funding. I marvel at the great number of Christian leaders who have been raised up here by the Lord in recent decades: I think of sessions poring over the Book of Concord with Deacon Chuck, and with the many other candidates who have come through the District’s diaconal classes; I give God thanks for Pastor Mukesh, now serving a Lutheran congregation in Pennsylvania, and for Doris Galarza who graduated from Concordia University in Seward, Nebraska, with a degree in Christian education. My memories include dozens of “cottage meetings” -- house services, always including wonderful fellowship over meals, often with our faithful musicians from St. Paul’s leading the singing from our beloved (and well-worn!) “green songbooks.” We gathered for these services at 217 Irving, 35 Crescent, and 90-19 179th Place; we have gathered at 321 Woodbine and at 177 Pine Street numerous times, singing again and again, “How Great Thou Art,” and “What A Friend We Have in Jesus,” and “Bind Us Together, Lord.” We have gathered at home, and at church, in small groups and large, always to give thanks to God, the Giver of all good gifts.
We come to today. As I look over the current slate of those who are serving as leaders on the Church Council this year, I give thanks to God for continuing to supply our congregation with qualified and dedicated lay leaders: Deochand Bhagwatprasad (who has for so many years ably served as President of St. Paul’s), and his wife, Deacon Basmatie; Deacon Linda McKinley, our head deacon; Albert Pillay; Judy Manson; Pam Arriaga; Chandramah Yarally; Marcelle Etwaroo; Loritta Kensmil; and, Randy Durgana. These are brothers and sisters who love the Lord, and love His Church. I look at what happens here on Friday afternoons, with our young people, and I am encouraged. Each Friday, the confirmation class and our youth group gather for some games, a light meal, and some serious Bible study. These hours gladden my heart, as I see young Christians growing in faith, and as I see dedicated youth leaders like Sisters Sheryl, Marcelle, Marcia, Madeline, and others working with our young people in various settings. I consider our Wednesday night Bible study group, and I am encouraged, as we continue -- in about our twentieth year! -- to grow in our knowledge and love of God through the faithful study of the Scriptures. I remember Doreen, Jack, and many other adults and children coming to waters of Holy Baptism at St. Paul’s, and I am encouraged, for I see the Great Commission being fulfilled among us, right before our eyes. I consider some of the young pastors I have come to know who have accepted calls to congregations in Brooklyn and to New York City, and I am encouraged, for I see that the Lord of the harvest is providing dynamic and faithful ministers for His people, just as He promised. God is good!
My own life has been intertwined with the life of this congregation over the last five decades. You see, my own father, the Rev. Paul E. Schulze, served this congregation as pastor in the mid-1960’s. It was not an easy four years for my father and mother, as there were many serious challenges facing the congregation at the time, both from inside and from outside the building. However, as I was growing up, I heard my father say, many times, “When I landed in Brooklyn, that’s when I found out what it meant to be in ministry, that’s when I really started to understand and enjoy my work.” I was baptized into the Body of Christ at this place in 1963, at the start of my father’s pastorate here. I am thankful to God that I, too, can say, “St. Paul’s is where I found out what it means to be in ministry.” I am thankful to have been ordained here in 2000, and that, in this place two of my children were baptized into Christ Jesus. I am thankful, and so very glad, to call myself a son of this congregation: born again, called, and commissioned at this humble little church on the corner of Knickerbocker and Palmetto, in Brooklyn.