Resurrection Lutheran Church was born in October 1970.
It is the offspring of a merger of two historic Lutheran congregations on Chicago's North Side, Trinity and Messiah. Trinity Lutheran Church
was founded in the home of John P. Ekstrom by a small group of Swedish Lutherans led by The Rev. Dr. C.A. Evald in 1883. Several lots at the corner of Seminary and Noble (now Barry) were purchased for a total of $1,500 to become the site of the church and parsonage. Several area pastors led worship until The Rev. C.A. Sandahl became its first permanent pastor in 1886. Messiah Lutheran Church
was founded shortly thereafter, in 1896, by a small group of visionaries from Trinity who wanted to worship in English, to help incoming Swedish immigrants learn the new language. When Trinity's council refused to permit worship in English, this group of 14 families took out mortgages to fund the start of a new congregation, the edifice of which is the current home for Resurrection. The original sanctuary, begun in 1897, is now the parish hall and home to Sunday School
; worship is celebrated in the "new" sanctuary added in the mid-1920s. END
At the turn of the 20th century, both congregations flourished. The Rev. Gottfred Nelson served Trinity from 1903-1939, officiating 4,192 baptisms, 3,762 marriages, 3,444 burials and 2,409 confirmations... including three young women who are still members at Resurrection today. English services were added in 1926, but Trinity continued worshiping in Swedish as well, even broadcasting Julotta (Swedish Christmas matins) on WMAQ radio beginning in 1927. Meanwhile, Messiah, led by The Rev. G.A. Eliot (1907-1928) boasted 600 Sunday School students in a very small space! The congregation's size made expansion necessary in the 1920s to include what is now Resurrection's sanctuary.
Both churches weathered the Depression and war years and were large, vibrant communities into the 1950s. Over time, attendance dwindled slowly, almost unnoticeably, until both congregations began to feel the effects of shrinkage in the 1960s. Eventually they shared a pastor, The Rev. Ronald Johnson, known to neighbors as "The Flying Nun" because he ran three blocks in his worship garments from one service to another every Sunday morning. Under his leadership the congregations merged to form Resurrection Lutheran Church in October, 1970. During that same year, Pastor Johnson's wife Barbara was among those instrumental in founding Resurrection Preschool, a program with a secular, values-based curriculum in response to a felt need in the surrounding community.
The Johnsons moved to another call in 1974, and in 1975, Resurrection welcomed The Rev. Steve Swanson. Affable and progressive, Pastor Swanson shepherded Resurrection to growth in the seventies and eighties. In 1975, Resurrection opened its doors to vulnerable latchkey kids from Hawthorne, which soon generated an official after-school program. In 1976, the council approved the welcome of gays and lesbians into the church community, and Resurrection began hosting meetings for Lutheran gays and lesbians on the North Side who were forerunners of Lutherans Concerned
--one of many community groups meeting in its bustling space. From 1975 to 1991, Resurrection helped resettle 63 refugees and provided awareness, advocacy and funding for a sister congregation in El Salvador. Associate pastors and other ministry staff were added, a sign that the congregation was thriving again.
In 1995, Resurrection celebrated its 25th anniversary, eagerly anticipating an overdue sanctuary renovation that would include a custom made pipe organ and a reversal of the sanctuary to face west. These ambitious plans never materialized. Still, a successful renovation was undertaken, stretching for several years while staff turnover were high. The end of the twentieth century was a difficult period for Resurrection, marked by conflict and instability; many left, but those who stayed became more deeply committed to one another and to the institution.
The twenty-first century has seen another Resurrection rebound. The new organ
and beautifully renovated worship space were dedicated in 2002 shortly after the arrival of new pastor Brian Hiortdahl. In 2003, Resurrection held its first SummerFest, hoping to meet its neighbors; Wrigleyville SummerFest
is now an annual event and a Chicago summer staple. Today's congregation has embraced its progressive legacy, becoming the first church in Chicago to install solar panels to heat its water in 2006 and, in 2007, calling Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries
candidate Jennette Rude as half-time associate pastor. This call was extended in prayerful disobedience of the ELCA's policies which prohibit homosexuals in committed relationships from being rostered leaders, a policy which prevented the ELCA from approving Rude for ordination. Resurrection hosted her ordination on November 17, 2007; she served until accepting a full-time call to The Night Ministry
in July, 2009.
Resurrection continues to be a vibrant, dynamic and welcoming urban community on Chicago's North Side, centered in lively liturgical worship and passionate about inclusive social justice. Resurrection is proud of its heritage and continues to strive to invite • include • involve • inspire + in Christ. back to top