Gloria Dei Church (Old Swedes of Philadelphia) - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Gloria Dei Church is the oldest standing church in Pennsylvania and the second oldest Lutheran church in the United States. Among the many national and religious groups to arrive in the Philadelphia area in the mid-17th century were Lutherans from Sweden, the first Scandinavians to settle in the United States. In 1677 a Lutheran congregation was formally established in the city. The Swedish Lutherans met for many years at a temporary worship facility before they finally built their own church in 1700. The Lutheran community used this church continuously until 1845, when it was acquired for use by an Episcopal congregation.
Old Swedes Church is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Philadelphia and possibly its best preserved early 18th century structure. It is home to a small collection of rare early Bibles in Swedish. A memorial to John Hanson, ninth president of the Continental Congress, is on display in the church graveyard.
Augustus Lutheran Church - Trappe, Pennsylvania
The Augustus Lutheran Church is the oldest Lutheran church in continuous use in the United States. Completed in 1743, it is one of the oldest churches in Pennsylvania. It also played a small role in the American Revolution. The first German Lutherans to migrate the American colonies began arriving in the 1730s. In 1745 the first German-Lutheran church was completed in Trappe. During the American Revolution it served as a makeshift hospital for the Continental Army. The church was replaced by a larger structure in 1852. The old church was maintained by the congregation for other uses, and periodically renovated.
Augustus Lutheran Church was designed by Henry Muhlenberg, a pastor, resulting in an odd style that looks like a colonial barn that has been cut in half. Muhlenberg is buried in the church graveyard.
Holy Trinity Church (Old Swedes of Wilmington) - Wilmington, Delaware
The Holy Trinity Church of Wilmington, also known as Old Swedes, is the oldest Lutheran-built church still standing in the United States. It is also among the oldest churches in continuous in America. The tiny colony of New Sweden, located along the Delaware River, was established in 1638. A few decades later New Sweden was absorbed into the Dutch colony of New Netherlands, and soon thereafter into the British colonial system. Despite this the tiny Lutheran community survived, thanks in part to the close relations that Britain shared with the Protestants of Germany, who for the most part were Lutheran. In 1698 they built the New Trinity Church in Wilmington on the site of the old burial ground of Fort Christina. The Lutherans sold the church to the newly formed Episcopal Church in 1791.
Holy Trinity Church is one of the oldest brick buildings still standing in the United States. The main building is built of hewn stone, with a red-brick bell tower that dates from a later period. The church interior is noteworthy for its brilliant, vibrantly colored stained glass window featuring the holy family, set amidst an otherwise completely whitewashed interior. The grounds of the church are also home to the original church burial yard, meditative labyrinth and the Hendrickson House, a 17th century farm that is now run as a museum.
Zion Lutheran Church - Cleveland, Ohio
Zion Lutheran Church in Cleveland is a stately old church with an interesting claim to holiday fame. It is believed to have been the site of the first Christmas tree erected by a congregation inside of a church. The location and party responsible for America’s first Christmas tree is a matter of some conjecture. But the earliest known documented, fully decorated Christmas trees appeared in the area of Cleveland around the mid-19th century. In 1851 a pastor named Heinrich Schwan placed a Christmas tree inside the Zion Lutheran Church. The tree, which initially caused a scandal, kicked off a craze the following holiday season. In 1852, the festive trees appeared all over Cleveland.
Zion Lutheran Church is not only home to one of the oldest Lutheran congregations in the Midwest but also one of its oldest schools. The neighboring Zion Lutheran School is also listed on the National Register of historic Places. The church maintains its annual tradition of raising a Christmas tree to this day. A small monument marks the spot a few blocks away where the original Christmas tree stood.
Chapel In The Hills - Rapid City, South Dakota
The Chapel in the Hills is a Norwegian style stave church, something that is extremely rare outside of Scandinavia. Lutheran settlers arrived in the area of Black Hills in the 1870s. Many of these were immigrants from Norway who came to South Dakota as prospectors and farmers. In the 1960s, Harry Gergerson, a popular Lutheran minister, decided to make Rapid City the base for his ministry and radio show, Lutheran Vespers. To house his ministry, and to honor the Norwegian heritage of the area, Gergerson oversaw the construction of the Chapel in the Hills, a close replica of the 12th century Borgund stave church in Norway. It served as home to Lutheran Vespers from its completion in 1969 until 1975. Today the chapel is a popular tourist destination in Rapid City and is used to host weddings and other events.
The Chapel in the Hills is a breathtaking four story stave church that seems to have been lifted straight out of Norway’s fjord country. The original blueprints, provided by the Norwegian Department of antiquities, were used in its design, and traditional craftsman techniques in its construction. The site is also home to an original 19th century log cabin as well as a visitor’s center.
New Hanover Evangelical Lutheran Church - Gilbertsville, PA
The New Hanover Evangelical Lutheran Church was founded in 1700 by Daniel Falckner. He gathered the German immigrant Lutherans living between the Schuylkill River and what is now Pennsburg to form a congregation. He was followed by a number of "circuit" pastors who served a number of congregations. Among them was Henry Melchior Muhlenberg who arrived in 1742.
In 1768, the congregation built the stone building currently being used for worship. Prior to that, they worshipped in log buildings. During the war for American Independence, the building was used as a temporary hospital during the retreat of Washington's army following The Battle at Brandywine.
Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg, son of Henry, served the congregation from 1777 to 1778 before he entered government service in the continental congress and them, in the First congress of the United States where he became the first speaker of the House of Representatives.
New Hanover's history shows evidence of God's continuing grace. It was given a significant role in the birth of the Lutheran Church in America, as well as the birth of the nation itself. Fifty Revolutionary War veterans are buried in the New Hanover cemetery.
Evangelical Lutheran Church - Frederick, Maryland
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Frederick, Maryland is the oldest Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in Maryland (1752) and one of the oldest in the United States. While the congregation began to meet in 1733, the first minister of the church was Rev. Bernard Michael Houseal (1752-1759).
Evangelical Lutheran Church turned 275 years old in November 2013. It is older than the United States of America. George Washington was only six years old when The Rev. John Caspar Stoever, Jr., began preaching to families in 1733 and effected the organization of the Lutheran Church in Monocacy on November 26, 1738. The early congregation met at different locations near Thurmont until the first home in Frederick, a log church, was constructed in 1746 on the site of what is now the Rupp Hospitality House.
During the summer of 1752, construction started on a new building made of limestone. The foundation was dug and construction on the walls had started when the French and Indian War broke out. Men laid down their building tools and took up arms. As a result, no progress was made until the war ended about seven years later. In 1762, the entire community came to the official dedication of the new church. The building was constructed of native blue limestone and had just a single tower. Part of this building still exists as Trunk Hall and the Music Ministry suite.
Notable Information: The first church in Frederick County. The largest ELCA Lutheran church in the state of Maryland. An American pioneer of the Sunday School movement. Served as a hospital following the Battle of Antietam, 1862. Played key role in the founding of Gettysburg Seminary. (first Lutheran seminary in America). Played key role in the creation of Maryland Synod and General Synod (grandparent of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America).