Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts

History

University Lutheran Church, formally known as the University Lutheran Association of Greater Boston, has been in Harvard Square since 1928. From its beginnings, it has been a place where both students and members of the surrounding communities could worship, learn, break bread together, serve the community, and advocate for justice side by side.

For a delightful montage of UniLu’s first 75 years, please read UniLu Voices: An Abbreviated History for the Church’s 75th Anniversary (PDF), written by UniLu member Katherine Reisz-Hanson in 2003.

UniLu History: A Brief Timeline

1925
Pastor Norman Goehring arrives to serve Lutheran students in Boston and Cambridge.
1928
The University Lutheran Association of Greater Boston is organized, worshipping in rented Brattle Hall (later Brattle Theatre).
1934
The congregation moves to a temporary chapel and parish house at 66 Winthrop Street.
1951
The current building is erected at 66 Winthrop Street. The following year, the building and its architect, Arland A. Dirlam, received the Harleston Parker Medal, which recognizes “the single most beautiful building or other structure” built in the metropolitan Boston area in the past 10 years.
1953
Student ministry is expanded to include work on the MIT campus.
1954
An “associate in college work” position is added to the staff.
1957
A full-time parish secretary is added to the staff.
1960
University Lutheran calls an associate pastor and becomes a “two-pastor congregation.”
1963
The position of “associate in college work” is phased out, and the first graduate students from local divinity schools are hired as “vicars for students,” a practice that continues today.
1965
University Lutheran votes to call an additional full-time pastor specifically to work at MIT.
1969
The Lutheran Ministry at MIT is “spun off” from University Lutheran and begins to operate under a separate Directing Committee.
1971
A new Noack organ is installed.
1972
Rev. Constance Parvey becomes the first woman ordained in the New England Synod, and joins the staff of University Lutheran as associate pastor and Lutheran chaplain at MIT.
1978
The congregation establishes the Campus Ministry Trust from the proceeds of the sale of the parsonage.
1982
With the congregation’s support, Harvard students establish a “temporary” winter shelter for the homeless in the church basement. The shelter continues today.
1989
The congregation approves participation in the Reconciled in Christ Program of Lutherans Concerned/North America, seeking greater inclusivity in our church for people of all sexual orientations.
1997
The congregation “affirm[s] that the student-run Harvard Square Homeless Shelter remains a key component of our ministry and witness” and extends its commitment to host it through at least 2004.
1998
University Lutheran votes to become a founding member of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, whose purpose is “to coalesce, train, and organize the faith communities of Greater Boston across all religious, racial, ethnic, class, and neighborhood lines for the public good.”
1999
After several years of fundraising, a $2.5 million renovation of the 66 Winthrop Street shelter/dormitory, office, and Christian Education space begins. Work is substantially completed in 2001.
2001
Phyllis Louise Edwards, a 1947 UniLu alumna, bequeaths $450,000 to UniLu to be used for renovations. The funds are used to renovate the Alumni/ae Room and sanctuary.
2003
The Catherine and Henry Horn Fund for Campus Ministry is established on the occasion of Pastor Horn’s 90th birthday and the 50th anniversary of the Horns’ arrival in Cambridge. The fund supports campus ministry at University Lutheran and in the New England Synod.
2007
University Lutheran establishes a Mission Endowment Fund.
2010
University Lutheran Church agrees to house the St. James Summer Shelter, later known as the Harvard Square Summer Shelter, during the summer months.
2016
A 9 am family-friendly, non-shushing, wiggles-welcome service replaces Sunday School as the church’s primary outreach to children and families.
2017
University Lutheran becomes a founding member of the Harvard Square Sanctuary Coalition, later renamed the Cambridge Interfaith Sanctuary Coalition, and opens its doors to house a family under threat of deportation.

Pastors of University Lutheran Church

  • Norman Goehring, 1929-1940
  • Edmund Steimle, 1940-1953
  • Henry E. Horn, 1953-1978
  • Roger Johnson, 1958
  • Oscar Ice, 1960-1963
  • Donald Lee, 1966-1971 (called to serve full-time at MIT)
  • H. Paul Santmire, 1966-1968
  • Charles Leps, 1968-1972
  • Constance F. Parvey, 1972-1978
  • H. Frederick Reisz, Jr., 1978-1993
  • Jessica Crist, 1979-1983
  • Susan P. Thomas, 1983-1995
  • Thomas Blom Chittick, 1993-2003
  • Joanne E. Engquist, 1996-2011
  • Donald S. Larsen, 2004-2012
  • Katherine A. Shaner, 2007-2008
  • Kathleen O’Keefe Reed, 2013-present
  • Kari Jo Verhulst, 2013-2018