a home for hungry minds and souls
In these days, many of us are discovering our longings for a spiritual life and a faith community. If you are not already a part of a faith community, we invite you to bring your spiritual journeys to this Lutheran Christian place.
We invite you to find in Pilgrim Lutheran a home for your hungry minds and souls.
Pilgrim Lutheran Church is an inclusive Christian worshipping community that seeks, nurtures, and empowers hungry minds and souls to live generously in response to God’s love.
We are a community of worship, centered in the grace of God and in our liturgical, scriptural, sacramental, and musical inheritances, joyfully received and re-visioned for our context.
Music & Chancel Choir Director, Organist
Director of Faith Formation
PILGRIM'S LAND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT STATEMENT
This land is not just this address. From time immemorial the Dakota people’s lives and stories have been woven together with this land. Pilgrim Lutheran Church stands on the ancestral homeland of the Dakota people. They were forcibly exiled from their land starting with the treaties of 1837 and 1851 and were nearly exterminated after the 1862 US Dakota war. We acknowledge the Dakota people, past and present, for their ongoing story and care of this land. We condemn and lament the way colonialism pillaged both the land and the Dakota way of life. Pilgrim Lutheran Church commits to ongoing efforts to recognize, support, and advocate for the Dakota and other Indigenous peoples. Let us take a moment of silence to honor the Dakota people, their heritage and resiliency.
SUNDAY MORNINGS | 9:30 AM | IN PERSON & FACEBOOK LIVE
On Sunday mornings, the people of Pilgrim Lutheran Church gather at 9:30 to celebrate the gift of faith in word, music, and sacrament.
At each worship service, a community member shares a passage from the Scriptures, which is then the subject of preaching by staff or guest preachers. A special message for children is also offered based on the same passage from the Scriptures.
The sharing of the word is framed by excellent music both instrumental and sung. The wonderful pipe organ supports congregational singing, and choirs of both adults and children offer their talents in worship, as do soloists and instrumentalists.
On the first and third Sundays of each month, the community celebrates Holy Communion together. The sacrament of Christ’s table is open to all, without exception.
Worship takes place in the Pilgrim Sanctuary, a beautiful setting for the praise and worship of God. Worship on Sunday morning can also be accessed via livestream from Pilgrim Lutheran Church’s Facebook page.
SELECTED SUNDAY EVENINGS | TIME VARIES | IN PERSON & FACEBOOK LIVE
Evening worship at Pilgrim is varied and creative, focusing particularly on contemplation and a sense of calm mindfulness, most notably in the music, readings, use of silences, and lighting. There is no sermon, so the Celtic Contemplative Communion and Contemplative Prayer from Nordic and Other Lands services use a unique style of "Word Weavings" that combine scripture and poetry in a way that is inspired by the ancient practice of "Lectio Divina." These "weavings" juxtapose phrases from the readings in new ways to inspire deeper experience with the texts. The compline service is almost entirely sung, with one scripture reading in the middle. The music draws upon unique and creative use of instrumentation and styles. The services often follow a theme that is drawn from the readings or that is seasonally appropriate.
Celtic Contemplative Communion | 6:51 pm
This re-designed service emphasizes contemplation, featuring traditional Celtic music. Join in-person or on Facebook live.
Contemplative Prayer from Nordic and Other Lands | 6:51 pm (prelude begins at 6:40 pm)
This service focuses on music from Scandinavian countries, now also featuring music and influences from around the world. Join in-person or on Facebook live.
Compline | 8:00 pm
This 30-minute service features chants, hymns, and other contemplative music, led by our tenor-bass Contemplative Choir. Very little of the service is spoken. Join in-person or on Facebook live. These services feature the voices of our tenor-bass Contemplative Choir, which leads Compline, Taize, and other evening worship services at Pilgrim and around the Twin Cities.
Other Contemplative Worship, including outdoor worship, Taize and more are listed on our schedule. View the most recent newsletter for the schedule of upcoming evening worship services.
> click here to learn more about evening worship leaders & guests
Our Life Together
Pilgrim was founded in 1921 as a mission church. Over the years, the depth of the Gospel message became clearer, so we changed. That change continues today.
The Mission Church Beginning
It was 1919, just after World War I. Returning veterans and other St. Paulites faced a housing shortage. These home seekers found attractive building sites in the predominately rural area, now known as the Macalester - Groveland neighborhood. As the neighborhood grew, the pastor and congregation of an existing Lutheran church saw this as an opportunity to found a mission church.
In 1919, the Mission Board of the English District advanced funds to buy two lots on the corner of St. Clair and Prior Avenues. Through the efforts of English Lutheran Church of the Redeemer (Dale and Carroll in St. Paul), the cornerstone of a chapel was laid in June, 1920. Pastor Edgar F. Witte was stationed here as a missionary. At the time, Redeemer Church itself was experiencing growth. Would they move to the Macalester - Groveland area or stay where they were? By 1921, they decided not to move. This left the little mission church free to become a full-fledged church. Pilgrim was born - the newest member of the English District of what is now the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church.
From a Chapel to a Basement
From 1921-1926, Pilgrim worked to grow and received a subsidy as a mission church. Pastor Witte wrote, "We plugged along, picking up 50 or 60 members a year by dint of wearing out shoe leather. I didn't have a car." In 1926, Pilgrim became self-supporting. It had 170 communicant members and 165 pupils in Sunday school. With this many people, Pilgrim had outgrown its small chapel. Would they build a little larger church that they might outgrow soon or go for a larger building? They chose to go for the larger building, or at least, part of it - the basement. The cornerstone of Pilgrim's permanent home was laid in November, 1926.
From the Depression Years to a Superstructure
The stock market crash of 1929 destroyed the rosy, economic hopes of the nation. Pilgrim carried a heavy financial burden during the depression years. Plans for completing the church structure had to be postponed. Expenses were trimmed to keep out of the red. No new debts were incurred and some progress was made in whittling down old debt. By 1935, the economic barometer of the nation began to climb somewhat. Pilgrim began making plans to finance the building of the actual church above the basement. By 1939, a financial campaign with a goad of $15,000 was successful. The construction of the superstructure of the church was begun. The cornerstone was laid in October, 1939.
Another Building Program
The peak of the postwar boom in church membership for the nation and Pilgrim came in 1956. Pressure for Sunday school space sparked a new building program in 1957. An addition built along the east and west sides of the church provided 20 more class rooms and space for church offices.
A Chronology of Pilgrim's Pastors
Pastor Witte served as Pilgrim's pastor from its founding until 1942 - a span of 24 years. Other pastors who have served Pilgrim are listed below.
Pilgrim's Senior Pastors
Edgar Witte, 1921-1942
Herman Winter, 1942-1957
Ihno Janssen, 1957-1958
Paul Schuessler, 1959-1990
Del Jacobson, 1991-1997
Carol Tomer, 1999-2021
Chris Smith, 2021-present
Changing Synods - from Missouri to ELCA
At its founding, Pilgrim was a member of the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, the English Synod. In the early '70s, this synod was experiencing divisions in its theological beliefs. These divisions basically involved views on the inerrancy of the Bible. The Missouri Synod was quite firm in the belief that the Bible was without error. Others - pastors, scholars, and lay persons - felt that the Bible, while inspired, had portions where informed people could have differing opinions. In 1976, Pilgrim chose to leave the Missouri Synod and join the AELC (Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches). Several years later, the AELC denomination and two other Lutheran denominations (ALC and LCA) merged to form the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). Pilgrim today is a member of the ELCA.