Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer
Viewing Redeemer perched above Peachtree Street in the heart of Midtown, it’s hard to imagine that the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer was once a small mission congregation whose future in Atlanta was far from certain.
In the second half of the 19th Century, South Carolina Lutherans considered the railroad construction town to be a fertile mission field. Several attempts to plant an English-speaking congregation in Atlanta failed.
The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer was founded in 1903 and held its worship services in English whereas the only other Lutheran church in town still held its services in German. Redeemer’s first public notice in the local newspaper proclaimed “strangers and visitors welcome” foreshadowing Redeemer’s unfolding story of continually expanding our circle of welcome.
Major Events in the Life of Redeemer
On January 4, 1903, the first families of Redeemer met in the railroad branch of the YMCA in an area of Atlanta later known as Underground Atlanta. The initial offering total was recorded as $5.50. Two weeks later, the fledgling congregation met in the hall of a fraternal order which is now part of Courthouse Square.
Redeemer’s first church building, “The Little Stone Church,” was completed in 1905 and was located downtown on Trinity Avenue near the Georgia State Capitol. The Little Stone Church underwent an expansion in 1915.
During the Great Depression, Redeemer stepped out in faith and built the red brick “Church of the Lighted Window” on the site of our current education wing. At the time, 4th and Peachtree was considered the suburbs. Redeemer earned its nickname because The Good Shepherd Window facing Peachtree Avenue was backlit at night. It was the only backlit stained glass window of its kind in the area.
Redeemer’s current sanctuary building with a basement fellowship hall was designed by prominent church architect Harold E. Wagoner, with considerable input from the Senior Pastor, the Rev. John Brokoff and Building Committee Chair, Herman W. Boozer. The stained glass windows, to include the stunning Redemption Window over the altar, were designed by artist Marguerite Gaudin of the Willet Stained Glass Studios in Philadelphia. Pastor Brokoff and Mr. Boozer provided the studio with the theme and initial design concept for the windows.
Redeemer’s Senior Pastor, the Rev. Dr. Robert E. Lee demonstrated courageous leadership by his advocacy for the peaceful desegregation of Atlanta Public Schools. Pastor Lee was one of the authors of a visionary document on racial harmony known as “The Minister’s Manifesto” that was influential in advancing desegregation efforts in Atlanta. Pastor Lee led the congregation to welcome people of all races.
Students from Georgia Tech and Agnes Scott College began gathering for Sunday night dinners and programs at Redeemer. This was the origins of the Lutheran Campus Ministry in Atlanta.
The Parish Hall (now called the education wing) with offices and classrooms was completed on the site of the former red brick church. There was a lovely outdoor courtyard between it and the 1952 building. The Good Shepherd Window was installed in part of the building called the Hall of the Good Shepherd .
Under the leadership of the same Senior Pastor, Robert E. Lee, Redeemer founded Lutheran Towers, an affordable senior housing apartment building across Juniper Street from Redeemer. Lutheran Towers is connected to Redeemer by a sky bridge, which illustrates the close connection between the two communities.
Redeemer’s next Senior Pastor, the Rev. Dr. Harold Skillrud was instrumental in the establishment of a weekday food ministry to feed lunch to our hungry and homeless neighbors. The Lutheran Community Food Ministry reached its Two Millionth Meal milestone in October 2019.
The Midtown Assistance Center, which provides help for the working poor, was a combined venture of Redeemer and other area churches.
Redeemer once again showed its heart for service to others by founding an AIDS Ministry Task Force that gave direct service to those living with HIV.
The “Redeemer Rising” campaign raised the funds necessary to enclose the courtyard and create an atrium, a large, sunny space for congregational fellowship that also added administrative space and meeting rooms. The atrium was later renamed Sims Atrium upon the retirement our Senior Pastor, the Rev. Dr. Robert Sims.
Goshen Valley Boys Ranch was born of the passion of a Redeemer family, other Redeemer leaders and Pastor Sims to provide a better model of care for boys in the foster care system. Goshen Valley has expanded greatly over the years to include transitional housing for young men and women who have aged out of foster care.
Redeemer dedicated a new pipe organ built by Orgues Létourneau, a firm based in Saint Hyacinthe, Quebec, Canada.
The Midtown Lutheran Preschool opened at Redeemer with the strong support of the Senior Pastor, the Rev. Dr. Timothy Smith.
Redeemer’s Congregation Council voted to sanction marriages of same gender couples who go through the same premarital preparation and counseling required of all engaged couples.
In February 2020, Redeemer held its first worship service uniquely designed to meet the needs of people whose physical, intellectual, or developmental conditions make traditional worship services a challenge to participate in fully. Declared a “no shush” zone, the “Rejoicing Spirits” community and worship service highlights our Senior Pastor, the Rev. Mark H. Larson‘s gift for engaging people of all ages and abilities.
From a YMCA meeting room to a modern gothic cathedral, Redeemer has grown up with Atlanta. Redeemer’s witness is that of an ever expanding community eager to serve our neighbors and share the Good News.