First Lutheran has grown today to become a regional church of nearly 2,000 ministers from throughout the area located in “The Heart of the City with a Heart for All in the City.” Our humble beginnings in the community go back 150 years.
Pastor H. F. Ealy walked from Iowa City to Cedar Rapids serve the Lutheran Christians in this area in January 1856. He organized a congregation of 27 that met for worship in the homes of members for nearly 12 years.
Pastor Cephas Baird and 30 charter members organized First English Evangelical Lutheran Church and constructed a building at Third Avenue and Third Street (near Guaranty Bank today). From its start, the language of worship was English and diverse ethnicity was First Lutheran's intention, unlike most Lutheran parishes of northern European extraction.
The young congregation had built a new house of worship in 1884 away from the congestion of downtown Cedar Rapids, at Second Street SE near 4th Avenue, and voted to become self-sustaining after 16 years of receiving mission support.
With growth and more downtown congestion, in 1911 the congregation decided to relocate out in the country to its present location of Third Avenue SE at 10th Street. The transept of the present nave was that original structure.
We added a new education wing in 1958. Over the years, a dynamic children's education, diversity in worship styles, quality musical programming, and international missions have become First Lutheran's traditions. Establishing new area Lutheran congregations, most notably Hope and St. Andrews, and sending its members to enter into the fellowship of churches in the greater metropolitan area has also been First Lutheran's legacy.
The congregation voted not to relocate in the mid-ninties, but to overhaul the education wing and add 20,000 square feet of new education, music rehearsal, and meeting space which was completed in 1996.
The congregation made a substantial renovation to the Luther Fellowship Center and kitchen in 2007. Our kitchen saw the addition of more pantry space for food storage, a new gas range, dish drying racks, a stainless steel food prep island and new spaces for food serving and returning used dishes. The fellowship hall was greatly enhanced for better hospitality with presentation and sound equipment built in, restrooms added and a total aesthetic overhaul.
Our congregation decided to sell land we owned at the corner of 3rd Avenue and 12th Street to Physicians Clinic of Iowa (PCI) so they could build a two-story medical mall next to our building. As part of the deal, we entered into an agreement with them for full use of their parking lots into perpetuity. We are glad to see them enter into the growing medical community around us and they have been a wonderful neighbor!
Today we are centered in Christ; we are called, gathered, transformed, and sent in the name of Jesus Christ into the world around us. In the words of Senior Pastor Steve Knudson, we believe God has placed us in the heart of the city to be God's heart for all in the city! We hope you will join us as we continue to write our history into the future.
2017 & Beyond
Our congregation is in the process of considering a major renovation to our worship space (see proposed pic above), administrative entrance, and roof. You can read all about it in our building report: http://www.firstlutherancr.org/building.html