There is so much that could be said! But let us keep it simple for now. We are open to conversations at your convenience to share more. Lutherans believe what Christians have always believed. The Lutheran Church has never sought to teach anything new, though the Reformers of the 1500s saw that a rediscovery of the Good News of Jesus was necessary. At that time, the Gospel of Jesus had been compromised, shrouded in a series of rites and works through which a Christian could essentially “earn” forgiveness. Martin Luther and others taught that the forgiveness of sins was earned by the death of Jesus on the cross; and that through the resurrection, eternal life is offered to those who believe. Such grace is available to all who trust in Christ! Here are some summary statements of what we also hold to be true:
Pastor Evan McClanahan
Pastor McClanahan is originally from Shreveport, Louisiana, baptized on June 7, 1981 at Saint Luke's Methodist Church. As a son of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Shreveport, he was steeped in Lutheran liturgy and theology. He attended Centenary College of Louisiana and earned a B.A. Music. He attended the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago for three years, and had a one year internship at St. John Lutheran in Royal, Illinois. He met his wife Amanda in Chicago and they married August 6, 2006.
Upon graduating from seminary, he was called to Living Word Lutheran Church in Grapevine, Texas, where he served as Associate Pastor. In December 2009, he was called to serve as Pastor at First Lutheran. He and Amanda have two children. While at First, he has initiated several ministries, including outreach to HCC students, the First Word debate and lecture series, and hosting a radio show through 90.1 FM. He has contributed to the Everyman Commentary website and The Federalist. You can listen to some of his sermons here or the Theology on Air Podcast here.
Cheri Santibanez, Administrative Assistant
Mario Aschauer, Organist
Amanda McClanahan, Director, First Friends Preschool
Jimmy Paz, Choir Director
Peter Okumu, Custodian
The Rev. Edwin D. Peterman
On July 1, 1851, a group led by the Rev. Caspar Messon Braun (1822-1880) founded the Erste Deutsche Evangelische Lutherische Kirche, or First German Evangelical Lutheran Church. The State of Texas issued the church's charter on September 21 of that year. First Lutheran was the first Lutheran congregation in Houston and the second Lutheran congregation in Texas. First Lutheran is responsible for the establishment of 8 daughter congregations in Harris county.
In November, 1851, just 2 months after its founding, six missionaries from St. Chrischona of Basel, Switzerland arrived in Texas. Along with the Rev. Braun, they established the First Evangelical Lutheran Synod in Texas, often called the Texas Synod. The purpose of the synod was to gather the many Lutherans in Texas that were without congregations and a churchly structure. The confession of the synod included subscription to the Lutheran Confessions, adopting unaltered symbolical books as found in the Book of Concord, 1580, accepting the Unaltered Small Catechism, and selecting the German Hymn book of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the United States.
The congregation met from 1851-1854 in the schoolhouse of the Christ Protestant Episcopal Church. The first church building was erected on the southeast corner of Texas Avenue at Milam Street and dedicated Christmas of 1854. The second church building was built in 1901. Under the Rev. William L. Blasberg (1862-1935), the congregation moved to the northwest corner of Texas Avenue at Caroline Street, to a new red brick and sandstone edifice built in the Gothic tradition. After selling the second structure in 1926, the First Evangelical Church, as it became known, purchased the current site on Holman Street. Under the leadership of the Rev. Detlev Baltzer (1889-1962), the congregation hired architect Joseph W. Northrop, Jr., who had moved to Houston to oversee construction of the original Rice Institute, now Rice University. James West was general contractor for the new church campus, and J. C. Nolan and the Star Electric and Engineering Company held sub-contracts.
Northrop's Italian Romanesque styling features terra cotta roof tiles on the nave, education building and parsonage, as well as a campanile, or bell tower. The buildings were constructed of interlocking concrete tiles covered with buff-face brick and white sandstone trim. The campanile's bell, forged in 1880, has rung at each of the congregation's places of worship. The tower connects the nave to the seven-bay arched portals of the education building, which houses classrooms, offices, auditoriums and a stage. The nave's details include pulpit and altar made by master woodcarvers from Oberammergau, Germany. Pews and chancel furnishings, designed by Northrop, are by the American Seating Company. The north gallery of the nave housed a 1903 Kilgen and Son pipe organ. The Kilgen organ was destroyed in our October 2011 fire and has been replaced with a 16-stop organ designed and built by Pasi Organ Builders, Inc. of Roy, Washington. First Evangelical Lutheran Church was designated as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 2002.
Through the 20th century, First Lutheran had moved through several different denominations. In early 2002, a Houston attorney and civic leader discovered that First Church, the first Lutheran congregation in Houston was technically no longer "Lutheran" and the church faced the real possibility of having to close its doors.
Based upon extensive research, congregational forums, and conversations with the pastor and congregational council, First Lutheran voted to join the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, thereby reclaiming its Lutheran identity. In 2006, the Rev. Edwin D. Peterman, a distinguished Lutheran pastor and well-known teaching theologian, began to serve as Interim Pastor. Through the Holy Spirit, the congregation began to grow to viability again, and called a full-time pastor in December 2009 to help the congregation continue the work of the church into the 21st century.
On October 9, 2011, one day before the fire, First Lutheran left the ELCA and joined the North American Lutheran Church. As the Midtown neighborhood in Houston experiences a renaissance, so too does First Lutheran. It is expanding its outreach into the community, adding Sunday Church School and activities for children, becoming known for its excellent worship and music, and adding avenues for young adults to come to faith. In 2019, for clarity regarding the word "evangelical" the congregation stopped using the full name "First Evangelical Lutheran Church" and simply goes now by First Lutheran.
On October 10, 2011, we experienced a fire, beginning in the sacristy and just starting to move into the nave before HFD's Station No. 7 got the blaze under control. The fire was electrical and the damage was substantial. The organ, a 1903 Kilgen was totaled, the sacristy was burned out, and the rest of the nave took on soot, heat and smoke damage.
By Easter of 2013, the restoration was completed, thanks to some of the finest contractors in Houston and indeed around the country. It was important to us that we honor the architectural style of our campus so we worked to restore the building to its more original state. A number of the choices we made, especially regarding the stained glass and sound system, were done to highlight the simple beauty of our space.
We were fortunate to be able to restore our nave and even make improvements. The tile is a limestone from Israel and the organ is an incredible instrument built by Martin Pasi. While it was unexpected and a strange way to be blessed, the fire prepared our nave for another century of worship and public use.