St. Paul Lutheran Church: A Brief History

St. Paul Lutheran Church as been part of the community of downtown Vancouver for over 100 years. St. Paul was formally organized on December 14, 1902, with twenty-five people signing the charter. Although the congregation first met at Sohn’s Hall at 6th and Main Streets, they soon moved to “the edge of town” at the corner of 13th and Franklin Streets the following year.

In its first fifty years, the congregation at St. Paul grew tremendously. With its own building and debt paid off, the congregation aided the start of several congregations in the area. St. Paul was a major source of support in the area during World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II, providing food and other items to those in need, as well as supporting the soldiers, shipyard workers, and their families. In September 1948, only a few years before the congregation’s 50th anniversary, the congregation voted to construct a new church building, the current building at 13th and Franklin Streets.

Over the next several decades, with a brand new building, many of the ministries of St. Paul grew, including Sunday School, Ladies Aid and Missionary Society, Altar Guild, Lutheran Brotherhood, Lydia Circle, Luther League, St. Paul’s Fellowship, Tri-C’s, and two choirs. During this time, St. Paul was the first church in Vancouver to host a Red Cross blood drive, and the congregation began its own library. In response to the growing Sunday School, the St. Paul congregation built its educational (now outreach) building in 1960.

Since 1980, St. Paul Lutheran Church saw the expansion of its worship life and its adult educational ministries, including adult forums and Bible studies. The congregation also saw the expansion of Friends in Service to Humanity, a food and clothing bank serving thousands each month, and the St. Paul Christian Day Care, which has been a major asset to the downtown working community. From 1986 to 1989, St. Paul hosted the YMCA/YWCA program for children of parents in homeless shelters.

In the last two decades, St. Paul Lutheran Church has increasingly strengthened its commitment to social justice for the downtown community. F.I.S.H. continues to receive space and support from our congregation, as they continue to serve approximately 3,000 people each month with food, clothing, and other basics of life. St. Paul has become an integral supporter of SHARE House, a local homeless men’s shelter. When the house burned down in December 1996, St. Paul agreed to host the noontime hot meal program for SHARE House in our kitchen and fellowship hall, and continued doing so for two years until the new SHARE House was constructed.

The St. Paul congregation also supports Friends of the Carpenter, a ministry comprised mostly of homeless men who make wooden objects to help support themselves and to glorify God. St. Paul also actively supports Lutheran World Relief, and the Dorcas Women’s Group makes approximately 50 quilts each year and donates them to a wide variety of causes.

Most recently, St. Paul has partnered with SHARE House, Council for the Homeless, and St. Andrew Lutheran Church to create the Winter Hospitality Overflow. At St. Paul, twenty-four single, homeless men are housed each November through March. In addition, the congregation has revived its internship ministry, partnering with the field education office at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. St. Paul has also seen a renovation to its worship and office space, its website, and its multimedia technology in recent years.

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As St. Paul Lutheran Church celebrates its first 100 years and looks forward in faith and service to the next hundred years, we are guided by our mission statement adopted in our centennial year: “We are a community of God’s people, celebrating and inviting, growing and serving, in the love of Jesus Christ.”

We are called to celebrate God’s love for us in worship and music. We are commissioned to invite others to hear the Gospel and join in the fellowship we have as Christian people. We are encouraged to grow in knowledge and in understanding of God’s Word, as well as in the stewardship of our gifts and our lives. We are empowered to serve all people following the example of our Lord Jesus through our outreach in the local community and in the world, and in the caring we give and receive.

May God help and guide St. Paul Lutheran Church for the next 100 years in our renewed vision for mission and ministry!